Saturday, August 19, 2017

It's Not a Game


I've been there. It was back in 2001. Carole and I traveled to various Civil War battlefields the month she graduated from high school. We made a grand sweeping tour; visiting Gettysburg, Harpers Ferry, Chancellorsville, Antietam, and Richmond. (It's quite ironic to us that she now lives in the area where we probably drove through so long ago.) On the way back to Illinois, we stayed the night in Charlottesville because we wanted to see Monticello, Thomas Jefferson's home.

I don't remember the statue in question. I remember how the town was stuffed around the hills and valleys. There's the University of Virginia and a large hospital complex and the myriad of one-way streets had us locked in a bit of a circle until we figured out we could go straight through one intersection and get back to the main road and supper and our hotel. Our visit was about Jefferson. Statuary was not involved.

I passed through Chancellorsville three years ago, while driving from Warrenton, where Carole and Larry had just married, to Roanoke, where a friend lived. I remember the intersection between whatever road I was following and the Interstate, but that's about all I remember. But I can say I've been there. It looks nice from the road.

Like you, I followed and have followed, events unfolding during and after the protest. A tsunami of words have flowed in analysis; some of it thoughtful; some head-scratchingly tone deaf. If you have not seen the Vice News segment on the march, you need to watch it. It's tough to sit through. There were several times I felt like turning it off. I don't want to watch this. The attitudes expressed here are beyond horrible. Indeed, I have no word to categorize how bad this is. But part of citizenry is to know, even if I don't understand. I admire the reporter and camera person's guts; to be where they were not welcome. Watch the 6 minute interview between reporter Elle Reeve and Anderson Cooper of CNN. She adds information on what she experienced directly.

All of this is sickening. I heard a couple of people wonder how we got to this point in our history. I would argue, as have many others, we've never left this point. Since the founding of this country, we have always had a group of people for whom blacks are a subspecies. We are very good at covering this up.

One thing that struck me in the aftermath was somewhat a unified comment these white men have made when exposed as being at the march. "I'm not a racist." Some people in the video openly declare they are even if they don't use the word. But many, when confronted as being at the march say, "I'm not a racist. Ask anyone who knows me. I'm not racist." They never seem to get that association with white separatists is endorsing racism. The biggest facepalm moment was the guy who said, "I've got black friends. I'm not racist."

That one comment, out of the reams and reams of comments I've read, made me the angriest. Having a friend in a marginalized group does not give you a "Get Out of Racism Free" card. It simply means you have someone in your life who maybe overlooks your racism because you both play Settlers of Cataan, or like to discuss the chances of the New York Jets not being in the bottom of the league. Having a black friend does not mean you're not racist.

Replace the letters across the top of a Bingo card with the letters LGBTQ. I have lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender and queer friends. BINGO! What do I win? I honestly don't see them as their labels. I see them as the people they are and I knew and liked them before they came out. The label is, for me, the same as saying they are Scottish or German or Indian. It's just another part of who they are. You don't get to "win" or have your racist, homophobic, or derogatory views unchallenged just because you happen to know someone in the very group you denounce.

There is no "white culture". This purity supremacists want to preserve is an amalgam of cultures from thousands of years of migration. We humans have been mixing up our genes since we were in Africa. I laugh way too hard at the stories now circulating that have white supremacists doing DNA testing only to find out they aren't what they think they are.

I have been reading, reading, reading. My historical assumptions have been challenged. I was taught the "myth" of State's Rights. I read, but now can't find it, of course, an article critical of Ken Burns' The Civil War mini-series; saying he presented a "white washed" (words intended) view of the conflict. He has yet to answer this critique. I've had one friend; Southern boy to the core; renounce the flag he defended earlier this year when New Orleans took down their statues. It was his culture and we were erasing it. He has come to realize it was about slavery, not culture.

I don't have black friends. I used to, but in the grand journey that is life, we drifted apart. I wouldn't say it was because I was racist in an earlier time. I wasn't raised that way and I don't think any of my life actions could be called racist. People wander into and out of your life just as a matter of course and that's what happened to us. I don't know any Latino people. I have Asian friends. Again, none of this is to "win" a column on a game board. I would hope, as I continue to wander this life, people would be my friend because we share interests, not because they need to tick off "Scottish female" on some internal scorecard.

This is not a game. If ever you find yourself saying, "I'm not racist" or "I'm not homophobic" or "I'm not anti-Semitic" or "I'm not [insert group]", you are. Plain and simple. If you have to qualify your actions or speech with any of this, you are what you say you aren't. Look at why you believe what you do. How are your words or actions marginalizing someone? Toss out the scorecard and like people for who they are.

