Greetings from a Safe Social Distance

20200407_215331418_iOS

It's hard to know what to write about.  

I made a bunch of masks.  Here I am modeling one of them, and of course that's Julia in the back being her camera friendly self.  I sent some masks to family and I'll be bringing the rest to work with me tomorrow.  

I've been home from work for the past two weeks as the store I work in adjusts to the daily changes brought about by Covid 19, and things will be different.  Our department will still be making awesome food but we won't be serving it directly to customers – everything will be packed up and ready to go, thus minimizing contact between people.  So it will be strange, but at least we are still going to be cooking.  

While I've been home, the rest of my family (a teacher and two teens) have been adjusting to going school online. And earlier this week, Julia started Driver's Ed – online.  She's happy about that.  The worst part for her has been no softball.  And with Alex – it's his senior year, so there's a lot he's missing out on – first and foremost, baseball.  And then there are the other senior things – the prom, and graduation.  But.  We are all healthy, knock on wood, so that's the upside.

Also, my son has enlisted in the National Guard.  He was sworn in recently and family was not allowed to go because of the virus – but his recruiter was able to snap some pictures for us.  Here's one:

20200408_175333000_iOS

He always makes me proud. 

So he will, of course, finish high school, and then at some point – it's up in the air BOTV (because of the virus) – begin boot camp and go to college and begin this next phase of his life.  It makes my head spin, how quickly these first 18 years have zipped by.

And then there are these two:

20200407_215331418_iOS

Otis does not respect boundaries.  

There's another cat in our lives, sort of.  Another black cat – outside – that's been showing up on a semi-regular basis.  No collar, so we don't know if he/she has a home nearby.  I think it's a female, so I'm going to refer to the cat as she, just to simplify things.  She seems healthy, and she is pretty friendly.  Julia wants to adopt her despite me pointing out that maybe she has a family already who wouldn't appreciate us just taking their cat from them.  And as I say things like that I hear my mother's voice telling me and my sister the same sort of thing when we would insist that any dog or cat that wandered into our yard had no family and could we keep it???  Pleeeeeease???  So I don't know.  For now, she is a welcome visitor.  And Bill thinks she killed the rat that was in our garage, so she's got his approval.  

Our mail deliverer just went by.  I didn't hear our mail box lid bang shut, so I don't think we got anything today, but hang on while I go check……

Nope.

I've also been doing some crocheting…

IMG_3857

It's a blanket I'm working on for Alex.  It's kind of a temperature blanket, but instead of a whole year's worth of temperatures, it's the nine months (or 40 weeks and 3 days) I was pregnant with him.  I'd made him a heavier blanket when I first started crocheting, but it's way too heavy and warm for his bedroom, so I'm making him this one instead.  And now I'm really trying to complete it because he'll be 18 in a couple months, graduating from high school (one way or another) and it just seems like it would be a good idea to get this done.  It's mainly blues, at his request, and I really enjoy working on it.

With that said, I think I'll put down the laptop for now and pick up my crochet hook.

How are you all doing?  Be safe, everyone!

Repairs to a Quilt Elsa Made

20191203_181954705_iOS

Bill doesn't remember how long this quilt was on his bed.  His mom made it – one of a number of quilts she made for family members.  I haven't seen any of the others, but I've got a folder and a ring binder stuffed with patterns and fabric swatches and handwritten notes.  I couldn't find notes about this particular quilt, but I could swear I've seen them.  If I find anything I'll add it to this post.

Anyway, you might not be able to tell from the image above, but I patched this one at two different times.  The first time, I tried to copy the shapes and placement of fabric pieces as accurately as possible.  I got some squares and triangles done, but eventually abandoned the project for some reason – possibly because it hurt my carpal tunnelly hands.  

This time around, I abandoned the original game plan and only cut out triangles.  

20191121_154224399_iOS

I used the freezer paper applique method again, as I'd done with the Christmas quilt.

20191130_170738857_iOS

20191121_154833897_iOS

20191121_160554216_iOS

20191121_180217070_iOS

I only patched big holes, or big areas where seams were fraying.  I left small frays for now.  

It's a huge quilt.  

And as I'm sitting here, typing, I was about to say that I don't know where to put it, since we have a lot of extra quilts and blankets around here, but now I realize that I could take the Christmas quilt off the loveseat in the living room and put Bill's quilt there.  So I guess that's settled.  I'll pack the Christmas quilt away with all (or almost all – I found two nutcracker gentlemen and a tiny tree in the music room last night) of our holiday decorations and enjoy it again next December.

So that's settled.

Besides quilts, Bill's mom, Elsa, also made braided rugs.  I remember there was one under the kitchen table.  Bill said there was one long, narrow one in the hallway but I don't think it was there when I came along.

It's funny…my grandmother, the one who crocheted and knitted and drew and painted and played piano, also made some braided rugs.  And there was one under her kitchen table, too.

The next quilt I work on will be the one my grandmother made for my bed when I was a kid.  It's a flying geese pattern, and it is just about falling apart.  I found some extra strips of the flying geese, but not nearly enough of them to patch all the worn out sections.  So this will be a larger repair job than this one and the Christmas quilt.  I don't think I'll doing any applique.  I'll be rebuilding.

For now, I'm doing some knitting, and working on a couple of other projects that I'll write about in due time.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, as he was with Christmas quilt, Otis was extremely helpful with Bill's quilt.

20191121_181144814_iOS

 

Biscotti Three Ways and Other Cookies

20191212_142541477_iOS

Those of you who have been visiting me over the years will know that I have a bunch of cookies that I make every year before Christmas.  Some of them are recipes inherited from my late mother-in-law, and some are recipes I know certain people really like, and some are recipes I like.  Some years I do a TON of baking, and other years I do the bare minimum, and one year – the year my mom passed away, six years ago – I didn't do any. 

