Monday, September 21, 2015

A Three Quilt Summer

When it's shorts and swimsuit season, no sane person wants to touch a quilt. Summer is time for the heavy blankets and comforters to be put away and the lightest covers to come out. When I Summer-ize our house, all things related to the fireplace and couch potatoing are banished.

But what's a quilter to do when she gets four orders for custom quilts in the summer months? Crank up that air conditioner and get over it, it's snuggle time. The first order came the week before we went to Chicago. A friend called and said she needed a baby quilt and she needed it fast. Cindy came over, sat on the futon in my newly Kon-Maried sewing room and I brought out some pinky girl fabric. Cindy is not one to fuss or agonize over choices. We banged this quilt fabric out in a few minutes. She said perfect and that was that. If they were only all so easy.

Most of this fabric came from old clothes of mine. The core piece was a sundress, in a print with purses all over it. I wore it a lot when I could get away with a sundress with purses all over it, but the fabric on most of it was still in pristine condition. Two other prints were skirts that I wore when I could get away with them, one black and white checks (always a wee bit too short) and another a gorgeous pink flowered skirt from Talbots (with flowers a wee bit too big.) With some other prints from Goodwill and a lovely dress shirt from my husband's coworker, we had ourselves a wee little baby quilt in no time.

Greta, the Grab and Go Girly Quilt

Next up it was time to finish a quilt that was mentally in the works for a very long time. One of my most loyal Etsy customers gave me a wonderful donation of fabric and asked that I make her a quilt from it, using whatever I thought would look good. Well, it all looked so adorable together, the choice was easy. I did add one project piece from Goodwill, it was some sort of easy quilt pattern preprinted. I cut that up in no time and repurposed it into this really sweet bear themed quilt. It's not a wee quilt, it's a whopper. The library bear, tea cup fabric and the calicoes say "Snuggle up on the couch with a good book and some honey sweetened Earl Grey". But not quite yet, because it's still "Stop touching me you hot fabric" season here in California.

Leslie, the Li-Bear-y Quilt

As for the third quilt - I think I made this during the time I got a wee bit better from my Virus From Venus, Plague From Pluto summer sickness, but before it became Brontosaurus Bronchitis. That crud stole five weeks of my summer and it's all a bit of a blur, but somehow I managed to sew up this bright and fresh colorful bear quilt in the middle of it all. I love the colors in this, fresh and cute but not overly babyish. My neighbor and friend Rosie, the Great Grandma, reported it was big hit at the baby shower.

The Great Bear Quilt

I've got one more baby quilt to finish for Cindy. The fabric is picked out and ready to get going on. I have a wee bit of a cold, but this seems like just an Easy Earthly one, so I should be able to sew it up before the baby's high school graduation. And then...I get to start on the quilts for the Curtis Park Craft Faire on December 4th. It's never too early to start thinking of Snuggle Season.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Moldovan Wedding Tutorial

A friend commented the other day that we go to a lot of weddings, Moldovan weddings in particular. So I counted them up, and for the eight or so years we have been associated with our Modovan friends, it really hasn't been that many. In no special order, here they are:

Ion and Natasha
Vitalie and Elena
Igor and Rafaela
Sergie and Dorina
Nick and Natasha
Alex and Irina
Igor and Oxana
Viktor and Daniella

You know you've been around Russian and Moldovan people for many years when you know two men named Igor and this no longer fazes you. But the weddings, they still faze me. They are stunning but not stuffy, fun but never out of control, gorgeous but never pretentious. Here are the rules as far as I can tell.

First you need a bride, because what is a wedding without a bride? Just a very expensive party, and who needs that? We met Daniella when she was young and had moved here from Moldova with her parents. She didn't speak any English, but that changed in a flash. This is a smart girl, incredibly smart. I got to know her gradually, because at first the Moldovans were part of the Romanian group associated with the Sacramento Russian congregation. Since we weren't in the mood to learn two languages at once, we waited until the Romanian congregation was fully formed before we joined. But we got to know the families before this, attended many functions and we became friends with the kids.

