Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Kyla Aug 5, 1999–June 27, 2011

She leaped out of the crate and into my arms, I fell in love. She was 5 months old and had just flown from Los Angeles to Denver to join our family. You would think she would have been nauseous, or smelled bad from nerves, or just been timid with all the travel and uncertainty about her circumstance, but no, she was energetic, happy and immediately loving. I clipped her collar and leash on and walked her around to relieve herself before starting an auto journey the rest of the way to her new home. I put the crate in the back of the car, but let this puppy ride up front in the passenger seat next to me. Somewhere along the way, she relaxed, and rested her head on my arm. She already trusted me to be her caretaker, and I was smiling inside and out. She came from a breeder where she was somewhere in the area of Omega in the pecking order, lots of dogs much higher up, so when she went into our home, as the only dog, and saw the dog bed, she bolted to it and made claim to it first thing. I laughed. It was the first time she made me laugh, and I cannot tell you how many more times she made me laugh over the next eleven years. My husband came home a couple hours later and he too fell under her spell. We named her Kyla as she was a graceful, rather petite Kerry Blue Terrier and the name seemed to fit her.

Her Family copy

Terriers by their nature have a lot of energy and Kyla was no exception to that. She was also amazingly intelligent and could figure out how things were done then manipulate the circumstances to suit her where you wouldn’t even know it; for days sometimes. I don’t consider myself stupid, but there were times when I would realize that she had been training me for days and I would have to adjust to regain the upper hand. She loved to be chased and would do almost anything to get you to chase her, including taking the freshly folded socks from the laundry basket, give you a sideways look and take off. It was kind of funny until she started to lose her baby teeth and got blood all over the socks. Breaking her of this habit would prove challenging if one wanted to be able to leave a basket of clothes on the floor. She taught me to give her cookies by eating the mulch in the yard. I didn’t want her eating the mulch, so I thought I was so smart to distract her into the house with cookies. She dropped the mulch and came running for a cookie. It was later, I realized, that she had learned the consequence of putting the mulch in her mouth resulted in getting a cookie. OK, off to puppy school with Kyla. It should be called Dog Owners School as that is what it really is. She loved it. She loved other people, she loved other dogs and she loved the clicker training. After getting the basic understanding of how we might be able to manage a workable life together I was able to train her to roll over, sit, shake, lie down and stay (well at least for a little bit). She had the energy of multiple dogs and quickly turned her manipulation on her Dad. He is a light sleeper and could be convinced to get up in the middle of the night and play. He was the playboy for her and she loved this. This was a problem we needed more help with.

Fortunately the breeder in California was breeding and some puppies would soon be available.  So when Kyla was around 2 years old, we got her little brother, Fergus to keep her company. He was 8 weeks old. We hoped he would help use up some of her energy so she’d sleep through the night. It did work, but we got more than that as a benefit. The two of them became best buddies.

Fergus was tiny at first and Kyla was the proverbial nasty older sister for a while. She didn’t hurt him but she was far more intelligent and could basically get him to do whatever she wanted, whenever she wanted. We had a split staircase at the time and she would run up one side and stand at the landing. Fergus was about the height of the stair and he would pull himself up each stair to chase her and as soon as he made it to the landing she would bolt down the other side. If he was resting on the bed, and she wanted it for herself, she would find some toy and shake it in his face and toss it in the air with all the drama as if to show him that this game was the most fun game ever imagined by a dog and he should want to join in. As soon as he showed some interest she would run off and up he’d get to chase her. She’d drop the toy and run to take the bed. Fortunately, most of the time Fergus didn’t realize he had just been tricked. I had empathy; I too had been a victim of her intelligence on more than one occasion.

They had a grand life, once the gate had been left open by a repair person and she took off on an adventure and Fergus of course went along with her. I, of course, heard from a neighbor who saw them trotting away. So, off I go in a total panic, afraid they might have been hit by a car, but they had gone towards kids, and away from the busy road. I turned the corner and saw their large Kerry Blue butts swinging side to side, tails up and wagging, heads up and having a good old time. How can you get annoyed when they look so cute and no harm was done? I didn’t, we went home and had cookies but from then on watched the gate more carefully.

BlizzardMarch03 030

In Colorado Kyla was a snow dog – she loved heat and would lie in front of the fireplace but she was no whimp when it came to snow.  This was taken during the dig out from the 03 blizzard.

