Friday, August 24, 2012


It's kind of hard to see and I would imagine that's part of the camoflague. I have never seen a dragonfly like this. It's a chocolate brown color. The wings were transparent with chocolate brown bands. I don't speak dragonfly and he just wouldn't hold still for a photo. This is the best one I got out of the 5 I took.

I can't find anything on what kind of dragonfly this is. I don't usually associate dragonflies with back yards, either. I always thought they needed a more steady source of water than my little bird bath. I see 2-3 a year but they are usually iridescent blue.

It thrills me to see these and butterflies in the yard. To me it says my little ecosystem is doing reasonably well.

Beverage:  African Rooibos tea


Wednesday, August 22, 2012


I've been on the road lately. I'm ready to just sit although the beauty of the country through which I find myself is energizing.

I went to Iowa on the 13th. This was the view out my mother's south window in the morning of the 14th.

The yard is brown, due to the drought, but the corn looked sort of okay. There was light fog in the lowlands of the creek bed and the sky was a crystal clear blue.

I had to go to Danville, Illinois, yesterday. The morning was similar to the one I experienced in Iowa.

There was a light fog that hugged the distance. I never drove through it although I could see it.

I did what I had to do and then headed home. Although I am getting rather tired of this drive down and back, I am so grateful for the scenery.

Not a cloud in the sky. The warm sunshine on my left arm which is now a half shade darker than my right arm. Jazz (Miles Davis, a gift, last year at Christmas, from my son-in-law) on the CD since jazz is nowhere to be found in this area.

My body would like, very much, not to have to do this drive again, but I have one more trip I need to do next week. Days like these, where the air is sweet and the sky is clear and the temperature is warm but not hot, make me wish I had the funds to just leave, pick a direction and go. The wanderlust gets strong. We have a big beautiful country to explore. I might look at the alternate route those internet "find your route" sites have recommended and drive it home next week. The Interstate is a swift but generally homogenized route. Four lanes where the only excitement is this.

If I want to get from "A" to "B" in a generally fast and efficient manner, it's the route to take. Yet, there's so much to see if you get off the 4-lane. Perhaps that's what I shall do next week. I'm sure there are blog posts just waiting to happen from a 2-lane road in the middle of eastern Illinois.

Beverage:  Huckleberry tea


Sweetened Carbonated Beverages

While we loathe them from a nutrition stand point, sugary carbonated beverages have been a part of the American life-style since just after the Civil War. Dr Pepper was invented in Texas in 1885 with Coca-Cola following the year after. We have no memory of a time when you couldn't get a bottle or can of fizzy stuff from some place as you traveled. And what could be more refreshing, indeed, whole ad campaigns were developed around the concept, of an ice cold soda on a hot summer day? Parents would make "soda cubes", pouring Coke into an ice cube tray and freezing it so when you put "ice" into your drink, it was not diluted by water.

I've been on the road a lot in the last two weeks, traveling both east and west on business. The drive, when done over the same roads again and again, can get tedious. Or, if you didn't sleep completely the night before, tiredness can set in even if the road isn't one of monotony. one of the best pick-me-ups for a drowsy driver is to stop at a convenience store for a couple of bottles of water and a couple bottles of soda. It's more probable that, instead of the soda doing the pick-me-up, the simple act of stopping and getting out to walk is what awakened you, but the allure of a beverage is not without merit. Depending upon where you're from that beverage could be a "soda"; a "pop"; a "Coke" or even an "RC", which covered everything carbonated.

I had to stop and get gas yesterday. I got a couple bottles of water, which, really, is the what you should be drinking. Staying hydrated wards off a whole bunch of things, including road-induced drowsiness. I also wanted a Dr Pepper. There is no denying the effect of caffeine on alertness. As I perused the cases for Dr Pepper, my eye fell upon Big Red. Oh my gosh! I could not remember the last time I had a Big Red.

You can be forgiven for not knowing this soda. I didn't know about it until my ex-husband and I moved to Bloomington, Indiana as he was pursuing his MBA. It's one of many regional soft drinks. You won't find this drink but rarely in Chicagoland. Big Red is solely a southern and Texas brand, having been invented in Texas in 1937. It's marketed as the red cream soda. If you've never had one, there is no way to describe the taste. It's not strawberry, nor a mix of strawberry, raspberry or any other berry you can think of. It's got a vanilla tang but it's not cream soda, which is vanilla flavored. It's a flavor unto its own. Ice cold, to me it rivals my beloved Dr Pepper.

In drinking this as I continued home, I thought of all the regional sodas I've had in my life. Who remembers or had a Nehi? Hugely popular around World War II, they are hard to find now. It was the soda of choice for our July 4th family reunions. There was a galvanized steel cow trough filled with ice, melon slices and bottles of Nehi. It was THE drink of Radar O'Reilly on the TV series, M*A*S*H. As I looked through the favors they offered, I know I've had Nehi Chocolate, Wild Red, Blue Creme, Orange and Grape. Nehi was synonymous with Royal Crown Cola and, if a gas station sold Nehi, the Coke and Pepsi merchants just shook their heads and wandered away. They knew RC Cola was the cola beverage of choice in that store. It's really tough to find it now. Fruit sodas around me are generally of the Crush variety. Nehi seems to harken back to a time of sitting on the font porch on a summer's evening watching the fireflies fill up the yard.

The one soda that really brings on the nostalgia is Spring Grove Soda Pop. Bottled in Spring Grove, Minnesota, it's the consummate example of a regional soda. I actually don't have memories of this soda in growing up. Nehi was the brand sold at the Volney gas station and that's where dad preferred to go to get his gas. I knew of it and, perhaps, since we were quite close in distance to Spring Grove, I had a few. It was in my college years that this soda came into my world.

My best friend, Rita, was from Caledonia, Minnesota. In order to visit her hometown, you passed through Spring Grove. I remember pooling our money and buying a case of soda to be consumed that weekend at a picnic around a fire in her boyfriend's backyard. I remember the first taste of their strawberry soda and thinking, "This is better than anything I've ever tasted." We made strawberry floats and, as far as I'm concerned, those are 1,000 times better than root beer floats.