This year I was finally truly looking forward to baking.  Didn't have all the time I could have used, but I got a fair amount done and I'm happy with that.

 Here are links to the German cookies I baked this year:

Lebkuchen

Springerle

Pfeffernusse

German Butter Cookies

Each of those posts is from 2008, with a link to the posts I did in 2007 that include the recipes.  

I also like to make biscotti.  Mostly because I like to eat biscotti.  I've got a basic biscotti recipe that I start with, and then I play around with the flavors.  

One year I made Biscotti with Candied Ginger, Mini Chocolate Chips, and Almonds, and another I've also used white chocolate chips and candied ginger with lemon zest, using that same basic recipe.

This year I poked around in the pantry to see what I had and came up with three new variations: 

20191218_194053573_iOS

Maple Pecan Espresso Biscotti.

For these, I subbed 2/3 of a cup of maple syrup for the cup of sugar in the recipe, and used pecans and espresso morsels.  To me, they taste like a lazy breakfast.

Next…

20191218_194153277_iOS

Cinnamon Apple Almond Biscotti

I used Bourbon instead of vanilla, and then used dried apples and almonds and cinnamon.  Very tasty.  Next time I'll chop the dried apple into smaller pieces, but otherwise, I'm happy with this.  I don't really notice the bourbon, so I don't think it's really imperative.