Kyla had been a runt. The breeder hand fed her so maybe her doggie mother knew something. But you know what they say about small and fierce. Kyla was one tough dog. She had an incredible pain threshold and experienced, I hate to say, numerous trips to the vet over her lifetime. She sliced her paws in two places on steel edging in our lawn (I’ll never use that again in a yard, ever, ever, ever).  Later, she was rolled in the yard by her now much larger brother playing rough house and ended up with a puncture wound in her chest.  She got some weird eye infection and had to be treated with a host of anti-inflammatories and antibiotics over a several week period. We had a trip to Italy planned and paid for, so we have to thank Beth, who stayed at the house with the dogs for being such a great nurse to her during that time. All these injuries healed and she never lost a step during any of it. After moving to the Seattle area we had to put Kyla and Fergus in a doggie daycare for one day while our movers moved our furniture in. That day, a Cocker Spaniel decided to give Kyla a pierced ear. I guess he didn’t know she loved dogs and was not a threat in any way whatsoever. We didn’t even know it happened until that night at bedtime I was giving her some love before going to bed myself and she made a little whimper when I touched the ear. It too healed but left a permanent scar on her psyche. She would never ride in the car again without a lot of nerves and shaking to the point you’d be afraid she was going to have a heart attack. Two years after that, she and Fergus went into the yard one morning and unbeknownst to me a feral cat was back there . A huge chase ensued and Kyla being faster with quicker turning actually got to the cat where the cat felt threatened and scratched out. I’m absolutely positive that Kyla just wanted to sniff the cat and let the cat sniff her, she never had an aggressive bone in her body. I was able to get the dogs in the house after the cat treed itself. Kyla was running from window to window to see if that cat was still out there, tail still up and wagging but her left eye was winked down. I got her to come to me and when I touched near the eye she squealed out, so I knew she had been scratched. Off we went to Dr. Rice, who referred us that day, to a dog ophthalmologist. The scratch had been a deep puncture wound and the ophthalmologist didn’t know if the retina had been scratched or not. If it had, she might have lost her eye. Again, drugs, oral and drops, anti-inflammatories and antibiotics needed to be administered round the clock. We did not know if the eye could be saved. The instructions from this vet were ominous. A large cone on the head and we were instructed to keep her really quiet; no jumping, no running. She didn’t like the cone and insisted that I feed her. I allowed her this. She needed nourishment and without jumping and running how much fun can a girl have, I thought. After a few weeks we were out of the woods, eye intact and vision in good condition. She did have dry eye and the eye doctor thought maybe her thyroid might be low. Sure enough, thyroid medication and viola a whole new lease on life.

I have one regret with Kyla and that is that I never got her to be a therapy dog. She was a natural for it. She knew when you were hurting, sick or just needed to be given some attention. She was with me through various colds and injuries including a knee surgery, and would always lie at my feet being ready to be there for you. I had a friend visit once who was going through some personal hell.  Kyla went over and put her head on this friend’s lap,  looked up at her with her beautiful doe eyes and just stayed there, as if to tell this friend that it’d be alright. Kyla loved to sleep next to my husband and if she heard or saw him lie down on the floor she would run over and curl up in his armpit and put her head on his arm or chest and they would sleep like that together.


Lyle with Kyla on the left and Fergus on the right enjoying a few z’s on the weekend.  This is a photo that I could have taken on many occasions.

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She had so many attributes but I think her greatest attribute was her ability to make me laugh. From the socks to liking the skin of a sweaty friend whom we had just met, to teasing her brother or doing antics to get cookies she brought a sense of joy, energy and enthusiasm to my life. Her strength through all her travails has been inspirational, and I hope yet to become the person she thought I was.


Kyla patrolling the yard the summer of 2010. 