After that, as my ex-husband's parents lived closer to Spring Grove than my parents, whenever we got the chance on a visit back to that part of Iowa and southeastern Minnesota, we'd try to get our hands on at least a 6-pack, if not 2, of Spring Grove pop. Their root beer is heavenly, but it's not like A&W's mass produced for the US market root beer. It's more rooty, if you can imagine that, more bitter, is probably a better description. They make an orange soda now that I have not had.

Poking through their web site really makes me yearn for a 6-pack in my refrigerator right now. It also makes me yearn for a time of less stress and sitting on the porch watching the moon rise and dad picking out the constellations or just standing in the driveway with the remnants of a fire where we roasted hot dogs and marshmallows.

There have to be other regional soda pops with which I have no familiarity. If you know of one, post a link. I'd love to see where I should travel to tingle my tastebuds.

Beverage:  Huckleberry tea


Monday, August 20, 2012

Reading. A Fundamental Right?

I used to work in a bookstore and, to the left, is part of the stash in the bedroom that hasn't been read. There are hundreds of books scattered about this house. Some, I will read once and never read again. Some are old friends to be returned to again and again. Most fall into the former category and I'm slowly realizing that simply having isn't really very smart when I probably won't read it again.

I worked in The Bookstore at a time when independent bookstores were closing daily. Amazon had just gotten off the ground. Barnes and Noble and Borders were opening stores as quickly as they could. Waldenbooks and B. Dalton were in every mall. Small stores had to think about how to invent themselves to stay alive. They were in competition with, not only the large chains, but each other. In shaky fashion, independent book stores overcame their wariness of each other and banded together to offer people a more personalized experience and joint services that the big bookstores could offer, things like gift certificates redeemable at any independent bookstore which was a part of the network, and books offered by small presses, books the big guys won't touch because they won't sell eleventy billion. They reinvented themselves. That reinvention has allowed them to survive, if not thrive, during an era when the big stores have to close outlets or simply go out of business.

Enter the e-book. Now, this is not going to be a post condemning your use of a Kindle or Nook. I feel, personally, they have allowed people who might never pick up a paper book, to read. I am going to toss some ideas into the ether for reflection.

Many of us take for granted the ability to read. You can thank the Scots and John Knox, the fiery Calvinist preacher, for that. From the September/October 2010 issue of The Highlander, in a story entitled "The Scottish Reformation" by R. Macbeth Pitkin, on page 17, Pitkin writes:
     The Reformed emphasis on education was another Calvinist attribute that found approbation in Scotland. Scots had long prized education...Calvin [Johannes Calvin, the religion's founder] advocated that ordinary people should be able to read and understand Holy Scripture themselves, rather than having to rely on a priest to tell them what it said. This meant that the Bible would have to be in a language people could understand, and that they would have to be able to read that language. Naturally, this had a direct bearing on the matter of public education.
     At the founding of the Kirk, Knox's Book of Discipline called for a national system of education, something that was realized 80 years later when Parliament passed the first of several statutes requiring each parish to provide schooling for all its children. This legislation represented by far the world's earliest example of public education, at least on a national basis, and it would have far-reaching effects.
Knox demanded that the Bible be in the vernacular in roughly 1560. It would be 1640 before the education laws were passed. This was not just for male children but ALL children in a parish. Female children did not receive an education, generally, outside of the parish, but they were taught the basics, math, science, religion and reading.

From Gutenberg and moveable type, which meant a book could be printed in larger quantities, through Knox and the requirement that all be able to read, to the hiccups in literacy and the publishing industry, reading is on top of the list in skills a child should have. The medium by which we get our information may have changed, but we still must have the ability to read or nothing else matters.

I've been reading lately, of the trials of the independent bookseller with regards to e-books. I don't remember how I stumbled onto Jarek Steele's blog but it's been something of an eye opener, to say the least. I love independent book stores, not just because I worked in one, but because they provide a vital service to the reading community. There is room in the vastness of retail for large stores with thousands of square footage in books. There is room for a one room 700 square foot store on the corner of 12th and Main. As long as both compete fairly, both can thrive in their niches. Steele made me aware in this post, about the cutthroat nature of e-book commerce.

Let's be clear about something else. I don't like Amazon. I'm not sure if I've crossed the stream to "hate" yet but I really don't like them. I don't like their ordering methods or their customer service that can't figure out why I have 3 separate accounts and merge them into one. If I have to order something, I order from Barnes and Noble. Generally speaking, I don't order books online. I use Amazon or BN as a resource. I get the ISBN number, that 10-15 digit number on the spine or back of a book, and email The Bookstore. They get it for me. If you want something for Christmas that I can only get on Amazon, well, you're not going to get it.

If you look at The Bookstore's link, you'll see that they offer people the ability to purchase e-books. This is how an independent bookseller can reinvent themselves and make their product useful to more people. You can purchase and download your e-book from their web site. With thousands of titles, you don't have to be the captive of Amazon or BN.

If you followed the earlier link to Jarek Steele's blog, you read about the Justice Department's lawsuit claiming price fixing in e-book retailing. If you're interested in following up more on the lawsuit, read this post and follow the links at the bottom of the page. Essentially, Amazon got the Justice Department to claim that allowing free price ranges on e-books was a monopoly and therefore, not allowed. Amazon would gain most of the share of e-book commerce and put others out of business. The time for comment on this is over so now we wait to see what will be decided. Competition is good, right? The ability of people to have choice in products is good, right?

If you're still with me, I'd like you to click this link and read this post. Another place that has had to reinvent itself is the local public library. This article talks about the challenges libraries face in a digital world. If you value any sort of access to any kind of book from Cat in the Hat through Shakespeare and on to Mein Kampf (I read a translation of this in college. Boring.) or the current squee, Fifty Shades of Gray, you owe it to yourself to read and ponder the challenges to libraries as presented in this article.

