Monday, September 15, 2014

The Rafaela Quilt

Just in time for fall swimming weather - the autumnal themed & colored Rafaela quilt makes its debut while the temperature in Northern California continues to scream summer. The ice cream trucks are making their rounds, the pool is using up the chlorine like mad and our clothes dry on the line once I turn my back. But here we go with a nice cozy quilt full of fall leaves, cute calicoes and warm dark corduroys. The colors of brown, green, orange and cream are in contrast to our pink crepe myrtle out front and our blossoming impatiens on the back porch. But autumn will come, right? Just a sprinkle or two? A temperature below 80 perhaps? Some fog would be nice, or just a white puffy cloud to create some shade, that would be such a treat.

I cut this quilt out on our last trip to the cabin with our friends Jeff and Myra. Then it sat in the fabric closet and waited until summer ended. I'm trying to get some inventory built up for a craft fair in a few weeks, but someone has already expressed interest in buying this quilt. (It just sold!) A sale is a sale, but Drats! I'll have one less quilt for the craft fair. Dumb thinking, I know, but I really need inventory or the whole idea of a craft fair would be a big waste of time. "Step right up folks, and peruse my three quilts and four baby hats. Don't all crowd in at once, there's plenty for everyone." Back to the cutting board, I need to sew some more quilts. Crank up the air conditioner, make some banana pops, go dunk in and out of the pool, it is Quilt Season!

The Rafaela quilt...

...fuzzed up... a champ. 

Monday, September 8, 2014

Armothgeddon - Battle of the Bugs

The gloves are off, this is an all-out test of wills. A war of the wings. A fight to the finish. And we will win. We are bigger. We have brains, and opposable thumbs, and step stools. Yes, they have wings and there are many of them, but we will prevail. 

The rice moths, aka pantry moths, continue to plague us. We threw out all the rice. We threw out all the flour and unidentified flour-like pantry items, just in case. The pasta is in the freezer, a cool if not dry place, along with the chia seeds, the quinoa and other various seeds and grains. The fridge has the rest of the food refugees, the cereal boxes and nuts. That is it. All the remaining food in the pantry is either in cans or jars. Take that you miserable moths.

A war is fought on many fronts. Now that we've cut off their supply line, the offensive battle begins in earnest. It's time for the latest in pantry moth weaponry, and that involves moth love potions and sticky pads. We have tried two, and we'll share the results. Because where there is moth death, there is victory.

 The first of two products promising to kill pantry moths is Safer Brand Pantry Pest Trap. Here is what the Safer Brand folks say:

Protect your pantry!  You could be bringing moths into your house without knowing it! (Why would I bring them in knowing it?This two-pack of pantry moth traps (4 traps total) offers an economical and convenient natural pest control solution to moths flying around your pantry. Effective moth control starts and ends with the Safer® Brand, Eradicate the population in your pantry by attracting the males, trapping them, and breaking the breeding cycle. (I'm picturing little tiny bottles of beer and  little bug screen TVs with non-stop football playing. That would attract the males.)

The second product we tried was Terro Pantry Moth Traps. These were the cutest, they look like little tents.

Attracting and killing grain moths, flour moths, meal moth and seed moths. These include the Indian Meal Moth, Tobacco Moth (We're safe on that front) Almond Moth, (Please no, leave our nuts out of this!) Mediterranean Moth and the Raisin Moth. (Raisin Moths? Is nothing sacred?)

These easy-to-use glue traps attract and kill the most common moths. The moth traps contain a powerful pheromone lure (is that like a cologne for insects?) that attracts moths to the trap’s sticky surface where they get stuck and die. (Serves them right for flying right into the moth singles bar.)

And the winner is? (Or the loser from the moth's point of view?)

The Tent of Temptation, the Lure Lounge, the Icky Sticky Shack - the Terro brand product is three times more effective than the Safer brand. We put them up on the top of our cabinets and those pesky pests were in for a surprise when they flew in but they didn't fly out. We're thinking of putting up some tiny little neon Bugweiser signs.

Moth pick-up joints.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Attack of the Kill 'er Rice Moths

We eat lots of rice. Wild, brown, white, Jasmine, Basmati, organic and whatever else looks good. My favorite is short grain brown rice, because it stays moist for leftovers. Rice is cheap, easy, quick, healthy for us and one of the few grains that doesn't turn me into a puffy mess of inflammation.

We keep our rice handy, right there on our little table in the kitchen that has become the fruit and vegetable stand. We use a rice cooker so the process is scoop, rinse, plop, add water and flip the on switch. A few weeks ago Ernst bought a nice big bag of wild rice from Raley's - about five pounds. It joined the other rice varieties in the kitchen corner, sealed up in the original bag. And that is how they got their little moth foot-hold into our house.

The other day I went to make rice as usual, but moths flew out of the brown rice. Then they flew out of the white rice, because moths are not prejudice. Ick, moths all over the kitchen. Dump, dump, dump - it's a good thing rice is cheap. I washed out the containers as I swatted moths. Then I saw the bag of wild rice. I picked it up to inspect it, and the rice spilled out of the dozens of holes the monster moths had chewed to escape and make our lives miserable. The only good thing I can say about these rice loving moths is they are easy to kill. They just sit there as we come into swat them and send them to an early death, but not before leaving behind a brown blob of moth death, usually on a painted white surface.

They are in the kitchen, they are in the bedroom, they are in my dreams. It's not even close to Plague Eleven, but I'm getting annoyed. When moths invade your utensil drawer, for no apparent reason, and leave the pasta alone, you may begin to wonder what their little pin head brains are up to next. What do they want with our knives while they ignore the brown rice noodles? Fortunately we had just done a Go With the Food You Have Month, so if we need to start tossing pantry items, we already ate most of them. Our next step is to purchase these little moth killing tents. It's like a camping trip for your insects, without the marshmallows.

You should see their little backpacks

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.