Thursday, April 14, 2016

A Layette Adventure

First I know there are people from many different countries that read my blog. Thank you, thank you. But because of this fact, I thought before writing more I should explain what the word, layette, means. It is the term given to clothing one assembles when a new baby is expected. A layette may also include other necessary items such as blankets as well.

In January 2015, while digging through some boxes of donated materials at the Mano a Mano warehouse I found nearly 75 items for babies. I brought these home and laundered them and then tried to figure out what I had. Most were garments a new baby would wear, although I did find a beautiful sweater for an infant girl  and a couple of dresses. I decided to take these and turn them into a layette project.A layette packet is given to the new mothers in Bolivia served by the clinics built by Mano a Mano.

Research shows that both infant mortality and maternal mortality decreases when a baby is delivered by a skilled birth attendant. Note this doesn't mean a hospital birth, but a birth attended by someone who is knowledgeable and part of a system to get assistance in those instances when something goes very wrong. The layettes in Bolivia are used to celebrate each birth that is part of skilled birth attendance. They usually consist of blanket, an item of clothing for a baby, and a baby toy.

While visiting my friend in Nebraska in that same January I asked if she would help me with this project since she is a quilter with many sewing supplies and a couple of different types of sewing machines. I knew purchasing up to 75 blankets from a store would be quite expensive, and we decided we could buy flannel and make blankets somehow.

Then life intervened for both of us, and we never got back to this project until this March. I drove there with my car trunk full of the flannel I had purchased more than a year previously.

My friend set up her kitchen island as the first preparation area. We measured out the lengths of flannel using the board shown in the picture.


My job was then to fold each blanket in half and cut rounded corners.  Then we off to the surge sewing machine. 
Wow are these machines amazing! They cut off a bit of the edge, maybe 1/4 inch or more if one wants, and at the same time puts a hemmed edging all the edge. When the thread is cut, then a length of cut threads need to be pulled through a few stitches and then covered with a substance called Fray-Check. Doing this final check was my job. My friend assured me the Fray-Check doesn't wash out and now I know this is true. I happened to spill a drop of it on my slacks while working on the project -- and yes, it doesn't wash out. 

Sometime last year I did have enough blankets purchased from a thrift store to put together about 10 layettes and these went in the shipment to Bolivia last September and are now presently being unpacked and distributed throughout the various clinics and hospitals that receive donations through Mano a Mano Bolivia. 

The work we did in Nebraska in March came home with me and ended up all over the dining room table and nearby chairs. Then I started on the puzzle of putting together garments with harmonizing blankets and toys. 

Here's an example of one. This is the one that unusual because it is the little girl's sweater rather than a sleeping garment.


Today I delivered the last layettes and also we had blankets left over. 

  Altogether we put together 47 layettes and 19 blankets for new babies. They hopefully will be part of a shipment that leaves Minnesota for Bolivia in May or June. 

I was told the doctors can always use blankets so perhaps next winter we will have another sewing party. 

Saturday, April 9, 2016

The Wisdom of a 14 year old

In the previous blog post I wrote briefly about the Jesse James gang. A reference to the Jesse James gang always brings back a very special memory.

In 2005 I did the Global Volunteers program in Pelican Rapids, MN -- a program that no longer is available. I chose to do this program because I was aware that Pelican Rapids was a community that was highly accepting of immigrants and refugees. I was interested in what made this community different than others.

Well, that didn't take long. At the public library there was an exhibit about the newly arrived immigrants and refugees in the town. One resident wrote, "These people tell the same stories as did my grandparents about why they came to the United States and Minnesota." That was the piece of wisdom but not the one I referenced in the title.

On the last day of the program, there was an outdoor picnic. A Somali young man, one of the teens provided by the Chamber of Commerce, approached me and asked very politely if he could join me for lunch. He had spent the week with a boy who had been in the community only 3 days, telling the volunteer teacher who had this student, "I know what he needs."

He wanted to talk with me to ask questions about Minnesota. He started out by asking me to explain about Jesse James. He had heard something about this, but didn't understand. Then he asked me if he was right in thinking the Minnesota Wild Hockey team played in Saint Paul. He went to ask if he was correct in his thinking that professional hockey players did get not paid as much as professional football players or basketball players. I told him he was correct, but that the amount professional athletes were paid seemed ridiculous to me compared to what we paid professionals such as teachers or nurses.

He looked at me with his 14 year old life history as a refugee and said, "You know Ma'am, life is not fair." I have never forgotten this.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Driving a Walk

Yes, you read the title correctly. Right now I'm having trouble with walking and pain in my back. I'm back to physical therapy and the physical therapist thinks the problem may be damage to the iliotibial band, an anatomical feature, that runs along the side of one's upper leg from the hip bone to the knee joint. This creates a confounding problem, for one thinks there is a problem with the hip joint when in fact the difficulty is coming from another part of one's body.

I decided I could help the Volksmarching movement by double checking some of the route maps. Returning from Lincoln, NE, I double-checked the walks in Luverne and Worthington, MN. Madelia, Minnesota was on my way home too, but the day was getting too short to stop there as well. This needed to be done soon, so when Sunday morning dawned with good weather my older daughter and I took off for a day trip.