In early March of 2011 she was diagnosed with lymphoma. We met with the oncologist and Dr. Rice, her regular vet, and made the decision to give her Prednisone and Chinese herbs to treat the cancer, the symptoms and make her as comfortable as possible for whatever time she had left. After a week, she made a remarkable remission, and her energy and life were apparent. She was again playful, hiking her toys between her legs, trying to hump my husband’s foot.  I never did figure out what that was about, but maybe she thought his foot was alpha, and if only she could be dominant over that.  She ran some, played with Fergus, and outwitted me. I was overjoyed and couldn’t believe our luck and her will to live. Kyla and I had a battle of wits over her food and medicines.  For a while I would have a trick to get them down and then she’d figure it out and would refuse to eat that so I’d go off and figure something else out and that would work for a bit then she’d decide to stop eating that. I think part of her will to live, was to see how many different cuisines she could try out that she hadn’t been given earlier in her life. As it turned out, quite a few different ones were used over the last four months. We had read that a diagnosis of lymphoma in a dog results in death generally within 4-6 weeks and she lived to late June, nearly 4 months from diagnosis. She got to spend time in some warm weather which she had always enjoyed, many hours of being hand fed, hugged, petted, massaged and loved, walks in the yard and visits with the neighbor dogs through the fence. She reminded me that she trusted me as her caretaker and wouldn’t leave my side or allow me to leave hers. At the very end I was just spending my days reading or sitting and being beside her as she slept. Finally the cancer was just too much and she didn’t have any more energy to give. I carried her from room to room and even held her head so she could drink water but knew in my heart that it wasn’t fair to ask her to continue like that. My husband and I decided it was time, and we were so fortunate that our vet, Dr. Rice was willing to come to the house to take care of her.  We just didn’t want to put Kyla in the car since she had never gotten over the nerves after getting bitten in the ear. Kyla was glad to see her vet whom she loved and she relaxed in her presence. She knew Dr. Rice would take care of her and she lay down on her bed by the window and soon it was over, very peaceful, no pain and with an outpouring of love for her from her parents.

I hope there is a special place in heaven for all the pets whom we’ve loved and their owners. I want to spend time in eternity with her. Eleven years were not nearly enough. Kyla, we miss you, and hope you are having a grand time wherever you are. Godspeed my love.


Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Quilt Binding Blind Finish - Final Join

I have used various methods to make that final invisible 45 degree join in my binding for years now. Many of the methods I’ve used seemed difficult and frequently I’d end up sewing the diagonal the wrong direction and have a binding that was twisted or had a bump and I’d have to rip out stitches. I devised this method recently to keep from tearing out stitches (and my hair) and have performed it five times in the past several weeks and have not taken out one stitch and all five quilts have beautiful binding and you can’t tell whether it is a final join or a center join. Please read the entire process before starting. I hope you find this as easy as I have and enjoy perfect results every time.

Sew your double binding on leaving tails at the beginning and the end of the quilt using all the normal methods for corners and sizes of bindings. This instruction is only for the final join.

Leave approximately 10” long tails at the beginning and the end of the quilt. Depending on the size of the quilt this length may not be possible as you do want to go around the 4 corners. This method can be done with relatively short lengths but for the first time try to leave the two tails approximately 10” each. These two tails should have at least 5” or more of overlap. For this lesson I wanted to be able to show the two different ends easily and also wanted a scrappy binding for this quilt so the two objectives were a perfect fit. In photo #1 you can see a tail on the right that is teal blue and on the left a red tail with plenty of overlap. The binding has been sewn to the quilt other than this last section (approximately 16” or so) and we are ready to start with this blind finish binding technique.

The first thing to do is to cut a 45 degree angle on one of the tails. In photo #2 you can see the 45 degree ruler lined up with the edge of the double thickness binding which has been unfolded.

Photo #3 shows the tail after a 45 degree angle was cut and the other tail still square and folded.

Now take the cut tail and after folding it back with the ironed crease, sandwich it between the layers of the square tail. See photo #4. Lay the quilt flat and gently pull the two tails into each other snugly but not so snug that you gather the quilt edge.

Carefully open the outer binding and mark on the inside of the uncut binding tail a small section along the edge of the cut binding tail. See photos #5 and 6. I use a chalk or charcoal pencil but anything temporary that you can see for a few minutes will work.

Now take the tails apart and unfold the uncut tail and lay it out for marking (do not cut here). Line up the 45 degree ruler with the mark and along the edge of the binding. See photo #7.

Mark (not cut) along the ruler’s edge and remove ruler – see photo #8.

DO NOT CUT yet! Use a ruler to measure ½” from that marked line towards the end of the tail (away from the quilt). See photo #9. Your marked line will not be cut off but will be left with the quilt edge of the binding. Now cut along the ruler here.

Using the ruler mark ¼” from the edge of the cut line and mark this line with the chalk pencil. See photo #10. I mark this ¼” seam because my walking foot which I used to attach the binding is still on my sewing machine and I am too lazy to change feet for a 2” long seam. Once this seam is sewn I’ll need the walking foot to sew the final edge of binding to the quilt. Since my walking foot does not have ¼” I can sew along this
chalk line as you’ll see in next photos.

Sandwiching the two binding tails you can see how they line up and the ¼” marking will result in a perfect join every time. See photo #11. You do not need to perform this step although it is a good way to make sure you align everything for pinning.

