Saturday, September 26, 2020

Baking and Sewing and Being Grateful

My friend Barbara, who writes the Cat Patches blog over at Three Cats Ranch, recently decided, after being forced to evacuate because of the forest fires in Oregon, to re-home some of her quilts.    She does amazing work.  Although I am not ready to get rid of any of my comparatively ordinary quilts, I do understand the concept; our priorities change over the years and some possessions begin to weigh us down.  I have gotten rid of countless 'treasures' that tied themselves to unpleasant people or memories or just needed to be loved by someone else, so I get it, at least in theory.  But oh my gosh, her quilts of just so beautiful it is hard to imagine letting even one of them go.    One of the quilts, to my delight, arrived this week for our home, Home is Where the Heart Is, which is huge and gorgeous, more complicated and bigger than anything that I am likely ever to create for myself.    I've linked there to her blog post about the details since it really is too big for me to photograph well, but here it is, on our bed, where we are enjoying it so very much.  This is the third piece that Barb has gifted us, and each piece is proudly displayed where we see and enjoy them every day, in our entry way and now on one of our beds.    Come on over, Barb, you'll feel right at home!







Staying home is definitely the theme of my life and my sewing this year.  I am in the final stages of the "Quarantine" quilts that I am putting together for my Grands for Christmas.  The center part of one of them is done -- I see, now that I've joined all the rows, that I messed up a row by putting two trees on top of each other but I am not going to rip it all apart to change it, sorry Joseph.   Both quilts will have borders and RenĂ©e's also still needs to be assembled and trimmed.  I also got the center done on a simple stack and flip quilt and once I've added borders to that, all three of them will go out for quilting.   When they get back I'll still need to bind and label them, but at least I have finally made some small progress toward a few Christmas gifts. 





In mini projects, I've assembled some extra house blocks into a small hanging for my kitchen (if I had noticed that the middle seams didn't match I would straightened it out, but I didn't really look at it until I had the backing on it and I am not about to rip it out now.  Lazy, remember?)

                                

I've also started to make a few pot holders to toss in with other gifts, but the first one turned out a bit too wonky for giving so it will also stay home with me.   I haven't made new potholders in a while now so mine need replacing pretty badly.   I have a few other extra house blocks and I thought I'd turn them into potholders, too; they are (usually) quick to make and pretty much anyone can use them.  But after I messed up the second pot holder -- I realized when I turned it right-side out that I had forgotten to add the backing -- I decided it was time to quit sewing for today.  By the time I had ripped out the seams all of my fingers had fallen asleep and the joy of sewing was gone.  I will think about trying again tomorrow.

                                    

We had our first fall harvest apple pie the other day; it was eaten so quickly that I didn't even get  a picture of it!  Michigan grows a wide assortment of apple varieties and they are so tasty, we don't even add sugar to our pies.  In honor of the first day of Autumn last week, I also baked some pumpkin spice shortbread cookies and rolled them out with the bunny-embossed rolling pin I bought myself last Christmas.   I need to bake more cookies, I thought these were so cute!  The recipe made 20 cookies, which didn't last long around here!  I think I will try to use the bunnies with my chocolate butter cookie recipe and take a batch over for my kids.  I miss spending time with them so much, but maybe dropping off cookies will seem to them like the next best thing!

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Chilling

Our little trip to Ludington was very nice.  We found outdoor eateries for dinner, and ate the food we brought with us in our room for breakfast.  Ludington, which has had very low infection numbers, was fairly militant about the mask requirement.  Virtually every store and elevator had a sign advising that they would call the police if you refused to wear one.  So we felt comfortable there and were able to maintain a more than safe distance from the few people we saw.  The attitude was so different from our local scene, where the infection rates are much higher, but people (including store owners) are claiming that their "individual rights" are being trampled on by the governor's executive orders about masks.  Petitions are circulating to restrict her powers even though there is clear evidence that our state has fared better during this pandemic than states where no mask edicts were attempted.  In Ludington, the streets were mostly empty.  But we felt safe going into the shops that caught our eye; the business motto was "stay safe to stay open," which seemed both friendlier and more sensible to us.  

The weather was not especially warm, but lovely all the same.  We had some sun each day and it never got colder than the mid 60s in the day time, although there was sometimes a stiff breeze by the water.  For our outdoor dining, I was comfortable in a long sleeve shirt, sometimes adding a light fleece jacket.  