And, third,

20191218_194244159_iOS

I don't know what to call these.  They're kind of my "healthier" version.  I subbed a cup of oats for a cup of the flour, used orange zest and orange juice for the flavor, and used a mix of golden raisins, nuts, and seeds (sunflower, chia, and hemp).  They're crispy and I love the orange flavor.  I wanted to use dried cranberries but didn't have any (the bag I'd seen in my pantry was actually dates, and I've realized I don't like dates all that much).

~~~

I just finished decorating the last of the butter cookies.  I'd done the tiny ones with the usual brush stroke of egg yolk across them, like Bill's mom used to do, and gave myself some snowflake and assorted star shapes to decorate as well.  I only used melted chocolate, white royal icing, tiny pearly balls, and blue sugar sprinkles.  

Here they are, just hanging around waiting for the sugar paint to dry…

20191221_204442808_iOS

20191221_204434203_iOS

20191221_204446686_iOS

20191221_204429294_iOS

And that's about it!

Well, I made these, too - 

20191212_220708925_iOS

They go by many names.  Mexican Wedding Cookes, Russian Tea Cakes, Snowballs, and so on.  My sister really likes them, so I call them "Those Cookies that Meredith Likes."  

What are you baking?  And do you make the same things every year, or do you mix it up?

Reparing the Christmas Quilt

20191123_230614897_iOS

I made this quilt for my parents while I was in college.  I was sharing a house with some people, I had a sewing machine, and I'd made a couple of other quilts before this and didn't really know what to get for my parents that year.  I thought they'd appreciate something homemade.  

The pattern is some kind of pinwheel pattern and is supposed to bring to mind poinsettias.  I cut out triangles and squares and diamonds (well, technically they're really just parallelograms, aren't they, since they aren't perfectly symmetrical like a diamond shape) from cardboard, bought all my fabric, traced and cut out all the pieces – and then realized that I'd done half of the diamonds (parallelograms) backwards. (If they'd been true diamond shapes it wouldn't have mattered, but all the parallelograms "lean" in the same direction, so the backwards ones would have messed up the overall look of the piece.  So I had to get more fabric and re-cut more poinsettia leaves.

Anyway, once I'd corrected that mistake, I assembled the pieces into rectangles and squares and then bigger squares and then bigger rectangles and finally, the top was done.  I have a feeling I cranked this out on the machine as fast as possible, because the corners aren't always squared off properly and because I know I tend to procrastinate, so I probably finally put the layers together and tied it off pretty close to December 25th.  

I was pretty happy with the quilt.  And at the time I'd convinced myself that my parents would be overcome with appreciation and admiration and there would even be tears of joy.  I'd put together quite the Hallmark commercial in my head.  So, of course, when my mother opened the box and pulled it out and said "Oh, that's nice, thank you," in just her regular "thank you for the gift" voice and no angels sang or music swelled to tug at heartstrings I was stunned and devastated.

Lesson learned.  Life is not a greeting card commercial.  Especially if you try to force it.  And gift giving should be about the recipient, not about my ego.  Got it.  Usually.

The quilt covered their bed every winter.  

Three years ago, after Dad had passed away and my sister and I were struggling to clean out the house, I realized I hadn't yet seen that quilt – it wasn't with the Christmas stuff or the sheets and blankets – and I suddenly HAD to find it.  I finally did – out in the shed.  I think Dad had used it to line the little trailer behind his ride-on mower when he was giving the grandkids rides around the yard one year.  The quilt must have been in there for several years, and mice had chewed through the fabric to make little cozy beds with some of the batting.  I took it home anyway, washed it well, and put it away to fix some day.

20191120_202227404_iOS

I've looked at it a few times over these past years, and finally I decided I needed to do something about all the quilts that are packed away for me to repair Some Day.  

So I made a list of unfinished projects, and there are five quilts that need repairs, plus one that needs to be finished.  The repair projects were all made by family – two by me, two by my grandmother, and one by Bill's mom.

The time of year made the first choice for me.  

20191120_202413857_iOS

Now, I don't have any of that fabric any more.  I decided to use fabrics that were close in color and pattern, and rather than try to blend them in, I chose to make the patched pieces obvious.

I also decided to just use the diamond/parallelogram shape, regardless of the location of the holes.  And I decided to use a freezer paper applique method to create the patches.  

20191120_193401407_iOS

First I made a template of the parallelogram, making sure to indicate which side – and therefore which direction the finished patch would be pointing – was up.  Next, I traced it a bunch of times on the non-waxed side of some freezer paper. The paper side is the correct shape for the final piece of fabric.

20191120_195258965_iOS

Then I cut out the freezer paper pieces, flipped them over, and pinned them to the WRONG side of the fabrics I was going to use.  Then I cut around the paper pattern, leaving about a quarter of an inch, maybe a little bit less, for the seam allowance.

20191120_200230381_iOS

Next step – fired up my iron and ironed the seam allowance over onto the waxy side of the paper.  The wax holds the fabric in place so I can create that nice sharp edge.

And…

20191120_201146801_iOS

A few minutes later I had a bunch of patches almost ready to go.

20191120_202809427_iOS

I pulled out the pins and carefully unstuck the fabric edges from the paper.  Then I flipped the patch over and pinned it over the hole I needed to cover.

20191120_231322243_iOS

Next, I blind stitched the patch to the original fabric, removing the pins as I went along.

20191120_203155158_iOS

20191121_003745900_iOS

And pin, stitch, repeat until all the holes are patched.

20191121_011813719_iOS

20191121_035432790_iOS

Fortunately I had a supervisor throughout all of this.  Otherwise I'm sure I would have failed miserably.

20191121_040106599_iOS

The project took me a day or two.  I worked at my ironing board, with the bulk of the quilt draped over the back of the couch.  And I listened to all three seasons of The Crown as I stitched.

20191123_123444743_iOS

Ta da!  Otis supervised, Scratchy approved.  On to the next quilt.

 

 

In Line at CVS

I was in line at the CVS near my house.

There was just one register open.  Well, one, plus the two self-service ones they put in a few months ago when they eliminated two (I think it was two) live-person registers.  So now there are two self-serve and two employee-manned registers.

I refuse to use the self-serve machines.  I don't use them at the grocery stores or at Target or any other stores that have them.  For one thing, I have a job, and I do my job at MY place of employment.  I don't go shopping so I can work for free at someone else's place of employment.  I used to use the self-serve checkout things when they first showed up.  They were a novelty.  If I was in a hurry, they were a quick option.  And when my kids were little, I'd let them bag the groceries or do the scanning – it was fun for them and made things a bit smoother for me.