Pin the right sides together and the long end of one tail to the short end of the other and have the two edges come together where the sewing line was drawn. See photo #12. Sew along the ¼” chalk line.

Check to see if the binding is the right length. It should be perfect. See photo #13.

Press the seam open. See photo #14.

All that is left is to trim the little nibs and stitch the binding to the quilt. See photo #15.

Photo #16 shows the final blind join.

Here is the final quilt showing the entire binding finished, photo #17. You cannot tell which of the joins was the last join - easy and works perfect every time.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

How to Make a Skylight Shade

In the summer the sun is directly overhead and it makes my kitchen too hot. The sun also shines directly on my head when I am at my sink, so something had to be done. I love the skylight for its light so didn’t want to lose the light, just cut the heat during those 5 or 6 months of the year.

Depending on the size of the skylight you want to cover, the cost of this shade will be a fraction of the cost of a commercially created shade. My skylight is 4’ square and the cost for a commercial shade is well over $300. I spent less than $50 to create this shade. This project turned out to be highly successful so I will share my method here. You will need:

· measuring tape

· café rods for two opposite walls in the skylight well

· dowel sticks – optional – maximum size to fit inside the café rod

· Drill

· Screwdriver

· Rotary cutter ruler and mat – suggested but optional

· Sewing machine and sewing tools

· Fabric of your choice

If you don’t sew or own a sewing machine you might want to give these instructions to someone who does and pay them to make this for you. I decided to make my shade with a sheer fabric because I wanted the light but not the direct heat. I was not sure how much it would cut the heat but wanted to try this first before going to a complete black out shade. It works really well so now I put the shade up as soon as the sun gets high enough in the sky to bother me and I take it down in the fall, wash it and put it away until next spring. I like looking at the stars in the winter skies but you could leave it up year around if you want.

After you purchase the café rods for the skylight well, install the hanging brackets on either end close to the edge of the skylight well but with enough room for the café rod ends. Now put the rods in the brackets. See photo. Use a measuring tape to measure the distance between the outside edges of each rod. Call this measurement “A” and write it down. See photo. This is the distance that you will want for the length of the shade. Measure the width between the brackets and write this down as well as this is the width of your shade; call it measurement “B”. Measure the distance between the wall and the inside edge of your café rod and write this down as well, call it measurement “C”. See photo. Measure the distance between the wall and the outside edge of your café rod and write down this distance as measurement “D”. See photo.

Now that you have your dimensions you’ll need to get fabric. You’ll want to use the warp threads along the selvedge edge to be perpendicular to the café rods since the weft threads have a little give. These directions are for a tight shade between the café rods. If you want your shade looser to look like a tent ceiling then add an amount necessary to achieve that look to the distance “A” you measured earlier.

Remember too that this fabric will get a lot of sun so you don’t want to spend too much as sun tends to destroy fabric. Check out your fabric store’s sale racks and remnant locations if the skylight is smaller. Some stores such as Joann’s have coupons in the Sunday papers too. A sheer fabric will cut the heat but allow the light to come through. You can get an idea of the opaqueness of the fabric by unwinding some off the bolt and holding it up to the lights in the store but remember you will probably gather it so don’t be shy to gather some in your fist and see how much light you lose. A colored shade will color the light in your room as well so it’s probably best to stay with a light neutral color unless you want the effect of a colored light in your room.

To determine how much fabric you’ll need to buy will depend on how much gathering you want on the café rods. You can ask the sales people at the fabric shop what they recommend based on the look you are trying to achieve and the fabric you select. Different fabrics come standard in different widths so be aware of that. For my shade I made a 107 inch wide shade for a 42 inch wide rod. See photo to see what the gathering looks like with that ratio. Thicker fabrics will need less and more sheer fabrics will look better with more. Sometimes this can be easy depending on the width of the fabric as you might only need to purchase one length of the fabric. To determine the length you will want to purchase, add measurement “A” to (4 times measurement “D” plus ¼ - ½” depending on the tightness you desire and the diameter of your café rod) then a few inches longer for shrinkage (or to square up the fabric). If this fabric will shrink then pre-wash and dry before going to the next step. The ¼ to ½“ addition is to accommodate the diameter of both rods. To get the proper amount for the width of the shade will depend on the number of panels you will need. So, if your skylight is wide (as mine was) then you’ll need 2 or more panels depending on the width the fabric comes in and the amount of gathering you need. It is better to get too much than to make the shade and have it be too small. My directions allow for generous hems so if you follow the directions and it is still too short you can pull some out of the hem and make the shade fit.