Beverage:  Coca-Cola


Sunday, August 13, 2017

One Year

July came and went, all to quickly, it feels like. A year ago, mid-July, I was at my daughter's for a visit and the annual Spectacular Death meet-up. If you remember, I returned home with memories and a new fur baby.

How could it be a year now, that Hamlet's lived with us? I almost don't remember what it was like to have only 2 cats. He plays chase with Pilchard and, occasionally, Mija. He's a fount of energy. He's adapted to life with us or maybe we've adapted to him; who really knows.

The big change is Hamlet himself.

He takes up a lot more real estate than in July 2016.

I also note that, because he's more of a lover than the other two ever were, they are starting to demand lap time to curl up and sleep. Pilchard used to sit, for at least 2 hours or until the feeling started leaving my knees and I'd have to move her. Then, with Hamlet demanding attention, she quit sitting in my lap. She's back to that now, although not as long as before he came here. Mija just recently started wanting my lap when I'm sitting down with my feet up.

And there's the lying on mom when she's trying to sleep. I get that he was probably dumped too soon and I'm mom cat, but 1:30 in morning is not a good time to climb up my chest and lie down. Because he does it, Mija's been doing it. I don't want to have to shut them out of the bedroom, but I need a full night's sleep.

I'm trying an experiment this month with Feliway. Around the 10th of every month, I've been replacing the bottle because it's run out and I notice more antagonism between the cats. This month, things seems to be quieter so I have not replaced the empty bottle with fresh. So far, knock on wood, we are doing okay. I'd rather they just learned to live together and not have to rely on pheromones to do so. Maybe we've reached that point. We'll see.

Love my boy. I still call him "kitten britches", although he's hardly a kitten anymore. I was worried about adding another cat into the household, but rescue makes you do strange things, like rub the belly of a lap sleeping cat because, at 15 pounds, he's slowly cutting off the circulation to my feet.

Beverage:  Water


Guilty Pleasure

Peanut butter cookie dough ice cream.

Be still my heart.

Where can you get this? Well, you have to go to an Oberweis Dairy store. It's not available from home delivery. I went to Oberweis to get a gift card for some friends who were going through a spate of bad luck. You can get it in quarts. They have to hand pack it in the store. It's not in the ice cream cooler. They also offer chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream, but one taste of this and it's just...oh my. They quit making my all-time favorite, banana chocolate fudge walnut, so I've been forced; forced, I tell you; to figure out what my new all-time favorite is. That's incredibly hard because there are so many good flavors. If I could get this home delivered, this would be it, hands down.

I know peanut butter is an acquired taste. I've met a number of people who don't like peanut butter. To each his own. It just means there's more for me.

Two spoons way up for this flavor.

Beverage:  Coca-Cola


Building a Better Bag

Back at the end of May, I got a new bag for the Disney World trip upcoming in October. (Is it time to panic, yet? How about now?) I settled on a very steampunk-ish looking bag I found on Etsy.

I felt everything I would want to carry on a trip to a park would fit inside the bag. I loved the look and how a Dungeons and Dragons pin a friend sent me fit wonderfully on the cross-body strap.

I took the bag to the June Highland Festival I attended and, quickly, it became obvious this was NOT a bag which would be useful for Disney. I lost 2 of the 3 bottles on the front. I thought they were in their straps tightly. They weren't. I couldn't get a bottle of water in the bag, along with the phone charger. There are other things which need to be in the bag while I roam. I was rather disappointed.

So, I started looking around for another bag, a bigger bag. I'm inclined to think Disney has a listening device in my house because, at the end of June, they had a sale and, viola, there was a bigger bag.

Well, of course I'd buy one with the Cheshire cat on it.

How could I resist this? It's "leather", although I think it's the imitation kind. It's deep with interior pockets.

The pocket on the right doesn't close while the pocket on the left zips shut. Anything I might want to carry should easily fit in this bag. The only issue is that the straps are not cross-body. They are short enough to make the bag sit right under the armpit, but long enough that I could access the bag reasonably quickly. But, I really wanted cross-body functionality. My RA can make my shoulder muscles tense and even paring down what I need/want to carry, was going to mean the bag would weigh on my shoulders by the end of the day. The ability to keep my hands and arms free would make the vacation better. What to do?

A trip to JoAnn Fabrics provided a solution. The inside is lined with a heavy silk material. I bought a length of pink canvas trim. It's an inch wide. I got a little more than I needed because, at the time, I didn't have the bag to measure. Once I figured out the proper length for the bag to hang where I wanted it to, I pinned the edges to the liner and cut the trim.