But.  Over time a few thoughts took shape in my head.  First, if I'm going to do the work, then shouldn't my reward be some sort of discount on my grocery bill?  It wouldn't have to be much, but just something that says "Hey, we at This Big National Store realize that we are tricking you into doing the work of cashiers and baggers by making it seem fun and speedy, so since we're saving money on the deal, we'll share that savings with you and knock some tiny percentage off your bill.  Thanks for playing along!"  But of course that's not going to happen, at least not that I've heard.  Second, the self-service, self-checkout kiosks operate in place of actual people.  Of course, there are always some real live cashiers available.  And in the off hours, either way is fairly speedy if you're in a hurry.  But when it's busier, the do-it-yourself checkout seems the faster option.  Of course, they could open up more registers and have more real cashiers handy to keep things moving, but this way is cheaper.

Incidentally, the grocery store I cook at, which is NOT a chain, does not have a single self-checkout register.  Not a one.  And we are very proud of that.

So anyway, I've already gone off my original path.  

Back to CVS.

I was in line.  There was only one cashier.  There was one customer already at the register, and two women who were ahead of me.  They were older and didn't seem to mind the wait because they were deep in a conversation about how one of them had just come back from Ireland, visiting family, and she'd gone because life is short and her husband had passed away earlier this year and if not now, when?  I also learned, unintentionally, that she's got 8 grown kids (between her and her late husband's first marriage), something like 21 grandkids, and even a few great-grandkids.  The conversation between the two women was initially about the gorgeous cardigan this same woman was wearing – made in Ireland – very warm, this one was a dark green, and she's got another one in, I want to say dusty rose, but that's not the term she used, though it's the color in my memory…and I think she also brought back one in periwinkle.  

While the women in front of me continued their conversation, a tall, thin, dark-haired man came up beside me, excused himself as he cut the line and went to one of the self serve stations.  The current customer at the register in front of me finished up and the other two ladies and I each took a step forward.

I wasn't there to buy anything. 

I'd already been there about half an hour earlier.  I bought a box of Raisin Bran.  I just found out Julia actually likes a relatively healthy cereal after all, and Raisin Bran is it.  So I picked up a box while I was there.

I hadn't gone in for cereal, though.  Julia was working on a project and needed some pictures printed from her phone.  So, she'd sent them to me earlier and I uploaded them on the CVS app and was told they'd be ready in about an hour and I'd get a text.  An hour went by.  Hour and a half.  I went over, figuring they'd be ready – only ten pictures – and picked up a box of cereal INSTEAD OF the ice cream that was far more tempting to me right there in the store but would only do damage once I got it home.   

I brought my box of cereal up to the register and mentioned to the two women behind the register that I was also hoping to pick up some prints….?  They spoke almost in unison.  No, there weren't any prints.  Their internet hadn't been working in a week.  

A week?

I explained that I hadn't had a problem and I'd even been given a message that the pictures would be ready in an hour.  They shook their heads and one said maybe I'd picked a different store?  Their photo printing equipment wasn't working either….  They were polite and had probably gotten tired of having to repeat this story over and over for the past week.  

I don't know why I was SO annoyed by all of this, but I was.  I pointed out that no, I wouldn't have picked a different CVS because THIS is the only CVS I use.  And I grumbled about how it would have been nice if there had been a message to let me KNOW the prints wouldn't REALLY be ready in an hour, or EVER…(I didn't say it exactly like that, but my petulant little brain was thinking it all, much to my embarrassment) and as I behaved like a cranky baby in need of a nap, I put my box of cereal down and my keys, and while I was saying some other grumpy stupid thing the woman who was cashiering rang up my box of cereal and I said I knew it wasn't their fault, I was just really frustrated – which is kind of like saying "I know you didn't hit me first but I'm going to punch you anyway."  The Better Me was apparently locked in a room and could only pound on the window while Grumpy Baby Me hurried out of the store, So Inconvenienced Was She.

I zipped home, annoyed at the hour and a half I'd waited for no reason, and annoyed at myself for being such a bad sport for something so trivial.  I called another CVS not far away and their photo-printing equipment was working fine, so I got back in the car and went over there, with instructions from Bill and Julia to bring back something "snacky and dippy."  I uploaded the pictures, the machine printed them, I bought tortilla chips and queso, and headed back home.

But first, I stopped at the original CVS and got in line.

I have worked in customer service jobs of one kind and another most of my life.  I've waitressed, I've worked retail, and I've worked in a "quality assurance" department and spent a lot of time on the phone trying to fix stuff that had gone wrong all over the country and way out of my reach.  In every one of those jobs, I've dealt with people who didn't get their steak cooked properly or were unhappy that the item they wanted wasn't in stock, or that a service person was late and hadn't called, or maybe they were just unhappy about something else going on and took it out on me, or maybe they were just miserable grouchy people all the time.  I don't know.  I learned not to take it personally.  (Unless it was my screw up and then yeah, I took it personally and apologized and tried to fix things or make them better, and then beat myself up about it for a few days.)  But that didn't mean it didn't hurt, at least just a little, because in the majority of these situations, what had gone wrong wasn't due to my error or even within my control.  When I was a waitress – I'd put in an order for medium rare, but the kitchen sent out medium well.  I'm so sorry, I'll have the kitchen cook you another one, unless you'd like something else?  I had no control over the inventory in the book store once it hit the sales floor.  There may have been ten copies on the shelf yesterday, but we didn't know Oprah was going to mention it and it sold out. I'd be happy to order you a copy…. I could go on, but the point is, I've spent a lot of my working life apologizing for things that weren't specifically my fault.  (Although at one job we were told that saying "I'm sorry such and such happened" is not admitting fault.  Maybe not, but it still felt like it a lot of the time when the words came out of my mouth. Even when I used my manager voice.)  

So, to go back to CVS, I was mad at myself for behaving like a grouch earlier because I really, REALLY know better, and I'd gone back to apologize.  

The line moved up again. 

