Thursday, March 29, 2012

Auction Angst

Tonight was the big night for my quilt at the school fundraiser. It was pulled from the silent auction and was set to go in the live one, with a real auctioneer calling out in that impossible to understand style.

I was so nervous, I had to get up and walk around. It felt like something out of a Little House on the Prairie re-run with Ma Ingalls selling a pie at the bake sale against Mrs. Olsen's fancy pants cake. Was Pa going to have to step in and try to outbid the others - ending up with the homemade item no one wanted? Let's just say I was glad it was a Burgers and BREW event, because I got to have a little wine to calm my nerves. The other items were front row King's tickets, golf weekends, wine tastings for twelve and a week's stay in Mexico. My little quilt did alright for itself and got the same price as my quilts do on Etsy. The Big E was happy that we're going to bed knowing Little Vest Girl has a home, and ours is not it!

Friday, March 23, 2012

A Tale of Two Settees

It was the best of times - it was the worst of times. It was December 2010. We were doing a major remodel of our congregation's meeting place. As in gut the whole place, completely redo almost everything and make it nice and new and beautiful again. Wonderful! Except for the rain. And the wind. Let's not forget the cold. I had just been laid off, so I was at the construction site just about every day for a month. If I wasn't cleaning up or recycling copper wire or working in the kitchen, I was helping my husband's crew with the new video/sound/alarm system. When it was done, I was done in.

My friends holding down the kitchen, literally, from the storms of December 2010

So begins the story of the lost chair. There was a set of chairs that had been in the baby changing/mother's room. They had been nice back in the day, but their day had come and they were not going back in after the remodel. We used them in the make-shift kitchen during the build and we kept mentioning how comfy they were. When we started tearing down the kitchen, I took one home, saving it from the trash heap with the full intention of going back for the other one. That never happened. Like I said, when it was done I was done in and never went back for the second chair. The twin chairs that had witnessed countless pregnancies and bouts of morning sickness and newborns and who knows what else were now just sad little single chairs. The twins were separated from births and each other!

The Asian themed chair looked really out of place on our back porch and it never fit in with the other patio furniture. Not that ours are so great - our "set" is one that our neighbors put out for Dump Days and the eating table is one we rolled home from another trash heap a few blocks away. Are you noticing a pattern here? We don't buy stuff, we just acquire stuff. But the acquired now-separated twin sister chair just looked really sad and became the chair Molly sat in when she wanted to stare in the office and make us feel guilty.

Thursday I dropped off some friends from our congregation at Little Moldova, an apartment that lives up to our nickname for it. No one there throws anything out, they just put it by the dumpster, (which is where we got our round wicker patio table, now that I think of it). Today I looked and there it was! The Twin! The missing Twin Sister Chair! I threw that thing in the back of my car and raced home to reunite the girls. I must say, our dog hair-covered one looked worse than the paint-splattered one from Little Moldova. But with some washing and scrubbing and scraping, we have a cleaned up matching set. I put them on the front porch with all my jade plants and they look great. All is right in the world. When my husband came home, he was so tired he walked right by them, but when I sent him back out to the porch he yelled "You FOUND it, where did you FIND it?" Did he really need to ask? I found it where we get all our patio furniture - in the trash heap.

...and it feels so good!
The saved from certain death patio furniture
She lost her "Make Them Feel Guilty Chair."
She gets over stuff really fast.
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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The ABC Quilt

All ready for sewing
the snipped side of this rag quilt
the smooth side
The little school themed quilt turned out very cute and was a breeze to put together. All the corners cooperated except one stubborn one. A few slashes with my trusty seam ripper put that uprising down in a hurry. I'm in a quilt making mood again, but the garden beckons. The sun shines, the weeds are growing and my very sad veggie garden needs major work before spring planting can even be imagined. We had a week of lovely pounding rain that put a little dent in this very dry winter. I'm ready for some more rain, because working wet soil is a big no no. I love to be advised not to work in the yard.


