Friday, April 29, 2011

Halfway through a 10 day Master Cleanse

First of all let me say this: I don't even "believe" in fasting or juicing. I think the best way to eat food is naturally, close to its original form, organically and mostly stuff that was once alive, but didn't have a heart. (Artichokes with hearts are OK.)

I have been trying to eat this way for quite a while, and I feel pretty good. But not great. I have woke up every morning for a long time now with really bad lower back pain. Like my lower back wanted to be in another person's body, a younger person's body.  I was convinced we needed a new mattress.

Last Friday I met a mom and daughter at our RBC work that were doing the Master Cleanse. Thought they were crazy, but they said they felt great and were not even hungry. For 10 days they were drinking a concoction of lemon juice, water, Grade B maple syrup and cayenne pepper. OKAAAY, sounded simply awful.

I went from that to, it can't hurt, might help, it would save us some food $$!

Started Monday, woke up Wednesday morning with no back pain. None. So is it all in my head? Might be, but for now I'll take it.

Here is the plan. I'll do it for the 10 days, I feel great and I'm amazingly not hungry. Then I'll start eating like a baby newly on solids. Try something for a few days, see what happens and then try something else. I think I'll start with bananas. No one is allergic to bananas, right? Then apples, then maybe some salmon so I don't turn into a lump of powder. (Do fish have hearts?)

There has to be something that is causing this and I am determined to find out. And the answer cannot be age, there must be something else! I'm out of lemons, must go on a citrus run.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

My Toxic Relationships with Sewing Machines

There is a reason some people give their sewing machines girl names. It is due to PMS, Pesky Mending Syndrome.

My machine doesn't have a name, but I have called her lots of things. This is machine #2, definitely an improvement over #1, but that's not saying much. I bought both of them on Craigslist, which is great for many things, but apparently not for buying sewing machines. Ernst told me to take my time, but I just had to start sewing. They acted all nice and sweet during the sale, and then turned into evil brats.

I don't mean to make light of abusive relationships here, but there are some similarities when one hates one's machine:

I wonder, if I were a better seamstress would this be happening?

Why didn't I see the signs before I committed to this relationship? No, I had to look for fancy stitches, I couldn't just be content with a nice simple workhorse with metal gearing. Did I really think plastic parts would get through 4 layers of denim?

Why did I have to buy the first machine I saw? Why, oh why did I not wait for a nice Pfaff or a Janome to come along? And then to make the same mistake twice? Learn from me girls, that is all I can say.

My mother had a good relationship with her machine, so this can't be something from my childhood.

Am I too far along to quit, or is there some counseling available to make this work? Would a clean break be good, or should I stay with what I know?

How is it that my friends love their machines, what is wrong with me?

Will I ever be happy?

Would I be better off without her?

Is "sewicide" a capital offense? Could I claim self-defense?

Oh, but there have been some good times. There was that one baby quilt that went together so easily. Maybe it is me. Maybe I'm the problem. If I used better thread, not thrift store fabric...Who knows, maybe a nice machine wouldn't even want ME.

I'm ready to give it another shot, things will change, it will get better....

My first quilt - good times - how naive I was

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Nellya Quilt

A few months ago I bought a huge piece of green corduroy from the Goodwill fabric section. Someone was planning on covering something really big and never used it. I think this is the 3rd or 4th quilt to use that green fabric. It really is a great color, I'm calling it asparagus green.

I think this uses the last of that pretty peachy fabric from Kathy, the last of the white with brown polka dots from Carmen and the last of the brown checks from I don't remember where. But I have lots more of the green, it'll be in a few more projects.

It is a cool pretty day, and I hauled the quilt out with the quilt rack to take photos in front of our peach roses. I took some other shots on our bed, put everything back in order, but the SD card was not all the way shoved into the camera. EERRGGHH! So I just slammed these together to put on Etsy. Oh the photos that got away.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Kodie the Wonder Quilt

The Kodie Quilt sold yesterday while we were busy at the hall. Wow, this is really getting fun.

