Author Archives: Kathy

Gadgets & Magic That Make Air Travel Less Stressful

While flying from Cincinnati to Dublin, Ireland, recently, I found myself somewhat unprepared for the discomforts of air travel. The universe spoke to me, however, and solutions popped up in unexpected places, I made note, implemented them on the journey home, and am here to tell you what I found.

I was already prepared for leg cramps by wearing compression socks and taking potassium tablets before take off, and that worked. No cramps this time.  I took an allergy pill to help with ear pain or clogged ears, and had a travel pillow and blanket. The allergy pill wasn’t enough, however, as we experienced intense ear pain during the final descent, and had clogged ears for a few hours after landing. I used the pillow, and was very glad I had it since the airline pillows are small and flat.

As chance would have it, soon after landing, I saw an ad about special earplugs to use while flying that helped with the ear pain, and are sold in airport stores. So on our way out of Dublin, we stopped in the airport store and bought two pairs of EarPlanes.  We followed the instructions, and they actually worked. We just had minor ear pain on descent this time, and our ears unplugged sooner.

Another problem that may arrive while traveling is waiting in hot lines or getting over-heated waiting for take-off, which can cause stress, and even panic in some. I found a great way to feel cool, comfy, and in control is to wear a portable fan around my neck. I have the O2 Cool model, which can be ordered, is 5″ x 2.5″ x 1″, lightweight, battery operated, and sends s cool breeze upward toward your face when wearing it. There’s something about having a breeze on your face that is calming, so I used it often to stay cool and relaxed.

So we’ve covered some gadgets, now how about the magic? I have found having a positive attitude, and expecting things to go smoothly sets the tone for an enjoyable travel experience.  The imagination can work for you or against you, and why not be kind to yourself and use it to imagine the best. If you have a fear of flying, imagine you are flying with Luke Skywalker as he easily navigates the galaxy. Experts say to stay hydrated while flying because cabin pressure causes a fast lose of moisture in the air, so it’s best to pass on the cocktails, and drink plenty of water in order to feel your best. No alcohol it ease your nerves?  Again, kick in those imagination and relaxation techniques.

Keep calming techniques in mind and handy during all parts of your travels. For example, if you find yourself sitting on a tour bus and having to use the restroom, try doing some yoga breathing to calm yourself until they stop for a restroom break. Yoga breathing is taking a breath in through your nose, and then out through your mouth for a while. Another way to calm oneself is simply to hum a pleasant tune, read anything available, or do some story-telling with your companion, or just tell yourself that everything will be OK instead imagining the worst things that could happen, and worrying if you find yourself in uncomfortable situations.

On my trip to Dublin, I found myself trying all of the comfort techniques above, and they worked. I even had my little fan going one night in bed when the temperature of the room was warm, and the hotel did not have air conditioning. Traveling to new places, seeing new things, talking to new people enriches your life and feeds your soul. A trip can be a delicious, intense, amazing little slice of life, and having a handle on the stresses of travel can be just the ticket to living your dreams.


Fiber Art & The Quilt Barn Trail

The United States has a long history of quilt making, in fact, the history of America, itself, can be reflected in its quilts.  From early settlers who patched together blankets from scraps of material out of necessity, to the elaborate quilts of the 1800’s that became family heirlooms, to quilts designed to celebrate national pride in recent years, quilts, indeed, are part of the fabric of America.

It should come as no surprise, therefore, that quilting has continued to evolve and progress.  In 2002, for example, the quilts of Gee’s Bend were discovered and made famous through exhibitions in museums, TV and radio programs, and several books.  What made these quilts so popular was their bold geometric simplistic, albeit, modern style.  Because Americans now have access to new ways of sharing, designing, and working with material and fiber, it is clear that the popularity of the Gee’s Bend quilts was just a sample of what was yet to come.

What is Fiber Art?

Fiber art includes quilting, weaving, embroidery, rug hooking, doll making, wearable art, knitting, beading and crochet.  Although these crafts are nothing new, the methods of engaging the materials and ease of accessibility have advanced and launched a surge of interest and creativity.

The Chicago School of Fusing is one example of how fiber arts have changed in recent years.  It was founded in 1997 as a way to teach “the fine art of fusing to a few forward thinking art quilters.”  They now host extensive classes throughout the world.  Fusing a quilt is done without a sewing machine.  The artists normally use hand-dyed fabrics that they fuse together with an iron, then embroider by hand, and add beads or other materials to build texture and dimension into their designs.

Robbie Porter of Batavia, Ohio, began working with fiber art after she retired from teaching art.  She creates bead embellished art quilts, cloth art dolls and more using such methods as fusing and sewing with an embroidery/quilting sewing machine.  Robbie is a member of the Contemporary Quilt and Fiber Artists Guild, and her dolls were published in doll and quilting magazines from 2003 to 2007.  She describes herself as, “…an artist who is fascinated by texture and color.  The integration of beads into my art quilts has become my passion.”

In recent years Robbie has combined her passion for quilting with her teaching skills, and teaches classes in fusing and quilt art at a community art school.  Kathy Leone, owner of the Village Art House in Batavia, Ohio, soon found that not only were members of the community interested in Robbie’s quilts, there was tremendous interest in quilt barns and the quilt barn trail.