Then, I hand stitched the trim to the liner.

The trim is attached at the liner side seams. I could feel the fabric of the seams and tried to stitch the trim into that seam for added support. It was the perfect day to sit on the deck and stitch. When finished this is the result.

I'll be able to sling this across my body, keeping my hands and arms free, but having access to the bag. The handles are kind of stiff and I'm going to have an issue with them popping out of the bag at first. But I think, with use, and being anchored by things inside the purse, they will stay down when I want to use this cross-body. Plus, the trim goes neatly into the bag if I don't want to mess with it.

I moved the D&D pin to this strap and added a couple more.

I'll be able to add more pins to the strap, although I'm not a pin collector as such. My friend, Liz, sent me a link to all the exclusive souvenirs offered during the Food and Wine Festival and the Halloween party. There are pins. I will need to get pins for the strap.

After Disney, I can see this being a shopping tote for me. I'm going to keep the steampunk bag and try to find replacement bottles for the front. In some situations, the steampunk bag will be nice. It just doesn't work as I thought it would, for the Disney vacation.

Beverage:  Coca-Cola


Let's See Those Letters

The third month's package of stickers from Pipsticks arrived.

I find myself looking in the mailbox around the 15th of every month, wondering if my package has come.

July's theme was, of course, summer.

And the obligatory postcard meant I had to think of who would get it.

I enjoy this so much. I think the sparkly stickers, of which the pineapples at the lower left represent, are my current favorites. There are monthly "boxes" for every type of interest. This truly is a gift I enjoy.

Beverage:  Hot spiced cider


Wednesday, August 2, 2017

First Pick

The peppers have yielded their first fruit.

No, this isn't the long, bell-shaped pepper you're used to seeing.

The pepper had nice, thick walls, but was spicier than I expected. Orange peppers are usually sweeter than all the others. Still, it was a nice addition to my lunch when sliced.

I noticed I have three others which need harvesting. I didn't think the plants were producing well, but I just needed to be patient. August has arrived and the usual heat of the middle of summer makes it perfect pepper time. We have had adequate rainfall, too.

I eat them raw. I'm very much a slice and eat person. Most of the time, I don't dip them in anything, just eat them as is. If these continue to be spicier than I expect, I think the addition of a dip would be good. We'll see.

Beverage:  English Breakfast Tea



The lawn gets mowed every other week. I probably could have mowed it last week, but I did other things.

I still don't know where I'm going to, ultimately, put the recycling, garbage, and yard waste cans. To mow the lawn, I moved the garbage can up by the AC unit, to get it out of the way.

Forty-five minutes later, when I finish mowing the lawn, I see this.

I mean, 45 minutes is all it took for this spider to spin a web between the deck and the garbage can. I am impressed. I was going to move the can away from the AC but decided to just leave it after seeing this. The web was gone in 3 days and I've since moved the can, but the ingenuousness of spiders is quite astonishing.

Beverage:  English Breakfast Tea



I don't get invited to parties. That's not an "Oh woe is me" statement. I'm always uncomfortable at a party, anyway, unless I know people willing to let me hang around with them. I don't do the wander up and commence speaking very well. I can hold my own in a conversation, but initiating it is not something I'm remotely comfortable doing. Plus, as I've aged, the idea of a party where the entertainment is standing around talking while eating and drinking, is not appealing. I far prefer parties where we play games. And, I don't have friends in the area who do parties where I feel comfortable.

So, I read of others' Halloween parties and am happy for them it was well attended and happy for me that I stayed home. But, I'm going to Disney World in October and part of the trip is to attend Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party. I'm looking forward to it.

One of the things you can do is come in costume. That's something of a conundrum for me. I did a minion costume years ago because I had a rheumatology appointment on Halloween, but I haven't dressed up since. I still have all the pieces to do that costume. Then, my friend, Meredith sent me to JoAnn Fabrics by showing me pajamas in minion designs at Wal*Mart. Remember, I came home with two fabrics and a pattern for a shirt. I could wear the minion hat and one of the two shirts I intend to make, maybe get some white gloves. I could keep a crib sheet with me which has "minion speak" on it and reply to comments with minion-ese. All it would cost is the money and time to make the shirts.

In order to get to the shirts, I needed to finish the jacket I cut out last year but never sewed. I'm notorious for grand ideas which never get finished, but I've simply told myself no minion shirt until the jacket is done. I've actually made steady progress on the jacket. I have help.

Every outfit must have cat hair on it.

It goes together fairly quickly, with long seams joining front to back.

