Monday, September 1, 2014

All Swirled Up!

I have done it! I have crocheted a baby hat! Not a baby hat for an infant elephant or hippo, but a baby hat for a human baby! After attempting to follow the adorable crochet patterns from Repeat Crafter Me, I figured out what I have to do to make a hat not fit for a gorilla - take the 6-9 month pattern and use a smaller crochet hook. Finally, a hat that should work on a one to two year old humanoid.

The weather still says summer around here, but my brain is kicking into fall gear. Maybe if we all start working on fall crafts, it will start raining here in California? Like a rain dance, but with textiles. Then, even if we continue to dry up like a prune, or rather a dried plum, we'll keep our hands busy and not waste water by perspiring too much. I have lots of yarn left from early attempts at making baby hats for baleen whales, and this swirly hat pattern is a great combo of white with any other great color. I posted one on my Etsy shop, but will have to relabel  it. The lime green and white one, while not large enough to fit a buffalo, is more suited to a normal sized teenager. I'll keep crocheting until the cows come home, and when they do, I know how to make them all matching hats.

Do you...
...sense a...
...pattern here?

Thursday, August 28, 2014

The cat's in the mail

Wednesday was my day to attack the yard. It's not exactly hot, yet not completely pleasant either - but I was psyched up for a thorough weeding and trimming day. A day that I could stay in my grubbies from morning until night, only coming in to take care of business. But my quilt business threw a seam ripper into my plans. I got the notice that Felina the Purrfect Kitty Quilt sold! Just when I was rethinking this whole new puffy quilt technique, mostly for lack of room for storing them, Felina is out the kitty door and on the way to Washington.

Switching gears from outside grass to inside crafts, Felina needed my attention. A quick twirl around the dryer's fluff cycle, some more trimming of errant threads, it was time to find a box. My typical size quilt fits in the medium USPS Priority box, but this quilt is a chubby one. After having half our box supply in the garage fall down on my head, I was still in search for the proper shipping container. I found it in the empty Vitamix blender box. I love my refurbished Vitamix so much, I'm not ever sending it back. And it fit Felina purrrrfectly, so we had our cat box. Without the litter. Or the smell. Or the kitty business.

After getting the width, height, length and weight of my box entered in, the shipping label instantly appears. This whole new shipping process on Etsy is amazing. If they make it any easier they'll send little elves over to pick it up and make a post office delivery. I would still take it myself and set the elves loose in the yard, because those weeds are still waiting.

Really cute fabric...
...made for a pretty kitty.
Be good, use the box, don't shed.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Mama Elizabeta

Most of my quilts are named after friends of mine from Moldova, and I choose the names thoughtfully. I think about the colors of the quilts, the theme, the weight of the fabrics, and the overall feel of the finished product. Sometimes I have one name in mind, but when I'm done I know I can't name it that after-all, and I switch it to one that fits better.

The heaviest, most substantial, strongest, don't-even-think-of-lifting-with-just-one-hand quilt I've made to date was named Elizabeta. Mama Elizabeta, as she is known by everyone including our CO, died this week, just hours after her son arrived from Atlanta and a day after her son-in-law Vasile died. What this one woman accomplished in her simple life has had tremendous impact on our life, changing it in profound ways.

Elizabeta was born in Moldova, the poorest country in Eastern Europe. She had eight children, one of whom died as a baby. The surviving seven are Peter, Pavel, Michael, Alexandria, Galina, Tatiana and Aloana. She was an incredible rock of a woman who saw two of her boys go to prison for refusing military service, was part of an operation that printed banned literature in a farm house while avoiding the KGB, and then steadfastly fought the ravages her body put her through in recent years. Her family lovingly brought her to every event imaginable, until this summer when it was no longer possible.

Her children, grand children and great-grand children make up a large part of our Romanian congregation. What Elizabeta didn't amass in fame and fortune, she certainly made up for in an amazing family tree with roots deep in the things that matter. Her example is one to live up to. I'll miss those eyes that searched into me, willing me to do with my strength what she was no longer able to do. We love being close to her very extended family and feel honored to have known her.