I get bummed when my items don't get a lot of views, but I just don't want to renew them all the time. There is a trick to renewing, what time of day is best, when the most people are on Etsy. Like day trading for the crafter! I look at some shops on Etsy and I can't understand how someone can get a thousand views for one item. But really, that means that 1000 people saw it and didn't buy it. The one that counts is the person that viewed and decided to buy. I'll keep plugging away at my little shop. It's still a thrill to see that transaction show up.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Um Jess?

We had an RBC group come today to install an alarm system in our hall. A few days ago, Ernst said "Um Jess, could you arrange the food for the workers?"  We did a family style serving in the office - tablecloth and flowers and yummy homemade Moldovan food. They prepared a salad, veggies, potatoes, chicken, meatballs in sauce, brown rice and pasta. It was really nice food, prepared with thought and care by people who love to cook.

OK, that went well, clean up lunch and keep on working...and working and working. Soon it was 5:30 with no end in sight. Ernst says, "Um Jess, can you put together some dinner somehow?" I was really tempted to go over to Zinaida's house and beg for the lunch leftovers. But I went home, and pulled a dinner for 12 out of nowhere. We had some frozen sausages from a party (saved for the dog), frozen corn, a salad from lunch, sliced oranges, a not so pretty or fresh cabbage salad that I would have never made for anyone but Ernst (way too McDougall) and bread. I raced back to the hall, microwaved it all and dinner was served at six sharp. It was food, prepared with speed by someone who knows how to use a microwave. Whew, that was a rush.

Ernst again, "Um Jess, can Ryan from Reno spend the night? Is the guest room clean?" Yeah, the guest room is clean, the rest of the house is not! I grabbed the dirty bowls from dinner, ran back home and tidied up the house. OK, presentable enough for a guy.

We have no good food for our houseguest's breakfast, not even any coffee. Someone needs to go to the store. "Um Ernst?"

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Teodora Quilt

My first post-China sewing project, finally. This little lap quilt turned out really sweet and feminine. I am trying out a new size, 49 squares down from 64, which is down from 80 which is down from 100. So my blankets have halved in size from when I first made them. Pretty soon I'll be selling one square quilts!

This size is so much more manageable, it can be washed in a regular washing machine. My mother-in-law bought me a new front loader for the big quilts, I used to go to the laundromat (not too much fun in this neighborhood). My baby quilts are either 25 or 35, I can whip those out in no time, but they don't seem as popular on Etsy.

Our yard is in full blown springtime. Molly is wrecking havoc with her squirrel chasing. She destroyed half of my rock rose by pouncing on it, I was not happy with her. The Sunset Garden book says rock roses "resist heavy pruning" so there are no positives. And she lays all over the place, smashing bulbs and flowers. Kodie was a digger and a plant eater, and we fenced in things from him. Molly does her damage unintentionally, but she packs a punch. And she just leaps over the barriers Super Girl style. We are waiting for her to grow up!
The Teodora Quilt

Shabby chic all the way
Molly on squirrel patrol

some volunteers
Super Squirrel Girl

Irises on steroids

Rock rose survivors

Three cheers for the bees!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Unemployment - Such Hard Work!

It has been five long months since I lost the perfect job. Perfect schedule, great people, interesting work and all of that 3 miles from our house. I know the job market is in the pits right now, and Sacramento's job market is in the toilet, but I thought that I would have AT LEAST GOT ONE RESPONSE FROM CRAIGSLIST BY NOW. Sorry for shouting, just had to get that out.
This is the first time in my life I have received unemployment. It is wonderful, but it won't last forever. I've had some temp jobs, the State Bar Exam and a few proctoring jobs at Sac State. That will help stretch my benefits out a bit, but this is getting a bit annoying.
I was thinking the other night about my dream job, or a list of dream jobs, and here is what I came up with:

I'm still thinking.

No wonder I can't find a job. I guess something that would involve:

Children but no parents
Quilt making but no sewing
Dogs but no cats (allergic)
Medical but no blood
Food but no mess
Writing but no criticism
Travel but no travelers

Wow, I am so picky. Whatever will I do?

