Friday, July 24, 2009


I have always enjoyed magazines although now I have let all my subscriptions lapse. I have always found that after a while the issues seem to be repetetive and now it's a hassle to change addresses when we are away. I can borrow magazines at the library in Jericho (although not the most current issue, but so what), read them at the dentist or doctor's office, buy them for a quarter at the Venice library, even read some stuff on line. Still, I end up buying a magazine every now and then after standing in the checkout line at the supermarket. There's alwyas some intriguing hook splashed across the front covers and I give in. Recently, I bought a Woman's Day. The hooks--"1 MONTH TO A HEALTHIER YOU...lose 10 pounds" and "STOP SPENDING ON STUPID STUFF."
So, do you want to know the secret of losing 10 pounds in a month? Eat less and exercise more. No magic and in reality that is exactly what I expected.
I did have high hopes for the "STOP SPENDING FOR STUPID STUFF" article though, I have to admit. I guess I never will learn. There's not that much new under the sun.
  • Don't buy extended warranties. Have I ever once? No.
  • Don't sign up for multiyear contracts at a gym you will seldom visit. Do I walk for my exercise for free? Yes.
  • Do not pay for ring tones, apps and games for your cell phone. Do I even have a cell phone that does anything put allow me to make or receive the occasional call? No.
  • Be content with the texting allowed on basic service for your cell phone. What? Have I ever once in my life texted?? No.

After reading the article I realized that the only thing I could have done to stop spending stupid is not to plunk down the $1.99 for the magazine. Lesson learned, but probably soon enough forgotten.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Rainy Days

I'm not sure how the summer of 2009 stacks up against the average rain fall statistics but it sure seems like we have had a lot of rain. Yesterday morning these huge drops were all over the arbor vitae looking almost like ice balls. On the plus side, we are saving money with no air conditioner running.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Sewing with Velveteen

I made the mistake of letting Kristen dig through my fabric scraps box during her visit last week. She found some red velveteen and some pink satin. I'm not even sure where it came from--probably included in some yard sale purchase. This is what she wanted to have made into jackets--two of them because she has two 18" dolls and they apparently want to dress alike to go to the "hip hop club."
It took all day but I did manage to finish two jackets suitable for an evening at a hip hop club if you happen to be an 18" doll. What a miserable job sewing velveteen is! It shifts as you try to complete a seam. Lint flies all over but particularly gums up the bobbin case. Thank goodness I did not attempt this construction while the grand children were here because there would have been no way to keep the swearing under control. Little ears just don't need to hear that kind of stuff.
At least Kristen really does appreciate the doll clothes. So it gives me a kind of grandmotherly satisfaction to make them. Her mother, for whom her grandmother made beautiful outfits, was a doll undresser. I was forever finding naked dolls strewn around the house. Of course I would pick them up and dress them before putting them away, but my daughters first act when going to play with them again was to take off all the clothes. Her dolls had tattoos and punk hair cuts which, now that I think about it, should have given me a clue about what we were in for during the teen years...
Now sewing clothes for Kristen to wear herself is another matter. She is and always has been very fussy about what she will and will not wear. Now that she is in school (going into third grade) there is apparently a very strict code of what is considered cool enough and woe to those who don't get it right. I'm not sure I could take the rejection after putting in the effort if whatever wasn't acceptable to an eight year old fashionista.

