An update about Gwen

We have learned that Gwen tested positive for Influenza A. The swine flu is a strain of Influenza A and is probably what she had. When Gwen was a baby she tested positive for allergy to eggs. For this reason, I never had her immunized for the flu because those vaccines are grown in eggs. This year I decided to have her allergy tested again to find out if an immunization would be safe. Her appointment fell on the day after she died.

Her obituary appeared in the paper today

We thank you for your expressions of love and concern for Gwen and for us.

(no subject)

Our precious daughter Gwen passed away peacefully and sweetly in our arms early Wednesday morning. Last week she contracted a flu (not swine) that developed into pneumonia that her body could not fight.

Please visit my current blog at and leave any comments there.


It grieves me to have to tell you that helquinartifex passed away on July 3 after valiant fight against liver cancer. He was 46.

Like many of you, I met Helquin on and enjoyed his zest for life and art. I always signed up for his zine projects because his topics were so clever and hilarious. It is hard to believe that such a vibrant and witty personality is gone.

If you knew Helquin, please add a note of condolence and perhaps an anecdote about him below. I will send his family a link to this post. If you would rather mail them something, ask me for the address.

Packing Up and Moving On

In order to escape the new smarmy t-shirt ads (and ads for who knows what in the future), I am moving gwenshouse to Wordpress. I have just posted this new project over there:

Come visit me at my new address and see the whole thing:

All my old posts are there now and this LJ account will remain open so I can continue to check in with all my friends. I hope to see you on Wordpress!

What I did with the red log cabin square

The last mini swap quilt for the year is finished. Some people think I will not have the power to resist signing up for more swaps but they are wrong. There are holiday gifts to be made! Must. not. join. any. more. swaps. this. year.

The recipient of this quilt did not specify any favorite colors or any preferred patterns or fabrics. Hmmmm what to do? Well, she lives in Norway so I made her a scrappy Norwegian flag. This one came together pretty well except for the binding. I had to rip and reapply one binding piece three times before it was right!

In October I will be taking a free motion quilting class! I have tried it on my own with heinous results. But I really really need to master this technique - or at least get decent at it.

Hopefully, looking forward to this class will help me forget the undercurrent of panic caused by McCain's choice of Vice-Presidential candidate. If he wins and he dies - aaauuugggggghhh just thinking about it makes my head explode.

More quilts coming and going

Not long after the dolphin quilt arrived in Australia, another Australian quilt arrived in my mailbox. This was my "booty" from the Miniature Booty Quilt Swap. (That's booty as in treasure. We are not swapping les petite derrieres.)

This geometric beauty is from Vickie C. from the Northwest Territories. Look at all those sharp corners lining up perfectly! Her design was inspired by the indigenous country in which she lives. She also packed in some fabric, a hair stick and a little book with stunning photos from around Australia.

I always ask to be paired with swap partners from other countries in hopes that their quilts will reflect some of their cultures. This one really fits the bill. Thanks so much Vickie!

My outgoing mini quilt will also cross an ocean but I'm not telling which one. It is going to be really cool when it's done. Here's a peek:

I know- it's an ordinary looking log cabin block. But just wait!

Nematodes and and summer quilts

There is heartbreak on the gardening front. A few days after we ate our first homegrown green beans (delicious!) I found out that our plants have root knot nematodes! Some icky worm things have invaded the plants' roots. Except for the one pictured below, the other plants are still alive and have small beans on them but they are not growing very fast.

On a happier note, we found a volunteer tomato plant in a corner of the yard. Last year I put out two tomato plants without realizing how bad the soil was. We never got any tomatoes, but maybe this one will produce for us. It is either a Mortgage Lifter or Brandywine. Or it may be an entirely different variety from seed randomly dropped by a bird. Earlier this week I went out to water it and noticed these dewdrops clinging to the leaves like tiny transparent pearls.

The fennel is struggling in the heat. Every morning I find a few of these tall mushrooms sharing their space.

