Thursday, August 6, 2020

Nope.

I have been walking around thinking about blogging, then either something else happens that somehow diminishes my initial delusions of grandeur, or causes me to forget them completely. It felt like carrying an armful of apples, fretting while several kept falling to the ground. If I could have just found a place to set some of those down more gently. Maybe I could go back to see if the ones I dropped are still good for anything? Maybe I could come up with a new analogy, or just cut to the topic du jour.

Was I ready to bring my baby girl back for her third year of college? Let's break that sentence down to point out a couple of problems. First and foremost, the words "third year of college" should negate me referring to my daughter as "my baby girl". Second, my level of readiness was and is irrelevant. This house is certainly ready for me to go on my purging and organizing whirlwind coping strategy that I use to try to restore order when my world feels out of my control. You would think Corona alone would have had this place sparkling, but I got distracted after the first few weeks of her shenanigans.

We hunkered down here for months. In the beginning I felt like the supreme protector as I masked up every couple of weeks to head out for essentials like more potato chips and onion dip. We did what we thought we were supposed to be doing to keep safe. As it became more and more clear that my daughter's college was planning some version of campus learning, I felt at a loss for how to make sure that transition was a safe one. The reality is that I couldn't do much more than I have done the other six times...I made supply lists and contemplated a tetris-like strategy to pack cars. 

We talked a bit about if small groups of friends turned into larger parties and mask wearing. I might have mentioned some thoughts on general housekeeping. She knows that if classes all become virtual, she can decide where she is the most comfortable living. I knew that the best way for her to feel okay about what was happening was for me to seem okay about what was happening, but I also know she's no dummy. She read between every jumbled line I uttered and saw every worried crease etched on my forehead. She gave me eye rolls and sighs of exasperation, but she also let me sit on the floor of her bedroom here and in her new place until it was time to go. 

And then I left. It seems reasonable to immediately start reducing the amount of candy stashed in this house. I thought there was more I wanted to say, but this feeble attempt is reducing the number of tissues I have as well. I will just let that pillow there on her bed sum things up...
...nope.

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Dress for the life you want

I recently ran across some photos, and it seems like now is as decent of a time as any to share the story with you. (Plus this may lay some ground work for some other bloggy things.)

I was working at a preschool, which of course provided a general atmosphere of adorable. Cuteness prevailed on most mornings, with outfits lovingly picked out and adorned. Within hours, classroom life often proved too much for crispness or cleanliness. There was one girl who didn't exactly strive for princess perfection, but more just for what appealed to her on any given day. She clearly took very little input when selecting her ensembles and coordinating pieces were not essential. Maybe she would have on a princess costume dress with a random sweater thrown over it, or a taffeta skirt and beloved tshirt with sneakers. What seemed to be most important was how she felt about each article and more so how each item made her feel. 

My cohorts and I got to talking one afternoon about elevating our own dress codes, thinking maybe this little one was on to something. What would it be like to just throw havoc to the wind and dress like nobody was watching? What if we donned items that made us feel special, but didn't sacrifice comfort? The next morning, I put on the dress from my senior ball, accessorized with some plastic necklaces, relics from my daughter's dress up bin, that made me smile. I realized that a nice cotton shirt over the top would make me more comfortable, and would also make the fact that the zipper no longer reached the top far less obvious. I grabbed a couple of other gowns I had bought at an estate sale, and two of my coworkers slid that finery over whatever they initially arrived at school wearing.
Nailed it!

We felt what I like to think of as that special sort of joy that only a spark of silliness can bring. It can't necessarily be explained to anyone who asks, they just have to know. It doesn't concern itself with "why", but rather eggs you on by shouting "WHY NOT?!" It doesn't leave room for doubt or embarrassment because you are the one standing there showing the world that you stand by your decision. It is like a preschooler smiling about candy or at a brand new box of crayons before something equally as fabulous flashes by. Those things still bring me a great deal of happiness, but it fades more quickly now as an adult due to the weight of reality.
Dora the Explorer Fan Club
As if we called each other to coordinate
I wonder what that little girl is like now at age sixteen. I hope she still has the spirit of what I will call a sensible princess...feeling pretty, comfortable and confident in her decisions with a spark of silly and so much joy.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Material girl

Yes, I am fabricating another post...about fabric. Do you have something else to talk about? If so, I may be slightly envious. 