Behind me someone's cell phone started playing this kind of jazzy ringtone and I heard an older man behind me finally answer it and at first it seemed he knew who he was talking to.  "Tara?  Is this Tara?  Because Tara just called me….Yeah….Are you anywhere near the Newport Bridge?…Hang on…"(I hear him shifting something around, probably switching what he was carrying from one arm to the other)…."What?…..I'll be there soon….No?….Are you….Are you on the Mount Hope Bridge?….Well…why don't you go and take a flying leap off it……"  

And I waited for what I assumed would be a hearty chuckle, because it had seemed like he was talking to someone he knew, though I couldn't figure out in what capacity, because it was a weird conversation.  But then he spoke to someone else in line.

"Yeah, I like to give them a hard time.  They call me and give me a hard time, so I give them a hard time right back.  I gotta get something out of it."  And whoever had been on his phone must have had an accent because he went on to speculate where they were from – in such a way that made it sound like he held that whole country responsible for all the hard time people have given him by telephone.  Some other guy in line chimed in that yeah, he liked to keep telemarketers talking a long time too, sometimes.  It was fun.

And I get robo-calls, of course.  I've spoken to my share of telemarketers.  I argued with one, once, and he actually hung up on me, which made me proud, a bit.  

The calls are annoying.  So I don't answer them.  And I've been trying to separate the existence of the marketing technique (or scamming technique) from the people making the calls.  Because some of the time, it's just people doing a job.  Just trying to earn a living and pay rent and buy groceries and have internet access and a phone.  They are just doing their job. Their job may annoy or frustrate me, but it's not personal.  I try – and fail – and try again – to remember that.  Same thing when I call some big company's customer service department, and the person who takes my call and then has to transfer me to some other person, who has to put me on hold to talk to a supervisor because she can't just do what I'd like her to do because she doesn't have the authority to make that decision.  She's just doing her job.  It's not about me.

I can't even get into the part about the older guy behind me blaming the telephone person's entire assumed country of origin for the annoying spam call.  The prejudice in his voice – it made me sad, because it's so pathetic and ugly and wrong and small-minded and backwards-thinking and oh, it dredges up memories of other people I've worked with over the years that I just couldn't believe would talk like that and at the time I didn't say anything because I was the new girl and shy and then I would say something but it didn't change the way some people think because they've been thinking that way their whole lives and aren't about to change just because I helpfully point out that they're wrong.

It was my turn at the register.  The cashier – same one as before – looked at my hands to see if I was holding something to buy or return, and I said "Hi, I was in here earlier, about the pictures, and I just wanted to say I'm sorry for being a miserable grouch before – "

The woman shook her head, interrupted me and moved as if to pat me on the hand, "Oh! No, no, don't worry about it!"

And I shook MY head and continued on "I really had no right to be like that – "

"You weren't – !"

" – and I should know better – "

And the other woman who'd been there earlier showed up too, to open the other register, because I guess the line had been getting longer, and she looked at my cashier like there was a problem, "Is there – ?"

And my casher started to explain "She was apologizing for – "

"I was being a big baby, is what I was doing when I was in here earlier – "

"Oh, no!  Don't worry about – "

"Anyway, I just wanted you to know I felt bad about it.  Have a good night."

"You too!"

They were smiling.  I was smiling.

And then I went home.

Paper Snowflake

20191120_164715663_iOS

Do you wanna make a snowflake?  Here's how I like to do it.

I start with a square piece of paper, and for these recent ones I used tracing paper, which is (or seems to be) thinner than regular paper and creases nicely during folding.

I've got a lot of pictures for you – I hope they help.

Oh!  It also helps to have very sharp scissors.  

Here we go…

20191116_125726654_iOS

Fold the paper in half on the diagonal.

20191116_133425313_iOS

Find the midpoint on the long side and fold one end of the paper triangle over to the opposite side.  You're trying to divide this triangle into three smaller triangles with equal sized angles at the base. Why three?  Because snowflakes are hexagons.  Dividing this first triangle into three right now gives you your six points/six sides when you unfold the final product.  

20191116_133425313_iOS

When you are happy with your three angles, crease the sides where you divided the larger triangle into smaller ones.
20191116_133425313_iOS

Your paper should now look like this.  (above)

20191116_133425313_iOS

And then fold that triangle in half, length-wise.  Crease the new fold.

20191116_133425313_iOS

Now hold your multiple-fold paper up to the light so you can admire all the pretty layers.

20191116_133630189_iOS

Here's what your triangle should look like when you unfold to that very first triangle.  There are 6 smaller triangle sections within the first triangle.  

20191116_133630189_iOS

Now for the snipping.  I like to start by snipping a little bit of the point off.  You don't have to if you don't want to.  It's just my personal preference.  

20191116_133630189_iOS

So here's my folded triangle with the tip cut off, on an angle.  And these are my pretty little very sharp new scissors that I bought just for snowflake making and this post.

20191116_133630189_iOS

Now you can start making other little snips along the sides.  Just be careful not to cut all the way across, or too close to the opposite side, so you don't chop off half of your work.

20191116_133630189_iOS

When you get near the wide end of the triangle, you're reaching the part that you looked at when you held your folded paper up to the light.  The paper will have fewer complete layers from here on out, so whatever you snip will not show up around the whole snowflake.  At this point I like to trim these ends off so I'm left with JUST the complete layers.

20191116_133630189_iOS

Then you can continue with your snipping until you have done as much as you can or want to do. 

Time to unfold!

20191116_133630189_iOS

Ta-da!  Like unwrapping a gift, sort of.  Take a moment to marvel at your work.

20191116_133630189_iOS

I like to put my snowflake in a heavy book to flatten out the creases.  A day in the book should do it.  

20191116_133630189_iOS

So that's my snowflake.  It looks whiter because I lightly taped it to a piece of cardstock paper and traced it all, then cut all the holes and sides with an x-acto knife to make a template for other creative projects.  I'm working on a post for that, and when I'm happy with it I'll share.

I made a ton of these at some point many years ago, and my parents taped them to a window in our kitchen.  Or maybe they hung them somehow.  Less tape to scrape off the window later.  Anyway, you can do that, or hang them on your Christmas tree, or mail them to someone who lives in a warmer climate and doesn't get to see snowflakes, or whatever you like.  

Have fun!

Where to Start

IMG_2466

That's Otis high atop my yarn hutch.  