Until I land that dream job (Reality for now: good pay, people or hours, pick one) I am doing all I can to save money. Planning the veggie garden, planning some more quilts to make. No more justifying the convenience foods at Trader Joe's. It is beans in the crock pot and a big pot of rice, dinner again! And I hang out the laundry. Our neighbor called me a Quaker, but I think he meant Amish. My mom always hung out our laundry, even after we moved to the nicer neighborhood and no one else did it. She liked the way it made the clothes smell. I like the way it keeps the bills down, plus it makes me feel so smugly earth friendly. Of course, Ernst's shirts and pants go in the perm press cycle, ironing is against my religion. Even the unemployed can have principles.

Three Years Ago today...

...well not exactly. Three Memorials ago, which that year landed in March, what a time we had. Here it is the speed version.
Just rented the new house...needs new up the carpet...worst hardwood floors in history...Ernst has such bad heartburn...start painting the guest room...invitation work in progress...Ernst feels awful...Jeff and Chris visiting...painting...pulling up much work...Ernst really feeling bad...first Romanian Memorial at the Marcu home...Ernst white as a morning, Easter to go buy paint and go to Jeff''s talk in Loomis...better not, Ernst so sick...better go to ER...better call 911...can't be too bad, just really bad heartburn, and they don't have the siren on...Heart Joanne, Natasha, Nancy...people showing up at the ER...transfer to Mercy Hospital...more people...Arcade people. Davis people, Loomis people?...are there too many people, I am, each new person gives me 10 more minutes of courage...Mrs. Ernst?...entire waiting room stands up...3 stents but heart relatively healthy...more people...ICU...people leave...all alone...thank goodness it is over...time to remove thing from leg artery...blood spurting everywhere...9 months pregnant nurse on top of Ernst stopping the bleeding...this isn't happening...OK, it really is all over, it really did happen and my husband really did have a heart attack the day after the Memorial in 2008.
Then the friends kicked party...tear up the rotten floorboards and replace them party...refinish the floors party...sprinkler party...there were many parties, but way more work than fun. They made our house so beautiful, helped us get through that awful, awful time. And here we are three years later. We had our Romanian Memorial last night at the hall, Ernst gave the prayer over the wine, looking and feeling so healthy.

Kleenex contest from 10-10-10 party

Ernst in German clothes, me in Romanian

Honk if you love Vegans!


part of the Top 10 Ernst Injuries skit

we laughed...

...until we cried

Jason with more Ernst Injuries

Jason, Seth and Dan

more games

Honk Honk! Ernst the Vegan!
Our party on 10-10-10 was really a big thanks to all who helped us get through 2006-2008. What wonderful friends we have. Thank you. Forever thank you.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


Bryant's Blog about B.O. on the Bus sure sounded familiar to us. We had a similar experience on the train coming back from Qingdao. We were seated in those most awkward seats where the front facing seats meet the back facing seats, but the first 3 hours we had it to ourselves. Homemade muffins from the American couple, giant size noodle cups, yummy Chinese treats and lots of leg room.

Then came the smelly gang. These guys filled up the seats in front of B and A, and then we got our seats filled too. The first sniffs came, OH MY WORD THEY STINK. It was a mixture of BB, BO and CB (bad breath, body odor and cigarette breath). That along with the snorting and hacking made for a very long and stinky return to Beijing. I put some lotion under my nose to have something good to smell and my coat over my head to keep out the worst of it. These are pictures of me making the PU sign. The bear is our travel key chain, who will have her own China slide show in a few weeks. Some situations require humor to endure. With all the cramming we did on the buses and subways, this was our only bad (but unfortunately really long lasting) experience with BSA, Body Stench in Asia.

Then on our return plane trip, an American backpacker was sitting in the row in front of us. He kept lifting up his arms just in case we didn't already know HE SMELLED REALLY BAD. He was eyeing the empty seat next to us, but I had already practiced my ever so civil "Oh no, really, you can't sit there, your body odor would make that impossible." Nothing worse than BSFMEA, Body Stench from a Meat Eating American.
Are we there yet?