This will read: Made for Our Schools, By Squared Up on Etsy, Spring 2012
I think I got this from my former co-worker, or maybe from a garage sale? It's been around awhile and was just perfect for the ABC school theme. Eventually my fabric purchases end up finding a quilt they belong in. I've managed to get myself quite the stack of fabric out in the garage and maybe it's the dryer lint, but I think it's multiplying. Never shove fabric in a big plastic tote. Scary things happen. Back-breaking piles of fabric breed in the dark spaces of a linty garage.

Somehow Little Vest Girl's feet ended up sewn into the seam Wizard of Oz style. Let's hope she wasn't the Wicked Witch of the Vest.
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Friday, March 16, 2012

I have a vested interest in this quilt


My mom always says, "It's best to start with a clean deck!" Well, my sewing deck was not too clean lately and it was affecting my whole attitude about starting another quilt. We've been so busy with work and field trips and colds and an enormous datebase project for our congregation. The first room to go to the dogs is the sewing/office/bill collecting/junk mail piling up room. When the room that gets all the junk gets bad, then the overflow starts clogging up the rest of the house like a traffic jam. Now that our life is somewhat back on track, my sewing table is a clean deck. Time to start a new project.

Last year we attended a fundraiser for the Woodland School District where my husband works. We both had a DUH! moment when we saw the donated items for the silent auction - I could have made a rag quilt. I've been squirreling away some fabric for a year now. and it's time to make that DUH moment history. Every day my husband comes home from work, there is more news of budget cuts and money drama. He got his preliminary pink slip, which we hope will only be a some sort of sick scare tactic? I don't understand the politics involved but all I know is that schools need our support; so here is my part to help out the Woodland Schools Foundation 2012 Burgers and Brew Fundraiser.

I found this funky project fabric to make a school themed vest, which probably no child in the country would be caught wearing to school. Very kitschy, perfect for a school themed rag quilt. There is some cute ABC fabric, some polka dots and checks plus two never used floral pillow shams from the Goodwill. Let's hope I don't have to bump up the price with my own bids to avoid this thing not selling at the silent auction.


This part of the fabric showing the finished vest project is just a bit too creepy. I wouldn't want to be relaxing on the couch with my lap blanket and have this Girl Scout Cookie Policewoman staring up at me. So little Vest Girl, you're going to end up on the cutting room floor.
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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The New Gig Economy

So what did I do on this wonderful rainy day in Sacramento? I slept in because I worked the night shift watching security cameras for a local school district. Fortunately bad guys are not out in the rain, so it was a quiet night. Then I went to two different used car dealerships and took pictures. Are we looking for a new car? No, we just got one. I was going to used car dealerships to take pictures. In the rain. Of shredders. For money.

Now, when I was a little squirt and someone asked me, "Jessie, what do you want to do when you grow up"? I don't think that I would've ever said "When I grow up, I want to drive around to used car dealerships and take pictures. In the rain. Of their shredders. For money". Aside from the fact that they didn't have shredders when I was a little squirt, that was not on my list of career paths. Neither was watching security cameras or proctoring for tests. Yet, those are some of my many sources of income in this Gig Economy.

If someone asks me what I do for work, I pause and wonder - do they really want to know or should I just say I make quilts and sell them on Etsy? Sounds much better than what I did today, but in reality what I made today in one hour would take me many hours and fabric messes to make selling a quilt. Having lost a real job almost 18 months ago, I have managed to pile together a set of weird jobs. While not a career of any sort, they are all adding up to work. Not a job, but work. I'll need to take off my shoes should I need to count up my W2 forms on my fingers and toes, but money is money.

What are the benefits? A free schedule that I make as I go. Don't want to work that weekend? Well, turn down any jobs that come up. Going away? Don't schedule any work. The down-side? The paperwork is crazy. I work for so many different people, keeping it all straight is not fun. When I had real jobs, they had people to take care of the details. Now I'm the people and our kitchen table shows it. And man do I miss those End of the year or We had a great summer bonuses. The kind that made me go to the bathroom just to do the Dance of Joy in privacy. No bonuses to speak of in gig work. Unless taking really eye-catching photos of shredders is your idea of a creative outlet. No, the shredders are not fulfilling in the least.

So the burning question: Why would someone pay me to take pictures of shredders at used car dealerships? Oh, don't you wish you knew! All I can say is - it involves credit reports and pays $60 an hour when they are close by. But if I told you more, I would have to shred you. You really think I'm giving up such a gig in this economy?