I have nothing to say about him really.  I just wanted a picture for this post and others I was looking at were too specific.  I'd have to write something about the picture instead of what I'd planned to write about, you know?

It's one of my days off today.  I'm home, the kids are at school, my husband is at work.  My plan, my desire, my thing I was so looking forward to, was to just do something creative all day until school lets out and my wife/mother life takes over.

So many projects to choose from.  And I don't know where to start.  I really don't.  And now it's NOON already!  

I started out by pulling mostly everything out of the closet in the basement where we store holiday stuff.  Mostly Christmas decorations, but also the few Thanksgiving related items and Halloween things that don't get trotted out to the same degree now that the kids are older.  

I was looking for snowflakes.

A ton of years ago I folded paper and snipped bits of the paper away and unfolded the paper into a paper snowflake.  I did this a lot of times, and pressed the snowflakes flat in a heavy book.  I was proud of my snowflakes because they were delicate and beautiful, AND – because I am kind of annoyingly obsessive about some things, they are 6-pointed snowflakes – just like real ones.  No easy fold-in-half-and-in-half-again eight-pointed "snowflakes" for me.  I would fold the paper in half and then in thirds into a pie-shaped piece and then fold THAT in half, all the better to make my snowflakes as intricate as possible.  I had very sharp small scissors and I think I used to use tracing paper because it was thinner and easier to cut through multiple layers.

Anyway, I remember hanging them in the windows at my parents' house, and they continued doing that over the years until they moved to a smaller house and the snowflakes got packed away.  After Dad died and my sister and I cleaned things out of the house, I found them and brought them home.

At least, I think I did.  I must have.  I wouldn't toss them out after they'd been preserved for so long.  Would I?  

I don't know.  I sometimes throw things away in the heat or despair of the moment and then come to regret the impulse.

So back to the snowflakes.  I wanted them because after digging through all those unfinished bits and pieces of fabric projects (see previous post) I thought I'd go back to a project I'd started another ton of years ago, back when I was doing a lot of hand sewing.  I thought I'd make a series of Christmas stockings in white satin, with trapunto snowflakes stitched into the leg part of the stocking.  They'd be pretty and blah-blah-blah and anyway I never finished them.  But I kept them so that Some Day I could.  Over the weekend, Some Day peeked in the doorway and said "pssssst!" to me.  That is actually why I'd started digging through the bin that had all that unfinished stuff.  I thought maybe they were in there.  They weren't.  I'd thought I could finish them.  Or at least do something with those stitched snowflake sections.

So when I couldn't find them, I thought Hey!  I'll just find those snowflakes I made, and dig out some shiny fabric and trace the snowflakes onto muslin and baste that to the back of the shiny fabric and then stitch the outline of the snowflake and then puff up the branches of the snowflake with yarn to give it some dimension and then turn that fabric piece into, I don't know, a pillow or ornament or something.

But I can't find the snowflakes.  I looked through our boxes of Christmas stuff, where the snowflakes LOGICALLY should have been, but I couldn't find them.  So I put all the boxes back.  

But I kept out the shiny fabric.

Two dresses.  Two wedding dresses.  One is mine.  The other was my mother's and then my sister's. 

We aren't going to wear them again.  And our daughters will most likely want to 

(Okay, I'm just interrupting myself to say I've got Air Force One (the movie) on tv right now and I love this movie and Harrison Ford is SO fabulous at looking uncertain and desperately trying to plan his next move and I love this movie and I'm so glad it's on Amazon Prime.)

Anyway.  I've looked on Pinterest for ideas of what to do with all this wedding dress fabric (because there's a lot of fabric to these dresses) and I'm thinking some of each dress will be incorporated into quilts for all four kids, at the very least.  (My sister's two and my two.)  And also some will be incorporated into a quilt or something for my sister and for me.  And I figured I could maybe use some of the fabric to make a few snowflake-embellished pieces.

I have the dresses.  But I'm reluctant to start cutting them up just yet, since I don't have a clear plan for any of those projects just yet.  And can't do the snowflakes.

I kept looking for the snowflakes.  Boxes of pictures and old mother's day cards and coins my dad's father used to find on his walks and send from Arizona to his granddaughters.  Old partly filled notebooks.  More pictures.  More pictures.  I really need to organize them.  But how?  By person?  By year?  By this side of the family and that?  But then what about the intersections?  Which box do they go in?  Should I make duplicates of everything so when my kids are going through this same thing years (and hopefully more years) from now, they'll each have a complete set?

And I didn't want to sort pictures today anyway.  I wanted to do something with fabric or yarn.  Fabric.  

I think I will probably sew a bunch of pieces for that double wedding ring quilt I'd started back in the day.  

But then what?  

I have so many projects I want to work on.  About half a dozen quilts in need of repair.  Several crocheted blankets in various stages of completion (or incompletion thus far), plus one I'm knitting.  And all those unfinished bits of other projects I found in the bin the other day when I was looking for – yep, those snowflakes.

There are also some reorganizational things I want to do to this blog but they will be time-consuming, too.

So, where to start? 

I don't know which thing to tackle first.  I feel pulled in a multitude of directions.

I'm thinking maybe it would be sensible to repair the Christmas quilt first, since it's the middle of November and that would sort of make sense, right?  

But I also want to keep going with the double wedding ring quilt.  So many small pieces.  

And I really like having some yarny thing to work on because it's quieter than the sewing machine and sometimes I just need something simple and repetitive to work on.

And  -  well, you see my problem.

So I'm asking you.  How do YUOU decide what to do next?

Unfinished Business

IMG_2541

I bought a new sewing machine back in February or March; one I could use for heavy-duty projects involving denim or leather or the like.  I found it a place on my work table – actually on my Dad's old desk – and I unpacked all the accessories into a drawer – and there it sat.  

This is a silly habit of mine sometimes.  I get a new thing and then set it aside until I get used to having it around, and only then will I start acquainting myself with its features.  It is really silly.

Anyway, the other day I finally wound a bobbin and threaded the needle and stitched some fabric together.

The project in the above picture is the pieces of a double wedding ring quilt I decided to tackle within a year or so  after Bill and I were married.  At the time I just worked, and we had no children.  I had time.  And then we went and had children, and all my pieces of fabric took a back seat.  And then a spot in my mental attic.  Under luggage and old furniture and dust.  And eventually the carpal tunnel business started bothering me and holding a needle and stitching all those little pieces by hand (because that was the other thing – I was going to do it all by hand) wasn't a lot of fun.  And I got interested in other things, and so on and so on.  Life.

