Thursday, June 23, 2016

Sew Busy

Eight days.
That's all the time I had.
I had deadlines.
So, I got busy!
Looking back, I can't believe I accomplished all that I did. 

I returned from the quilting retreat at the Missouri Star Quilt Company on Tuesday, June 7. I had plane tickets to leave for San Francisco on Thursday, June 16. The days in between were filled with hours of sewing. I had a number of projects I wanted to take to San Francisco.

I made two reversible sunsuits for the granddaughter.

The wrap style top has an embroidered critter on each side.
I love the iguana on the top picture - 
just like in the wild, he blends in with the flowers!


The granddaughter celebrated her first birthday while we were in San Francisco.
She is a little monkey, 
so the sunsuit is perfect!


Some place I read about a simple table runner made from 2 1/2" strips of fabric,
sewn together, cut apart at different points, and then sewn back together.
This was a gift for my son and daughter-in-law.


This table runner in bright spring colors was a gift for my step-mother. 
The top of it was completed, I just had 
to piece the backing, quilt it, and finish the binding so I could take it over to her house.
Done.
Delivered!


While I was at the Missouri Star Quilt Company I picked up some 
"Charm" packs - bundles of 5" square fabric.
The colors were perfect for making a throw
as a 94th Birthday present for my mother-in-law.
I had the piecing completed before I left for California,
and in the two days between that trip and Mr. Dreamy's trip
to Florida, I put the border on, quilted the throw and bound it. 



Another gift finished!

Whew! 
It's been a busy time.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Confused

I have much to be thankful for. I am truly blessed. I attended adequate elementary schools that prepared me for a college-prep high school program. I received an AA degree (not Alcohol Anonymous, mind you!) from a junior college, then my BS degree from SUNY at Geneseo, NY, then my Masters degree from the University of SC. I even had 30 hours towards my doctorate degree. I had an interesting career path that began in the classroom, then I took on more responsibility and became a team leader, then I worked in the District Office and created programs to teach teachers. All this to say, I am not exactly dumb.

So, why is it I can't make heads or tails of all of the forms that I keep receiving from the Social Security Administration with regards to my "coming of age" and qualifying for Medicare?!

First I get a "Notice of Award" for Retirement, Survivors and Disability Insurance. How nice, thought I, to be awarded so nicely after all of my years of service. The letter indicates that I will soon get my Medicare card. Woohoo!

And, I did receive my magic card. Why is it that every store has plastic membership cards, and the US Government sends you a lousy paper card? Oh, and one that won't fit in the basic wallet compartment?!

So, in May I received yet another letter from the SSA. This letter informs me of a "Medicare law that requires some people to pay higher premiums for Medicare Part B and their prescription drug coverage." The letter goes on to tell me the amount I will pay. The letters continues to explain how they work hand-in-hand with the IRS and the IRS snitched and told the SSA how much income I have, and they take the MAGI (modified adjusted gross income), the sum of AGI plus certain amounts of income that are not taxable and subtract this, and add that, and peer into the clouds to arrive at some figure I need to pay. OK... my older brother kinda prepared me for this mumbo-jumbo stuff. I set that letter aside.

Next, I received a bill from Medicare as I have not elected to get my Social Security benefits yet. Oh, and I did receive another letter letting me know that I will be told later just how I would pay for my Medicare insurance, so I wasn't surprised. The surprise came when I did the math. The bill was for three times the amount the letter I received in May quoted. Ah, but the government is tricky... they billed me for three months, well in advance of my receiving any benefits from Medicare (I am still not eligible), so just maybe I wouldn't figure out that their figure was not the same as what I had been quoted in the May letter.

So, what's next? Oh, a communication in early June. This one again tells me about my monthly premium for Medicare Part B. It is not the same figure as I was sent previously. It is not the same figure as that in the bill, divided by three. It is something else, altogether. Oh, and this one states,
"We sent you another letter that explained how we determined the amount of your premium." Well, just how did you figure it out?! Why are the figures different?! Oh, my head hurts. This is so confusing!

