Sunday 30 April 2023

Easter Projects

Cross and Crown Sampler
Since I made my heart wallhanging and table topper for February, I thought it might be a nice idea to make a wallhanging and some type of table treatment for every month of the year. That way, I can switch them out and have some variety. I would go with a theme of the month - if there was a relevant one. March has St. Patrick's Day and I already had Celtic Ballad for a March wallhanging and would have to think of something for the table. But I decided to move onto April and Easter. 
When I looked online for Easter fabric, it's almost all rabbits and eggs. While I may get my grandson Easter candy in the shape of eggs and rabbits, that's not what I wanted my quilt projects to celebrate. I kept thinking of this song: 

So, I looked up "cross" in BlockBase+. There are lots of options, many of which have nothing to do with Jesus. Anyway, I didn't want to just do a cross block as Jesus didn't stay on the cross or in the tomb.  He rose again as victor over death, and the grave, and sin. So, I narrowed it down to "cross & crown" and found that there were 12 different Cross & Crown blocks. For me, the crown part represents His victory as well as the victory He has given us over sin and death through His power, and the crowns He will give us when He comes again. 
Brackman 1891, 13"
For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: Job 19:25
But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 15:57
But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. 1 Corinthians 15:20-22
Brackman 1871, 12.5"
And I decided to see if I could make all 12 into a wallhanging. Unfortunately, I can not import the blocks in BlockBase+ into Quilt Pro 6, my quilt design software. And Quilt Pro 6 does not have all of the Cross and Crown blocks that BlockBase+ does. So, I resorted to paper and determined that yes, I could fit all 12, at their originally published sizes, into a reasonable sized wallhanging. 
Brackman 1863a, 10"
I also opted to use the colour arrangements (but not the same colours) as in BlockBase+. 
Brackman 3234, 7"
Where the fabric was concerned, as mentioned, when I looked for Easter fabrics, most of what I found was bunnies and eggs. I couldn't even find an Easter lily fabric at my local quilt shop. 
Brackman 1864, 10"
Instead, I chose to use one of my absolute favourite fabrics, Michael Miller Fairy Frost in what I considered "Easter" or "spring" colours, and chose a solid lavender for the background. 
Brackman 1667, 9"
Because there were numerous different sized blocks, I knew that they were not going to fit together perfectly. So I would also need some filler fabric, with enough to make a border. 
Brackman 3805a, 8.5"; 16 Y-seams and a lot of bias edges
I "auditioned" several different fabrics, but this is the only one that felt "right". 
Filler fabric
While it kind of competes with the quilt blocks in the finished wallhanging, and I'm not altogether thrilled with it, there is great meaning behind why I chose this fabric. 
In the end of the Sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre. And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it. Matthew 28:1,2

 This fabric looks like sunrise and that's about when the resurrection occurred. It also makes me think of the ascension, when Jesus returned to heaven. 

And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. Acts 1:9

Notice the cloud mentioned in this verse, and the clouds in the fabric. Clouds are also mentioned in reference to Jesus' second coming.

Behold He cometh with clouds, and every eye shall see Him. Revelation 1:7a

So, I also want this wallhanging to remind us of that coming event. While we don't know what time of day it will happen ("But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only." Matthew 24:36), and if He comes at noon in Alberta, it could be the middle of the night in Australia, the second coming has also been associated with sunrise or daybreak, especially in some songs (Gleams of the Golden Morning, Some Golden Daybreak). I suppose that's because it will mean a brand new start, new life, new beginnings, just like a new morning.

As I think I've mentioned previously, I can find sampler quilts quite tedious. They're just not as efficient as using the same block for the whole quilt.
Brackman 2802, 6"
And this one had some blocks with some quite tiny pieces. 
Brackman 949.7, 12"
Meanwhile, as I was putting the pieces together, I was wondering if I should put the filler fabric between all of the blocks. 
Brackman 3261, 6"
I had originally planned on butting all of the blocks against each other and only adding filler where needed. But then I thought it might look better if I spaced them out, as long as I had sufficient fabric and the resulting wallhanging wouldn't be too big for the space on my wall. 
Brackman 2069, 6"
And it turned out fine: enough fabric and enough wall space. 
Brackman 1382, 12"
Conveniently, Urban Elementz had a sale and I placed an order, including King of Kings, which I used on this quilt.
Back to the fabric supply, I still had plenty of fabric to make the coordinating table runner. 
Crown of Thorns Sampler
Often, when I'm working on a project, I'm also looking ahead - to the thread and pantograph selection, but sometimes also to the next project. 
Golgotha, Brackman 2068
So, I was considering what I was going to do for the table treatment. 
Brackman 3654, meant to be a pieced block, but I opted to do applique.
When I searched for "crown" in BlockBase+, I found several Crown of Thorns blocks. 
Brackman 2152
As it turns out, there are 6, but two of them are bordered blocks which I didn't think would work well in a sampler-type quilt. 
Brackman 2048
So, I chose to do the other 4, adding the quilt block called Golgotha as the centre block in the table runner, and making all blocks 12".
Brackman 1806d
Since these were all 12" blocks, I didn't have as many miniscule pieces to contend with. But Brackman 3654 would have created all kinds of grief with curved and Y-seams. So I opted to do it as an applique block instead. Much less hassle! I quilted the table runner with Easter Lily, also from my recent Urban Elementz order. 