Monday, July 20, 2009

How To Grout a Tub Enclosure

Notice that there are cracks and separations in the tile grout while showering. Think, “this should be patched,” but promptly forget about it upon exiting the tub.
Repeat for at least six months.
Determine the time has come to stop slugging around a necessary bit of home maintenance.
Drive five or six miles to hardware store in town. Search fruitlessly in plumbing section for twenty minutes before being directed to opposite end of the store by overly busy store clerk. Find endless array of caulking and grouting material but notice that store clerk is no longer to be found. Buy something that seems suitable.
Return home and read the directions on package--that old grout must be scraped away, a job facilitated by a soak with mineral spirits.
Drive back to the hardware store and find no cans marked “mineral spirits.” Find clerk to enquire about this and learn that “odorless paint thinner” is the same thing. Look skeptical, slightly offending overly busy store clerk, but buy it anyway.
Now that necessary materials are in hand, begin the prep work. Soak offending groutless or cracked areas with mineral spirits and scrape with a grout scraping tool.
Notice that some areas of the tub wall are actually somewhat bouncy. After four tiles implode at their intersection, pull them out.
Find soggy and crumbling drywall behind the tiles.
Call for professional help, leaving frantic message since it is the Friday evening starting a holiday weekend.
Enlist husband’s help and continue to pull tiles as dry wall crumbles into tub, leaving view of moldy insulation.
Put tiles in buckets. Add soap and hot water to soak off backing.
Scoop drywall pieces into bins.
Vacuum small dust and debris from tub and bathroom floor.
Vacuum the rest of the house since debris and dust is now tracked throughout.
Have professional assessment of job to be done.
Since front and back walls of tub enclosure are intact, decide to reuse existing tiles even though that means removing old adhesive. Also decide to replace bathroom window, something in need of doing for several years now..
Make pile of old tiles and begin scraping adhesive with razor scrapers.
Repeat for several days .
Resist discouragement even though:
“To do” pile and “done” pile balance shift is incredibly slow,
Muscles are sore and wrists are achy,
Husband threatens to put V-chip on home improvement channels.
Continue scraping, now at a more frantic pace since professional is replacing the insulation and putting up special water resistant sheet rock on open wall.
Continue scraping at even more frantic pace as professional is now starting to re-attach tiles.
Watch the grouting process take what seems like no time at all.
After tub is grouted wait another day.
Forgo shower for two days after tub is caulked.
Clean bathroom.
Wait a week for window installation.
Clean bathroom again.
Pay professional $800, an amount worth every penny.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Grandchildren Visit

The past four days have been taken up entirely with with entertaining grandchildren. Not only did my daughter have a four day "break" so she could attend to some remodel projects on their house, but she will probably get at least an extra day while the kids sleep for 18 hours straight--which is what I certainly plan to do. Gotta believe they are just as wiped out as I am! We went shopping; we went swimming; we baked; we read stories; we watched movies; we went for walks; we did art projects; we played dolls and trucks and ball; we made some of our "favorite" foods (spaghetti, hamburgers, hot dogs, BLTs, popcorn, watermelon, and blueberries); we went out for ice cream; we went to the playground. One of us went four days without a bottle--well, two of us, but I plan to make up for that now, then sleep for that 18 hours.
I remember going to my grandparents for a week (just me) for a treat or them coming to take over looking after us for a week when my parents had pressing business--like giving birth to a younger sibling, which in those days was a week long hospital stay. I definitely do not remember my grandmother varying her usual routine in any major way and she was a little stern. She would let me help with laundry and dusting and maybe watch her cooking. She taught me how to set a table and the "proper" way to do dishes. We did go shopping, though, and she did at least once buy me shoes that my mother never would have--black patent leather MaryJanes that were actually a size too small but I really, really loved them. My grandfather was the one who told me funny stories and made little toys and taught me how to dance the polka.
My own parents were great with their grandchildren. They took my kids on big trips, but they also made so many everyday memories for them. It's a family tradition I'd like to keep going.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Writing Club Assignment

The Color of Loneliness
What is the color of loneliness? I really don’t know and I have to say the seeing of it is just coming to me right now. Still, I do know something of loneliness. Who could enter the seventh decade of a life without knowing something of loneliness?
I know what loneliness tastes like--a bitter sensation at the back of the throat that lingers after a rejection or a painful loss.. An end to a once loving relationship, a parting of the ways between friends, a growing apart, a turning away, or a leaving behind--these produce an acrid taste that only gets washed away by salty tears. This loneliness makes us wary for a while, but then we return to the banquet of living again--sometimes wiser; sometimes, not.
I know what loneliness smells like--a bowl of fruit, over ripe and cloying. This is the loneliness that comes from a loss of self, from acting in a way that is against one’s own integrity, from going against what one knows to be the right way. The fruit can only continue straight on into rot, but we can turn around. This is a useful sense of loneliness. It’s said that the sense of smell is most closely associated with memories, so remember who you are. There can be peace in solitude, but not in the loneliness of denial of the essence of self.
I know what loneliness sounds like--an eerie moaning that follows a keening. This is the loneliness of sudden or tragic loss, a loneliness that leaves one feeling bereft. This loneliness can be compounded by isolation. Others shy from the presence of such pain and grief. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross has said grief ends, eventually, with acceptance. And so, one hopes, the loneliness also abates.
I know what loneliness feels like. It’s touch is heavy and wet, dampening the very spirit. It is atmospheric pressure on the internal landscape. Left too long, it turns to depression and hopelessness, all the other senses dulled.
I still cannot name the color of loneliness. People sometimes say, “I’m feeling blue.” I will not say that loneliness is blue. I think it cannot be a primary color, red or yellow or blue, or any color on the color wheel, bright and clear. Tints of color are made by adding white pigment. White lightens and that is contrary to my feeling of loneliness. Shades are the result of the addition of black. As ominous as loneliness can be, black seems too depressing, too passive somehow. It has to be a tone, achieved only through the addition of grey. Is it as easy as that? The color of loneliness is grey?
Whatever the color of the sky in your world, grey will mute it, dull it. Grey mutes even white and black. The color of loneliness is grey mixed with the color you love the most. There, I’ve worked that out for myself.