The hard part is the trim. It's a wide band which can be in the same color, but is shown with a different color. I decided on black satin. I'm very pleased with the result.

The trim has to be lined. I am used to fusible interfacing; which is easy to apply. But I worried satin wouldn't take very well to the heat and steam needed to properly fuse the interfacing to the stain. I worried that I'd wind up with very distinct iron imprints in the satin. A friend who actually makes costumes said that wouldn't be the main problem. Satin would pucker as the interfacing cooled. So, it was sew-in interfacing.

This brought up another issue. Did I have any? I pulled out the box marked "Interfacing and sewing assists". There was a bit on top in the box, but not nearly enough to put interfacing in all the trim you see. Then, I spied a bag on the floor of the closet. Inside was more interfacing than I needed for a dozen jackets, including sew-in. I'd purchased interfacing to go with the minion shirts, but that's going at the bottom of the pile. I need to use up some of the other pieces I have. Oh the problem of accumulation in the life of a sewer. Do I or don't have have enough interfacing or the right color of thread. Better buy some just in case. I have to stop "just in casing".

I encountered an issue at the neck. I don't know if I didn't cut the right pattern piece or what, but the trim band at the neck was not large enough to go around the neck without making pleats in the jacket neckline. I dug out the pattern and I seem to have cut out the right piece. I tried pinning several different ways, but none of them worked. I decided I needed to cut a rectangle piece to pin across the back of the neck. Digging out the leftover satin, I discovered someone had peed on it. I have no idea when, but the odor was unmistakable. I cut two squares, tossed the rest in the wash, and hand washed the pieces I needed. I sliced the neck piece in half, sewed this extension into the trim and finished pinning the trim to the jacket. The other piece went into the facing of the trim since you use the same pieces for the facing. It fit fine with an additional 3 inches of fabric. With this being black satin, you won't suspect this piece wasn't supposed to be there to begin with.

The next step was to prepare the facing. I did the same thing with the facing as I did with the trim; added the additional 3 inches. I'm sitting in the recliner, Mija purring next to me, and I'm having problems getting the facing to match around the bottom of the jacket. Something is off. I unpin the facing and lay it flat on the table.

When I was pinning the facing pieces together, I twisted one side of the bottom facing when sewing the pieces together. I was quite frustrated and had to set the project aside. How could I have missed this? Taking a seam apart is a problem, but doing it on satin was double trouble. It's easy to make the satin look awful when you have to remove seams. I couldn't cut another piece because the fabric was in the middle of the laundry chute and I really don't know if I can adequately remove the smell. I'm hopeful because there's enough satin to do something else with if I can salvage it. What to do. What to do.

I finally decided to use fusible interfacing to save the piece. This is the facing. It won't be primarily visible. This is also along the bottom inside of the jacket. I'm not going for a prize here. I'm going for having it done. So, I cut the facing apart, took a hunk of fusible interfacing and "fused" the two pieces together, after making sure I had them untwisted. The fused pieces didn't pucker as much as I was expecting, thankfully, so they pinned nicely onto the trim.

Once the facing and the trim were sewn together, you need to understitch the facing to make sure it doesn't roll forward. I remember, from my high school sewing days, that understitching was recommended for all facings but you rarely see it in the instructions. This jacket has that step. I clipped the curves and decided the best thing to do would be to pin the facing to the seam to make understitching easier.

In doing this, I encountered another problem, my RA. July was a tough month for me. There were bouts of achy joints. I haven't had it cause problems with my cross-stitch or sewing until now. I would hold the facing to the left, smooth it, and with the right hand, pin it in the direction I was going to sew. The holding and smoothing put more stress on my left wrist than I was expecting. After pinning half of the facing, I couldn't do anymore. The pain was too great. I wound up pinning the rest of the facing over two days and understitching last night.

This is where the jacket is today.

I need to press the facing to the inside. I'm going to add gold braid at the junction of the trim and the jacket, because, why not. That will pick up the gold in the bow ties of the cats. I should be able to stitch down the facing at the same time I attach the braid. The hem on the sleeves is just a simple 5/8 inch hem, but I'm thinking of looking through my trim box to see if I have any black seam binding. I think that would look great. I need to sew a "Made by" label on the neck facing, too.

There's hard pinning upcoming with attaching the braid so I have to be mindful of how my wrists and fingers feel. I really wanted gold piping but that's not made anymore, at least JoAnn Fabrics didn't have gold piping. I didn't want to spend $20 in gas searching for something which didn't exist. I probably could have found it on the Internet, and given how long it's taken me to get this far, I wouldn't have been waiting on something to complete the jacket, but what I got is distinctive.