One paragraph stood out to me in the above article. Libraries are places where the printed word is preserved. The author writes,
"We can’t do any of this with most ebooks. The files don’t live on library servers. License terms can restrict copying, archiving, and format shifting. This is why the Amazon/Overdrive deal was news; if libraries had had the ability to shift those ebooks to .mobi format on their own, no deal would have been needed. This is why Jo Budler’s high-profile move to 3M was news: because Kansas’ contract let them keep the files during the move, but she had to fight to enforce that — and the contract language has since changed to prevent other libraries from doing the same. This is why it was news when HarperCollins imposed a 26-checkout limit, and Amazon deleted copies of 1984 from users’ Kindles.  We don’t expect that books we own can vanish.  But, of course, we don’t own ebooks; we merely license them. Their cultural memory isn’t ours to keep."

HarperCollins imposed a 26-checkout limit on e-books? Amazon deleted 1984 from user's Kindles? I didn't know this and this makes me very, very uneasy.

I don't want a Kindle or a Nook. I prefer paper cuts and scribbled margins and bookmarks and the ability to set my book down in a bathroom and not worry that I'll short it out or that I'm out $100 if I forget it. If I want to go back, 8 years from now and read The Colour of Magic, I will only have to visit the stash in the basement, not pony up another $7.99 or whatever it costs, if Terry Pratchett's works are even available for e-books, to read it again. I want to be able to send How the Grinch Stole Christmas to my nieces and nephews in any quantity and know that their parents can, as I have, memorize the words because it's read over and over and over, more than 26 times.

But that's just me. I honestly don't believe e-books will replace paper books, but we do need to think long and hard about how we want our fiction, non-fiction, gardening, mystery, children's and all other categories of books delivered.

I want to leave you with a section from The Well of Lost Plots, a Thursday Next book by Jasper Fforde. The book was written in 2003. In this selection, the protagonist, Thursday Next, is talking to a convention about the newest gimmick in reading, UltraWord. (This is taken from my book, a Penguin issue, page 348.)
     "'...Secondly,' I went on. 'UltraWord carries a thrice-read-only feature.'
     There was a gasp from the audience.
     'This means no more book lending. Libraries will close down overnight, secondhand bookshops will be a thing of the past. Words can educate and liberate--but TCG want to make them a salable commodity and nothing more.'...
     'Here,' I said, tossing Deane's copy of The Little Prince onto the table right at the front. The displacement-field technology worked perfectly--a single book landed on each of the hundred thousand tables.
     'This is an UltraWord book,' I explained. 'Read the first page and pass it on. See how long it takes before you can't open it.'"

I don't think that's the future I'd like to see.

Beverage:  Club Soda


Quilt Squares

The latest box of fabric sent back with me by mom contained the following brown paper bag squares. I remember these. Home made quilt square templates.

After I would make something, extra fabric was sized to see if any of it would have enough to cut quilt squares from. I don't know when I made these. I was still living at home, I think. I was quite astounded they had been saved.

What was even more astounding was the quilt squares that were still around.

This was one stack I found in the box. I went through a preponderance of blue fabric purchases. I guess, just like Picasso, I had a blue period. Below was even more surprising. 

 Stacks. Three separate stacks of quilt blocks. I just need to start assembly. 

Here I am again although, unlike the hexagons, these need to be sewn together to make the larger blocks which are sewn together for the quilt. I remember the pink to the left. That was a top. I don't remember the origins of the other pieces. 

I put these back in the box. I'm not mentally ready to embark on a quilting attempt right now. Maybe next year. I did have a laugh at the "Viking" label on the brown paper. I remember when brown paper bags had no imprint on them. They could not be beaten for crafting paper. Can you even get plain brown paper bags to decorate anymore?

Beverage:  Water



There were a couple of plaids found in the bottom of the boxes in the closet. Plaids are one of the most distinctive fabric designs to work with, and the most maddening, if you want everything to match up. When one mentions "wearing a plaid", one tends to think of the Scottish tartan. That's a good start, but a plaid is defined as "any fabric woven of differently colored yarns in a crossbarred pattern." 

When associated with Scotland, it becomes the "tartan". Usually, one considers a plaid to be defining a Scottish clan although states, provinces, groups and people can have their own plaids. Check out this database for a list. It seems comprehensive, but I'm willing to bet some odd-ones are left off, particularly when it's a tartan created and registered for one person. 

It used to be that you could not wear the tartan if you were not associated with the clan to whom Lord Lyon approved it. As Scotland became more aware of selling itself, this restriction was eased. Now, if you are a Schmidt, for instance, you, too can wear the Irn Bru Modern tartan simply because you like how it looks. 

The above and to the right plaids aren't representative of anyone, to the best of my knowledge. The above was found in the box with the red cotton. I don't remember what I was going to do with either of these. There's more of the blue to the right than there is of the blue above. 

There used to be kilt patterns you could buy from the major pattern outlets; Simplicity, McCalls, Butterick or Vogue. A quick Internet search doesn't show that they have these anymore. There are other places where I could get a pattern to make my own kilt but I don't have anywhere near enough material to do that. I'm thinking the above was going to be a vest. I don't know about the blue to the right. 

If I had more of each, I would do more research into making kilts. Both lend themselves to that or to the kilted skirt which, technically, a lady wears. The kilt is, technically, for a man. Yeah yeah. I'm not splitting hairs either if you want to wear a kilt and you're female. 

I put these back in the bottom of the box to await inspiration.  Clan Mija and Clan Pilchard, maybe?

Beverage:  Water



I've been away from blogging. First of all, it's work related. We've had a huge project that required a lot of my time; overtime and driving thither and yon. (Hmmmm. I should do a post on old words I still use.) I come home from a drive or an overnight or a day at the office and collapse into the recliner. Up go the feet, recline the back (Whoops. Move it away from the wall first.) and settle in for an hour or hour and a half nap. Usually, that would delay the onset of the sandman, but I'm quite worn out at the end of a day so slipping into sleep hasn't been a problem.