Elizabeta with one of her very devoted grandchildren, Viorica.

Before the Sacramento Romanian congregation was formed.
Mama Elizabeta was related to more than half the group.

At our anniversary party on 10-10-10.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

The measure of a man

There is a scene from Rabbit Proof Fence that I thought a lot about while in Romania. The film was about three Aboriginal girls as they escaped through the outback, surviving a nine week walk of 1,500 miles. The scene I remembered was how they found water where a city person would not even think to look. The film said a lot about what makes a person successful - that a person who might appear simple in one setting is quite the expert in another, While those skills are often viewed as less important than those of person in a more sophisticated situation, they seem pretty impressive to a city slicker plopped down in a strange environment.

When we were in Romania, I saw a young man of very little means take control of a donkey and cart, back them up into a space they couldn't possibly fit into, at an angle they were not meant to travel. But they did, and this young man managed this feat with the same cool nonchalance that his American counterpart would show while mastering a skateboard jump in the driveway. The skills of a villager in Romania are necessary to put food on the table, but might not transfer too well after immigration. We see a lot of this in our friends from Moldova, especially the slightly older crowd. The younger a person comes here, the easier it is to modify the skills from the old country into rent-paying money-making abilities. 

The earlier situation was the case with our beloved friend Vasile. The man was amazing with all things useful in Moldova. He came over to our old house one day to help us in the yard. In a matter of minutes, he had our sadly tangled mess of grape vines staked and ready to produce. He didn't have to stand there with the Sunset Garden Book opened to "What Grapes Need". He just knew, and they got scared into shape and put in a bumper crop after his few minutes of expertise. With his young daughter Laura translating, he kindly chided me for planting flowers and not cucumbers against the fence. And the look on his face when he asked what kind of weird fruit tree we had just planted? After we told him it wasn't a tree that produced food, but one that merely produced shade? Pure and complete Eastern European disgust. He was very happy to see that at our new house, we have come around completely to his way of thinking and we have little fruit trees dotting the back yard. We are still much too American to plant them in the front yard, but I'm leaning toward letting some pumpkins go wild out there next summer. Vasile would be proud.

Vasile greeting guests at our convention in Sacramento

We look forward to seeing our good friend Vasile Clima again, where he can tend his grape vines, grow tomatoes on land that is his own, and make mamaliga for all his friends and family. We still have so much to learn from this giant of a man who left us much too soon.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Bunny Boy, a carroty quilt filled with fluff

Once in a while I surprise myself and exercise patience. I hold back. I wait. I don't barge ahead with no plan in view. Once in a great while.

With this bunny themed quilt, patience paid off. I found a very adorable project piece at the thrift store - a never-made quite large bunny wall hanging with all the directions to make it, including how to make the carrot Bunny Boy would hold. I was ready to plunge ahead and make the quilt. But I knew somewhere out there I would find the fabric that would make Bunny Boy really hop. So I waited. And waited. And ate carrots while I waited a bit longer.

Then along came a box of fabric from my friend Jill of Dolls for Friends. It had bear fabric, it had watermelon fabric, it had giraffe fabric. But mostly it had the cutest bunny fabric I have ever seen. Seriously, a baby bunny holding onto a baby bottle in the shape of a carrot? Who are these talented fabric designer people and why do I still draw like I'm in third grade?

This week the fur flew and I made my long anticipated rabbit quilt. The two fabrics were made in bunny heaven and look so good together. I added a denim skirt from a garage sale, some of the peachy corduroy that has gone in so many of my quilts, a calico here, a soft flannel there. It was so fun to make because those bunnies just got cuter and cuter as it all came together. Just posted on squared up, I'm hopping it goes to a good rabbit hatch.

Bunnies holding carrots. So cute it makes my nose twitch!

The puffy fluffy non-stuffy side.

"Help! I'm stuck in a quilt and I can't get out!"

"Does this quilt make my butt look fat?"

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Some dental facts to chew on

She sheds, she smiles, she multi-tasks.