So now my costume for Mickey's party has changed. I was going to bring this jacket to Disney anyway. I could put a pink shirt under it and wear it with black jeans, which I was planning on packing anyway. Then, I could get black cat ears on a headband. The Halloween costume stores which spring up around the holiday should be opening soon and I'm positive I can get black cat ears.

I don't know what to do. Minion or black cat. Minion or black cat. I guess I see how quickly the minion shirt goes together and how it looks.

Almost done.

Beverage:  English Breakfast tea


Tuesday, August 1, 2017

It's Not IKEA

I think it was four years ago now, Carole and Larry gave me a cat tree they had which wasn't useful. The girls were, at first, intimidated by it, but Pilchard, in particular, grew fond of it. Then, one day, I was in my office and I heard a horrible crash in the living room. Racing there, I expected to find someone injured. Instead, I found two cowering cats and the top of the tower on the floor. Pilchard had tried to climb up onto that rung and the connection between it and the rung below, snapped.

It couldn't take the force of her jumping up onto the platform.

I couldn't see a way to fix it so I kept the top, as it had a dangle ball which was enticing, affixed to it.

This has served us well for some time.

Ironically, it's just the right height for me to lean on while sitting in my chair. It was close to the height of the table so a cat could walk across the table (in front of me, naturally), and take up a spot on the top of the tree; perfect height for ear scratches.

But, this year, it started getting wobbly. It looks sturdy, but when Pilchard would jump to the top shelf, the thing would wobble. Increasingly, I was worried she'd topple it and get injured. Flipping the thing over, I discovered this.

No wonder it was wobbly. I checked all my parts and bits and collected things and I had nothing to make this secure. I had been giving some thought to a new cat tree anyway. After a trip to the hardware store and coming home with a nut bolt combination which didn't work, I decided a new tree was in order. For the record, I was out 57 cents for the nut and bolt I bought. I've added them to the collection I maintain in the basement. You never know.

I ordered from because I had a coupon. They bill themselves as an Amazon wanna-be. They don't have the huge inventory Amazon does, but their prices are reasonably competitive. I looked at my local pet store, as bringing it home same day is very appealing. But they didn't have the size I wanted for the price I could pay. Even with shipping, online was cheaper. So, I got one online.

It was a rather big box, since this is 28 inches tall, and there was assembly required.

Unlike the birdbath I assembled in May, all the companion pieces were in a bag I could clearly see.

Oh joy. Yet another hex key.

I should collect all of these just to see how many I have. They must be ridiculously easy to manufacture, since everything I've purchased which needs assembly, has one and doesn't assume you have the right size.

I sorted everything out and pulled out the instructions.

There's no "Step 1: Affix column A to slot A using the bolts marked 1." I had to figure out which column was A, B, C, and which platforms were D, E and F. The short column connectors were reasonably easy to discern from the bolts. Bolts were all the same size, thankfully. I dived in.

It assembled fairly easily.

The problem was, without a corresponding mark on the bottom platform, I got posts in the wrong place, which I didn't find out until I was ready to assemble the middle platform.

I had to disassemble what I'd completed and put the posts in the right places, which weren't completely clear. The hex screws did make taking the thing apart easier, I have to grant that. I have much more leverage to make sure they are screwed in tightly, so important to prevent posts from loosening with repeated jumping on by cats.

I liked this tree because of the sisal insert. An added benefit is the soft carpet on the levels. The posts are all covered with sisal.

This lone upright post holds a bed which is, realistically, too small for anyone to be comfortable for any length of time. Pilchard has started to use it when she sits next to me if I'm on the computer. The top level is the same height as the old tree, so it sits next to my chair and I rest my elbow on it when I'm gaming. It's the same height as the table so, when I'm paying bills, I use it for sorting.

I removed the ball from the old tree and stapled it to the top edge of this one. No one seems to care. I took the other tree out to the street, thinking someone might be willing to cannibalize it for parts for their cats. If no one took it, I'd just toss it in my garbage. I saw several people slow down to look at it, but they all moved on and I wound up tossing it.

Mija and Hamlet don't lie on this at all. Pilchard, on the other hand, is thrilled.

It had been up 24 hours and I came into the living room to see her climbing all over the thing and attacking the posts. She climbs the levels to sit beside me for scratches. I'm a touch disappointed the other two aren't interested, but Pilchard's use makes this a good buy. The stability is wonderful and, for me, the ease of assembly was a great plus. I feel we'll get quite a few years worth of use out of this.

Beverage:  Dr Pepper