But I kept all the bits and pieces, intending – some day – to finish it.

After the surgery on my hands almost a year ago, I discovered I could hold a skinny needle and work pins and it didn't bother me at all!!  I was EXTREMELY happy.  I set to work piecing the small "ring" pieces together and it was wonderful to be doing something I'd loved to do years ago.  Like Dorothy walking out of her sepia-toned house and into technicolor OZ, 

But you know what?  No matter how great my hands are now (and they are), it's still a LOT of stitching and I still don't have all the time in the world any more.  I just want to get it done.  So – to the sewing machine!

And I have to say, it's really fun to work up the pieces.  I pin a batch, sew them up, pull the pins, and iron them flat.  Hard to explain how joyful this makes me.  But it does.  I love the smell of damp, hot fabric as I iron down the seams. I even like ironing clothes, but making a quilt is way more fun.

This morning I opened a big Rubbermaid tote and dug in.  I was looking for another old sewing project in particular (which I didn't find) but I found a whole bunch of others.  On one hand, it's overwhelming.  I don't even remember what my game plan was for some of these patterns and fabrics.  But on the other hand, I'm excited.  Where to start???  (I know, I know.  I'm working on the double wedding ring quilt.  Maybe I should start – and finish – there?)

Here are a few pictures of some of the chaos…

IMG_2497

Okay, well this is not unfinished.  This is an embroidered picture on a pair of my shorts that I did back in junior high or high school, I imagine.  That person on top of the front mountain is a tiny little Scotsman playing the bagpipes.  I'm pretty sure I was pleased with my work, otherwise I wouldn't have saved them all these years.

IMG_2518

This is a sample piece from a workshop I attended one summer weekend in Maine.  There was a class I took in trapunto, which is a sort of filled stitching – you use bits of stuffing or pieces of yarn or cording to add dimension to the quilted stitches.  Pretty cool stuff.

IMG_2519
IMG_2519

I also learned to do applique using freezer paper, a process I loved and utilized in a lot of projects after that class. 

IMG_2543
IMG_2543

I concocted these squares with the intent, I think, of turning them into big pillows.  the stars and the letters are all applique.

So were the tulips on this apron…no, wait, never mind that, I guess I didn't take a picture, or I deleted it.  

IMG_2526

And this.  It's hard to see, but this is a blend of trapunto and applique, and it's also copied from the cover of the Broadway soundtrack album for Evita.  It was meant to be (and still is!) part of a quilt for a great friend of mine in college and after who HATED the music and suffered a lot at my hands and my record player.  I do not apologize.  It was educational.

Anyway, here are a couple of other squares meant for the same quilt:

IMG_2522

Here we have a log cabin variation with denim and flannel on one half, taffeta (I think) and velvet on the other half.  The story involves this dear friend and a middle of the night trip to the grocery store with him in denim and flannel and me in a gorgeous dress with a black velvet strapless bodice and a shimmery blue skirt (that flared out thanks to the layers of tulle underneath).  I wore heels, and my hair was up in a bun and my makeup was over the top.  We put our groceries (we shared a house with another friend, so grocery shopping together was not unusual) in our cart and strolled up and down the aisles (well, I tottered around on my heels, which I very rarely wore) and acted as though we looked perfectly normal.  And I guess "we" is incorrect – I'm the one who had to pretend.  

IMG_2522

And this is a game of cribbage. I think we both learned as kids. In my house it was a Sunday afternoon event – various cribbage games between my sister and I and our parents, with some sort of sport playing on the tv and cheddar cheese and Saltines and glasses of ginger ale.  Ginger ale for us kids.  I don't know what my parents had. So anyway, my friend, Ralph, and I played go-for-the-jugular cribbage games way back when, and if you look closely at the faux wooden board above you can see the word "blaze" – something we'd say when one of us, usually me, ahem, scored a lot of points in a hand and blazed past the other person's marker.  

I have a few other squares but these three are my favorites.

And that's enough for now – time to sew some fabric together before the rest of the day gets away from me.

 

Trying to Find My Compass

Last week my companions, Worry, Anxiety, Depression, and Fear, got together and threw a party in my brain.  In addition to my usual stress-inducing thoughts, I started wondering what the purpose of life was.  Specifically, my life, naturally, but also, just our lives in general.  But mostly mine.  I got stuck thinking – wondering – why am I here?  What am I supposed to be doing?  With my life?  Am I supposed to be trying to do something GREAT?  And if I am, how come I haven't figured it out yet?  Should I have majored in something different in college?  After I've been dead a generation or two, will anyone remember me?  And for what?  At my worst, I imagine I'd be remembered as that one who never figured out what to do with herself and FAILED AT LIVING. 

Yes, that's what I was immersed in.  The belief that I've done everything WRONG and I'm running out of time to do things right.  To leave a mark – a good one.  To matter.

It was a fun party, I tell you.  It went on for days, swirling around in my mind, creating a giant rock (Anxiety's work) in my chest and leading me at one point to make a list in my phone of all the things I was worrying about at that moment one day at work.  I just had to get it out of my head for a minute.  And yes, writing (typing) it down kind of helped.  I just made a list of items, each one starting with "I worry that – " and after I downloaded all that mess I went back to work and my day improved.  

Later, at home, I re-read the list.  And amid my list of all sorts of fears and worries about me and family members and me again, and areas where I fall short, and belief that I'm a failure a lot of the time, and even more miserable stuff I just don't feel like sharing because it sounds TOO melodramatic when it's not actually going on in my head, I read this:

        "I'm worried my Judas don't eat enough vegetables"

Huh?

I don't write like that.  I'd have used "doesn't" instead of "don't."  

And who is Judas?  MY Judas?  (I ran through the list of our pets' names, just to be sure, though they're all carnivores so vegetables aren't high on any of their dietary needs)

WHO TYPED THIS IN MY PHONE???

And then, oh yeah! In among all the giant towering fears was my motherly concern that my teen-aged CHILDREN don't eat enough vegetables.  Somehow Autocorrect decided to change that, and Autocorrect has a very weird alternate-word selection process.

Mystery solved.

And – best of all – it made me laugh.  

That's my favorite thing. The unexpected laugh.

(Side note:  I know, double spacing after the end of a sentence is so outdated even dinosaurs didn't do it, but it's how I learned to type and it's just a really, really hard habit to break, so please forgive me forever.)