What is the Quilt Barn Trail?

The quilt barn trail began in 2001 when Donna Sue Groves decided to honor her mother, a quilter, by painting square quilt designs on 20 barns in rural Adams County, Ohio.  Most of the quilt squares in the country are painted by hand on plywood, measuring 8-feet by 8-feet, although some are painted directly onto the wallboards or other materials such as steel or aluminum.

At the beginning of  2011, the quilt barn trails consisted of more than 3000 quilt squares displayed in 27 states, making it possible to drive a trail through rural America and spot the quilt designs on barns along the way.  The barns have increased tourism and enhanced community pride as the trails now give historic barns new life and showcase local history and culture.

How to Become Part of the Quilt Barn Trail

To get a map of the quilt barn trail near you or information on how to purchase a quilt barn board for your property, contact or a community operation, such as Kathy Leone’s Village Art House, in Clermont County, Ohio.  Each state has its own theme and choice of designs and sizes of boards.  Once a decision is made, the board is ordered and, in the case of Clermont County, the juvenile court system supplies the labor to paint the boards.

Don’t have a barn? Don’t worry. You can still decorate your property with quilt designs. Ms. Leone put a quilt board on the side of her historic home, enhancing its beauty and charm while bringing interest to the community. Because of the easy availability of the quilt board in Batavia, other village residents have hung the boards on garages and old buildings and barns, often secluded on their property, for their personal enjoyment, creating a patchwork of beauty on the landscape of America.


Quilting In  History of Quilts, An American Folkart

Cincinnati Nature Contemporary Quilt & Fabric Artist Quilt Show 2011

Quilt  Gallery:  Robbie Porter

American Quilt  Quilt Barn FAQs


Buying Hand-Crafted Products & Gifts That Directly Help The Poor

Whether you’re buying clothing, gifts, or every-day products, most items you buy are made in countries like China, India, or Mexico these days. In fact, it may look as if manufacturing in the United States is vanishing, but, according a New York Times article in 2009, “the United States remains by far the world’s leading manufacturer by value of goods produced. It is moving upscale…becoming more efficient. For every $1 of value produced in China factories, the U.S. generates $2.50.” Because American business owners and their employees also profit by selling inexpensive foreign-made products, it appears this trend is here to stay. With so much of your money going over-seas, it’s important to know where your money goes and how it is spent.

Foreign Factory Worker, Sweatshop Owner, or American Retailer: Where Does Your Money Go?

It’s easy to imagine some poor children slaving away in a sweatshop in India, frantically sewing the hem in your new jacket in place, but because of recent discoveries, measures have been taken to uncover and eliminate this practice. In 2006, for example, after receiving a tape of children working in a New Delhi, India, sweatshop, The Gap, Inc., “ceased business with 23 factories due to code violations” in India. They now have people located around the world “whose job is to ensure compliance” with their Code of Vendor Conduct.

Today your clothes are most likely manufactured in a modern factory, like Morinda International Co., Ltd, in Hong Kong, China, that supplies knitwear to many American retailers. They are easy to locate online, complete with photos of factory workers laboring in proper conditions. Because American retailers are able to purchase clothes or products at a low cost, they can mark up the price and make a profit for their company and its workers. The retailer profits further when they offer a store credit card to consumers, profiting on interest rates and other fees.

So, whether your money goes to a foreign factory worker or an American retail worker, you can’t argue that it isn’t money well spent, but what if you want to use your purchase to help an impoverished person with the very basic of living essentials?

How To Buy Products That Directly Help The Poor

Women Thrive Worldwide is the leading non-profit organization that advocates for policies that foster economic opportunity for women living in poverty. The organization focuses on helping women because “whether self-employed or earning wages, working women help their households escape poverty.” On their web site,, there is a list of places where you can order merchandise that was made by impoverished women, many items made by hand, from all over the world, including the U.S. These include, World of by ebay, which sells items like silk pillows from India, The Women’s Peace Collection, selling things such as baskets made by weavers from Northern Darfur, and FOAR.US selling American-made t-shirts with designs that promote world-wide human rights.

Macy’s also has their Rwanda Path to Peace program, where you can buy beautiful hand-woven baskets on the Macy’s web site, and the profit is literally changing the lives of small villages in Rwanda by making it so they can afford purified water and mosquito nets. There are more programs out there, like Beads for Life, that you will no doubt come across as you research.

These days, when every penny counts, buying products or holiday gifts that directly help provide basic living essentials to the world’s most impoverished people, is one way to make a big difference with a small amount of money. Items coming from the places listed above, come with cards telling about the program and the people that the purchase helps. Not only do you have a beautifully hand-crafted gift to keep or give away, you have a wonderful story to go with it, and the knowledge of the great joy it brings to the person who receives it as well as the person who made it.


The New York “Is Anything Made in The U.S. Anymore? You’d Be Surprised.” “Gap: Report of kids’ sweatshop, deeply disturbing.”

Women Thrive “Who We Are: A Catalyst For Transformation And Change.”

Copyright Kathleen Pfeiffer. Contact the author to obtain permission for republication.