Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Summer Didn't Get the Memo

 Sacramento Valley Weather Forecast 

Tonight: Mostly cloudy. Low near 50.
Wednesday: Showers and possible thunderstorms. High near 64.
Thursday: Partly cloudy. High near 71.
Discussion: Staying cool with increasing clouds and rain Wednesday. By afternoon scattered thunderstorms will likely start popping up in the valley and possibly in the foothills. We catch a break from the rain Thursday and Friday then more moves in for the weekend.

This is the forecast for the first week of June 2011. I was pumping gas today in jeans and a t-shirt, silly me. The wind was blowing, it was raining and I was freezing! I actually took a bath this morning just to warm up, got another one planned for tonight, and then into some warm jammies. I had to take the laundry off the line and use the dryer today, the clothes were soaked. We have yet to turn on the sprinklers this year, and I think I heard the tomato plants whimpering.

The best part of this weird weather

Monday, May 30, 2011

Teeny Weeny Zucchini

Even with our cool and wet weather lately, our garden is showing signs of life. We have the cutest little zucchinis and cucumbers popping out. The tomatoes are finally blossoming, and I picked some radishes for a salad. Some strange volunteers have also appeared. I picked a potato (didn't plant them), there are two tomatoes growing where they ought not, and we have peanuts popping up in the compost pile. I don't think you can grow peanuts in Northern California, but there they were.
Squash vs. Snails, squash winning
Baby grapes!

Apples, thanks to the bees
Our yard has been a work in progress for 3 years now. Between Ernst's heart attack and dealing with getting the inside of this house in shape, our yard was the least of our worries when we moved here. It was one huge mass of knee high weeds, a few trees and bushes, and that was it. It had some great brick borders, but nothing in them but weeds, weeds and more stinking weeds.
My sister Janice helped me pick out some bushes to purchase and plant, and then I just got a bunch of freebies. I am great at "appropriating" plants. Agapanthas? From a dumpster. Pink geraniums? Um, well I kind of snipped a few from a business down the street that has since burned down, so really I was saving them from being charred. A great red flowered geranium that is spreading? From geocaching in Santa Barbara after Becky H's wedding.
The rest of the yard is donations. My friend Cindy says it wasn't her, but I KNOW it was her, anyway Cindy gave us a huge amount of iris rhizomes when we moved here three years ago. They are purple and spectacular and make the spring garden look fabulous. I also got some bulbs from our neighbors that came up so pretty this spring. I am a firm believer in the cheap packages of flower seeds, the miser in me wins out over the impatience I usually have for instant results. The death of a plant is easier to take if you aren't still paying off the credit card bill from Home Depot.

Geraniums that I unknowingly saved from getting torched

Smuggled home after Aaron and Becky's wedding

Gotta love those seed packets
Not quite there, but the Battle of the Weeds is winding down

Free flowers, the best kind

Doing her part to beautify the yard, Molly, the Dog with OCD

Thursday, May 26, 2011

From Spanx to Sewing Machine Angst - Post One Hundred

When I started this blog it really was just to document and promote my quilts. My husband thought that since I was on Etsy, it was a good idea to add a blog for more oomph.

Here was my first post - Diving Into Etsy

Last night I posted my first quilt on Etsy. Is it even called posting? Comparing my page to others, it is really embarrassing. Apparently one needs to create a really interesting and unique banner that goes on top for the title. I thought all I had to do was create really interesting and unique quilts, but alas I was mistaken.

This morning was spent cutting out the squares for the new quilt, which I will post to make my shop have the whopping number of two items! I will need to sew it, then of course think of a really interesting and unique name for it to stand out from the rest. Who knew a job in marketing with IKEA would be required to sell quilts?

Since then I have made and sold a quiverful of quilts. So happy I came up with the idea of naming them Romanian girls names, I can remember them well because I try to match the colors and the style with the personality I associate with the name. I sometimes sit at meetings letting my eyes wander over the girls, seeing who I could make and name a quilt after.