And, I'm unsettled with my RA meds. I'm supposed to be cutting back on the Prednisone but I'm scared that the driving I've had to do will take more than a little toll on the joints so I have not gone from one whole pill to a half pill. I have one more trip, I hope only one more, and then I can start cutting those pills in twain. I don't feel like cooking when I'm tired like this so cereal and oatmeal are staples. What did our prairie ancestors do when they worked 10 hours in the fields in August? There wasn't a Subway to make them a sandwich. They couldn't pop open a can of tomato soup. I often feel guilt in chugging down a mug of soup because I'm too tired to do any "real" cooking. My great-grandmother didn't do this. I'll bet she ate better than I.

So, blogging has been something of a second or third after-thought. There are so many photos uploaded to my Flickr account with the idea of a post behind them. This past week, I haven't considered writing anything other than the reports I needed to get done. Those are sitting to my left, finished and ready to be delivered with tomorrow's jaunt. I have time to consider blogging again. My goal is, always, a post a day. I am quite behind. Let's get somewhat caught up, shall we?

One of the trips of the past week was to Iowa for a meeting with clients. My boss was on vacation and this was a "What can we do for you?" kind of meeting. Instead of my boss having to pay overtime and mileage, I decided to stay overnight with my mom. I haven't been back to see her since March. When I called, I said, "I'm going to bring that box back." You should have heard her cackle.

"Oh good," she laughed. "I have a box you can take back with you. More fabric I found."

Pilchard's box was put in the back seat of the Jeep and dropped in the living room where mom could find it to fill for the next time I come back. In return, she handed me a smaller box with fabric scraps. When I got home, I took the scraps out to see what she'd found. It was like looking backwards in time. Witness these two squares found in the bottom of the box.

The fabric on the right is from the very first item I ever made. It was a skirt and it was required in Home Economics class in 7th grade. When I pulled it from the box, I actually had to sit down. I turned the piece over and over in my hand. It's a cotton, but it has a shiny finish to it. I remember, back when I started sewing, that fabric, while on bolts, was not always made evenly. Edges would often be angled and pinning pattern pieces onto non-square fabric resulted in awkwardly hanging clothing. You'd take a thread and pull it through the edges to form a line. Then, you'd cut off the extra fabric of this line, thereby squaring the edges. I remember how the thread of this broke, constantly, because of the sizing applied to the fabric. I remember that it took an hour or more to get the fabric square in order to pin the skirt pattern onto it.

It was a very simple skirt; two pieces; a front and a back. The waistband was elastic and there were no pockets. I remember being so pleased with this and desiring to make more clothing. We couldn't afford much at that time so "current" fashion was not something I was a party to. But, by being able to sew, I could have the latest trends in clothing for a fraction of the cost. My mother sewed. It was kind of expected that you learned, at some point during high school. I don't remember her sewing as much as I did but she probably didn't have the time.

The blue on the left is from something she had made. I cannot, for the life of me, remember what that was. I'm thinking a dress or a jumper, perhaps. I look at that swatch now and think, "Wow, I'd like that fabric now. It would make a great camp shirt." I love the sort of watercolor pattern in the vibrant blues with green accents. I"m pretty sure she bought the fabric and the material and I made whatever it was she wanted. We often did that as she just didn't have the time to sew.

Looking at these pieces brings back the hours spent looking through the fabric and the pattern books at the dry goods store in town. You had to order patterns back then, as they didn't have a way to store everything in every size. It took about a week to get them. You'd mark the fabric you wanted and they would hold it under the counter until the pattern came in. Fabric was laid out on long tables with everything from upholstery to special occasion to cottons to knits all mixed together.

Later, when an actual fabric store opened two doors down, you got to sit at tables and look through all sorts of pattern books. Fabric was organized by type and color. It was, and still is, to some extent, a magical time to be able to look through the pattern books and run my hands over the myriad of fabrics in their textures, prints and sizes.

I don't know what happened to the two items made from these swatches. I'm sure we gave them away. They really would be vintage now, if we still had them. I have been sewing a long, long time.

Beverage:  Huckleberry tea


Sunday, August 12, 2012

Needs a Trim

Today's task was to remove the spent and nearly spent flowers on all the deck plants. The salmon geranium was festooned with flowers.

After trimming off all the spent blooms and the ones that were nearly done, there weren't many flowers left. 

This is necessary so the plant will continue to produce flowers. I also turned all of the flower pots so the flowers will add growth on the other side. Later this week, I should feed all of them. I think there's Miracle Gro in the basement. That will make them flourish as we head through the rest of summer. 

Beverage:  Huckleberry tea


Saturday, August 11, 2012

Much Shredding

It's the kind of day where the little loose ends are being tidied up. I ran an errand to get more fabric for the next cross-stitch project. Please don't cluck at me. I know I have Aida cloth up the ying yang but I want to use something I saw several months ago for the next project. I had to get my next script of methotrexate anyway so combine the two into one trip.

With that being done, I did another load of wash, washed rugs, swept another floor, washed a couple of windows, sorted one stack of things to save and decided it was time to deal with the shredding.

I save all my bills for a year and then after I get my tax refund, I shred them. Plus, anything over 7 years old can be shredded now, although some things, like refinancing information and tax returns I save for 10 years. Going through the filing cabinet yielded quite the pile. It's been on the small table in the office for several months. Time to shred it.

I had to empty the shredding container 3 times to get through all of this. I shouldn't let things pile up. I have the shredder here to my left in the office. I can just shred things, like credit card offers, instantly. I don't need to put them in some "to be shredded" pile. It's just another pile then.

This simple act has made the office feel lighter.

Beverage:  English Breakfast tea


Looks Like Fall

Seen by the southeast corner of the house.

Fall may be my favorite season but I'm not quite ready for it to be here full on.