I knew Daniella was special from the beginning. I had a little slumber party for the girls, and they were adorable and charming and helpful and beyond-their-years mature for such little ones. I found out later their mothers drilled into them to HELP JESSICA, and they did. I was sweeping and Laura grabbed the broom from me and said it would make her very sad if I didn't let her sweep the floor. OKaaaay, sweep to your heart's content and by the way do you like to dust? 

They played Dance Dance Revolution for hours, baked, frosted and decorated mini Bundt cakes for their mothers and stayed up giggling and whispering in Romanian until very late. They woke up early, made their beds, got dressed and were playing Dance Dance Revolution with the sound off when I woke up. When I finally convinced them it was time to head home, they grabbed their stuff, their moms' cakes and I drove them home. When I returned I saw that Daniella had left her cake for me. Wow. My heart melted. These girls. 

As Daniella and the girls grew into teens, we spent a lot of time together. They asked me many questions about English, about school, about my opinions on all kinds of subjects. They had so much pressure on them as they became their parents' translators for medical and legal matters. Daniella sold her first car for her parents on Craiglist when she was in her very early teens. I heard her on the phone answering questions about mileage and the salvage title, and I was amazed at her level of maturity. They also gave me detailed cooking instructions, such as how to make the perfect rice dishes. As twelve year old's. 

Unplanned Polka Dot Duo at the Stanley Theater in 2012.
Last year Daniella let me know a certain Viktor from San Diego was interested in her - they had met at Igor and Oxana's wedding. He was older than her. She wanted advice and she wasn't just pretending she wanted advice. Do I ever love to give advice, especially when someone isn't just pretending to want advice. She listened like a sponge as I gave her my spiel, Take your time. Get to know him. Be yourself. Don't rush. Don't be afraid to call it off. Get to know him. Take your time. Watch how he treats other women. She kept listening, asking more questions and treating me like I was someone who had her best interests at heart. Then Ernst chimed in and she listened more. He told her what he always tells people, contact the brothers in his congregation and ask about his reputation. And she did. Because this girl is smart! And they took their time and got to know each other and then he popped the question and they set the date.

Viktor and Daniella

Her last meeting in Sacramento. Boo.
Now, about Moldovan weddings. You have to erase everything you know about weddings when you attend a Moldovan wedding. Of course there is a white dress and a cake and food and drink and dancing. But the order is more like dancing, food, drink, white dress and cake. There are no fancy wedding favors or fussy details. There are huge flower arrangements, but they are not fresh, which I didn't even realize until this last wedding. They are held in elaborate banquet halls that are gorgeous on the inside and so ugly on the outside you cringe when you drive up. This particular hall is an old skating rink that is probably one of the ugliest buildings in Sacramento with one of the most amazing interiors that replicates a village square, complete with a sky mural, street lamps and a giant fountain. 

The photography is a day long event, these girls got up at five in the morning to prepare for a four o'clock wedding followed by a reception that went on into the wee hours of the morning. And they still looked fresh. 
The beautiful bride.
Exhausted, but still with her cute sense of humor.

No barn-themed weddings for the Moldovans, it's all glitz and glamour. 

Find your table, because you're in for a feast.

This was the first wedding when our names were spelled correctly.

Just a bit of the food served.
Now about the food. When you arrive at a Moldovan wedding, there is already food sitting out on the table. Salads, cheese and vegetable platters, fish dishes. No one eats it, not a bite. There is no such thing as an appetizer. Once the bride and groom arrive and the prayer is said, then it's time to dig in. The wait staff then brings out the real food, the hot dishes. They keep coming and coming and everyone eats family style. No buffet lines, no plated dishes. The dishes go around and around as everyone helps themselves. And then the food sits on the tables for hours. Hours. No one is concerned. These functions go on and on, and after some serious dancing, more food is consumed. More food that has been sitting around for hours and hours. And no one gets sick. Ever. 

