Don’t be alarmed! I’m changing some things with my blog and I’m making a big mess of it, but all will be well in time. :)
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:
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:
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......
I've also been doing some crocheting...
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!
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.
I used the freezer paper applique method again, as I'd done with the Christmas quilt.
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.
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:
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:
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.
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.
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...
And that's about it!
Well, I made these, too -
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A few minutes later I had a bunch of patches almost ready to go.
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.
Next, I blind stitched the patch to the original fabric, removing the pins as I went along.
And pin, stitch, repeat until all the holes are patched.
Fortunately I had a supervisor throughout all of this. Otherwise I'm sure I would have failed miserably.
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.
Ta da! Otis supervised, Scratchy approved. On to the next quilt.
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.
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."
They were smiling. I was smiling.
And then I went home.
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...
Fold the paper in half on the diagonal.
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.
Your paper should now look like this. (above)
And then fold that triangle in half, length-wise. Crease the new fold.
Now hold your multiple-fold paper up to the light so you can admire all the pretty layers.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Then you can continue with your snipping until you have done as much as you can or want to do.
Time to unfold!
Ta-da! Like unwrapping a gift, sort of. Take a moment to marvel at your work.
I like to put my snowflake in a heavy book to flatten out the creases. A day in the book should do it.
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.