Oh, wait. The next day I received yet another letter with the "income-related monthly adjustment amount", and this one is back to the first figure. Ay-yi-yi! Make up your mind!!

I will be on hold tomorrow, as I wait to talk to a government agent in the Medicare office. It seems that some of the communications have come from the SSA Retirement, Survivors and Disability Insurance offices in New York, and other communication has come from the SSA Medicare offices in Colorado. Would you think that agencies of the government would communicate with each other? Oh, no,  that might be be too much to ask!

Rant over....

Saturday, June 11, 2016

The Star

I went to a "Glamping" retreat at the Missouri Star Quilt Company in Hamilton, Missouri. We Dreamers loaded up the motorhome and turned our wheels east. We landed at Wallace State Park in Cameron, MO about 15 miles from my ultimate destination. My best friend, Marjie, flew in to join me in the fun.

Quilters know this place as MSQC (or quilter's heaven), at least they know the online version of the company. The company had its beginnings with online tutorials, beginning in 2008. It has grown, exponentially, since then.  I first visited in November, 2015, and wrote about my experiences on another blog post.

One of the highlights of the retreat was a tour of the MSQC warehouse. Oh, my! It was overwhelming.

Here are a few of the numbers that were thrown at us on our tour:

4000: the highest number of packages sent on one day

This is one of several shipping stations.
Orders are packaged and labeled here.
One cart with packages for the USPS

45,000: bolts of cloth in the warehouse. This doesn't include all of those in the 12 shops. I heard a number in excess of 100,000 for the total number of bolts of cloth. 

One small corner with bolts stacked about 10 feet high.
There are several employees at the warehouse who custom cut orders from the Internet.
Much of the cutting is done in the shops in town.
Each of the bolts on the floor has a sticker with
a computer code for how much fabric is to be cut, and for whom. 

90: number of carts one picker picked and delivered to the shipping station in one day.

Pickers wheel carts to numbered bins.
An iPad shows the item ordered and the location.


Custom cuts are packed in the red baskets.
Many of the baskets contain fabric cut and packed in town.

Precut fabric selections, notions, books and other items are in rows of bins.

There are bins with thread.
Miles of thread!

14,000: highest number of orders received on any one day (Black Friday)

This pickers cart is ready to go the shipping area. Each bin contains the items ordered by one customer.

799: highest number of quilts finished in one month. In the early days Jenny Doan, the MSQC maven, began taking quilting orders. She finished quilts on a long arm machine. Now the company has 10 computerized long arm machines. Mention was made of more machines being added as the company's warehouse more than doubles in size in the next few months.

The machines were quiet when we visited. The quilters do not work on Saturday.
No, these aren't racks at the thrift shop!
These are quilt tops waiting to be quilted. 

65,000: shops that buy from MSQC. The company is a retail distributor for many lines of fabric but they also create and market a magazine (BLOCK) and specialty rulers that they sell wholesale.

A laser cutter, lower right, etches and cuts the rulers.
An employee explains the process and holds what remains of the large sheet of plastic. 

The Missouri Star Quilt Company seems to continually shift its focus and bring on new ventures.
They began as a company that finished quilts.... 
Then created online videos to show how to make a quilt... 
They began selling fabric, specializing in precut fabrics, to make quilts...
Created a magazine that shows more quilts and compliments the videos...
Developed special rulers that work well with precut fabrics...

and one of their newest ventures

Couch to Quilt



Now folks who are new to quilting can purchase an all-inclusive kit to make their first quilt. The kit has everything they will need, including links to online tutorials, tools, fabric, backing, and a coupon for the overall quilting. 



What a smart move. Quilting just might be addictive! Create new quilters who will then want to make more quilts, who will buy from MSQC....

It was all a fascinating experience.