The blog has been full of lots of "unquilty" things too, such as:

Spanx swimwear (huge Google traffic on that one, if only I had monetized!!)
Moldovan weddings
cleaning closets
our trip to China (most diverse Google traffic from post on climbing Mt. Tai)
vegan eating
quick builds
Team Panda
dogs, past and present
fender benders
learning Romanian
not learning Romanian
and lots of Ernst, but there is a lot of Ernst to cover

I used to think that to have a blog, one needed to have a really interesting life, involving living in a far off land, running triathalons, or having identical triplet boys. I don't come close to any of those descriptions. But a blog is such a cool way of actually doing something with our photos, finally keeping a journal and a great way of staying in touch with friends. Even though I don't allow comments on the blog, very often I hear from old friends via email about something I wrote, it has been a great way of keeping in contact. (No, I don't do Facebook.)

Some posts have been extremely therapeutic. By far the hardest one to write was about my Dad's death 20 years ago. It helped so much to get that down in writing, it really was a good moment to hit the Publish Post on that one.

So All Squared Up has been good for the quilts and good for me. I blog, therefore I am...ready to get on to whatever is coming next.

Some possible topics for future posts?

 Elliot Eats a Golf Cart

Working Out, Chinese Style

 World's Best Book Study Group

What a Week it Was

Woman's Best Friend

Being Ernst

The Importance of Being Ernst

Monday, May 23, 2011

A Big Fat Moldovan Wedding - Part Two

You may recognize Jason and Micah in the conga line, they work with Sergey. They are loads of laughs, and we were seated at their table, which is a guaranteed good time.

Notice that only young people are dancing to this really fast one. I usually wait to hear which Moldovan song it is before I commit to a dance, some are just plain dangerous.

The little squirts look forward to ice cream as the night goes on. These are my little buddies, they help me with my Romanian, and if they think I am stupid, they sure don't let on, they just smile at each other.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

A Big Fat Moldovan Wedding - Part One

Our sweet friend Sergey married his adorable Dorina last night. As usual, the dancing and the food were wonderful. Each of these over-the-top Moldovan weddings are unique and fun.

One of the games we played at this one: get 4 couples (us included) and take the wives away. Put a sheet over the heads of the guys, and poke only their noses through small holes. The wives have to identify their husband's nose. Easy you might think? I thought they were playing a joke and they had put in 4 different husbands! The bride was convinced she had picked Sergey, but by then I was pretty sure that nose belonged to Ernst. Wish I had got some pictures, it was quite hilarious.

Since Dorina's whole family is back in Moldova, Sergey walked her down the aisle. It was so sweet and pure, it brought tears to my eyes. Their ceremonies are very simple, but their receptions are crazy fun. Fortunately, her family got to follow the whole day live, captured on an iPhone.

Sergey and Dorina

Are you ready for some dancing?

Fruit anyone?

Yeah, it's really a watermelon

I have seen Moldovan kids eat lots of fruit at parties before. But take fruit and make it into cute shapes and put it on sticks? No problem getting them to eat their Five a Day. Between the kids and the adults, this whole table was almost gone in an hour.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Forks Over Knives

This movie looks interesting, but I wonder if they will be selling buttered popcorn and Milk Duds with it? Forks Over Knives
(As in it is better to change your diet than to need surgery, or go under the knife.)

The movie is sponsored by Dr. T. Colin Campbell, the author of The China Study, a very compelling look at veganism vs. SAD, the Standard American Diet. It is coming soon to a theater near you, if you live in a place that has more vegans, like Seattle.

One of the doctors interviewed is Dr. McDougall. His research gave us hope that Ernst could regain his health. He is going to The McDougall 10-day Live-in Program this summer. (Thank you Arlene!) We can't wait to get one-on-one time with this expert on the plant-based diet and healing heart disease.

The hardest thing I have ever done is watch my father die. The second hardest was watching my husband suffer through his health issues. I will never forgive myself for some of the #&$%@ I used to serve. He did a lot of it to himself, but I didn't help matters with Cheesy Potato Stuff, Eggs and More Eggs for breakfast and way too much chicken sausages, my standard I'm Too Tired to Cook Meal from the bad old days.