Beverage:  English Breakfast tea


Friday, August 10, 2012

Kittens and Cats

I didn't measure all the hunks of fabric I have collected over the years. I simply wanted to sort things into boxes. If I'm so inclined to use the stuff, I'll measure it then. Some fabric elicited an, "Oh I remember". Most were, "Now why did I buy this?"

It should probably come as no surprise that I'm attracted to fabrics with a cat design on them. It's probably the same if the sewer is a dog or horse lover. As I was sorting, I found some cat prints.

Cats in a garden. I don't know why I got this. For a time, I was wearing vests. They were quite popular about 10 years ago. I think this might have been material I was going to make into a vest. I do like what are called "camp" shirts and it's possible I was going to make this into a shirt. There's a second batch of fabric that I may have had the same thoughts on.

It's a cool design. I wonder what I was going to do with it.

This last hunk I do remember.

This is a heavy corduroy. I bought a lot of it.

Years and years ago, I made a red corduroy coat lined with black and white buffalo check flannel. It was a fabulous coat, just perfect for early spring and late fall. I was so proud of that coat. I wore it everywhere.

As befits an item of clothing you just love to wear, I wore it out. Eventually, the collar and sleeves frayed. I sewed hem binding on the edges to get more wear out of it. I had to put small squares of fabric where the buttons were because the shanks wore through the fabric. Eventually, I wore the nap of the corduroy off where the pocket was and one of the seams on the sleeves gave out. The lining in the armholes wore through and I would have needed to reline it. In great sorrow, I took off the buttons, cut up the fabric that wasn't worn and tossed the rest away. I lost those fabric scraps when the bag of quilt scraps from fabric I'd saved since Carole was a baby, got wet and then moldy.

After cutting up the red coat, I made a bright yellow corduroy coat with black fur lining. It was nice but it wasn't as nice as the red coat. I really missed the red coat. I gave away the yellow coat after a few years. It may have been Hawkeye colors but it just wasn't as good as the red coat.

This corduroy was probably purchased when I was out getting something else. I know it was to make another coat in the same pattern as the original red coat. Obviously, I got distracted by something else bright and shiny and never made that jacket. I don't have any flannel in the boxes so if I intend to make the coat, I will have to buy a complimentary lining color. I have a wonderful jacket I wear now. It has a hood. I don't need another fall/spring jacket.

Yet, when I saw this, the memories of my red coat came back. No, I don't NEED another spring/fall jacket, but it wouldn't take much money, at all, to make myself another one, a very distinctive one. Right now, however, I have other projects to finish before sewing myself something.

As I sorted through the piles, some fabric may never be used and I'd do well to see if I can sell it. There are a lot of people looking for vintage fabric. I have some. This hunk, however, is staying in the box. I might actually do what I intended with it so many years ago.

Beverage:  Pepsi


Just an Hour

I am a weekend warrior. It's not much but I do what I can. Step one last weekend was to sharpen the loppers.

It has been awhile since I used the sharpening steel. It was also awkward to try to get the proper edge on the loppers. I used to do this every time I took the loppers into the yard. I didn't have a good feel for whether I was sharpening the edge correctly or just window-dressing.

Once finished, the loppers and I took to clearing the area by the hydrangea off the northwest corner of the deck. I have no idea what kind of tree it is but it's not where I want it. Thirty minutes later, the corner was liberated and you could see the hosta again.

It was slightly oppressive in the heat and humidity department, but I was on a roll. I spent another 30 minutes pulling Queen Anne's lace and other stuff that wasn't where I wanted it, spraying Round-Up on the trunks of trees that I had sliced off and cleaning up a section of limbs that Zeke had cut in the spring. In the end, a nice section of the back by the house is tidy again. I had to quit at an hour as it was just too warm for me to continue.

This is a small victory. I couldn't do this last year. There's a lot I couldn't do last year. This year, I'm limited in what I can do by how many yard waste stickers I can purchase. I have to wait for extra cash for stickers. We used to pay a monthly fee for garbage and yard waste to be hauled away. But some people, like me, can go a month or more without putting anything, other than recyclables, to the curb. So, the city decided to go to this sticker program where you pay only for what you put out. Garbage and yard waste are the same sticker and price. Leaves, in the fall only, are less. Recyclables are free. From an economic stand-point, it's a great deal. The stickers are $3.50 each and I don't always have the cash for some. That means that the yard trimmings get piled instead of hauled.

It felt good to haul 3 containers of limbs, twigs and branches to the curb this week. The deck looks better; more open and inviting. It was good exercise, physically and mentally, to be outside working in the yard. Huzzah! This weekend looks just as productive.

Beverage:  Pepsi


It's Sort of Organized

Last Saturday, I finally got around to organizing the closet full of fabric in the office. I started with these boxes.

The top box is one I brought from the office. It's now the "Projects" box. The hexagon quilt pieces reside there, as do some tee shirts I was going to decorate and a couple of unfinished clothing items. The middle and bottom boxes I've had in the house for awhile. Items are just stuffed into them.

These two boxes contain fabric I've purchased over the years. The pinkish pillow is from the old sofa-sleeper we got rid of decades ago. I keep thinking I'm going to recover it. I probably should just give it away.

It took the better part of the afternoon to go through all of these boxes and the box of fabric I brought from mom's back in March. I wanted to put things into the same kind of box, these boxes in which we get paper at the office, but we didn't have any. We've gone to a bit more electronic reports and we don't have the huge jobs right now that required paper copies of reports so we aren't going through paper as we were. I just have to watch for the next time we get paper and snatch the nearly empty box then.

The sorting process and what I found will be covered in subsequent blog posts. It took all afternoon but now the closet looks like this.

In my somewhat addle-pated state when I look at the closet, I think I should have a little envelope glued to the front of each fabric box that has a color photo of each hunk stuck in that box. That would make finding the fabric when I want to sew it, easier. Yeah right. I'm just going to be happy I got this far. Sorted and labeled is a huge victory. Pilchard "celebrated" the emptying of the box I brought from Iowa.