Summer is never a productive crafting time because Gwen is home more and the heat and humidity slows me down. We had some major car repair bills this month so I have gone back to cooking at home every night and making lunches for Gwensdad to take to work.

In July I worked on the fourth and final installment of the Four Seasons Quilt Swap. During the first round (fall) I made an Aussie friend who commented on the quilt I posted. We chatted back and forth. She very sneakily requested to send to me for the winter theme and I was surprised to get the quilt I had seen on her blog. Along with the quilt she sent a book of beautiful aboriginal applique designs and I immediately started hatching my own plot. For the summer theme, I requested to send to her and used the dolphin pattern from the book. The border is from a the same jelly roll of bright batiks I used in my fall quilt. (The quilt is not crooked - it's my photography.)

And here is the lovely quilt I received from Carolyn in NJ. The workmanship on this is impeccable.

The dreaded month of August is now upon us and tomorrow's forecast is for 101 with a heat index of 112. There is no time to lie around like a slug because I have a Nervousness project to do and another mini quilt to make for a different swap. After that the holiday gift making will kick into high gear.

Gwen went to UCP camp this summer and loved swimming every day. It wore her out and she always looked like a zombie when I picked her up. Now camp is over and next week we register for school and she starts back on the 11th. She's going into 6th grade!

Gwensdad continues to work on finishing the back yard. I am doing research on edible landscaping, vegetable gardening and root knot nematode deterrence so we can raise our own salmonella-free produce next year. I'm also applying to take the Master Gardener classes which start in January at our Extension Service. Keep your fingers crossed that I get in!

The best thing about summer...

is growing things!


This beauty is a lily that has bloomed like crazy. Some days there would 5 new flowers open! I bought it two years ago and then found another one like it last year. There will be many more because they have really spread themselves around.

I am very haphazard about what, when and where I plant so there are pots all over the place. I started some basil, oregano, fennel and chives from seed last week and only one has sprouted so far. I didn't mark them so the identity of that plant will be a mystery until it gets bigger. Fennel bulbs are very expensive and hard to find so I'm toying with the idea of growing and selling some next summer when the back yard is available again. Right now it's under renovation.

italian bush beans

Just looking at this pic makes my mouth water because the plants are Italian Bush beans. They are delicious even when they come in a can, but fresh ones are a real treat. This small plot in our front yard was exposed when Gwensdad cut back some huge shrubs. It seemed a shame not to put it to good use.

When the back yard is finished we will have plenty of room for a garden and mass food production next year. I am preparing for it now by making compost, looking for some old windows for a cold frame, saving up for some canning equipment and reading about urban homesteading, especially at Path to Freedom and their accompanying blog.

Dreams of fresh veggies, fruits and herbs from our own yard are dancing in my head!

15 minutes.....

Welcome CA readers!** I am glad you stopped by Gwenshouse and hope you find inspiration and ideas about how to begin or continue to live a more sustainable lifestyle. I also hope you will share what you are doing to reduce consumption and produce less waste by making things yourself and creatively reusing what you have.*

Here are some shortcuts for you:

Read about how I make my own laundry detergent.
View some bags, pillows, quilts and other items made of old clothes.
See the beach bag made from orange CA bags.
Join MIFA's Love Cap Knitting and Crocheting Program.

For further reading, visit these useful sites:

Home Made Laundry Detergent
Guide to Less Toxic Products
Down to Earth -A blog about simple living
Path to Freedom -Urban Homesteading
The Hillbilly Housewife -Low cost home cooking from scratch

And to jump start your crafty muse:

Wardrobe Refashion
Art for Housewives
Trashion Nation

*To leave a comment or question, click on "Post a Comment" below. Those without a Livejournal account can select "anonymous" and start writing in the text box. If I know you, be sure to sign your name!

** Last month our local newspaper, the Commercial Appeal, asked for reader input on how to green your home. I sent in some ideas and they sent a reporter and photographer to the house! The article appeared this morning and you can read it here.