Eating vegan? People seem so surprised when they find out I eat the same as Ernst, even though I don't "have to." First of all, why would I cook or buy stuff that he can't eat? That just wouldn't be kind.

Second, "What is good for the Gander is good for the Goose". It takes a lot of time to chop all those veggies and soak the beans and plan ahead and whip up the tofu for Fake Strawberry Shortcake Ala Jessica. But he is worth it, and I'm worth it too. I just wish I had figured this out twenty years ago. In our case, we do get to live and learn. For that I am happy to chop, chop, and chop some more. This Goose is happy to still have her Gander around.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

What Great Quilt Weather

Who took off with summer, and where did they put it? My poor little veggies got all smashed from the hail and rain, and now no sun to speak of with cold nights. Summer is my least favorite season of all, but now that I do a garden I hate it a little less. And how are clothes on the line supposed to dry in this cold damp May?

It is great quilt making weather, though. I have two planned in my head, if the quilt elves would just show up I could put them to work cutting out fabric. The first one is a memory quilt for a friend's mom. I'll go to their house tomorrow to pick out some fabric to use. It is easier when I didn't know the person. I feel such responsibility that these memory quilts turn out nice, there is only one chance to get it right. No Oops Pile to throw them into.

The second one will be for a dog themed quilt to be raffled off for Homeward Bound Golden Retriever Rescue. That is where we went to get a dog after our Kodie boy died. We were planning on just fostering a dog for a while, we expected an older dog that would lie around a lot. They gave us Molly (AKA Starlet), a young pup who was found on the loose in Bakerfield, covered with ticks. While waiting to be spayed, she got kennel cough, then they found out she was preggers. She got shipped up to HBGRR and had nine pups. We were supposed to keep her through her spaying, and then get her ready for adoption. She was in our yard for about 20 minutes and we decided we had to keep her. Molly had short hair then, from the puppy hormones. Now she is a full blown, long-haired, shedding, shoe eating, plant flattening, probably part Australian Shepherd, slipper stealing, ball obsessed, squirrel chasing, yard destroying goofball. We are so happy to have her!

Destroying yet another toy

Our Dyson gets quite a workout

Sunday, May 15, 2011

From Sweating to Snowing in 36 Hours

On Friday we went back to Placerville to work on low voltage for the quick build. The weather was really warm, actually hot at times. We all tried to drink lots of water, stay in the shade and we were happy to have short sleeves and sunscreen on.

That was Friday, this is Sunday. Snow! Cold! Hail! Freezing! All the stuff that got left out got covered in a slushy spring snow. The hall sits at 2000 feet elevation, but the snow was only expected above 3000 feet. The Placerville people were tired, the Sacramentans were laughing and throwing snowballs. It wasn't our first quick build in the snow, but it was our first May quick build in the snow!

I hadn't even packed a coat, had to borrow a vest and sweatshirt. We got our work done and came back through a downpour. This is a fun spring storm with lightening and thunder. Our garden and lawn are getting a good soaking. Of course this happened right after I got my summer clothes out and treated myself to a pedicure. My toes look really nice inside their warm winter socks.

Placerville CA on May 15, 2011

thrashed summer shade tents

ice cold water anyone?

Snow on the pine trees, so very pretty

Snow on the mulch pile, not so pretty

Snow, then hail, then rain, then more hail

more than a dusting, not quite a dumping

borrowed coat for the flatlander

sunglasses Friday - snow goggles Sunday

Friday, May 13, 2011

America's Next Top Chef

Myra and Elliot stopped by last night for a chat. Since I have no baby toys to speak of, I got out my go-to substitutes, pots and pans and spoons. Elliot had fun, and mouthed the spatula and whisk thing as if he were sucking off the food molecules. Most all the shots were a blur, he was bobbing around too much. I should have put the camera on Sports setting!
Ready for his own show, Thirty Minute Messes

For Elliot, whisking is an aerobic activity!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

My Quickest Sale Ever

Well, that was fast. I sold the Irina quilt through this blog. So very cool. I can't wait to tell all the other girls I have named quilts after that Irina's sold so fast. They tease each other about how long it takes "their quilts" to sell. Leave it to Irina, I knew she was a little ball of fire!
The Irina Quilt

The Irina and Sasha Quilts

These quilts were finished the same week, a week that the rest of the house went to shambles. I am in recovery mode now.