Beverage:  Pepsi



I've come through an exceptionally busy week with another busy week ahead. This has included some overnight travel. I don't do well on single overnights in hotel rooms. It takes me a day to get used to the bed and environs of a hotel. When you're only there for one night, I can be wide away at 3 a.m., fully aware that the alarm or wake-up call will be coming in 4 hours. That's not a lot of sleep if you have to drive anywhere in the morning. So, it's with much happiness that I returned home to this smiling face. How can I not feel gratitude for a flower greeting me? It will be exciting to see these go to seed and whether that will attract more birds. I am going to grow these again next year. They are perfect.

Beverage:  English Breakfast tea


Friday, August 3, 2012

Good Luck

In the box mom gave me back in March was a plastic bag containing these two items. Dad had these and, as she was cleaning, she stumbled across them. Dad kept a lot of things.

The bottom item is decorative. I don't remember seeing this up on a wall anywhere, but it's possible it was out in the garage. It's heavy metal and has a small bit of a green patina.

The horseshoe is a real horseshoe. I have no idea where he would have gotten it, but, with dad, he picked things up along the way and had a lot of friends who would have passed things along. It's worn on the bottom and edges so I'm guessing this had been used at some point. I do remember dad having a horseshoe over the side entrance to the garage when they lived in Marquette.

I think I have a horseshoe in the basement. I don't remember where I would have picked it up. From the Daily Wicca comes this note about horseshoes:
The belief that good luck will come from hanging a horseshoe above a door
originates from beliefs related to symbols of half-circles and crescents.
Early religions considered crescent shaped objects powerful and protective
signs. In ancient Yucatan and Peru, temples were built with arched doorways
because of this notion. In Spain the Moors designed their mosques in arch
formation. Ruins at Stonehenge, England, show that the religious grounds of the
sun-worshiping Druids were in semi-circles or horseshoe design. Down through the
Middle Ages churches and public buildings were built with arched windows and
doorways as a means of protection against evil.

It is thought that horseshoes originated with the Greeks during the 4th Century.
Horses were held sacred at that time, so their crescent-shaped shoes became
symbols of good luck. Added power came from the fact that the horseshoes were
made from iron, the metal that people believed guarded one from the power of
witches. Until recent years, horseshoes were made to hold seven nails, a mystic
and potent number. So its no wonder that the Greeks and Romans always kept a
horseshoe nailed to the wall for protection against almost anything.

There are two beliefs on how to hang your horseshoe. One is to hang your
horseshoe prong side up, so if the Devil should get too near, he will be sucked
in and destroyed. The other belief is that if you hang your horseshoe prong side
down, the good luck will pour out over your threshold, keeping the Devil from crossing it.

So, here's the thing, should I put the horseshoe prongs up or prongs down? Another superstition is that you want them prongs up to catch any good luck floating in the air. The opposite is to have them prongs down so all the good luck will spill out on people as they enter your house. If I really do have two of them, should I put one above each door or should I just mount it on the side of the house near the doors?Sigh. Decisions. Decisions.

I'll give the shoe a good washing first of all as it's kind of dirty and rusty and then see if I really do have another in the basement. If they are good luck, I should have them up on the outside. Lord knows I can use all the good luck I can get.

Beverage:  Edinburgh's Finest tea



Frequent buyer cards. Ho hum. I rarely get anything from using those little pieces of plastic I have on a separate key ring. I've mentioned before that really, it doesn't cost a company much to offer such a program. The percentage of people who will actually use the $10 off they get for frequenting the store is low so it doesn't hurt the bottom line to have it. (That reminds me. I have $10 off at The Bookstore to use up.)

I'm not quite on a first name basis with my pharmacist but it's getting there. Let's see: Prednisone, Folic Acid, Vitamin D and Methotrexate. All of those come up for renewal at odd times so last month, I was in CVS every week. I'll be needing the Folic Acid and the Methotrexate next week.

I need to check around to see what other places charge for the metho. That's the killer. I had my friend, Jon, figure out my medicine cost for the rest of the year. Assuming Dr. Francis doesn't change anything, it will cost me $390 to finish out the year. Fortunately, my health insurance, such as it is and don't get me started on THAT, will cover it. The other pills are a pittance. I got 90 Prednisone at the last refill for $3.47. I can handle that.

All of these little bottles on top of the microwave mean that I use my CVS frequent buy card a lot. Every script purchased means a swipe of the card. I think I've blogged before about the coupons they have at the bottom of the receipt. I almost never use those. They aren't useful to me.

But last month, one came up that was useful. I had accumulated enough points or whatever they track that I got $10 off my next purchase. I had to go back to get yet another script so what could I use it for? I went through the house looking. I didn't need groceries. I didn't need laundry detergent. I didn't need cat food. I didn't need shampoo. I wound up getting soda and a couple of birthday cards. I didn't need the soda either but free is wonderful.

In hindsight, I should have used the $10 to stock up on something I use. Toilet paper. Fabric softener. Package tape. Heck, I should have purchased a giant size bag of M&M's. At the time, those things didn't occur to me. It was the thrill of actually being able to use a $10 off coupon.

So, when I wander in this weekend, I wonder what will be at the bottom of this receipt. Free chocolate and Dr Pepper. Can't go wrong with that.

Beverage:  Edinburgh's Finest tea


Thursday, August 2, 2012

Each Morning

I leave the house to this on the deck now.

How can that not make the day brighter? There are three buds on these sunflowers. They make me smile.

Beverage:  Water



"The Iowa Hawkeyes will open the 2012 football season on September 1 against the Northern Illinois Huskies at Soldier Field in Chicago."

Saturday, September 1st, the football season kicks off in a big way. My company worked on the reconstruction of Soldier Field some 10 years ago. Although I've been by it dozens of times, I've never been inside it to see how it looks. I'd seen a couple of Bears games in the mid-1980's so it would be interesting to see how the interior has changed.