Our writing projects are at full speed this summer. I often go to bed while Ernst is still up writing, his diligence is inspiring. Yawn. Stretch. Snooze. Poor guy, he types while I snooze and the dog slumbers. He types so fast and furiously, the sound of his fingers hitting the keyboard is hypnotic, relaxing, sleep-inducing...

I've been putting in my two cents to every dollar of his writing, and together we have been keeping up. I almost curled into a ball on the floor when he needed some help writing for a carpet website. What do I know about rugs, especially tapestries? All I know is that ours get covered in dog fur if I don't vacuum them everyday. They are currently covered with dog fur, but it's still before noon, so the day is not a complete wash. Speaking of wash, that's piling up like shag carpet, but I had to spend the morning pulling out my teeth writing about dental issues. The more I learn the more I think teeth are about the most amazing things we have. In very non-technical terms, here are some neat things I've discovered:

  • Good dental care starts before a baby's teeth come in. Making a routine of rubbing a baby's gums with a soft cloth each morning and evening starts things off right. When the baby's cute little perfect teeth come in, continuing this practice wipes off the film of bacteria and yuck that collects. (I can't use the word yuck on a dental website, but it fits here.) Even if mom or dad or caregiver use the hem of the baby's shirt once a day to clean the baby's teeth, this helps keep them healthy. Brushing can come later and flossing isn't necessary until the baby's teeth come together and the spaces go away. 
  • Breastfeeding increases jaw size. (In the baby, not the mom.) Also letting a baby munch on hard stuff like corn cobs and whole pieces of fruit, while supervised, puts good pressure on the jaw and makes it grow bigger. This may leave more room for the molars as they come in and eventually enough room for the wisdom teeth. Isn't that cool? Avoiding braces with hard and chewy foods - maybe an apple a day keeps the orthodontist away, not just the doctor!
  • A variety is best when it comes to home dental care. While a good routine is essential, mix up the products and supplies. Try some of the less waxy dental floss, they grab more yuck when they have less wax. Use a water pic type appliance, a battery operated toothbrush, different kinds of mouthwash, tongue scrapers, inter-dental picks - they are all good and keep your gums happy. Happy gums are better than happy cows.
  • If at all possible, don't get teeth pulled. Keep your root even if it's expensive to do so. Your jawbone wants stuff to hang on to, and when you lose your root your jawbone gets all miffed and pulls away. That leads to bone loss and that caved in look. Implants (not that kind) are the next best option because they give your jaw something to aspire to grow back. Isn't that amazing, your jaw bone can grow back?
  • Another amazing thing I've learned is that around each root of our teeth there is a ligament that senses pressure. This allows us the sensitivity to chomp down hard without damaging our teeth. If we lose a tooth along with the root, we lose the ligament. That's why it's easier with a bridge or dentures to lose the ability to know how hard to chomp. Isn't that incredible? 
  • One of the best things we can do for our teeth is swishing with water. Simple and cheap, it can be done anywhere. After eating, after a citrusy drink, after eating sour candies (bad bad bad) the simple habit of swirling water around our mouth does wonders. Carrying a toothbrush and paste is even better, and chewing sugar-free gum is great too, but just plain water is doable just about anywhere. Simply amazing.
With all we've learned about taking care of teeth, we've been lax about taking care of our dog's teeth. She's not the most cooperative when we pull out her doggy toothbrush and meat flavored toothpaste. But we've just discovered a new way to get this important job done. Take a ball. Go out to the pool. Put the ball on our lap. The dog is putty in our hands and willing to get her teeth brushed. That and corn cobs. I doubt we can teach her to swish with water. Or vacuum. That would be biting off more than we can chew.