Another difference with Moldovan weddings are the amounts of children. They are always invited and they come in droves. They sit at the adult tables and eat the food that has been sitting around for hours and hours. They don't get sick. They don't ask for mac and cheese. They eat chicken with bones and they don't choke. They stay up past midnight and they don't throw tantrums. It is a spectacle to behold. Except we leave way before midnight so I'm just going by what I hear. I would throw a tantrum if I stayed that late and would start choking on chicken bones and demand mac and cheese.

Happy kids don't get kid's meals.

But they don't get cognac, that's for the adults. Each table gets their own bottle. Nice.

The cake cutting isn't a big thing, people are too busy dancing.

But the magical moment when the fruit table opens for business is a big deal.

We love Moldovan weddings!

Monday, August 31, 2015

Eight Benefits to a Summer Cold

Winter is the time for colds and colds should come in winter. It's that simple. They aren't any more pleasant or convenient then, but if you're going to be miserable you should be able to be so covered in thick blankets and fuzzy slippers. It's just like that famous song, how does it go...

The weather outside is frightful
But the fire is so delightful
And since we've no place to go
Blow your nose!
Blow your nose!
Blow your nose!

It looked like I beat my Chicago cold, but it came back with a vengeance. When I was in my "I think I'm much better" phase, we had company, we did some yard work and cleaned out the garden shed, I went back to work, made a quilt, shopped, showered, dressed up like a lady - all that good stuff. But then I started feeling like there was an elephant sitting on my chest. OK, that's an exaggeration, more like a thousand little tiny elephants inside my chest. Stampeding. I got a little nervous, because, um, we've already had one heart emergency in this family this month.

My doctor knew I felt really sick when she saw me, because she said "Wow, you must be really sick, I never see you." She ran all the usual tests, and the official diagnosis is Yucksville, otherwise known as bronchitis. Her advice is rest and plenty of fluids. Those silly doctors, don't they know how hard that is? But I'm listening, and trying to find the positives to being sick when you're sick of being sick and it doesn't have the decency to be wintertime.

  1. Laundry consists of underwear, tank tops and pajama bottoms,
  2. Dishwasher loads consist of soup spoons, soup bowls and tea cups.
  3. You go through all the weird left-over herb teas in your cupboard.
  4. You finish off that gnarly piece of ginger in your fridge.
  5. You can reinvent your Fall wardrobe by watching the last six seasons of What Not To Wear on YouTube.
  6. Beer is considered a fluid.
  7. Coughing is the new running.
  8. You have an excuse to stop KonMaring your house for a while.
We plan on having a garage sale next weekend, a dear friend is getting married Sunday and I have to work Labor Day. So, it's rest, rest and more rest this week - doctor's orders.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Like plumbers, but for the heart

This was going to be a post about our trip to Chicago, my new favorite U.S. city. It really was. I was planning on writing stuff about...

...the Romanian language convention we attended and how much of the language I understood this time around...

...and the good friends we got to see there, so many good friends...

...and our sightseeing around the city. There's so much to visit and revisit. Five times in a year and a half and Chicago still surprises me...

... doing everything to make tourists feel happy... how they installed the brand new Maggie Daley Park, which feels like an oasis tucked into the skyscrapers...

...and that has crazy fun play structures for the kid in all of us. I was going to write about our visit to the free Lincoln Park Zoo, where we saw baby gorillas riding the backs of their mommies, our trip to the Museum of Science and Industry, and the epic (I don't use that word lightly) Second Annual Moldovan Circle Dance Around the Bean and all the other fun stuff we did. I even had a post written in my head of the misery of flying home with a head cold, stuck in front of The Exceedingly Boring Woman Who Spoke in a Loud Voice for Hours About the Weather in Various U.S. Cities. Did you know, for example, that it rains a lot in Portland and Sacramento is dry and that Buffalo gets a lot of snow? Riveting. She could not be drowned out by my significant hearing loss and noise cancelling headphones playing the Beatles greatest hits. The only thing that could drown her out was my hearing loss plus noise cancelling headphones playing the Beatles greatest hits pushed into my ears while munching on carrot sticks. No, this post is not about Chicago. It's about plumbers of the heart, otherwise known as cardiologists.