I'm super proud of the composition and lighting of this shot.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Sure blew this Daylight Savings

It seemed like such a good plan:

Ernst sets his alarm clock, updated correctly for Daylight Savings, at 5:30 for his golf tournament.
He makes sure when he leaves that I'm awake and up to get ready for the RBC drafting weekend.
I wake up our houseguest Jody so she too can get ready for RBC.
If all else fails, our little alarm clock Molly, who sleeps in the kitchen, whines as usual at 5-6am to get fed.

We all got up at 8:00. Oops. But we do agree we're very refreshed and don't feel like we lost an hour of sleep.


Friday, March 9, 2012

Things and Linens

I knew it was ugly in there, but I didn't know how bad. It needed some drastic measures, and Thursday was the day. Although it was a gorgeous day outside that could/should have been spent doing yard work, I stayed inside to nurse my cough and show the linen closet who's boss. 

At least once a year, if not twice like this one, my husband gets the cough that never ends. He gets no sleep. I get no sleep. The dog gets no sleep. Our closest neighbors probably lose a few winks too. cough cough cough...Cough Cough Cough...COUGH COUGH COUGH...AHHHHHHEEEEEEMMMM, cough, Hmmm, cough. Then we lie there and enjoy the few minutes of peace until the next wave of coughing begins. There are many weapons to fight it, some natural, some OTC, some prescription, some from the liquor cabinet. I am of the purist thinking when it comes to medication: buy for specific symptoms and then take what you need and no more. My Companion with the Cough tries every concoction that Walgreens sells, and this is what we end up with.

Looks like we're good on the pain/sneezing/headache/fever/coughing/chest congestion but we still can't sleep drugs. We also have a giant assortment of antacids that would make you think I'm a lousy cook. They are leftovers from when Ernst was suffering from really bad indigestion that turned out to be a heart attack. But the Pepcid remains, and the Tums and the Prilosec. We may have a bad vegan tofu chili incident and need it some day.  

Maybe someday we'll open up a public swimming pool and need all this sunscreen. And then there are the tubes of What in the world is this, why did I ever need it, which orifice did this treat and could I somehow get my money back for it because whatever I bought it for has long ago gone and healed itself. A sure way to cure some unidentifiable skin condition is to shell out the $WayTooMuch.99 at the local drugstore, and as soon as you open up the tube, wham that itch magically stops itching. But now that you have the gunk, you know the minute you toss it that itch is coming right back. Hence the overflowing cabinet of never used lotions and potions. Oh well, at least it's all nice and organized should I get the itch to use them.
Itching to go out and play!
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Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Fresh and Easy Opens!

The long anticipated opening of Fresh and Easy Neighborhood Market happened today. We've been watching closely as the old Tower Books building at Watt and El Camino was destroyed and rebuilt as a little super market. I was hoping for a dream store that would be everything I want in a food store:

good prices
fresh produce
easy on the eyes - a natural feel to the decor
not too big
easy in, easy out
bulk stuff and basics for healthy cooking
those cute easy to push mini carts

How does Fresh and Easy match up? It was so crowded I could hardly tell. Seems like half the neighborhood was as curious as I was to see the new kid on the block. My impressions are that it won't quite fit the bill for my dream store. Maybe it was the crowd and the annoying music that was getting to me, but it seemed like a store that doesn't quite know what it wants to be. Too much junk food for a health food store, not enough junk to be a regular market.  This store will fit the bill for people who like prepackaged yet fresh food to eat at home. It also has a nice idea up front: a case for no-brainer dinner ideas with recipes and all the ingredients ready to go - good for the Rachel Ray crowd. Today they featured everything for chicken fajitas - tortillas, chopped veggies, chicken, spice packet etc. all there ready to grab with the recipe.

Now that I got that out of my system, I'll hope for a Sprouts Farmer's Market to open up in the area. Or for Whole Foods to get dirt cheap. Or for the planned Nugget Market at Howe and Fair Oaks to be moved a few miles northeast. This picky shopper can always dream.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Sea Lion Bowl 2012

ILC's Team Panda arriving at SFSU.