I sort of knew this was upcoming but really didn't shove it to the forefront of my consciousness. Had I done so, perhaps I'd be planning a trip there. I don't remember when the last time was I saw my Hawkeyes in person. Soldier Field has a lot of parking and the Chicago Park District runs shuttle busses from all the train stations and from the Millennium Park garages to the game. In theory, I could walk to the train north of my house, take that into the city and catch a bus to the stadium. It would be cheaper and probably take just as long, given the amount of traffic expected. I honestly expect, for a 2:30 p.m. game, the Hawkeye faithful will be in line at 6 a.m. to get into the lot. That's just kind of how we are.

This is a fantastic event in actuality. The Chicagoland area has a high number of Hawkeye fans and Northern Illinois is a 2 hour drive west of the city. A lot of people have both schools as alma maters. I'm kind of surprised the game isn't completely sold out but there will probably be as many NIU fans as there are Hawkeye fans.

According to Tickemaster, I could still get a ticket if I wished to fork over $70.85 plus fees. These aren't very close in seats but I've been in nosebleed sections and end zones when all the scoring in the game was on the other side of the stadium. It's the Hawkeyes. Half the fun is just being there. If I have $125, I can get a closer in seat. If I had the ticket, my decisions would be on how painful would it be to sit in traffic to park versus how painful to stand on a bus going from the train station to the field. Hmmmmm.

Maybe I should just hope this is on free TV where I can watch it from the comfort of my recliners. No lines for the bathroom and no outrageous prices for a hot dog and a soda.

Beverage:  Edinburgh's Finest tea


Concert Tickets

I stopped by Arby's yesterday. I had to go to the hardware store to get garbage/yard waste stickers and to inquire if I can get a second free quart of paint from the upcoming promotion. I took advantage of a free quart to get a color I want to use in the back bedroom, assuming I ever get that far in household chores. But I was looking around my living room, which is painted in colors I really like and I could use a quart of the custom color on the walls for touch ups. I wasn't sure if it's a one-shot deal. The gal at the counter said it wasn't so the next free coupon that comes my way means I'll hie thee to the store for touch up paint. Arby's is one door down from Ace Hardware.

They are doing this promotion where you sent them a photo of special concert cups turned to the artist you'd like to see. You could win VIP tickets to see that artist in concert. The choices are: Trace Atkins, All-American Rejects and Taio Cruz. I've at least HEARD of Trace Atkins.

See, this semi-irritates me. I realize that Arby's has to go with whomever they can find to be a part of a promotion like this. Plus, they have to look at their demographic; where are they most popular and then, by extension, what kind of music does that demographic listen to? And factor in which age group is most likely to actually photograph their drink container and email it. I'm not inclined to photograph and submit the drink container to an online contest. I'm not their target audience.

But what if they gave away tickets to the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra? What about the Dallas Symphony Orchestra? Or say the Lyric Opera of Chicago? It's hard to imagine, in this day and age of corporate sponsors being pretty much anywhere, that they couldn't find someone other than these three to go along with the whole VIP idea.

A promotion like this doesn't affect, one way or another, the amount of times I go to Arby's. I do think, however, that companies limit themselves when they don't think beyond country, pop and rap. There's a huge audience for other music and just once I'd like to see a company akin to Arby's acknowledge this. Who knows. By offering VIP tickets to something like the Dallas Symphony, they could entice someone who never would consider classical music, exposing them to that vast repertoire and enriching their life.

Yes, I am tempted to send in the above photo, even though it's half-way between Trace Atkins and All-American Rejects. "Well, I couldn't decide," I'd say. But that's not true. I have decided. I decided I'd just drink my soda and chuck the container. I'll take Old Blind Dogs over any of these any day.

Beverage:  Edinburgh's Finest tea


Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Bigger Than I Want to Work on, Right Now

One of my goals for the summer is to sort the fabric boxes. Just sorting them is not enough of an incentive for me to actually do it, however, so it's taken the completion of another project which would benefit from sorted fabric for me to want to get them done. The first step is to get the table in the living room cleaned off so there is some work surface on which to make piles. The first step of that mega-step was clearing off the papers I tend to just pile until I feel like dealing with them. Step 2 was the CD's, which I handled. That left a large, cleared surface just waiting for something to be stacked on it.

There is, in any project in my home, an invisible step that goes, "And remove the cat from ... " With her, it's easy to do. I get out the comb and start combing. She's got small mats near her tail so I work on one or two of them until she gets angry and then she leaves and I get my table back. She also gets sleek fur even if she doesn't really appreciate it.

The first box to sort is a box I brought back from Iowa in March. Mom is cleaning and she makes boxes of stuff for each of us to sort through. When we visit, we go through at least one box and we "oooh, yes" or "well, no" to the items contained therein. This box had a few things on top of fabric. One of them, I'd seen before but it was set aside. Now, it's in my house.

See these? These large hexagons made up of small hexagons were to be a quilt top. My great Aunt Tillie and probably my grandmother and her sister, Irene, as well as unnamed female relatives on my grandmother's side of the family made these. We think they did this during the Great Depression. My mother was cleaning out her mom's house after Gram passed away and found a bag with these hexagons in them. She doesn't remember ever seeing Gram work on them so they have to predate 1937. 

Here's the back of a couple. 

These appear to be hand sewn together, although it is possible someone had a treadle machine and sewed the yellow borders onto the patterned hexagon. 

Here's a close up of one of the hexagons. You want to talk vintage fabric, have I got vintage for you. 

Quilts were made of fabric saved from worn out clothing. Fabric cost a lot and was just out of reach of so many people during this time. If you were able to get a hunk of fabric, you used every single inch of it. I can't imagine, although it is possible, that the women of my family went to the fabric store and purchased fabric, beyond the yellow, for a quilt. So, this leaves me wondering, what are the stories behind the fabrics? Were these dresses that had worn out, shirts, children's clothing? Look at the bright colors. Who was supposed to get this if it ever got finished? Who actually worked on it? Why did my grandmother whom I don't remember even darning socks, wind up with these hexagons? Where did they work on it? Why was it abandoned? We have no clue. 