Monday, August 4, 2014

A measured approach to surviving the heat

What a doozy of a heatwave that was. Saturday had me working outside making drinks (non-alcoholic) for volunteer construction workers at the RBC project in Loomis, CA. It varied depending on who you asked, but I can accurately say the temperature was somewhere over 105 and under 109. Yuk, yuk, triple digit yuk. We made ice water. We made Gatorade. We made cucumber lemon water. We made iced tea. We made pink lemonade. And we made it again and again, five gallons at a time. We dumped in ice until the ice machine was about empty. It didn't help with the temperature one little bit, but at least no one dropped over from heat stroke. Me included. I kept chugging the water and only had to use the bathroom twice, and with the port-a-potties turning into mini saunas in the sun, that was a good thing. Sweating is an amazing process, and there was a lot going on at this project.

Sunday came along like a lovely pre-fall day, reaching only a high of 86 degrees in Sacramento. It was pleasant with a nice cloud cover and a gentle breeze. We still provided loads of liquids, but we enjoyed some moments to sit back and catch our collective breath. I spent some time explaining U.S. measurements to a Russian-born girl. I got out a tape measure and tried to introduce the concept of 2 feet, 5 and 5/8 inches. The poor thing looked baffled and amazed. She just kept mumbling about meters and centimeters like she was talking to a person from the Dark Ages. Then I grabbed a set of measuring spoons. That was equally amusing to someone raised with liters and grams. Teaspoons, tablespoons, quarts, pints, cups and gallons, we went through them all. Seeing that the only three countries to not use the metric system are the U.S., Myanmar and Liberia, she still had a look of astonishment on her face. She got very excited when she thought for a moment that her shoe size (7) was related to 7 inches on the tape measure, but I had to pop that illusion quickly. But she did learn that it takes one scoop of Gatorade for every quart of water in a cooler bucket, and that's all that mattered this weekend.

Today I'm getting the house back in order, personally apologizing to every dry plant in the yard, and making some refreshing gazpacho soup from all our garden produce. I grabbed a pile of tomatoes, some cucumbers, half an onion, a handful of basil, a few plops of pureed garlic, a squeeze or two of lime juice and several squirts of hot sauce. I threw it in the blender, hit pulse and watched as it transformed into delicious summer soup. No measuring required, this is a meal that needs no international conversion charts.

The ingredients before I put the gaz in their pacho.
Say Cheese!
The funky addition of heirloom tomatoes make the color a bit muddy.
Next time, only the reds will make the cut.
And nope, that is not cheese, it's shredded carrots. A fistful of shredded carrots to be exact.

Monday, July 28, 2014

The Year of the Amoeba

"Why does the amoeba always get blamed?"

Exactly 365 days ago, about this time of day, Ernst got attacked by a pool amoeba, or so he thought. As it turned out, it was a retinal vein occlusion, which means his eye was bleeding way back where the sun doesn't shine. In this year, I have been both amazed and frustrated at the complicated and delicate structure of the eye, and grateful that there are doctors who specialize in all the things that can go wrong in this tiny part of our body.

This is your eyeball, be good to it.

Three laser procedures and $3000 of "co-pays" later , it looks like he has seen the last of his amoeba problem. Or so we hope. What a frustrating year it has been. In order for his eye to heal, he was given the warning from the retinal specialist to curtail any heavy lifting. No heavy lifting for a guy whose backyard has Heavy Lifting Required written all over it. Despite that, we have managed to keep most things alive, put in a basketball court/dance floor, start the out-building addition, plant some fruit trees and keep the pool pretty much amoeba free.

Because of the delicate nature of his eye situation, it was vital that Ernst bring his blood pressure down even more. What does a low-fat vegan do to improve his diet? I was teasing him he needed to become a Raw Air Vegan, but fortunately that wasn't necessary. I am so proud of my former Bacon/Milk Shake/Butter/Cheese/Pork Loving Husband. He has managed to change his diet once again, this time cutting out sodium even more and lowering his fat intake even more. The results have been dramatic. For once his stubborn body has given up and surrendered and said, "OK, you win, I'll lower your blasted BP, I'm raising the white flag, I'm defeated". I think if a body could stick out its tongue on its own, it would do so, but instead this time it is Ernst 1 - Body 0. I've had to go from making really yummy vegan food, to cooking sort of bland vegan food that's crying out for salt, but you do what you have to do, and we had to do this. We have become those weird people in the store aisle, squinting at the food labels, doing the calculation of sodium and fat grams divided by the serving size, times the calories, minus the weight, plus the calculation of RDA requirements over the square root of pi (not pie). We hope this is the year of anything but Amoebas.