That's my husband, on his way to get his third heart procedure. His paramedic was from Romania and was shocked we had heard of his language, Gagauz. Note to self: Learn a few phrases of Gagauz because you never know when it can come in handy. But wait, I jumped ahead a bit. This is my husband, who unknown to me had been experiencing a bit of tightness in his chest while walking back from the free Lincoln Park Zoo, while touring the Museum of Science and Industry, while playing at Maggie Daley Park, but oddly enough, not while dancing the extremely invigorating Second Annual Moldovan Circle Dance Around the Bean.

Upon returning home from our Chicago trip, while my cold was getting worse and worse, his exercise induced chest tightness was getting worse and worse. He called the advice nurse, who contacted his cardiologist, who told him to get his heart over to ER soon, along with the rest of him. So he went and cleaned the pool. Then when I stumbled out of bed to hydrate my sick body, he told me. And I collapsed into a puddle of tears onto the couch. Not again. Not again. There was no way I could go to the ER with him, so once again, his coworker and amazing friend Jeff went with him to the hospital.

His EKG was normal, that blood test they do (which I really need to remember the name of) to see any recent cardiac events also came back negative. Which was positive, because he hadn't had a heart attack. Yippee. They decided to keep him overnight for observation and do an angiogram the next day.

The next morning, still feeling awful, I decided to see what a shower would do for my situation. I survived, so I put on some presentable clothes and went to the hospital. I wore a mask, because that's what responsible sickies are supposed to do when visiting hospitals. They discovered his last stent procedure seven months ago had slightly damaged his artery, and there was some plaque buildup at the edge of that stent. They needed to add another one. There was also an iffy area, a place they had opted to let off the hook last time, they were going to revisit it with more testing to see if it needed a stent. It really starts to feel like cardiologists don't like to put in just one stent, they like the two for one deals. So off to Mercy General he went.

We got settled in the amazing new heart center there, very fancy shmancy. We waited. And waited. I kept the mask on as well as I could, and felt pretty darn yucky, until a nurse brought me a warmed blanket. Warmed blankets are about the best thing ever at hospitals, almost as good as that life saving stuff they do on the side. And we waited a bit longer. Turns out the patient before Ernst had an angioplasty that lasted five hours. They said it was five hours of reaming out calcified arteries and sucking out plaque. I would have lost my mind waiting that long, an hour or so seems like forever - even when I'm a pro at this now.

Sitting with the doctor after, supported by my friend and neighbor Linda, I watched him diagram what happened (why am I still so ignorant of the physiology of the heart?) Discussing with him Ernst's case, he said to me " your husband is in his sixties..." My first thought was, "Did they operate on the wrong guy?" So I ever so politely said "My husband is only 47." The doctor smiled and realized his brain was still on the five hour case he had done before Ernst. The next morning during his rounds, this doctor looked about 10 years older himself, We found out he went until 3 am with two more cases, then woke up at 6 am to handle more emergencies. If you're planning on having stent surgery, you might want to pick a day that other people aren't having heart attacks. Which won't be easy, because unfortunately that place was crazy crowded.

So, what NOW? Just keep doing what you're doingthat was the advice. His other stents are still clear, as was the area that was merely sucked out last time from the ruptured old plaque. This is getting old and extremely frustrating and scary and annoying and tiring. But as of now, Ernst has a freshly revamped set of arterial arteries, all systems are good and we will just keep eating like hamsters. Hamsters with heart.

Cardiac Vegan should be a self-cancelling phrase. Or a rock band. Or maybe a line of plant-based frozen foods? Hmm...

