Sunday, May 2, 2010

Is there a contest for the ugliest quilt ever??

I said I would post the good, bad, and ugly.  This quilt top comes under the ugly.  It's a bit of a long story to understand how this bit of ugly was born.  First, I bought some green chairs that I love.  Others look at them politely with a pained expression or just out-and-out ask what in hell I was thinking buying putrid green chairs.  I love these chairs.  They are extremely comfortable.  I'm sitting in one right now.  It turned out that they did not exactly go with the two shades of green wall paint, though.  Okay, here they are.  Don't try to adjust your screen.  This really is the color.

In an attempt to pull the room together, I started looking for quilt fabric with the colors of the chair and walls.  Each individual fabric was really nice.  Together, they are truly horrific.  I kept thinking that when it was all together, it would look good.  So, here it is:

Please excuse the faux fur bench.  It was an attempt at that touch of whimsy all the designers talk about.  Off topic--back to the ugly.  I honestly thought the browns in the bench, quilt, bed skirt and pillows would somehow pull together. 

This picture shows the greens in the quilt and the chairs.

See, the greens do at least match the chair.  Unfortunately this picture is deceptive.  When you are in the room, the quilt looks overwhelmingly brown with  garish flashes of blue and white from that one fabric.

I'm supposed to start the actual quilting.  The thoughts of spending that much time looking at it are scary.  Please, someone give me permission to put this in the closet until my eyesight fails.

Meditation: Day Three - I Think I Passed Level 1

Day three was some sitting and walking meditation practice, discussion groups, and a final short talk.

Overall, I think a major benefit was to be with a group containing many beginners who were willing to ask questions.  Authors try to answer questions in books and audios, but they are not necessarily the right questions for the listener.  You also can't ask for clarification.

It was so comforting to know that almost everyone found meditating to be difficult.  Trying to sit still,  focus on the moment, gently brush aside all the thoughts that incessantly push in, not get angry with yourself when you need to refocus over and over and over IS the process.  Despite practice, we will still be human and the process will be a challenge. It turns out that I wasn't all that bad at meditating after all.

I also was able to find out what all those cushions were for and why some people sit one way and others another. I learned lots of options for being as comfortable as possible while meditating.

Last, I learned that I am going to get old and die--if I'm lucky.  Bad thing will still happen.  I will have the opportunity, however, to handle these things a bit differently than I might have before attending this course.  Rather than running away from things or wallowing in self-pity, I will try to experience what is happening, come to grips with it, and let it go.  Yes!  I'm signing up for level 2.

Home-made fire starters

As we move into campfire season, I am reminded of my home-made fire starter venture this winter.  Right after the winter holidays, blogger, Wisdom of the Moon, had a post about making fire starters from left over things at home.  I've made them before, and the post was a good push to do it again.

The blog advice at Wisdom was to put dried pine needles from holiday trees or the like into the individual pockets of paper egg cartons and pour melted wax from candle stubs into each.  I had always used dryer lint instead of pine needles and paper cupcake liners instead of egg cartons.  I liked the idea of the pine needles, but using up that useless dryer lint always made me feel good.  My eggs come in plastic containers since it's the only way I can get free-range eggs around here. In this case, I'd rather support more humane farming practices than be green.

On checking back to read comments at Wisdom, though, I found some disturbing information.  Someone else mentioned using dryer lint and the question arose, "Isn't there hair in dryer lint?"  I never thought of that.  In checking my finished fire starters, I was mortified to see that when held in the sunlight, there were definitely strands of hair standing up there.  I had planned on giving some of these away.  I don't know how to broach this subject delicately, but, there was also the question of just where the hair came from.  I'll leave it at that.  The normal display near the hearth pictured here:
won't be happening until I need a new supply of fire starters.  I did do some with the pine needles. They're easier to work with.  With lint, you have to keep topping off each one as the lint settles down.  The pine needles are just plain prettier and smell better, too.   I gave the pine ones away before getting pictures.  Trust me, though, they look much better even close up.

I do a few things differently that I think might work for others.  Rather than melting the candles on the double boiler as suggested at Wisdom, I use my large electric candle melter that you usually use to give off the candle scent without burning them.  I melt down the ones that have lost their scent for the fire starters first and then drop leftover stubs in the glass a few at a time.  Since there is always a lot of leftover wick material, I take it out of the melted wax (a wooden skewer works well), cut them up, and put pieces in the "cupcakes" as they begin to thicken.  It gives another place to light in addition to the paper when making a fire.  I put the cupcake tins in the sink to pour the wax.  There is little mess, but if something does spill, it can easily be cleaned up.

It may be a bit slower to use the melter, but it cuts down on the size of the equipment I need to keep for messing with wax.  I use the same disposable cupcake tins over and over.  They stack together and take up very little storage space.  

As for dryer lint, I am mixing it with potting soil for outside plantings.  If someone knows a good reason I should not be subjecting hostas and marigolds to dryer lint, please put it in the comment section.  I have a whole new respect for comment sections.  How humiliating it would have been to give away the hairy fire starters!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

My Copy of Imagine is Here!


My copy of Imagine by Norman Messenger has arrived, and it is as wonderful as I have heard.  While this book may be listed as a children's book, it is just as much fun for adults.  Each page is a new and beautifully illustrated piece to fire the imagination or get the brain working.   To add to the fun, the pages also have tiny puzzles to solve in the top corners.  I have it sitting on my coffee table.  I'll let little visitors enjoy it--I'm sure they will, but it is definitely for the adults, too.