Yep, Ernst wore a panda hat all day too.
It was a beautiful weekend for Sea Lion Bowl 2012, Northern California's qualifier for the National Ocean Sciences Bowl, being held this April in Baltimore. While the weather for last year's competition at San Francisco State University was crisp and sunny, this year it was warm and sunny, sunny and warm! We took our all-girl team down for the weekend, and once again were so impressed with this amazing event.

Picture 16 teams of high schoolers, in all their teenage glory, some from private Bay Area schools near the ocean, and others like ours from public schools far from any large body of water. Representing our area was our team from the Independent Learning Center (ILC) based at Pioneer High School in Woodland and the team from Mira Loma in Sacramento. The final standing? Was the ILC in the hunt for gold, silver or bronze? Well, we were happy to be competitive in our last three events, and the kids pulled off a win in the last of seven rounds, an exact repeat of last year. Just like their mascot, Team Panda is just not a morning team.

The vibe was quite different from Sea Lion Bowl 2011, which as I wrote last year had a distasteful lack of sportsmanship displayed in the final round. What helped this year? Was it the memory of last year? Maybe some strong words from the coaches on how to show a bit more graciousness? Maybe that the Team That Always Wins was not present to compete this year? Whatever the reason, we all left with a better taste in our mouths, which was not due just to the yummy Thai food at the awards ceremony.

After attending this event for several years, I'm getting quite good at playing, if only in my head. The night before the bowl, my husband set up a mock game between me and Team Panda, with buzzers and red lights and the whole deal. I didn't do too badly. From all these years of listening in, I knew how to diagram the positions of the sun, moon and earth during a neap tide as opposed to a spring tide. Wow, what recess of my brain was that information hiding in? And during the event, I knew many of the answers - Isthmus say ISTHMUS! Coriolis Effect!!! No, not the Dead Sea, the answer is Mediterranean Sea, buzz in, buzz in and say Mediterranean!! And phytoplankton - how does that word just come rolling out of my grey matter? (Also, I have learned, if you don't know the answer, just say Jacques Cousteau or sea anemone, depending on the context.) But most of the questions are really difficult and I can't believe teenagers know this subject so well. Fortunately, the teams face away from the audience, so they can't see my stress position - head buried in hands resting on my desk. I'm an assistant coach in name only, I can't take the pressure.

So, once again, good job Team Panda from the ILC. You play nice and you always make us proud. So who won this year's Sea Lion Bowl? The final was a nail biter between Lowell High in SF and Albany High. This year it will be Albany heading to Baltimore for the nationals. Thanks to all involved who give up so much time and effort to inspire these young people to learn about marine science. A special thanks for the hospitality of the Romberg Tiburon Center for allowing Team Panda to bunk down in such nice quarters. We hope to see you again next year.

The Awards Dinner Sigh of Relief

The view from the deck where we stayed.

Our historic home away from home.

Friday, March 2, 2012

At the Bar all week

No cameras were allowed. Neither were any of the following: cell phones, PDAs, electronic devices, digital watches, cigarettes, gum, candy, papers, notes, calculators, hats, books, backpacks, purses, tape flags, white out, wallets and many other items including the kitchen sink. Where was I?

The California Bar Exam on the lovely Cal Expo grounds. Not as an applicant (a ludicrous thought if you know me) but as a proctor. Three days of quiet walking, whispering, paper checking, checking in nervous applicants, more walking, lugging heavy boxes, more paperwork, reassuring nervous applicants, verifying IDs, and did I mention the endless walking at the pace of a geriatric snail? By the time it's over I want to just run and talk really loud and jump in the nearest hot tub I can find.

Once again Candace was my partner in crime. We had loads of fun and kept each other awake. She supplied me with gum and cough drops. I supplied her with memory games to pass the time. My applicants were just a dream to help. I even had a Romanian girl; she was so surprised to hear her proctor say Bună Dimineață the first morning and told me my accent is cute. I saw a few of my former applicants, which is nice but also a bummer because they had to return to take it again. I told these applicants at the end that I never want to see them again, unless it involves some sort of big inheritance on my part.