Raw Air Vegan Amoebas

Sunday, July 20, 2014

White space suits and promises

Back in the early part of 1991, while slogging through the tragic haze of my father dying, we began to plan our wedding. When it comes to dates, I love nice balanced numbers. Getting married on the 25th, or the 10th, or the 30th, those are good dates in my opinion. But having an anniversary on the 8th, for instance, or the 27th? Not for me. I don't believe numbers or dates have one bit of significance, but I just love when they look and sound good. For instance, when we were moving to Sacramento after two years in beautiful South Lake Tahoe, I was driving around getting some errands done in our soon-to-be new neighborhood. I was bummed, and sad and not looking forward to that move one little bit. Until I stopped at the post office to get our new PO box number, that is. They assigned me a palindrome, something like 804408. Wow, I thought, maybe this won't be so bad after all. Our randomly assigned number put me in a way better mood than something like 943875 would have.

So when we began to look into getting married in the summer of 1991, I had my heart set on June 1st. What could be better than a June 1st wedding date? So terrific and perfect, it was just screaming cool date on a wedding invitation. I was settled on it, June 1, 1991. Of course, June 1, 1990 would have looked even better, but that would have involved time travel and we know how tricky that can be.

We had to wait a while to set the date officially, because there would be a big conflict if our annual convention was too close on either side of June 1st. It was, and I shed a tear of frustration, along with all the other tears I was shedding for much more legitimate reasons than a good sounding wedding date. Not only did June 1st bump up too close to our convention, some friends of ours chose that date as their wedding day. So I did go to a wedding that day, but it wasn't ours. And it was hot - blazing hot and yucky. Whew, so glad we hadn't chosen June 1st, we dodged some sweat bullets on that one.

We picked July 20th. Rounded out enough, easy to remember, looks good, with that nice big zero following the happy number 2. And it was only 83 degrees (80 sounds better) in the Central Valley that day, a minor miracle for a summer wedding in Davis California. No sweat bullets, no glistening wedding photos from our pictures taken in the UCD Arboretum. And little did I know it was such an important day in world history, the anniversary of the day Neil Armstrong walked on the moon! Houston, we don't have a problem with July Twentieth.

All it needs is a veil on the helmet.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Keeping Molly in dog food

If money comes in waves, this month is a tsunami. There is nothing I can do but just try to keep kicking and keep my head above water. Because I had a co-worker who was killed, I am working much more than usual in my school district job. I'm still writing for the dental websites, I have two proctor jobs at CSUS this month and then the grand-daddy of them all, the California Bar Exam at the end of the month. It is pathetic I know, but I don't even have time to go on our planned anniversary trip. And I had to turn down a writing job for an Oriental rug site because if I had agreed to it, you could have found me at the end of the month rolled up in a fetal position under our rug, whimpering. What does all this have to do with a photo of our dog's food?

A few weeks ago while in the drugstore, I ran into two of my favorite people, Jane and Julie. They were teasing me about all the various jobs I have. Julie asked if I would be interested in one more thing. Why not? Life is just too boring with only eight W2s during tax time. So she told me where to go to do focus group work. I thought I knew what a focus group was. There is a table. There are people. They are focusing. That was the extent of my knowledge on focus groups. Fast forward to the Internet world, Jessica. It's done on computers now, or at least the bulk of it is.

And that is why I sat in my pajamas this morning, participating in the first half of a focus group about the riveting subject of dog food. While children are waking up hungry, the Middle East is in another crisis and California is drying up like a raisin, I'm getting paid to upload photos of my dog, her dog food and her doggy treats. This is a very odd world we live in. But the pay is great, it was a fun project, I got to write about my dog, and did I mention this was all done in my pajamas? What's next, chocolate? Sit around a table talking about dark vs. milk, bitter vs. sweet? Would there be free samples? Talk about my dream job!