The Irina Quilt

The Sasha Quilt
The Irina quilt is named after my over-the-top friend who got married this spring. She is full of life and laughter, and when this quilt came together with bright colors and pizazz, I had to name it after her. Irina hits life head-on, she was a full out blond for her wedding and then colored her hair jet black the next week.

This quilt was a joy to make, and it came together super easy, thanks to a lot of great fabric from Kathy, a skirt that annoyed me (see below) plus a Hawaiian shirt from Linda that pulled it all together. This was rag quilting at its best, I only had to rip out and resew two corners.

The Sasha quilt is named after Irina's husband, short for Aleksandr. He is cute and sweet and a good match for her over-the-top-ness. I picked up a huge amount of adorable Noah's Ark print at the thrift store, it was fun to sew with. I did this one without the X in the middle, just a layer of flannel in the middle of each square. A different way to put it together, but I do prefer the "traditional" method, if you can call a rag quilt traditional.

Organized for about a week
Nice while it lasts
I am in Spring Cleaning mode this week. I cleaned out my closets, trying to be ruthless. I have so many cool separates that I have acquired. Those pieces that, with the right thing, would be perfect. Those clothes that came from someone with such good taste, I know they are worth hanging on to. The outfits that, if liposuction would just get cheaper and risk free, would look so good on me. I brought some items to Crossroads and got cash, others to Renaissance for consignment. If I look at my closet as not What can I wear, but as What can I sell, it makes the decision that much easier. This summer, if I try it on and hate it, it goes. If I wear it and hate it, it goes. If it shifts, droops, twists, rides up, bunches, or otherwise annoys me, it goes. Note to my clothes - be good, or else. You may go the way of this shoe.
A shoe in a former life

Molly loves "sole food"

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Spanx Makes Swimwear!

Let me clarify that. Spanx makes swimwear for Target! Play the singing bird Disney music, there is hope for poolside happiness. It is the Love Your Assets line.  

I went to Target on Friday to do the dreaded swimsuit shopping. I have had a few rag tag combos for the last few years, and I have to wear a little crop top over mine if there are men around. I've never been much of a pool person, but we have neighbors with a pool, they have parties a lot, and it was about time I had something decent to wear.

There were no screams of disgust coming from my dressing room. I actually exited with a little smirk on my face, carrying not one but two new swim outfits! I'll call them outfits because they have a lot going on under wraps. Spanx swimwear takes a bit of jumping and shoving to get into, but the results are amazing.

Now that I am all ready for my public, the weather turned cold and our swim party today will be more of a jeans and long sleeves affair. But I am ready for summer now! Come on you hundred degree days, I've got my Spanx and a crow bar and I'm ready to start shoving myself into submission.
SPANX Line of Swimwear

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Lemonade Diet is Over!

I did it. I lasted the whole ten days of the Master Cleanse, AKA The Lemonade Diet.

The results? To wake up for a whole week and not have my back hurt? Amazing and wonderful. What in the world am I eating that makes my back hurt? It's not like I chow down KFC Double Downs. I eat really well for an American, but maybe that isn't a good yardstick.

I re-read the directions, I'm not supposed to go ape over bananas just yet. I'm supposed to drink orange juice for a day, then a day of vegetable broth (wow I can't wait) and then fruits and vegetables for a few day. So the deprivation continues a tad longer than expected.