~~~

Anyway, here's the other story I wanted to tell you.

During all the "I don't know what I'm supposed to be doing!!!!" stuff going on in my head recently, I got a larger than business sized envelope in the mail with something in it.  The Wells Fargo Wagon song naturally began to play in my head, complete with Ron Howard's young lisp, because hey, whatever was in the envelope COULD be something special just for me.  

I made sure it was for me – and yes, there was my name, right there.  But the line below my name was Barefoot Kitchen Witch, and that was unexpected.  My writing here has been sporadic at best over the past bunch of years, so why anything should come with the name of my cobwebby site on it was puzzling.

And then I looked at the corner of the envelope – and it was from The National Pen Company.  ?

So I opened it and there was a blue pen with BAREFOOT KITCHEN WITCH on the side and my town and state and zip code below it.  

Also in the envelope was an order form so I could order a hundred or five hundred or a thousand of these pens – for my clients – at 39 cents a pen.  I would only get this special price for the initial order, mind you.  Any subsequent orders would cost me a whopping 99 cents per pen.  So I should ACT NOW!

Julia wanted me to order a bunch of them because like me she is made happy by office supplies.  I told her I'm not ordering a bunch of pens, and she tried to get Alex to go along with her plan – "Alex, you need pens, right???" and he didn't even look at her when he said "No, Julia, I don't need any pens."

So I'm not ordering a bunch of pens for 39 cents each, and I'm not giving Julia that one pen, even though she really really likes it.  I'm keeping it.

And here's why.  I think my mom sent it.  I know it came from The National Pen Company in Shelbyville, TN.  She had to do that so the post office would process it.  I don't think they process stuff from The Afterlife, or The Spirit Realm, or Heaven, or places like that, because who could they charge for postage?  

Anyway, my mom was always supportive of anything I wrote.  So I think she saw me spinning around in my fears and worries and wanted to give me a bit of a nudge so I'd at least stop spinning and do SOMETHING, rather then spend all my time worrying that if I did X, it would be the wrong thing, so maybe I should do Y, or Z, but what if I did, and it turned out X was really the right thing all along? 

I have the same problem choosing my meals at restaurants. It would be so much simpler if I was a picky eater.

Anyway, thanks, Mom, for the nudge and the pen. And if you can figure out a way to send Julia a special pen of her own, she'd be really happy.  But I guess that'll be my job one day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crocheting – Temperature Blanket 2017 Part 2 May June July August

IMG_1262

This is the second temperature blanket from 2017. You can see the first one here.  I'm not planning to make the third.  I don't need to.  I've done two.  That's enough for me.  

The pattern for both is the Moss Stitch, or Granite Stitch, or Linen Stitch.  Same stitch, different names.  Very easy.  Single crochet and chain, repeated all the way across.  Then in the subsequent rows you single crochet into the space where the chain was in the previous row.  This way the colors from one row dip into the next.  On one hand I feel like I need to branch out and use different patterns, but on the other hand, I really, really like the effect.

I've actually got a couple other blankets in the works.  One will eventually be a sampler, and the color scheme is warmer – reds, oranges, peaches, yellows – I take yarn with me when I go to Julia's softball games, and learn a stitch and make some squares with that stitch or pattern in a few different colors.  Small, portable projects.

I've also got a blanket I started for a family member who was in a bad car accident and that's a long story which I'll tell some day but not yet.

And, because I need to pursue the temperature blanket in Moss stitch but not in 2017 any more, I came up with another idea.  And, like most of my ideas, there is a long preamble.

A while back I crocheted an afghan for each of my kids.  

This is Alex's:

IMG_0808

And this is Julia's:

IMG_0646

For Julia's, she picked the color scheme and we both picked yarns.  The whole thing is just in single crochet, and I used up a whole skein at a time.  The yarn is Red Heart Super Saver.

For Alex's, I used a bulkier yarn.  He gave the ok on the colors, and I made up the layout.  I used half double crochet, back loop only.  It's a heavy blanket.  And Alex's bedroom is small and in the winter, it's actually pretty warm in there.  So the blanket is too heavy.  He didn't use it, and eventually Julia snagged it.  She likes to take them.  At the moment she also has the second temperature blanket in her room, even though she doesn't need it now that the weather is warm and she already has a comforter, a fleece blanket, and, now, three afghans in her possession.

Anyway, I told Alex I still want to make him a blanket, and he said he liked the weight and feel of the temperature blankets.  He likes blues, so I picked out a variety of shades for him to choose from.  And I am using the moss stitch again, because.

Here's a bit of it:

IMG_1343

Rather than do a whole year, like the year he was born, I decided to do something more personal.  I'm using the high temperatures from my pregnancy.  It's approximate, based on my original due date and the 40 weeks leading up to that, plus the few days past the due date until his actual birth date.  So it's 40 weeks and three days of temperatures.  283 days.  283 rows.  12 colors, plus a black foundation chain.  I'll use black as the border around the other three sides, too.

The blues are soothing and the yarn is soft.  As I crochet the rows, I think about when I was pregnant with Alex, and try to work the joy of memory into every stitch.

Oh, and the yarns I'm using are Caron Simply Soft, Premiere Deborah Norville Everyday, and Bernat Simply Soft.  Yeah, the Everyday is thicker than the other two, but not by much and it's not noticeable in the afghans.  (Same combination of brands were used in the other temperature blankets.)  And the hook is Susan Bates, H/5mm.  I like this one because the tip is a little pointier than some of the other brands and it pokes into the yarn smoothly.

That's about it.

I briefly – very briefly – thought about writing a tutorial, with lots of pictures of course (like my old cooking posts), about doing the moss stitch, but there are plenty of tutorials out there that are easy to follow.  I used this one from Moogly.

I'll post more pictures as this afghan grows.