Since Ludington is on the west side of the state, we went to the beach each evening, hoping to watch a sunset.  Although the days seemed clear, and the sun began setting as usual, it would disappear before reaching the horizon, just below the position in the picture below.   We read in the news that the smoke from the western wildfires had reached Michigan, and we speculated that the sun was being covered by a smokey haze.  All we knew for sure was that it disappeared from view about an hour before sunset.

                                                

On the morning we left to return home there was a freeze warning, and when we ate lunch outdoors that day, we were both very cold even though the restaurant placed a propane heater next to our table.  For that meal, I wore two sweatshirts and a jacket and still felt uncomfortable, and even Jack, who rarely seems to feel the cold, was chilled.  Today, as I write this in the middle of the day, it is about 45 degrees outside.  We started a fire in our fireplace this morning and I am having trouble wrapping my mind around the onset of colder weather -- if it were not for the pandemic, this might be the year I would try to convince Jack to go south for a bit when the weather gets really cold.  This year it feels like there are fewer options.  I will cook a pot of chili this weekend to have with our fresh baked bread, trying to make the best of the best part of lower temperatures.  It is only September still, so I know we will have warmer weather again this year and I will have more time to adjust to the idea.  

I never felt completely relaxed on this trip and I blame the political news that kept creeping in for that.    I disabled my Facebook and Twitter accounts before we left,  and it has been a struggle not to go back in to check them.   There seems to be no avoiding the headlines, and of course the neighbors have political signs on their lawns and the balance of those is troubling.

Even so, it was good to get away, and good to return home.  We will self-isolate now for a couple of weeks to be sure we didn't pick up any illness on our adventure, but we are pretty confident that this was a safe trip.  

Our local quilt shop/Babylock dealer called this morning to say that my embroidery machine repairs are complete.  They offer curbside service so we will pick that up this afternoon.  And since I cleaned the house before we left and did our laundry the night we returned, I should have plenty of time to sew tomorrow!

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Getting Away

I disengaged my Facebook and Twitter accounts this week.   It was a surprisingly difficult decision and I am already missing social media a surprising amount.  Facebook, especially, is where I keep up with cousins and friends who I have not seen in person for years, and even my children post photos  and milestones there that I would not otherwise see.   But the political postings were making me crazy, especially seeing people I know post things that seem to me objectively false and yes, I'll say it, stupid, was taking the fun out of it.  I would have had no idea, absent Facebook, that so many people I know are Trump supporters who support things that are anathema to me; I will never look at them the same again, and it is hard for me to figure at this point whether that is good riddance or a sad loss.  And the final straw was when a random stranger, apparently a "Facebook friend" of an actual friend, told me I was a c--t and should shoot myself after I "liked" my friend's political content.  That is not the kind of social life, virtual or otherwise, that I am willing to accept into my life.  And so the withdrawal begins.

It is chilly again this week, going into the 30s and 40s at night and into the 60s or low 70s during the day.  We are already talking about adding another blanket to our bed, something my husband resists more strenuously than I do since I am always cold anyway.   Our house is surrounded by oak trees and the acorns are falling, the rat-a-tat-tat of them falling on our roof increasing every day.  And the deer are grazing up closer to the house again, perhaps drawn by the acorns.

                                                

Traditionally this time of year, with the children back in school and teachers back at work, signals a slowing down of travel and fewer crowds in tourist areas, so we decided to drive a couple hours west to Lake Michigan for a few days.   We have often stayed at the old Stearns Hotel in Ludington, simple accommodations in the first hotel built in the area in 1903, and recently found out that they have rooms equipped with a kitchenette,  (gas) fireplace and sitting area in case we need to keep entirely to ourselves.  I packed a bag of fruit and cheese and wine, and cereal bars for morning, to tide us over until we figure out whether we can find outdoor dining or whether we need to find a market for food.  Some people hate the hotel because it is old and a bit shabby, but it is clean and we love the high ceilings and plaster details.  

                                    

Although the weather is too cold to really enjoy the beach today, the lake has a calming effect on me, and I hope to drink it in with my eyes until it smooths out the wrinkles in my mind.

Sunday, September 6, 2020

Labor Day Weekend

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This week it feels as if summer is gone for good.  It has been cold and often rainy and I have used a quilt to cover myself every time I sat for any length of time.   It has been a strange week, too, as the construction company was finally able to complete our new roof, blocking us into the house and garage for hours at a time.  It was strange to me that I chaffed at being blocked in even though I didn't need to go anywhere;  I just like having the option, I guess.