To cut the fabric I used a rotary cutter and an Olfa ruler generally sold for cutting fabric for quilting. It isn’t absolutely necessary but cutting square will give you an accurate shade which will fit the same on both sides assuming the skylight well is more or less straight. If you want to see how to use the Olfa rotary cutter and ruler for accurate cutting check out the tutorial at this site: http://www.purlbee.com/rotary-cutter-tutorial/ Now cut your fabric squarely using the measurement calculated above. So, if A is 44” and D is ¾” then you’ll want to cut at least one length 47 ½” (long 44” plus 4 x .75” plus ½”). Cut off the selvedge edge if necessary and sew multiple panels together if necessary for the width (measurement “B” – remember to add for shirring or gathers) then hem the sides with ¼” hems. I did not need to do this as I just left the selvedge on since it was a sheer fabric. Carefully iron your ends by folding over an amount equal to Measurement “C” on both ends then fold it over again the same distance and iron it again. Hem the edge of this. This is the green hem line on diagram B. Then hem a pocket for the café rod so the distance between the two orange hem lines is equal to Measurement “A” plus ¼ - ½” or so. See diagram B. You may want to stitch these seams with a large running stitch on your machine and test the drape to make sure it isn’t too short. If the drape is too tight you can move both hems outward a bit to provide more slack. A large running stitch is certainly easier to pull out than a tight stitch. If you measured properly, cut squarely, ironed and added the ¼ - ½” it should be just fine. The amount from the edge of the shade to the orange hem line should fill the distance between the walls of the skylight well to the outsides of the café rods so you have that area blocked as well. The only area where the sun can come in without passing through the shade is at the edges but if you purchased café rods with small ends and put your brackets as close to the sides as possible it should be minimal and not worth fretting over. Remember you are spending about 1/10 the price of a perfect solution.

You are almost done. Cut the dowel sticks to go inside the café rods so the café rods after they go over the dowel sticks are the right size. The dowel sticks give the café rods more stiffness from flexing (this may or may not be necessary for your application but were for mine). If your width is narrow they may not be necessary. Dowel sticks are relatively inexpensive so I would suggest them if the width is greater than a foot or if the fabric is heavy.

Now slide the shade onto the café rod and snap the café rod in the brackets and smooth the gathers on both ends until you balance the shade and now you too will have saved a lot of money to use for something that you really want. You’ll notice in the photo that my shade is quite tight and pulls the café rods even with the dowel sticks in. The skylight is quite wide so this might look a little better with a little looser shade but I wanted it tight so you pick your poison. It sure does keep the heat out and the light coming through though so it’s well worth it.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Why Move

Many people move because they have outgrown their current living environment. If you just had twins or triplets this blog won't be for you because you probably really do need more space. However if you have just accumulated so much stuff that you can't move in your home there is another answer and it'll save you money and may actually make you some.
First of all look at everything in your possession. Ask the following questions about each item:
  • Is this something I still need, use, wear etc.? If no, put it in a pile to donate or possibly sell
  • If it is something you still need, want etc. is it stored in an appropriate place? If no, put in a pile to 'put away'
Now look around your home and determine if you have space that isn't working very well. Do you have large openings under your clothes above your shoes? Is there space under your stairs or elsewhere that has been drywalled in but is available if you could just get to it? Is there wasted space in your home?

If you have space in your closets there are wonderful organizers available through Container Store and now the hardware stores as well. These work once you truly decide what you want to have in your closet and you'll find that you will be better at putting things away once they have a designated home.

If your home doesn't work very well, it is MUCH less expensive to hire a contractor and move some walls, open up some areas, add closets than a move will cost you. The cost of a move is enormous. If you own your home you'll have the costs associated with selling it, the actual move and all the headaches associated. Most of us think that hiring a contractor to work on the house is expensive but I have found that hiring a contractor to remove walls, add cabinets, closets and the like is actually quite affordable. Before you do anything get an expert to look at your ideas to make sure you are not taking out a load bearing wall or doing something that would damage your home. Structural engineers are available to come to your home as are architects, space planners, interior designers and contractors. Most will come for one visit at no cost to meet you and find out what you are planning. Structural engineers can be hired for an hour or two depending on the scope of your ideas and are well worth the cost for your peace of mind. I've used Angie's List http://www.angieslist.com/quite successfully to find excellent resources. You'll be so happy if you can have the items you want and be able to find them when you need them.
Happy organizing.