Friday, July 31, 2015

The Nuts and Bolts of a KonMari Garage Purge

Our housing history, storage-wise:
  1. 2 bedroom, 1.5 bath townhouse with no garage and a small storage shed
  2. 1 bedroom, 1 bath apartment, with carport and a storage area
  3. 2 bedroom, 1 bath duplex with a 1 car garage
  4. 3 bedroom, 2 bath two-story house with loft, carport and a storage shed
  5. 3 bedroom, 2 bath house with 2 car garage and a large storage space
  6. 2 bedroom, 1 bath house with den, 1 car garage, large attic space and large outbuilding
  7. 2 bedroom, 1 bath house with den, 1 car garage, small attic space, garden shed and 2 outbuildings
Our issues began at house #5 with the 2 car garage - that's where I'm putting all the blame. It was there we purchased some sturdy garage shelves from Costco, which gave us the illusion of being in control. We put stuff in boxes and bins, with labels like Garage Stuff, Stuff to Sort, Icky Stuff. We stacked, we piled, we crammed, we hid, we did what people do to make it possible to park the car in the garage and feel like civilized members of society. It stayed like that through the next few moves, until I decided no more: the charade is over, we have too much stuff, and having to wear a helmet in one's own garage as a protection from falling debris is no way to live.

We already had one garage sale this spring, for all the stuff we purged by applying The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up to our living quarters. It was time to use the same method in our garage full of camping stuff, car stuff, tool-type stuff, sports stuff and all the other grimy categories in that Scary Place Where the Car is Parked. 

But where to start? Nothing looked fun. Or easy. Or lightweight. It was all covered with dryer lint and/or grease. It was all heavy or bulky or ugly or all of the above, which was why it was in the garage in the first place. The garage was hot, I was discouraged, we had company and it was a really bad time to start a garage purge. But really, is there ever a good time to start a garage purge? Now I know the answer to that question is YES. And that would be when you don't have guests. When the temperature is below 70 degrees. When you're able to go for a few days not resembling a human being.

But since I was chomping at the drill bit to get started, Ernst suggested I gather all the screwdrivers together so he could sort through them and see which ones "sparked joy" for him. And this is what happened.

I ever so nicely gathered our screwdrivers and laid them out in a beautiful array on the back patio and allowed my wonderful husband of 24 years to go through them without any pressure whatsoever to get rid of any of them while I sat inside and admired my gorgeous manicure.


I found what seemed like hundreds of screwdrivers, all over the place, everywhere I looked, all types, all kinds, all sorts, shapes, sizes, colors, ends, handles and lengths and I thought I would scream if I found another screwdriver and then I would find ten more and then I said I would flip out if I found another one and then I would find 15 more. I became the Shrew Driver. I was hot and bothered and grimy and mad and overwhelmed and once I was done I slammed them all down on the poor table on the back patio and made very clear we only have four hands between us, we are not octopuses running a busy auto repair shop and WE DON'T NEED ALL THESE BLASTED SCREWDRIVERS! Ernst kept the ones that sparked joy. He decided to keep me too, which is a miracle.

After we got that category out of our system, the garage purge went well.

Flat heads that the hot head collected. The other tips were in other boxes.

Is a pair of pliers just a wrench with an attitude?

The David and Goliath of the wrench world.

We hammered out the hammer situation.

Sockets in Metric and Stupid sizes. In square and hexagonal. That's a lot of sockets.

We had a bit of bits.

And a bit more bits.

After keeping to the category method, it became clear we needed to just clear off those sturdy Costco shelves and get serious about this garage purge. It was time to pull every last grimy thing out of our garage onto the back patio and go through it all, item by item. Why the back patio? Because the driveway by this time was about 115 degrees, and we do have a shred of dignity to preserve. The back patio gave us the luxury of shade and the opportunity to do this right, once and for all time. When it was really hot, I put a painting tarp down inside, brought in the tool boxes and sorted every last screw, nut and bolt we owned. My hands were covered in grime, every joint in my body ached and I was so incredibly happy to finally get this done. 