The worst day was the second Monday, Day 8. I woke up feeling just awful. Dizzy, kind of sick to my stomach. I had a big day ahead, including a talk that night in Romanian, in the front hall, that included the crucial part of two really young boys running up and bothering their mom, my assistant. It was the talk on patience and mildness. How crazy am I to write such a talk when I still need major translation help. It went great, but rather than come up and be annoying like they practiced, they were adorable!!! It was worth the stress.

Other than that I did OK. Sometimes I was really hungry, but that is nothing new. Somehow the combination of the lemon, maple syrup and cayenne got me through the day. I didn't do the salt water flush as recommended. That just sounds really bad to ingest all that sodium. I think my innards were in good shape to deal with this fast without any outside help.

The burning question? How much weight did I lose? Drum roll please.
Seven Pounds.
Yeah, yeah half of that is water and muscle and the other half was tooth enamel from all the lemons. But my back is happy.

At least now I'm ready to get ready for summer. We're going to a swim party on Sunday. Ugh, Ernst just sprung this on me. Swim parties should not come til the middle of July, earliest. I have to go swimwear shopping. I don't care how much it costs, I'm not leaving Target until I find one I like. I may be there awhile. I'll bring some broth.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Our White Trash Garden

The expanded 2011 White House Garden

The 2010 crop

Last year Michelle Obama helped create the White House Garden. With help from local school kids, they planted a huge variety of veggies in a really cool layout. Here were the results.

Yesterday I got my garden in. I don't think it will be making the cover of Sunset Magazine.

Surrounded by logs and cement blocks, with string going up the fence for the peas and the green beans, it is a garden no less. I used some tomato cages we found in someone's trash and we surrounded it with fencing to keep Molly out.

I planted 3 tomatoes-Early Girl, a cherry tomato and an heirloom I couldn't resist, German Queen. I added pole beans, sugar snap peas in pots, cilantro, a basil, and a red pepper. Already planted were some radishes that don't seem to be doing much. I hope to squeeze in a dill plant today.

Last year I planted an heirloom called Hillbilly, which fit in real well with the looks. It grew taller than me, and put out one huge tomato that was half rotten! What a disappointment. So I planted 2 tried and trues this time, and will watch the German Queen to see what it does.

This one sits on the garage side of the house, close to the kitchen. We also have the Kodie Garden, given the name because he used to love to steal melons and zucchinis, which he did eat. This is where I put the spreading plants that go crazy. So far we have 2 zucchinis, 2 cucumbers, a watermelon and a honeydew. I need to put in one more zucchini, the bush kind I like best (come August, I'm sure I'll regret it) and a cantaloupe. This is far from the house, it can go crazy and look awful and I don't care. Ernst is great about keeping this watered for me. I hope Molly isn't a melon thief too.
The White Trash Garden

A more flattering view

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Survived a Quick Build on the Master Cleanse

We did a Quick Build in Placerville yesterday, right in the middle of this Master Cleanse thing. I got through it! I usually pack us a healthy lunch and snacks, but then cave and eat terrible. Well, what we consider terrible, which would be cookies and goodies and lots of soft white carbs. I end up looking like the Pillsbury Doughgirl on Monday morning, minus the happy giggles.

I packed a ton of healthy stuff for Ernst, including the bread pudding I make for him with whole grain bread, Rice Dream, raisins and agave syrup. It actually sticks together as if it had eggs. It looks pretty bad, but he just loves it. He loves anything that remotely tastes like the way he used to eat. And I brought my juice concoction. I just went and sat in our friend's van and slurpped my juice, trying not to smell the good scents drifting from the kitchen.

OK, "lunch" was over, time to go chat with some friends. They were finishing up their ribs, which now look really gross to me, so no food envy. Then someone walked by with a tray of strawberry shortcake! And if that wasn't enough, someone was following with whipped cream. I just wanted to open my mouth baby bird style and see what happened. I survived, no treats, life went on.

It amazed me that I got through the strenous day on no food. I am usually famished at QBs, but even after crawling under the hall to run four mic lines to the stage, I didn't feel the need for a brownie! And again, no back pain this morning. Four days to go, and then I hit the bananas! It will be the YUM heard around the world.