In between times, I was working on Easter projects for my daughter and grandson. 
I saw some cute projects online, and made these carrot treat bags. 
I opted to use hair elastics rather than add drawstrings. 
I think these bunny treat bags would look better if they weren't overfilled, but I didn't want any leftover jelly beans. 
A couple of years ago, I made fabric baskets for Easter for my daughter and grandson. But they were not Easter-themed fabrics so they could use the baskets for whatever they wanted. I'm not sure what I used for their Easter goodies last year - maybe just plastic bags? 😁 This year, I decided to make baskets again, but I'm going to ask for them back, plus the bunny and carrot treat bags, if they want them filled again for next year. I don't really want to continue making new baskets every year. Besides, my daughter can sew, so if she wants more fabric baskets she can make her own. I used less generic fabric this year as well. The lining fabric has Easter eggs and flowers on it. I used a carrot and blue stripe fabric in both baskets and a chick/bird fabric on the second basket as well. 
This is my daughter's basket. I used the pattern in this video, though obviously I didn't add the face and rabbit ears. 
This video is kind of annoying because all it has is irritating music and captions. I had to rewind several times to make sure I got the measurements and number of pieces correct. Initially, I was going to add the face and ears for both my daughter and grandson. But it is kind of silly, and extra work. 
Besides, my grandson is 10 years old, getting kind of old for a bunny basket. So, I used a different tutorial for his basket. 
That's it. While my Easter projects were late this year, I guess I've got a head start on next year. I thought of lots of different songs while working on these crafts. Here's one to close this post that goes with the Crown of Thorns sampler: 


Thursday 6 April 2023

AeroGarden Review


After an aggressive trimming
I have been wanting an AeroGarden for years, since I first saw them in Canadian Tire. But the price was rather dear and the purchase would have to wait. Finally, last year, when they were on sale, I bought myself one for Christmas. I set it up on January 10, 2023. 
I have the AeroGarden Harvest Elite in stainless steel. It doesn't take up a whole lot of space, about 11" by 6½", but you still need enough space to put it near an outlet. In my case, I chose to put it on top of a filing cabinet in my office (my smallest bedroom). I also read somewhere that they should not be near a window. I'm not really sure why, but I assume to keep them growing with the LED light and not the sun coming  in the window. Sorry, my office has a south-facing window and the AeroGarden is right below it and I haven't found another space to put it.