Saturday, April 9, 2011

We Made Dirt

Several years ago, National Lampoon did a Martha Stewart Living spoof, it was called Is Martha Stewart Living? One of the articles was "Martha Makes Dirt". Very funny stuff.

Two years ago we started a very loose interpretation of a compost pile. We never turned it enough, never watered it enough and threw stuff in that was not cut up small enough. And it showed. It sort of just sat there looking like a pile of lawn clippings. Both our dogs would eat kitchen scraps from the top of it.

Finally after all the rain and then some heat, we have dirt! We have worms! It is alive and happy and ready to spread over the veggie gardens. Not quite the black gold that Martha makes, this still has a banana peel here and there, but it looks composty enough to me.

I did my tomato area with the Lasagna Garden technique last summer, again with my lazy, don't quite follow the instructions style that I am so good at. You start with layers of newspaper or cardboard placed on a sunny spot of ground, even over totally horrible soil. Then through the fall and winter, you layer lawn clippings, leaves, peat moss, more clippings, more leaves, coffee grounds, compost etc. You don't even have to mix it, just layer it. You get it about 2 feet high and let it sit over the winter. It compacts to about a foot. The plants go in like magic, no weeds and no digging. I surrounded mine with logs, but I wish I had spent some money on something nicer. I'll put in some pictures when I get my gardens planted. I follow the advice of the Sac Bee and wait until around May 1 when the ground warms up. I love when I am advised by professionals to procrastinate.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

I sold the Larissa Quilt!

Here I was this afternoon, tooling around AOL, Blogspot and Craigslist, my trinity of Internet sites. Thought I'd better check my Gmail account, and what do you know, I sold a quilt. That's right, I almost forgot, I make quilts and sometimes total strangers buy them and send PayPal funds. The wonders of the Internet.
This was my favorite quilt I had on Etsy, the blue and white one. I guess this means I need to get cracking and make another one. If it would only rain and quit this beautiful spring weather. The weeds are growing like weeds.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Top Fives from China

B and A's apartment
The top five things in China I didn't like:

1. The pollution. It was pretty bad, both in the air and what could be seen from the water. Ernst often had tightness in his chest from the air quality.

2. The hacking and spitting. If spitting were an Olympic sport, China would sweep the medals. We got through it by using a rating system. 1-10 in degrees of difficulty, volume, loudness and gag factor. We heard many that rated above 6.5 and a few perfect tens.

3. The bumping and shoving. One train ride had us all pushed so violently into the subway, Angelina got pushed down and nearly stepped on. It was scary. But the up-side is that you don't have to expend a lot of energy apologizing when you knock into people. Now that would be exhausting.

4. The haggling and bargaining. Just put a fair price on the items, let me browse and decide if I want something. Haggling is so tiring. And we always walked away wondering if we could have done better.

5. Did I mention the spitting?

The top five things I loved about China:

1. The people. They have experienced so much hardship, yet they have emerged with an incredible Can Do spirit. Some of the most enterprising things we saw were: on the street dentistry, sidewalk bike repair and food stalls out of the fronts of houses. And the blind massage places, what a win win idea!

2. The food. Every day and night we had unbelievably great food, some dirt cheap some even cheaper. We walked gobs, but didn't manage to lose weight because we ate like kings. The quality and taste were like nothing we had before, Oh My Word Delicious.

3. The sights. We had some gorgeous days to experience the Great Wall, Beijing. Mount Tai and Qingdao. I was surprised how few foreigners we saw, I guess because we went with locals. The Great Wall is something to behold, an engineering feat that boggles the mind. And whoever put those 6000 plus steps all the way up the mountain in Tai Shan? And then a gondola half way up for the wimps? Thank you very much. That sunrise was an enchanting moment.

4. The children. Yes there are tons of them and yes they are the cutest on this planet. One of my favorite things we did was a trip to a park full of families and kids. The joy they had in making soon to disappear water marks on concrete was endearing. No batteries, no flashing lights, no electronics, just children learning how to write a most ancient and beautiful language from their elders. Simply lovely.