The cooler weather seems to have given me a bit more energy, although my feet still hurt enough that I cannot walk or stand for any length of time without discomfort.   I roasted and pureed half a bushel of tomatoes to freeze, stripped a pile of corn on the cob to freeze for winter soups, made a delicious vegetable soup with all the leftovers, and did a variety of other neglected kitchen tasks.  I am still baking bread at least weekly and we cannot imagine ever going back to "store bought" at this point.

In the sewing room, I finally got to work on the two "quarantine" lap quilts I have wanted to make for my grandchildren as Christmas gifts and was making good progress until my embroidery machine threw the embroidery foot and lodged a needle somewhere deep down below the bobbin mechanism, freezing the machine and forcing me to stop.  Since the quilt shop/Babylock dealer is closed down for the holiday weekend and still has limited hours because of the pandemic, this will stop me cold for at least a couple of weeks.  Although I am not happy about this since it has taken me months to get motivated, there is plenty of other sewing work for me to do if I can just keep the momentum going.

I arranged some of Jack's furniture downstairs near the wood burning fireplace which I finally had inspected but we still haven't lit.  We have gas logs in the upstairs fireplace and they are so convenient that I am spoiled by the ability to just turn a knob and have a fire.  But I have fantasies of having our families here with fires going in both rooms so that people can spread out and visit.  I do not expect that will happen this winter because the virus numbers are still so volatile, but at least the fireplace rooms will be ready.

Which is not to say that the house itself is "ready."  This is a big house, much bigger than we need or even wanted. We bought it because it is in the city, near hospitals and shops, but still has a country feel because of all the  trees.   I could easily do without the entire lower level but since it's there, we really need to get it organized.  Oh, and the sewing room; we really need to get that organized, too, and I have no excuse for not doing it.  It could easily be another year before we are really 'moved in' in any truly meaningful way.  The pandemic has provided the opportunity, but not the motivation, so the work still waits to be done.

My sister was finally released from the rehab facility a day ago, even though she is far from well.  She still tests positive for the virus and has been warned that she is still at high risk for heart attack or stroke and advised to spend her time sitting except when the visiting nurse stops by to help her with mild physical therapy.  She is happy to be home, but since we cannot visit her, I am more anxious now that there is no one always there with her. She told me that she woke up last night, for instance, and did not know where she was, and fortunately did not cause herself any harm when she tried to get out of the bed on the wrong side, thinking she was in the hospital.   Her son lives nearby so she is not uncared for, but I do not like being so far away.

I have been slow to hang pictures or photos in this house because I was waiting for Jack's furniture and also to purchase the few pieces that we know we will want to replace.  But I finally went ahead and hung a number of family photos just because I miss them all and we are enjoying them even more than we might have in other years.  I smile every time I look at the sweet faces of my grandchildren, and seeing our children and siblings also warms my heart.   I think I will start hanging other things on the walls now that I realize how much more homey it makes things feel and how much it lifts our spirits.





Now that we have an outdoor grill and are cooking outside a bit, we set up an old wrought iron table and chairs so that we can eat outdoors when the weather is pleasant.  We bought a chiminea this week and enjoyed our first outdoor fire, using for fuel the many small branches that our trees provide with every storm.  



I am planning to brave going out for a haircut this week!     The salon I go to is careful about limiting the number of people they allow in at one time, and careful about wearing masks and keeping as much distance as possible, but I am still more nervous than I'd like.  I am not sure when my mountain-man spouse will choose to do the same.  By contrast, the Barber shops near us where Jack might go are less careful, so Jack is in no hurry.   Fine with me.

Best news of all, my son's family is planning to stop over for an hour this weekend to visit.  It will be a short visit by plan, and we will stay outside and use masks and distance, because they are back working "in the world" and they are afraid of accidentally bringing the virus to us, especially after our scare with my sister.  I am so eager to see them, this will be a definite high point and will sweeten summer's passing.    



Sunday, August 30, 2020

Summer's End

Where has the summer gone?   I ask that every year, I suppose, but this time I really mean it.   I spent so much time indoors, left the house so rarely, and had nary a barbecue or swimming day or even a day trip.   The pandemic ruined everyone's plans.  But we are healthy so far, so really there are no complaints.   It is just strange.

Except for missing my family, a lot, this has not been a bad year for me.  I am a homebody at heart, and quite content to putter around with little sewing and cooking projects.  I continue to bake our bread and last week decided that I had put aside enough stale bits and pieces to make a small bread pudding, which was a treat with the traditional decadent bourbon sauce.  I roasted some tomatoes with a red pepper and made a delicious tomato soup, which I hope to do again before summer is over.  And I baked -- but did not get to taste -- a Boston cream pie (which is, of course, a cake) to drop off for my daughter-in-law's birthday.  It is her favorite and definitely one of mine. (The wonky candles in the cake are placed to hold a protective wrap while I drive 25 miles to take it to her!)