Ugh. Ugh. Triple digit Ugh.

I believe I unearthed the microphone used by FDR in his fireside chats. 

What's s a blog post about a garage purge without some Before and After photos?

Before. The Scary Corner of Doom and Despair

After. Canning, Camping and Wine Making stuff. JOY!

Before. Boxes of stuff, that's my best guess.

After. Camping and Car Stuff. And empty space. Yipee!

Before. There may possibly be a shelf under there, but I'm not sure.

After. Painting supplies in the cupboards and I think that empty spot is called a work bench. 

We have one more category to go through, the stuff left from doing 30 years of volunteer sound installation for RBC. Then the garage is done! It is currently full of stuff for our second garage sale of the season. There will be a few screwdrivers for sale, but I can't imagine why.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

A Fair Afternoon

Where else can you

Pet a sturgeon
See award winning artwork
Talk to beer and wine making experts
See gerbera daisies growing in all colors of the rainbow
Pay $3 for a slice of watermelon
Get soaking wet on a log ride for $2
Ask a SMUD lineman what his scariest moment was on the job
Ask a Master Gardener from UC Davis Extension what to do about your Mexican Feather Grass
Try to not jump up and down like a crazy woman when you see your plum jelly got second prize in the fruit jelly division

That's right, we spent Tuesday afternoon and evening at the California State Fair. I love the fair. I love the charming counties exhibits, because it reminds me of being there with my parents. In fact, the older I get, the more I love the counties exhibits and wished I hadn't whined so much as a kid when my Dad wanted to linger at them. I feel such a strong connection to my Mom and Dad there, they were confirmed fair goers just as we are. I love walking the grounds they walked together, knowing how much they enjoyed each other's company.

I love the clashing colors and the smells and the tired kids and the happy kids and the smelly animals and the tired parents hauling around giant stuffed animals they won for their tired kids. What was my favorite part of this year's fair? Hmm, let's see, what could it be? The sticky cotton candy? Nope, hate the stuff. Bacon covered chocolate churros? Ugh! My favorite moment was seeing that second place ribbon on my plum jelly in that vast array of canned goods. Their judging policy is quite loose, like a soccer team that gives you a trophy for just showing up. If your jam was incredible, you got first place. Super yummy, second. Great, third. If it had bubbles and was cloudy, you got diddly-squat. I know Ernst was very happy I didn't get third or diddly-squat. It was his idea to enter my jelly, he did all the paperwork and dropped it off. If he had had to walk around the fair with a whiny wife who didn't get a good prize, he would only have himself to blame. 

We didn't get the pork chop on a stick...

...or the deep fried cheese curds...

...we got the watermelon and the fruit, which you really have to search for.

I love the fair!

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Sacramento Summer Survival Strategies

Summer came late, and for that we are grateful. Like a fashionably tardy guest, it gave us some breathing room before it became too hot to breathe. But summer is here for reals now. No more messing around, we've had a few scorchers. What to do when the temps go up? Here are just a few survival strategies.

Sit on the front porch, drink a beer and sort out your rags. It will make the neighbors feel so much better about their own lives. 
Decide you probably won't ever need another rag in your life. Ever.

Live on salads. There is no heat involved, and very little thinking.

Roll in the dirt, it has a cooling effect.

See above.

Make smoothie bowls. Plunk your face in until you feel better.

Make plum wine. See above.

Crank up the AC, make a quilt and pretend it's December.

Go horseback riding on the beach. Thank the horse, of course.

Go to Lake Tahoe. In skirts. And have a rock throwing contest. In skirts.

When you're in a pickle or a jam, make some jelly.

Put your feet up really high, they're tired of feeling stepped on.

Organize your tee shirts. Fold them the Duh Way. 

Dish towels. The Duh Way.

Then wash them and let them dry in a Sacramento Summer Second.

Revamp your printer area. 

Realize you probably don't need so much paper in your life. 

Find a nice cool place to lie down. Dream of rain. Autumn will be here soon.