When we last left my stitchery, I had used up all fabric deemed suitable for mask making, so I made the call. I dialed the number of the one who introduced me to the wall of calicos and led the way to the cutting counter at the fabric store, the one who showed me that fabric scraps weren't to be discarded, the one who paved the way for me to cultivate my very own fabric hoard. "Mom, you still have a bin of fabric, don't you?" The next day I received this text...
...and by later that afternoon I had cut the fixings for another round. While we sat outside that afternoon, with a safe distance and bin of fabric between us, my mom asked if I needed thread. I did not want to be overwhelmed, so I asked her to just bring down a spool or two, but lo and behold the abacus of threads was brought out.
Now you may be wondering why this stitcher isn't toiling away the hours at her Singer? Well, because I have her machine at my house where it landed a few months back when mine stopped working right in the midst of making...quilts. (Yes, it is probably an easy fix, but even easier was borrowing a different one.)

When I picked up both the phone and the tub of fabric, I really just had mask making on my mind. This was just going to be material to work with - no strings attached. It was like I completely forgot why she had fabric to begin with! For starters, it was like opening a container of lo mein as it just kept expanding.
I do see something from someone's pants there on top.
(part of my own personal collection)
A lot of the textiles were from back in the eighties and nineties when creating animals with fancy garb was a big deal.
(part of an 80's craft show set up)
Then I had to touch the fabric, move it around a bit. The first things I immediately recognized...
...on the left we have a fairy trick-or-treater from 2001.
And on the right, my bridesmaids from 1995...
A bag of something...
...the pattern will reveal.
2005 flower girl. Oh dear. There were going to be some feels to be felt after all. Oh I remember you...
...early nineties and the most comfortable dresses ever. I remember thinking this was going to be my wardrobe as a mom someday. Smock dresses flowing in a gentle breeze, matching my carefree attitude, as I called my kids home for warm cookies. The cookie part of the plan had staying power at least. 

Must. Reach. Bottom.
My 2002 trick-or-treating knight in shining...
...not exactly suitable for masks, but maybe with the proper backing?!

Suffice to say, I found plenty of fabric to work with, and still left a full tub. The lid just fits better now, to safely keep those remnants all smushed in next to each other, with no real order to the matter, to be taken out another day to have their wrinkles smoothed out and gazed fondly upon...but isn't that how the best memories go?

Monday, April 27, 2020

Sew what

Can I sew? Let's break that down a bit, can we? I can get a machine threaded, provided it has arrows showing me the route, and the eye of the needle is large enough. If you want to talk about how the machine actually works, I am not your gal. Tension sounds bad to me, and I will always assume it should be less to fix the problem. I am not really sure what the numbers on the dial even mean, nor which situation calls for what. Patterns are good, but all of my good scissors have been used by other people to cut paper and are rather dull. Directions have to be simple for me to be able to follow, which most likely means the project itself cannot be too complex. The best answer I can give to the question of whether I can sew is that I can stitch straight lines.

Now have I let my limitations hold me back? Well of course I have, but not completely. For one thing, I am especially good at buying fabric. (You have recently seen the amount of thought and planning I put into how much I purchase for any given project.) I used to make fabric covered boxes. No sewing, just a lot of ironing and hot gluing and...coordinating materials. My favorite reason to peruse bolt after bolt of fabric, running my hand over the spines as though they were books, was in search of quilt fixin's. The colors, the themes...joy by the quarter yard! Yes, you can make a quilt by stitching in straight lines and using some elementary level math. 