We left around 10:00 and got to St. Peter, Minnesota around lunch time where we stopped for lunch. Then it was only about 25 miles to drive to Madelia.

Madelia is located in Watonwan County. Watonwan County was established in 1860 on the shore of the Watonwan River. It is believed the name was spelled wrong as it came from Dakota language to English. In Dakota Watanwan -- note an a after the T rather than an o. The Dakota word, Watanwon, means where fish bait abounds.

Madelia is actually just a bit older than the county. It was platted in 1857 and finally incorporated as a city in 1872. It is named after Madeline, the daughter of General Hartshorn, who was was one of the early settlers in Madelia.

I did find one mistake in the route map while yet in St. Peter. While waiting for lunch I tried to put the address for the start of the walk into Google Maps on my phone. Google Maps was confused. So I looked up the address for the specific motel where this walk begins and found it is located on Hayes Avenue NE, not NW. This little mistake was what was messing up Google Maps.

Once in Madelia we started driving the route and the first thing that took my eye was this house which had quite unusual decorations about the windows.

Not all homes in Madelia were quite this rustic.

There were many homes in Madelia like the one above. These were built in the early 20th century. Many other in the town were built as single story ramblers after World War II, when there was a big housing boom as all the soldiers came home from the war and started families.

Soon the walk route took us to a historic site  -- the Truss Bridge. The informative sign by this old bridge says that before bridges were built Madelia was the site of three fords across the Watonwan River. A wooden bridge was in place at one site by 1875, but because it was wood, it didn't last very long in Minnesota weather. The Truss Bridge replaced it in 1908. The type of construction for the bridge shown below in the photo is also called span bridge. This old bridge is preserved because it is one of the very few now to survive in Minnesota.

Below is a close up of what I believe are the "spans."

Not only can one no longer drive over this bridge, one can not walk over it either.

The draft of the route map had a question about whether there were public restrooms available at the Historical Center. I stopped in the parking lot for the Historical Center and found it to be open on Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday so we couldn't visit it. Straight ahead of me while parked was the old building shown below.
TWP is an abbreviation for township. For my Polish friends who read this -- you use the word, gmina.

Our drive then took us back up to Main Street in Madelia. One reason to check this route map was to determine if a serious fire in Madelia would affect the walk route. This fire occurred about three months ago.

I found the fire site was now contained behind a fence.

Madelia had adopted a slogan for the Main Street rebuild.

I even saw the Madelia Strong sign posted in other nearby neighboring towns.

Across the street from the fire site is another historical site, the Flanders Building

Originally Madelia was the county seat of Watonwan County. The Flanders Building was built to be the first courthouse. Court met on the second floor -- what would be called the 1st floor by European count. Various county offices occupied the ground floor, what is called the 1st floor in the United States.

I had noticed a mural painted on the side of a building so we backtracked there.

This mural is about the James-Younger gang. The men associated with this gang had fought on the Confederate side during the Civil War. They were based in Missouri and following the Civil War took to robbing banks.

One day they showed up in Northfield, Minnesota. There they met people in the town who fought back. Two members of the gang died in Northfield and the rest took off on their horses. However, they chose the first day of hunting season in Minnesota to rob this bank and then try to escape. Many men were out in the countryside with guns for the hunting season.  A farm boy noticed suspicious people nearby and went to the sheriff in Madelia. This means the gang would have traveled about 75 miles. There was a shoot out between the men of Madelia and the gang.

Madelia men    
The Younger brothers were wounded, dead, or captured.

That was really the end of the James-Younger Gang. I always knew about Jesse James Day in Northfield, but never knew that most of the gang was captured in Madelia.

In our drive around town we noticed two churches with interesting architecture.

The steeple on this church caught my eye as did the interesting way to ring the bell.

Turning the corner we noticed another church lit in an interesting way by the early spring light.

This is a Presbyterian church.

Our last stop in Madelia was at the grocery store where we picked up cold bottles of water. From there we made our way back to St. Paul.

This story shows why I like the walks. One finds such interesting things when walking. Hope we can find a way to help my walking problem in the next couple of months.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Easter Brunch

My older daughter and I enjoy brunch at the Nicollet Island Cafe. The restaurant is located within the Nicollet Island Hotel, logically enough on Nicollet Island.

Our view from the table was of the bridge that crosses from the Island to an area known as Old Main.

 I like this brunch because it is served at the table rather than making one walk through a buffet line.

The first course beverages and pastries. We both chose coffee; I didn't want anything alcoholic because I don't drink and drive. My daughter likes cream and sugar with her coffee, but never before has she had a chance to brown sugar cubes wit h coffee.

For the next courses we each had a choice between three different things.

My daughter chose the pancakes with blueberries which included edible flowers -- another first experience for her.

I had a slice of quiche with a bit of salad.

For the next course my daughter chose the asparagus salad while I had the pea soup. This soup always makes me feel like I'm in Europe.

In the next course I chose the meatballs.

My daughter chose the mushroom gnocchi.

The dessert was a slice of cake with rhubarb sauce. If there had been another choice I would have taken it for I really don't like rhubarb.

But anyway we had a lovely morning. Hope you all enjoy seeing some brunch choices from Minnesota.