5. Did I mention the food? Picture a food court in a US mall. Now picture one card that pays for it all, over the top delicious food, with choices even for vegans, and then picture no garbage. All the places have their own distinctive plates and cups that they collect and wash. The only garbage is wooden chopsticks. Wouldn't that be a truly "Green" way of eating? Why can the Chinese do it and they can't do it here?

That is what is so amazing about that place. Some things they are doing are horrendous. The lack of human rights, the pollution, the ridiculous lack of planning. But in other ways? Their transportation, their food, their ingenuity, the high literacy rate, the healthy size of the average person, all very inspiring. I wrote before we left that I had no expectations, but even so I was not prepared. The modern stores. The charming and colorful vegetable stands. The bullet trains. The bicycles mounted with coal heated sweet potatoes! The intersections dealing with buses, taxis, bicycles, cars, scooters, 3 wheeled cars, pedestrians and bicycle carts. China is Topsy Turvy amazing. We only saw a snippet and I can't wait to return!

Our spring yard welcomed us home

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Home Sweet Home

Our flight began at 4 in the afternoon in China, and we landed 4 hours earlier in San Francisco at noon, the same day. Shouldn't I look younger?

California is green and gorgeous, and our yard is full of blooming irises. Our Molly girl was so glad to see us and our house sitters made us a flower bouquet and a pot of beans. So nice to be home. Ernst has a cold, which I will no doubt catch too, but better now than in China. My spring allergies are raging here.

It has been fun to look back over my blog and all the pictures, but too tired and wired to do much else. I know my sleep pattern will be a wreck for a while, I don't do jet lag like I used to. Our luggage is crowding the guest room, my mind is full of China and my heart is overflowing with the joy of travel. My China cup runneth over!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Goodbye China

Dragon fruit
With Garrett
Inside of Dragon fruit
Sunset on Mt. Tai Shan
Brad at sunrise
Trying to get it all organized, willing the hanging clothes to dry faster for packing, Ernst still needing a haircut; our last morning. This trip could have easily been longer, we had a full schedule but this place is enormous in every way. We hope to come back, but all good things must come to an end. Now we go back to Molly, our blooming apple tree, my irises, our Romanian friends and our new CO, job hunting, yard work, house work... This truly has been a vacation, I will miss Ernst when he goes back to work on Tuesday. We travel well together. This blog has been a great way to journal this trip, I can't wait to get back and see what it actually looks like, since blogs are blocked here. Bye for now!

Odds and Ends

Brides on the beach in Qingdao

Freezing sunrise on Mt. Tai Shan

Sweet new friends

We didn't rent the coats

L and D's apartment in Qingdao

Sweet potato street food

Beach in Qingdao

More brides on the beach
Our last day here. I'm home doing laundry while Ernst and B and A are doing some shopping. Our two weeks here have flown by, we did such a variety of things it is hard to process it. Today will be spend trying to organize our luggage and pack the breakables we promised we wouldn't buy. We brought Brad's sleeping bag and tent so we were sure we would have lots of room on the way back. Maybe not.
For today, maybe one last massage from my blind guy who thinks I have weird American muscles. Or maybe a pedicure, I haven't looked at my feet in a while, but they have been taking a beating. We have walked and ran for buses, hiked the wall and a mountain, climbed endless stairs and stood in swaying subways. I did it all in my trusty pair of Sketchers that never failed me, as did Angelina. If you are coming to China, bring Sketchers!
Here are some odds and ends of some photos left with no theme. Some of the locals we have met who asked for our pictures. Either the Chinese ignore you, stare or giggly approach and want to practice their English. We have met some jewels. The cute girls have already emailed me and want to keep in touch. We met them near Tiananmen Square. They speak English really well, plus French.
I keep wanting to write a post where I sum up this whole trip, but it will take a while. There are such wonderful things here, but also things that are really rough. More power to our friends that have taken the plunge to live here, they deserve our respect.