Monday, July 13, 2009

More Garden

If nothing else, all the rain has made things quite lush looking.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Garden

I took some pictures some of my garden areas today.

My small vegetable patch is on the left. Clematis are going strong.

Ferns, hosta, astible.

Rudbeckia and achillea have yet to bloom.

A skunk dug a big hole and is most likely living under the shed. But better a skunk to eat the grub than a garden chomping woodchuck that was nosing about earlier in the season.

Achillea, liatrus, shasta daisies, and coreopsis stretch along the garage. In early spring the jonquils and tulips brighten up this spot.

Projects Update

I have started a double trousseau for the Bitty Baby dolls in California. This is a knitted ensemble modelled by a Madame Alexander doll. Are you old enough to recognize the White House era Caroline Kennedy?

And I couldn't make pajamas for the little man and not make a night shirt for the young lady.
I also tried my hand at making a pattern based on a nightgown that I bought for myself and really liked. It turned out to be way too small, so Kristen will have two night gowns now. We call this a "learning experience," but I really did figure out the mistake in my calculations--one of those "AHA" moments while brushing my teeth.

For the life of me, I cannot understand how people without good oral hygiene habits ever figure any thing out. It just seems that life sorts itself out while I'm brushing my teeth. Maybe that just me.

In the garden--break in the weather for a brief time yesterday and I got to do some much needed weeding--I notice small tomatoes and little tiny peppers. The green beans and cucumbers are flowering. I have frozen parsley in ice cubes to use in soups and stews in the fall.
I made chive oil and have thyme oil steeping. I am drying some lavender and using it fresh in iced tea and lemonade, which is very delicious. My new favorite thing, though, is herbed butter. I mix chopped parsley, thyme and basil with softened butter, then use it on vegetables and for grilling sandwiches. Very yummy. Mike does NOT like little bits of green things on his food though. I mentioned being anxious to try it on fresh sweet corn and he was horrified at the thought of adulterating corn in that way. I'm certain it will be heavenly.

I am planning to dry sage and make a wreath for the door. I also steep sage, lavender and thyme in white vinegar to make a "green" cleaner for kitchen and bath. you have to keep the lavender in for some time to overcome the vinegar small, but the end product is worth it.

So Much to Sew

Whoops. Oh, well. Here is a pair of flying pajamas!

Since the garage has now been substantially cleared out--no Harleys left at all--I took down a door and set it up as a a cutting station on milk crate legs out in the garage. Mike used to be tinkering around on motorcycles out there, now it is my turn for my hobbies. It's a great luxury to have all that space and not have to keep material from sliding off the limited surface of the kitchen counter while in the midst of laying out patterns and cutting.

Another thing I appropriated from my husband--lead weights that he has a bucket of for some reason--(Well, that reason being casting his own bullets). Anyway, they are very handy for weighting down the pattern pieces--much faster than pinning. I will spend my sewing time for the next few days cutting out patterns. Who would have thought our hobbies would ever mesh?