Sprouts appear by January 15
The AeroGarden came with 6 pods, pre-planted with herb seeds: Genovese basil, Thai basil, dill, mint, curly parsley and thyme. The light only extends to 12" above the grow deck, so I found their choice of herbs rather laughable. Dill and mint, as any herb gardener knows, are rather aggressive in their growth and spread, and definitely reach heights above 12". I also considered the idea that I could grow tomatoes or peppers in this particular model extremely optimistic. Even lettuce, because it has both vertical and horizontal growth, would be very crowded in the AeroGarden, unless I only planted 3 pods and harvested them young.
January 20
One of the first things I noticed about my AeroGarden is how difficult it is to adjust the settings. While the on/off button for the lights works very readily (I accidentally turned the light off a couple of times while repositioning the AeroGarden after the last cleaning), the settings buttons do not. I was either advancing too fast or not at all. I found it rather frustrating. Fortunately, once you get it set, you don't have to reset it unless you switch from herbs to vegetables, or when the time changes. 😒 I do appreciate the fact that the main settings button - a green leaf - turns red when I need to add fertilizer or water, and the viewing screen tells me what I need to do: add fertilizer or water. Otherwise, I would likely forget and would end up with dehydrated/underfertilized plants. 
January 24
The next thing I noticed was how bright the light is. Very bright! So bright that I find it annoying and distracting, even during the day. And since the "herb" setting is for 17 hours of light, it doesn't turn off until after I go to bed. I have never liked sleeping with my door fully shut, but I now have to shut it almost completely since the office is right next to my bedroom. I will have to re-evaluate that for the next growing cycle. It also confuses my cat. When it comes on in the morning, he figures that I have to have turned the light on, so I must be up, but where am I? I suppose the ideal option would be to have it on a kitchen counter. But I keep a number of my small appliances on my counters and there is no room for an AeroGarden. I might have to look for space in the basement. 
February 8
The instructions say to exchange the water and clean out the tank monthly (every second time that you need to add fertilizer), but it doesn't really explain how to go about doing this. I googled and one man said that he uses a container from the dollar store. The entire grow deck with the plants has to be removed, trying not to damage any roots in the process, and I have to put it somewhere. So that's where the container, filled with water to keep the plants hydrated, comes in. I now have a container that I have to store somewhere when not in use. For lack of a better place, I put it behind the toilet. The pump filter needs to be extracted from the roots, the filter cleaned, the tank cleaned (using bleach or vinegar, which is not in the included instructions, but is online) and refilled, fertilizer added and the grow deck, with the plants and roots intact, replaced. Don't forget to wipe down the grow deck and in and around the port for fertilizer. It then has to go back on the stand. Quite a rigmarole! The last time I cleaned it, I had to use tweezers to extract roots from the pump housing, and I'm wondering if roots can eventually destroy the pump. Can the pump be replaced? Will it be worth it?
Container for keeping the plants during cleaning
While the plants were small, I only had to add water every week or two. When they got really large, they were really sucking up the water and I was topping it up daily. As I have relatively hard water, the recommendation is to use half tap water and half distilled water. At that point, I was going through quite a lot of distilled water, which is not expensive, but it does add up. I honestly have not monitored my power bills to see if running the AeroGarden has had any significant impact. The LED lights should not use considerable power, but the pump runs for 5 minutes every half hour (sorry, I have misplaced my instructions and am only going by what I recall, so forgive me if that's incorrect). I doubt such a small pump would have a significant impact on my power bill. 
February 19
The AeroGarden comes with a 3 oz. (about 85 ml) bottle of fertilizer. Following the label, I give 8 ml every two weeks. That means the the bottle will last for 20 weeks. Unfortunately, the method for adding fertilizer is to use the cap on the bottle, not very accurate or efficient. It doesn't come with a syringe or a measuring cup. Fortunately, I have some medicine cups and that is what I've been using, after making a mess more than once trying to use the cap. Canadian Tire currently sells a 1 litre jug of fertilizer for $39.99. That would be $41.99 with GST. That works out to 34 cents per dose every two weeks. So that's quite reasonable, even though the initial outlay seems steep. 
As for using the AeroGarden next time, I would have to purchase a new set of grow pods. At Canadian Tire, I can purchase a set of 6 (choice of herbs, salad greens, cherry tomatoes, salsa garden, or Grow Anything where I get to choose my own seeds) for $24.99. With GST, that's $4.37 per pod, so I'd want to get a lot of benefit from whatever I'm growing to justify that cost (plus the cost of power and distilled water, but that does include the fertilizer). I can find online instructions for re-using or making my own pods, but my time is worth something as well, so I don't think I'll pursue that option. Amazon, on the other hand, has an AeroGarden Grow Anything 50-pod set for $83.64, which also includes the fertilizer. With GST, that's $1.76 per pod, less than half the price of the 6-pod set. And Amazon has some off-brand pod sets for even cheaper. 
I live alone and so generally only have myself to cook for, so that could be why I haven't been able to keep up with the herbs that are growing in my AeroGarden. Or I should say some of the herbs. As anticipated, the dill and mint took over, along with the Thai basil, which grew a stem so thick and woody that I could not cut it with my kitchen shears. They blocked out the light from the remaining three herbs to the point that I have only had one reasonable harvest of the Genovese basil, a small amount of parsley and I haven't used the thyme at all yet. But I've had dill in abundance. I've used the mint once, but it shot up past the light and I ended up with a bunch of dried/burnt leaves. I really doubt that I would use mint frequently enough to justify ever growing it again in my AeroGarden. Aside from the practicality of growing such an aggressive plant in that environment. And I really didn't like the Thai basil all that well because it tastes too much like licorice, and I'm not a fan of licorice. Sorry, but I neglected to take a picture of the overgrown mess before I trimmed it back as seen in the picture at the top of this post. I will say that trimming it back has drastically reduced the water usage.
Amazon also has some off-brand indoor hydroponic growing systems for much cheaper than AeroGarden, that have good reviews. I just found one for $139.99 that has capacity for 12 pods and a 30" height for the light. To get something similar from AeroGarden, I would have to spend about $400.
My conclusions? After my experiences, would I buy an AeroGarden if I had to do it over again? Probably not. It's a lot of trouble for what I have gotten out of it. Having said that, there are some things I would do differently if I chose to have one of these systems. First of all, I would really explore the cheaper options. Spending less money would be less heartache if I decided that it wasn't worth the trouble. And since there are some systems with better options for cheaper, why not? Knowing what I know now, I would probably not have bothered starting the mint and dill, or maybe starting them at different times from the other herbs. Only using 3 or 4 pods at a time is another option, giving the plants more room to spread out without blocking the light from each other. The openings are only a couple of inches apart! I would also try to see if I could thin the plants in each pod. I'm not sure how many seeds were planted in each pod, but they likely should be thinned to one or two healthy seedlings per pod. This would be challenging since the sponge is well below the lip of each pod and the pods are partially covered with a label, leaving only a small opening for the plants to grow through. Another thing would be to locate it in another part of the house, so that the light is not so bothersome. The problem with this option is that if it's in a low traffic area, I might not notice the warning to add water or fertilizer. 
I haven't yet determined the future of my AeroGarden. Sell it or keep using it? After this batch of herbs is finished, I will likely make another attempt with herbs of my choosing. I really can't see going through all that rigmarole for 3 heads of lettuce, because that's all I would likely plant if I chose to plant lettuce. The space is too limited to expect a good harvest if I planted 6. There are some interesting videos on YouTube of what different things people have grown in their AeroGardens, mostly in larger ones than the one I have. I can't imagine trying to lift the deck and plants laden with tomatoes - even cherry tomatoes -  every time the tank needed to be cleaned...
So, if you're thinking of buying an indoor hydroponic system, do your research, watch some videos and consider what I've said here. Only you can determine whether or not it's a worthwhile purchase for you. It's too bad they aren't available for rent...