I sewed a tote bag -- I might even keep this one -- and am nearly done with another table runner, and now I am slowly working on the squares for a quilt.  I certainly don't push myself, so I have little to show for a summer's worth of free time.


My grands were scheduled to go back to school "hybrid" style, partly in person and partly on line.  But the local infection numbers went up again and so they are both starting school entirely in a virtual classroom until and unless things settle down.  The few schools where they did go ahead and open classrooms have had numerous infections.  I have nieces and a nephew going to a small religious school with in-person classes, I will be curious to see how that works out.  Of course, they and their family have been out and about all summer; in fact, I secretly suspect (although we will never know) that they are the ones who infected my sister.

(Yes, I know that my text is suddenly and inexplicably centered on the page.  The new Blogger is annoyed with  me for some reason, but I am going to take the high ground and pretend I haven't noticed, hoping it will tire of the torture.)

My sister continues to improve, but still has lingering effects from her Covid-19 diagnosis.  The virus  has lodged in her lungs and brain and, besides the "fog" that is apparently typical of the virus, she has had a continuous migraine headache for the past twenty days.  As of yesterday they may finally have found a combination of medications that give her some relief; it is too soon to tell.  They do not know if or when the various complications will resolve themselves, but they are hopeful that it will eventually  happen.  She is still in isolation in a rehab facility and, now that she can safely walk by herself from chair to bathroom and back again, they plan to release her as soon as she has a negative Covid test.  She is not well enough to cook or do even light housekeeping, and she and her son have still not discussed a discharge plan.  I have suggested that she consider coming (2 hours) north and staying with us since her grandchildren, son and daughter in law are out in the world and, judging from the Facebook photos of them with friends, often not masked.  Her family has remained well so their lifestyle seems to be working for them, but she is at higher risk because of underlying conditions, and the doctors cannot guarantee that she will have any lasting immunity.  As she reminds me in our daily texts, I hate not being in charge but her son is going to be the decision maker in this.

We had expected to have a new roof put on earlier this summer but contractors have been busy doing emergency work as a result of the flood this spring.  Things are settling down and our roofers tell us they hope to start on our job this week, which I suspect will be an adventure.  The job involves replacing our five skylights, one of which is directly over our bed.  We will cover everything with tarps and move to the guest room but I am curious to see what our bedroom will look like, open to the heavens.  I just hope that a lot of dead bugs and crud don't fall and fly in before the job is done.  I am not a fan of dead bugs and crud.

After the roof is done, Jack and I would like to get away for a few days, just for a change of scenery, so I have been exploring the internet for options.  I discovered that a hotel we like near Lake Michigan has a kitchenette-room  and we are toying with the idea of going there mid-week sometime soon.  We can take our own food and keep to ourselves, going to the lake if it is not too crowded.  It's a big lake with a lot of shore, so we are pretty confident that we can find a place with the requisite distance.  We are both too immersed in the  political news to relax these days, and a few days away from internet sounds like a good plan to me.  Fingers crossed that all goes well enough for us to take a little time being even lazier than usual.


Saturday, August 22, 2020

Moving In and Moving Forward

Oh my gosh, after a year of living here,  my husband finally moved in!  Or at least, he finally moved his furniture in.   Since we had agreed that we would live with our existing furniture for at least six months before we decided what to replace or discard or do without, we are a little behind schedule, I think.  Jack teased me all week that now that he has "moved in,"   it is official now and too late for me to back out of the marriage.  I think we're both okay with that.  I worked hard this week to move furniture around and create a little order.  We have dressers -- finally -- for our clothing, and I was able to set up furniture in our 'family room.'  There is still lots to do, but we feel like we are finally making a little progress.  Best of all, I was able to do the work without re-injuring myself!

I got a little bit of sewing done this week.   My little bit included sewing through the tip of my finger -- again.   This time I missed the nail, though, so it was a more minor injury, but still makes me squeamish to even think about.   There is no excuse for it, especially since my "purple thang" sits right next to the machine for those times that I just have to smooth the fabric as I sew.  I know I will remember not to put my fingers near the needle as long as it remains sore, I just need to keep remembering after it is all healed!