Now, here's the next question, how do I finish this? I'm no quilter. I can sew but quilting, if it's small, like the cat banner, that's one thing. I can pseudo-quilt. But this is a whole top. There are 44 large hexagons. I didn't lay them out on my bed, but I'm thinking there was to be yet another border between them, that they were to be separated one from the other. Maybe not but that's my current theory. That would be enough to make a queen-size quilt. How do I even begin to finish this? 

In a case of sheer co-inky-dink, one of the blogs I read, Michele Made Me, has the blogger making wee hexagons for her own quilt. Check out the July post with how far she's gone and then, if you're curious as to the progress, click the links to go backwards. Somewhere I posted a bit of encouragement, something to the effect that I truly admired her for doing this because I never could. Well, as Popeye would say, "Blow me down". I'm the proud owner of 44 giant hexagons in need of a quilt. 

For the moment, I've put them all back in the bag mom had them in and put them in a box which will be the "unfinished projects" box. This is not a project I will start this year. I am drawn to finishing it, however. Perhaps I could attach these to large pieces of fabric? I'm not sure. I just know I want to finally finish what was started so many years ago. I handle the pieces and feel such a connection to people I never knew and to the few I did. I want to honor their memory with the finished project. 


Beverage:  Water


Another Month

When did it get to be August? Wasn't it just a couple weeks ago I was frantically cleaning in preparation for Carole and David's visit over Memorial Day weekend? In one month, it will be Labor Day and the end, sort of, of summer. What have I done this summer?

Now, if I spend time assessing what I have done versus what I could have done, you'll find me sitting in a lawn chair in the basement eating a carton of ice cream. That is NOT productive on any level. There are times when personal assessment is a positive thing and then there are the self-flagellation sessions we females seem to specialize in. "I could have had a V-8" turns into, "I could have tiled my kitchen backsplash with ceramic tiles I made myself after I crafted a kiln out of bricks that I made myself." Um...yeah.

First of all, it was too darn hot. It was just not conducive to outdoor activity. I managed, however, to get the deck and the front steps painted, granted both were before the temperature rose to irritating heights. I'm proud of myself for that.

I washed deck chairs and planted flowers in pots on the deck. That's another plus for me. I've gone years with no outside furniture and only the geraniums to greet me. It's been too hot to really enjoy the deck but at least I got the chairs out. In October, a grand reorganization of the storage shed should be undertaken so the chairs are easy to get to next year, considering I did all this work.

Little projects here and there. A mountain of reading finished. Not a week goes by that I don't read one or two of the magazines in the ever diminishing stack. It's good to see it shrinking. In another year, it will be gone and the magazines I do get won't take me months to read.

It was in one of those magazines that I found what I'm going to call my "August project". It was an old Shape magazine. I have no idea how I got this. It just started showing up on my doorstep a year ago. For me, it's a 20 minute read, if that. There's nothing usually in it to interest me and I find it wholly disingenuous. It purports to give you tips on diet and exercise but has huge ads for weight loss supplements of dubious character. You can't have it both ways. Ooooh Holly Madison (Who the heck is she? Would someone enlighten me?) lost an amazing 20 pounds on something I wouldn't feed to a landfill. Looking at her, she had 20 pounds to lose? She could do that just taking off those embellished jeans she's wearing. That doesn't count. Hence, I give Shape no credibility when it comes to weight loss.

But, in the March 2012 issue, which somehow got buried as I usually "read" Shape the day it comes and then recycle it, there were exercises done with weights. I'm looking for non-impact, since my knees won't handle it at the moment, exercises that promote more strength and flexibility than aerobic activity. I looked these over. Bend the knee here? Well, I can modify this a bit. Stretch the arms out and hold it? Well, I won't be able to do 12 repetitions but I could do a few. For the first time since this magazine mysteriously showed up, it had something in it that I could use. I can't do all 6 exercises at a time. I don't have the strength yet. But I could do 3 a day, alternating days.

So, I dug out my weights and did my first three today. I could not do more than 3 reps of exercise number 2 which required me to hold my arms out at shoulder height and curl one arm, then the other, back behind my head. It sounds weird, but it's easy to do, except for holding the arms at shoulder height. It's painful after 3 reps. I don't have the upper arm strength.

I did not get dejected, however. I know I have a ways to go to rebuild what collapsed around me last year. My goal is simple. I will do half of the exercises every day for a week, alternating exercises. Page 1 was today and page 2 is tomorrow. When Sunday comes, I will try again for another week of exercises. It means earlier to bed and earlier to rise so I get these in. It took 15 minutes to do the first three. My goal is no achy feeling when I do 12 reps and to be able to do 12 reps on each exercise. I'm not going to do more reps on those exercises I find easy. Before I move on to 2 sets of 12 reps, I have to be able to do 1 set on all of them with ease and without pain or achy muscles. My ultimate goal is to do these every day through the whole of August, one week at a time.

I'm reminded of a song from the animated Christmas special "Santa Claus is Coming to Town". Mickey Rooney sings this.
Put one foot in front of the other
And soon you’ll be walking cross the floor
Put one foot in front of the other
And soon you’ll be walking out the door

You never will get where you’re going
If you never get up on your feet
Come on, there’s a good tail wind blowing
A fast walking man is hard to beat
My goal is greater flexibility and mobility. I found the Wheaton Park District has Tai Chi classes. They help with flexibility. I've found one I can take on Saturday mornings beginning in October. I'm signing up next week, as soon as I can.

This has been the most productive summer in the last 2-3 for me. As August starts and the end of summer draws near, I want to build on this success and go forward. I almost gave my weights away last year. It's a good thing I didn't. I'm pretty sure I can't bench press either of the cats.

Beverage:  Dr Pepper