What did all of this amount to? Two big tubs of fabric in the basement. How much free time do we have these days? Plenty. My friend started making masks and was saying words like "easy" and offering actual measurements...and the stitches were in straight lines! Was it possible that I could make myself useful? Was this the rainy day week month a fabric hoarder had been waiting for? I handed over yards of fabric for projects I never tackled to my friend to sew, since ideas that hadn't materialized (see what I did there?) were easy for me to relinquish. This left me plenty to work with both literally and figuratively as memories burst from each layer I flipped through.

Nearly all of the quilts I have made were for babies...pure joy! There was the pink spider web with purple spiders fabric I used for a neighbor years ago. She was pregnant with a baby girl and we had spent a few years taking delight in watching her two sons playing outside in a variety of superhero costumes. I wanted something that honored the small spiderman brothers, but was clearly girly. There were stars and moons leftover from the "From our babies to yours" quilt we gae my son's first grade teacher when she was expecting. Each square had a baby photo of her students from that class. 

There was Barbie, leftover from making a quilt pattern type pillowcase for my niece.
There was some fabric from a quilt I made for a dear teacher friend when she was expecting her first grandchild...
...and then peace, love and rainbows for her second grandchild...
Left to right...The bees and ladybugs were the drapes and crib bumpers that awaited our firstborn. The stars were used for some fourth of July table linens over twenty years ago. The last was a three time mask chooser's favorite...
...leftover from the quilt I made for a baby who is now four years old. He calls me sometimes and asks me to tell him everything I want to tell him.
I know I bought the strawberry fabric because it reminded me of all the years we picked fresh berries in my grandparents' garden. I had about two yards of Bills fabric that were clearly destined to be something fabulous for my husband. Those chili peppers were leftovers from a small quilt, like a wall hanging size, I made for a friend over twenty years ago. The SU fabric was lugged to the cutting counter because, why not!
This was the first full batch...
...and this was the second...
A request came in from a friend out of town, and I was able to eek out one Harry Potter mask with the leftovers from this wedding gift that highlighted the bride and groom's shared interests.
And when she requested a smaller one in the event that her youngest needed to leave the house any time later this spring, of course I had a little something left from the quilt I sent that "baby" just over five years ago.
I am down to one bin of fabric now, and yes, there are still pieces far too small to amount to anything other than a memory and a smile.


**Update: I  just placed a small fabric order for curbside pickup. I will be making masks for a special occasion coming up next week...stay tuned...

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Grab a seat (part two)

It appears that the number of folks out there reading my posts is less than half of what it was before the great March comeback. It gives me such a boost of confidence to know that people have found better things to do, with nowhere to go, than hang out here. Maybe this is just a fine example of quality over quantity. In other words...YOU ARE AWESOME!!! Now let's get you off that cliff I left you on last time.

The standards have been set fairly low around here, as you know, so look out that you don't trip over them. I have already already shown how to plan for projects with those dining room chairs, as well as that other time I asserted my DIY prowess. (Wouldn't be a quarantine post without a link to use up some more time entertain you further, right?)

Why don't you pull up a chair?
I really do like that chair. It has good bones as they say, plus I take a bit of pride in the fact that I own a piece of cream colored furniture that has been perched upon and still looks new. Now maybe you're thinking that drapery looks familiar. You are correct because we are at the other end of the room, and that fabric made me so happy that it landed on these windows as well. So now we have a chair I like, next to drapes that I love, but the overall pairing in the scene was bringing me down. 

Let's back up for a moment and talk about the time in the before times, when my mother and I went to the fabric store in search of an answer to my table runner conundrum. Long story short, we found fabric that we loved, she made me a runner for my dining room table that I am not showing you because it would spoil the surprise. Maybe make a mental note though that my ambition for sewing on most days does not even include a rectangle shaped final product. My sense is that it involved both measuring and ironing, and that is where I draw the line. We headed back to the fabric store to buy more fabric, not a set amount mind you, just some more fabric. Mom and I convinced each other that this project was certainly one we could take on. There should be more emphasis on the WE. Mom was using words like iron and template and measure, so I would certainly let her do those things...and then we were sent to our respective homes to hunker down...and the chair and fabric were here with me.