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Bathroom Fix-up

We are so suffering and sore--been scraping old bathtub tiles...and scraping...and scraping...and scraping. But, YEAH!--we have scraped the lot of them. My brother put up new wall backing--water-proof--and reset the tiles. Tomorrow he will grout and then caulk in a day or two. Also he will replace the totally gross bathroom window when that arrives in a week or so. It will be a good thing to know the bathroom is solid. I don't think we will have to remodel it in our life time. (Knock wood).

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Fabric Sale

Threadneedle Fabrics started 50% off all inventory today. The place was mobbed. I do love a bargain, but really not at the expense of a lovely shop with quality merchandise right there at the nearest shopping center. This makes me very sad--even as I scored a lovely silk and more pajama flannel. Mike said he had read that a number of Joann's Fabric were shutting down as well--don't know if this would include the South Burlington store, and their fabric does not compare to Threadneedle, but what's left? Walmart? No, thanks.

You hear a lot about the out-of-control credit card debt as contributing to today's sour economy. I think cheap-goods-greed as perfected by Walmart is equally to blame.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Sunday Night Supper

The garden harvest continues. We are getting plenty of fresh lettuce for salads. Herbs are still the the major early producers, though, so we are trying different flavors for dressing the salads and looking for more ways to use these herbs.

Last night's supper was a basil pesto pizza cooked out on the grill. I made a simple bread dough (yeast, sugar, water, olive oil and flour) and mixed the pesto (basil, pine nuts, garlic, and more olive oil) with ricotta and a bit of mozzarella. Mike put some anchovies on his pizza. I put a little bit of chopped fresh tomato on mine. Delicious

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Chocolate Chip Cookies

These are buttery, thin and crispy cookies:

Chocolate Cookies with Pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Grease two cookie sheets
1 ½ cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup butter (2 sticks), softened
1 cup granulated sugar
½ cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ½ cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup chopped pecans
Mix together the flour, baking soda and cinnamon.
Beat butter and sugars at medium speed until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla.
At low speed, beat in flour mixture until blended. Fold in oats, chocolate and nuts.
Drop tablespoon scoops of the dough onto the baking sheets, keeping cookies about 2” apart.
Bake cookies until lightly browned, about 10 to 12 minutes.
Transfer baking sheets to wire rack and allow to cool slightly. Transfer cookies to racks to cool completely.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Nothing's Easy Today

Maybe we are all just weary of the rain and clouds and more rain. Blame it on the infamous upper level low stalled over New England. My petunias, poor darlings, are actually rotting. Anyway, nothing turned out to be easy today. I started to clean the bath tub tiles in preparation for re-grouting a few spots. Well, the few spots grew to several spots and then a whole bunch of tiles caved in to reveal a soggy, crumbly sheet rock wall behind. Now it is a job beyond my capabilities so we will have to call in professional help. That was the big thing, but even sewing today felt more like time spent sweeping up snippets of thread and dropped pins and dust balls from the bobbin case. Then I baked cookies and felt like it was such a daunting task to wash up bowls and measuring utensils and cookie pans. So I guess I am in a bit of a grumpy mood. The cookies are good, though, and I am looking forward to a big glass of wine with pork chops and potatoes for supper--and a big cookie for dessert.

A Good Lunch

Kevin and I went out to lunch yesterday--catching up with my postponed birthday treat. We went to my new favorite place--Four Corners of the World Cafe in Burlington. Yummy sandwiches, funky decor, strong global vibes. I recommend it highly, but it is a bit hard to find tucked away on Pine Street near the Post Office. I had Russian salmon and my mouth is still happy about it.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009


When Amy and the kids were here last weekend, she mentioned having a hard time finding pajamas for Dane so I decided to make some. I am very, very sad that the local fabric shop in nearby Essex Junction is going out of business in August, but I did find some soft pajama material at 30% off. I struggled with the first pair--sewed one leg on inside out and then managed to get the front and back backwards somehow. Quite wonky result. The second set went together in about half and hour and came out perfectly. Go figure. Do I throw one set away or not?

Bye to the Bikes

Wow...all that space in the garage! Mike sold the last of his motorcycles, the red 1949 Harley with sidecar. It's new owner came and got it today. We sold my sportster earlier in June. So I guess that part of our lives is a thing of the past. Not a big deal for me, but Mike did make his living with antique motorcycles. That made it work instead of a hobby, even though he did restore a number of bikes for himself, so it's understandable that he's glad to move on to other things in retirement.