Monday 3 April 2023

Subtle Incapacitation

Subtle incapacitation means gradual, initially imperceptible impairment of physical or mental function, whether reversible or not, which is likely to result in safety, performance and/or conduct issues that may undermine the agency's commitment to maintaining a safe working environment for all employees and others.
Cornell Law School

Subtle incapacitation is most commonly caused by hypoxia (low oxygen levels), hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), extreme fatigue, alcohol, drugs or other toxic substances. Neurological problems, such as stroke or brain tumour, may also be a cause. Transport Canada

In watching an episode of Mayday: Air Disaster, which is a program that shows the investigation process involved in various airplane accidents, I became aware of the condition known as subtle incapacitation. If you Google it, you'll find that it is only used to apply to pilots/air crew. I'm not sure why because the factors contributing to the development/manifestation of subtle incapacitation can be found in other situations as well. 
Last week, I was in Edmonton for an occupational therapy functional assessment. Because of my anxiety about driving (the assessment was in a very busy area of the city and the driving would be during rush hour), the disability company paid for a driver to take me in and return me home. During one of our trips, the driver informed me that he had been driving at 130 kph (speed limit is 110, by the way) on his way to pick me up and had been passed by a truck, obviously doing more than 130 (80 mph) and the truck driver lost control of the truck, which started weaving dangerously, until he was able to get it under control again. It made me wonder if the truck driver was a victim of subtle incapacitation. Having been married to a truck driver, I know the crazy hours they keep, and the poor lifestyle they often have, including lack of physical exercise and erratic and improper eating. Transport Canada has this to say about the symptoms of subtle incapacitation:

  • Skills or judgement may be lost with little or no outward sign.
  • The victim may not respond to stimulus, may make illogical decisions, or may appear to be manipulating controls in an ineffective or hazardous manner.
  • Failure to respond normally to two consecutive challenges or one significant warning ("You're 100 feet below decision height") should trigger action.
  • Symptoms may be evident only in moments of high stress or workload.
So, who's to say that subtle incapacitation can not apply to transport drivers? The causes can be present and the symptoms can be the same. And what about shift workers? Or even people like myself, who suffer from mental health issues and chronic and often severe insomnia? I know that my decision-making ability, my memory, my organization skills have all been negatively impacted. Even my ability to type. I also know that there are times when I'm so tired that I get clumsy. Is that not subtle incapacitation? 
I don't honestly know if "subtle incapacitation" is even an official medical diagnosis or if it can be found in the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), but I think it should be recognized and acknowledged that it can apply to more than just airline pilots. And I have no doubt that stress can contribute to it as well. 
And nursing can be a very stressful occupation. And I guess maybe that's where I'm going with this. There is little doubt that there are likely many nurses suffering from subtle incapacitation. And maybe they've been called in by their managers for a performance review and told to do better. And they try to do better, but the situations that have produced the symptoms don't go away. There is altogether too much blame placed on nurses instead of acknowledging the factors that may be directly contributing to "poor performance". I don't know what can be done about it, but I think recognizing its existence is a step in the right direction. 
We're losing nurses faster than we can replace them. And something needs to be done. And I think exploring and dealing with why is far more important than finding replacements. Otherwise, we'll just continue to lose them.