I don't recall exactly how many days went by before the allure of rearranging kitchen cupboards and dusting weren't cutting it for me. Let's do this!
Now let's pause because that beer was not going to be a value added benefit for this project.

The next day...
...I tackled the part I was most comfortable with since it was somewhat similar to doing the dining room chairs,  but with slightly more daunting corners...
...but I persevered!
There! A tuffet! Now just let it sit there, and don't turn it...
...over. I swear it was centered when I started. I thought I took more photos of what came next, in between phone calls and texts to my mom, and f-bombs. On second thought, I didn't really have enough hands for what I had going on, let alone to document the process. So here we are...
...until such time that my mom can measure and iron and plan...
...and help me finish this! 

Oh, now you can see the runner with the dining room fabric roundup!

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Grab a seat (part one)

Let me tell you about the many lives of our dining room chairs...unless you have somewhere to go? You probably don't, and that laundry will gladly wait a little bit longer to be rotated. Grab a seat, but choose your pattern wisely.

Our dining room furniture belonged to my grandfather's parents, and still fills me with joy every time I look at it. (Here is a little story I posted ten years ago about one of the adventures the set and I have had together.) The first order of business when the furniture came out of my grandparents' basement and arrived at our first home, almost twenty-five years ago, was to recover the seats with some new fabric. I apparently come from a long line of rule followers who did not remove tags that were supposed to stay put...
...and my great-grandmother documented her recovering of the chairs with a fabric swatch...
...as well as the date she did her work...
I remember how seeing that notation on the bottom of that one chair made me feel as I had already pulled that golden yellow fabric off some of the others. The thought that I was taking apart my great-grandmother's work seemed so wrong. I told my mother how badly I felt, but she assured me that Great-gramma would not have wanted me to have an outdated look. Obviously she took matters into her own, capable hands when the original striped fabric needed some sprucing up. 

To follow the life of these seats (and one of the chairs they belong on)...
...the top right is the original (clearly well worn), then she did the golden yellow. Next up is the bottom left, which I did with the same tiny nails she had used. The next time I went about as dull, but practical as I could with the lower right, and tried my hand with a staple gun. I did my usual "good enough" job.

Years went by before I was looking for my next low budget upgrade. I happened to be at the store when my gaze landed on fabric that made me swoon. I am not usually much for draperies, seeing them more as a necessary evil, but there I was, falling in love! Sure some things were going to have to change, but after painting our living and dining rooms dark blue a few years ago, it was about time to do that color some justice. The drapes came home, and those practical bland cushions made an audible sigh. "Get to the fabric store!" It was hard enough for me to settle on a pattern, so I certainly wasn't going to take extra time to actually figure out what an appropriate amount to purchase might be. Also, there was only x amount left on the bolt, so that was the amount I bought. Let's see, I had six chairs, so...
...perfect?! Obviously my great-gramma was watching over me again with this furniture. She even made sure I didn't make a complete disaster with the stripes.
I think it ended up costing $22 to once again breathe new life into these antiques.
Tune in next time to see what is happening with the chair, that was trying to mind its own business, at the other end of the room. (Quite the cliffhanger, I know.)

Well now hang on a second...I realize that I should include a photo of my great-grandparents. I also know that a lot of us are looking for the next diversion, and since this post only had one link, here is one that will take you to a tale about my other great-grandmotheras well as some photos. Yes, I had the great fortune to spend just over seven years of my life having three great-grandparents, and lost the last of them when I was in college. Incredible. That is all I can say...well there is more I could say, but that would obviously launch us into an entirely new post, and it is nearly my bedtime...ramble o'clock!

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Making whoopee

Let's talk about whoopee! Relax, I am speaking of the pie variety...
...whoopee pies. I can still see, and practically smell, those chocolate discs cooling on my grandmother's cook top. I was not a fan of the fully assembled treat, as I did not like the filling. (Go ahead and sigh, and know that I had no interest in Oreo filling either.) I was left to hope that there would be an odd number on the tray to warrant one being sacrificed to me. We couldn't just go willy-nilly breaking up pairs, plus then I would have to eat TWO cookies, and that was not an edge Blanche tended to let me live on.