Meditation: Day Two - Success At Last!

Yes!  It was a great day.   After last night, I was more than a bit worried about how today's meditation classes would go.  While everyone was still schmoozing at the continental breakfast.  I grabbed a set of cushions in the back row and began the process of figuring out how to sit on them.  The downside to that was that I hadn't eaten and that became quite obvious during silent meditation time.  It's kind of hard to relax your muscles as they suggest AND squeeze stomach muscles to squelch the constant rumbling.  Fortunately the stomach settled down after about a half hour. 

Sitting meditation went well.  I learned that if you don't scratch the itch, it usually just goes away.  I also learned that the Shambhala way of keeping the eyes open and cast down works better for me.  With closed eyes, I tend to start falling asleep.

Shambhala standing meditation is a faster walk than Zen standing meditation and slower than the usual way of walking.  Sounds easy, doesn't it?  Somehow it makes me feel a bit unsteady.  Just when I felt stable, I realized that I was not actually meditating but, rather, taking in all the things in the room.  By day's end, however, I was feeling pretty good about it.  I could probably draw a near perfect picture of the room and everything in it.  Still, there was progress. 

Staff and other participants were all kind and helpful.  There were a few readings from Shambhala:  The Sacred Path of the Warrior by Chogyam Trungpa that were so meaningful and helpful to me I wanted to get the book.  How nice that we each received a copy as a gift just before leaving.

So, tomorrow morning we have another go at practicing before I branch out on my own.  Fortunately, the center has numbers of things going on.  I'm sure I will be stopping in often.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Readjusting my expectations of the meditation center

I saw the small picture on the meditation center website of brightly colored floor cushions near a dark wood-framed rice paper window and made the assumption that the center would be bright and new.  I've been watching too many movies.  As it turns out, the center is in an older downtown building.  The meditation room has a dated acoustic tile hanging ceiling, white walls, vertical blinds, and industrial greenish blueish wall-to-wall indoor-outdoor carpeting.  There is an eclectic collection of floor cushions, chairs, and small tables along with a few pictures in inexpensive frames, a few cloth hangings, and assorted small decorative pieces.  Not a bad place at all.  It's just that it sure wasn't what I had envisioned.

I would probably have adjusted quickly had not a series of tiny incidents set off my inner child.  I had trouble finding the driveway and had to circle around three times.  That's not easy in an area of one way streets.  Then I made the mistake of of almost entering the meditation room with shoes on.  Fortunately, someone quickly pointed out my ignorance.  I know many people have the no shoes policy in their homes.  I've not been one of them.  Yes, I have occasionally passed the no shoes mandate after a particularly hard day of cleaning.  However, I was always the first one to break the new rule within hours.  

On entering the meditation room (sans shoes), I immediately saw that some of the floor cushions had been marked as reserved.  Reserved seating always annoys me for some reason unless, of course, I get to sit in it.   But, I was determined to keep the inner child in check.  I graciously moved on.  Well, maybe not exactly graciously.  I didn't try to take one of the reserved seat, though.  

You know how no one wants to sit in the front row in class?  No one wants to sit on the front floor cushions either.  All the back cushions were taken when I got there.  My choices were to sit on a cushion in the front row or on one of the chairs lined up along the back wall.  Normally this is not a problem for me.  I'm a die-hard brown-noser.  I LOVE the front row.  The problem here was that I  wasn't sure HOW one was supposed to sit on the cushions.  There were different kinds of cushions, flat round ones, boxy foam ones, cushions on cushions.  Some people were sitting cross-legged.  Some had their feet facing back. What if I sat on a cushion wrong?  Everyone would see me right there in the front row.  I had already almost broken the no shoes rules.  I opted for a chair.  By that point, I was a tired, frustrated and, yes, a bit pouty.  

The session was supposed to start at 7:30, but we waited an extra half hour in near silence for stragglers.  I am a firm believer in starting on time.  If the show is supposed to start at 7:30, I expect it to begin at 7:30.  I certainly don't want anyone waiting for me if I'm late.  By the time the main speaker began the lecture at eight o'clock in a lovely soft voice,  I was really annoyed, more than a bit pouty,  and falling asleep.  My eyes started drooping closed almost immediately.  I spent the next hour desperately trying to keep my eyes opened and preferably focused. 

Tomorrow I will be there from 8:30 until 5.  I've already paid so I've got to see this through.  I'd go in late, but I need to get there early enough to get one of those highly sought-after floor cushions in the back rows.  Do you know how hard it is to sit cross-legged on a metal chair?  My greatest fear is that I will fall asleep and keel over.  I'm not sure if Buddhists do caffeine, but I'm sneaking in some Red Bull anyway.  Wish me luck.

The meditation weekend begins!

I'm starting my weekend meditation lessons tonight at a meditation center in Albany, New York.  The program is called Shambhala Meditation Training Level 1:  The Art of Being Human.  Who knew being human was an art?

So, I've read about meditation, listened to many tapes on meditation, attended one introduction to meditation talk long ago, and practiced meditating in spurts over the years.  This is my first real live training session.  I've decided it is time to invest in my own well being.  The family has been most supportive of this venture.  I wonder if that means I am more uptight than I realized.  Well, never mind that.  Not only am I embarking on an new adventure, I am doing it alone--no human crutches. 
If I am not too relaxed after this evening's session, I shall post about it.