We discovered a local grass-fed beef farm recently and since our freezer finally arrived after a year of trying to buy one, we bought a 1/4 side of beef this week.  Over 85 pounds of dressed meat; we don't expect to starve this winter, and I liked buying from a family farm.  Jack was so excited about it that he ordered a gas grill, which will be delivered mid week.  We are not accustomed to grilling so we started with a basic model, and will upgrade if we find we are using it a lot.  I also found a local farm that raises free range chickens and turkeys, and we will be trying those out soon.  I missed feeling comfortable enough to go to the farmers' market much this summer, so I need to watch for a couple of roadside stands, too, although that is difficult when I so rarely leave the house. 

My sister Marilyn is slowly recovering from the corona virus; she was moved to a rehabilitation facility this week. She will remain there in isolation until she is strong enough to return home and until after she has two negative Covid tests.  She was able to walk yesterday for the first time, a short walk in an adjacent hallway.  She has lost over 20 pounds in the past two weeks.  On the same day that Marilyn went into the ER, another close relative (not my daughter this time) overdosed on heroin.  They needed to use 3 narcan injections and CPR to resuscitate him.  After staying briefly in the hospital, he is currently in a different kind of rehabilitation facility.

The acorns are falling steadily and we are seeing deer more often out back.  Today it is sunny and warm, a beautiful day.  But winter is coming.


Thursday, August 6, 2020

Moody

Jack and I are still healthy, we are still (too) well fed, and we are still comfortable, while it seems like the world around us is continuing to suffer and fall apart.  I have had a few forced contacts with the outside world, with the doctor's office that is treating my shoulder and foot, with my physical therapist, and now with the dentist who will need a second visit to repair a tooth that broke for no apparent reason.   People tease that things come in groups of three and I hope this is the end of it for awhile, because sometimes I feel like I might be falling apart.

I find myself blaming the pandemic for everything.   I would not have broken my foot if the regular lawn guys had been able to do the spring cleanup (the pandemic's fault);  I've probably been grinding my teeth without realizing it (pandemic), leading to the broken tooth.   My shoulder recovery was delayed when the physical therapy places had to close (pandemic).  I miss my family (the pandemic's fault), I have not been to the farmers' market even once this summer so we haven't been able to enjoy the usual local produce (pandemic), and I am eating way too much sugar (hmmm).   

And life in general is making me feel old.  We've been notified of two more deaths in our 'circle' of acquaintances this year since Dr. Cranky died; an old friend on Sanibel Island died of the virus, and our dear friend Pat died this week of ALS.   Although only the one  died of Covid-19, I blame the pandemic for all of it.   We are both taking Pat's death especially hard, because we could only stay in touch with notes and texts and little care packages most of this year instead of the visits we all wanted.  We have been so isolated from our friends.  And of course we can't even gather to celebrate the lives lost.  

We are all being robbed of so much, and it would be nice if we didn't feel like the government's mismanagement was making it all so much worse.   That distrust and difference of belief leads to further isolation and distance from people we once thought of as friends.  My grandkids are missing out on so many educational opportunities that they had hoped for; the orchestra cannot function, the math and robotics programs have been stalled, and music camps were closed.  No one knows whether school will really start at the end of the month, and few of us are convinced that it should.  I am missing my grands.  I miss their parents, too.  And I miss seeing my brother and sister.  My sister took a Covid test yesterday after weeks of headaches, and I have no way of knowing how much to worry because I can't see her, so I am worrying a lot.  Jack and I are fine and our kids and grandkids are fine; but although not a thing is presently really wrong, life has lost a lot of its savor, it has lost its hopefulness, at least for the moment.

So.  Shake it off.  The squirrels and chipmunks in our  yard are flourishing.  Our trail cam tells us that the raccoon family is still traveling together and visiting at night.  A doe ran through the yard one early morning this week and the acorns are just beginning to fall.  Nothing stays the same, and neither will my mood or the state of the country and world.

The weather here has been beautiful the last couple of days, temperatures in the low 70's with sunshine.   This week's big bouquet of fresh flowers from my husband is beautiful, and I made ice cream last night.   My life is good and I am spoiled; I resent having it changed by a virus, the selfish behavior of others, and stupid politicians.    I cannot even imagine the feelings of those who have lost family and jobs and homes.   I have reached the point where masked faces look beautiful to me, and the uncovered ones in public appear obscene.  But life goes on.  I saw a katydid in the yard today and it made me smile, I can't remember when the last time was that I noticed one.   I need to remember that all this slowing down has its upside, too, at least for the fortunate ones like me.