I don't know if the yield of her recipe was low or if the cookies were such a labor to make, but they were a hot commodity. Those whoopie pies were doled out according to family size on a one-to-one ratio. I do seem to recall a time when my mother and I received three of the coveted confections, but there was still the matter of that messy filling to contend with.

Fast forward a couple of decades to where I am married to a man who cannot pass an Amish baked goods stand without buying a whoopee pie. I like to look at them for nostalgic purposes, but that filling? I even bought myself a whoopee pie cookbook years ago, simply because the idea of them made me happy. I still figured they must be very difficult to make though, due to the whole rationing thing. When I recently ran across my grandmother's recipe, my mind sort of wandered off as soon as I saw the word shortening in both the cookie and the filling, as I think I have purchased that item three times in my adult life. Maybe some other time...

These days are nothing if not "some other time". I have not been to visit my grandmother since March 3rd because soon after that day, her facility was closed to visitors. If you've been following our story, it will not surprise you to learn that phone calls are not really a viable means of communication at this point. My mother received word the other day that they would be assisting the residents with facetime calls, and we were given a date and time. We decided it was feasible to be socially distant, and would meet outside on my mother's deck for the call. 

I knew it was time. I even purchased a can of shortening on my scheduled Aldi's outing. 

My daughter whipped up the batter, with neither of us having any idea what it was supposed to look like, nor how it would behave in the oven. For some reason I only remember them coming out of my grandmother's oven, but not what happened before they went in. It is possible that I had other things to do before the smell of fresh baked goods lured me into the kitchen. 

There was nothing particularly tricky about making them, and we ended up wih enough to make 20 pies.

I think the tops did appear to be smoother after the batter sat for the next rounds. I was focused on other things.
I could not bring myself to make the shortening laden filling, so I cheated and just used a hefty smear of fluff. A quick tally of who might be in attendance on the deck, and who they had at home, was done, and I loaded up my grandmother's cookie transporter and headed out.
We did not have super high expectations of how the call was going to go, but we did have sunshine and cookies to drown our sorrows if necessary. 
It was unclear as to whether they would even be able to rouse my grandmother from her afternoon nap. Suddenly the connection came through and I heard her voice. She knew who my mother was and asked if she would come visit soon (yes, of course). Her voice!
My turn came and she knew my name and told me how happy she was to see me. My aunt took her turn, and then we sort of circled around again, arms outstretched to pass her. I told her about the whoopee pies, and she thought they sounded good. Then my mother got to talk to her about how she had made her dinner roll recipe. There were a few copies of it in gram's recipe box, but only one was signed...
She had me write it and then she signed it over
...Again with the shortening! Those were the days, and I guess it's better than "lard". My mom sent me this photo of her first attempt. 
Yes, you read that right...SHE SENT ME A PICTURE! Luckily she made them again that week and brought us some (in the before times).

The next order of business will be getting my grandmother's fruit cocktail cake recipe to my aunt.
Gram thought it would be a good idea for us all to get together soon, so we agreed. Although when the facilitator asked my mother if she wanted to set up a call again for next week, my grandmother instantly piped up with "No, I don't think that interests me as I don' know what I might be doing then." Suffice to say, my mother gladly accepted the invitation. Lightning may not strike twice, and next week's call may not go quite as well, but today we are grateful.

I have eaten more cookies today than necessary. (Yes, I realize that does suggest that there is a recommended daily allowance.) I wouldn't go so far as to say that the whoopie, or whoopie-less, pies are even in my top ten favorite baked goods, but that taste of nostalgia from a more simple, and less scary, time was a treat. 

If you are interested in another one of my nostalgic food posts, here is one that hailed from my other grandparents' house...where the Entenmann's and stove toast were, but more importantly, artichokes.