Thursday, December 31, 2020

Fingers Crossed for 2021


Except for a few teenagers who got their first drivers' licenses or first serious girl/boyfriends this year, no one I know has had anything good to say about 2020.  And while we all know that expecting things to change at the turn of a calendar page is superstition, pure and simple, the new year does seem a natural time to reflect and evaluate this arbitrary time frame we call 2020.

In my life things are as good as anyone in their right mind could hope, and have been all year.  Even so, looking back, it doesn't look good.  From my shoulder surgery in January, to my brother's broken back at the end of February, to the Covid quarantine that kept us from our families starting in March, to my sister's hospitalizations in August, September, October and December, and her ongoing side effects from Covid-19,  to the many relatives on Jack's side who have been diagnosed with the virus, things have been tough.   And frankly, since there is no bright line between 'then' and 'now', I consider myself an optimist by merely hoping that things will get no worse.  And so, as I have been telling those who ask, my resolution for 2021 is to do the best I can to stay alive. Nothing more.   If the people I love will do the same, it will be a very good year, indeed.  Anything else good that comes my way will be the cherry on the cake.

Happy New Year.  Stay safe out there.

Sunday, December 27, 2020

Lovely and Sad

According to the calendar, it was Christmas this week and, given that we are in the middle of a pandemic that is getting worse instead of better, it was as good as good could be.   Which is to say, it was sad and filled with longing, but also filled with moments of joy, and those are the parts that I need to hold onto.  We are, after all, living through the first pandemic where we could see and talk to our families on Zoom instead of just communicating by letter every few months, and that was the saving grace of the day.  I can't imagine how hard it would be to be out of touch for weeks at a time.  I had a wonderful visit with my son, my daughter in law and my grands as we opened gifts and talked and laughed.  Gosh, I love them all so much.  It felt so good to be 'together,' even virtually, although of course it also highlighted how far apart we are.  I ache to hug them and I warned them that when things 'open up again,' they should just plan to do things with me 24 hours a day for the foreseeable future, because I  have a lot of catching up to do!  

We also did a Zoom meet with Jack's kids -- they had asked him to not open any gifts from them until the meeting, and of course we complied with that (as we had also done with my family).  It was interesting, especially in one respect  -- although Jack insisted that I help open them, there were no gifts for me, although of course I had been very much a part of choosing the gifts (and helping decide the budget) from us to them, including making a quilt for his daughter and embroidered towels for his DIL.   I am giving up on the idea that we will ever be close and am surprisingly at peace with it.    I did not like my mother's second husband at all and so, although lord knows I always included him in gift-giving and celebrations, I can understand where they are coming from.  Still, it was a little sad, and will take more effort for me to try to be loving to them going forward.

My grands seemed happy with their Quarantine quilts and said lots of nice things about them to me; my daughter in law (whom I think of as more than a daughter) told me they never questioned the color of the backing as far as she knew.  They are so grown up now.  I am sure they wondered but it clearly did not spoil things for them and I was grateful for that.  She also told me that my grandson texted a photo of his to his girlfriend, which I saw as the Gold Star of approval.

Other than the Zoom gatherings with my family and Jack's, the two of us had a quiet day home together.  I made an almond pastry and sausage for breakfast, and I stuffed a boneless chicken for dinner -- I bought a few chickens from our local poultry farm and bought one of their deboned chicks on a whim.   I will definitely buy them again, it really was pretty amazing to be able to just slice the roasted chicken and stuffing all at once into a neat little serving size!  I didn't have any kitchen twine so the stuffing was a bit messy one one end, but the next chicken will be tied up in a neat little package and I think it will make a nice presentation.  We spent so much time on Zoom that I never had time to set the table as nicely as I had planned, but that is not the sort of thing Jack would even have noticed, so there was no point stressing about it.

Now, even though it is a week away, my mind is obviously turning in the direction of the New Year because I am already thinking along the lines of resolutions, although I am doing things a little differently this year.  I signed up to do a Secret Santa project for 2011.   At some point I will be given the name of another sewer/crafter and I have committed to making one small gift every month for them, and then mailing them all at once, in time to be opened on Christmas morning.  Some stranger will do the same for me.  I am a little nervous about it because some of the women who were in the group last year made some pretty cool stuff, but I think it will be fun and hopefully will get me to try some new ideas.  There will be a theme every month involving nature, as well as a suggested skill.  The January theme is “winter walk” and the skill suggestion is trapunto, a puffy style of quilting.  I am already working on a trapunto star in glisten-y fabric that I plan to make into a small pillow (because a winter walk makes me think of the way snow sparkles in the sun), and I am hoping to make a pair of mittens to go with it.  I have never done trapunto and I have never made mittens, so I feel like I’m off to a good start (but I plan to cheat on the trapunto and use the embroidery machine to do it.  Not even January and I'm already cutting corners!).  I also signed up to be part of a group where we commit to finishing a dozen projects that we started and put aside — and of course I have MANY of those.  We will number our UFOs from one to twelve, and then every month the leader will draw a random number and that is the project we will complete, sharing photos at the end of the month.    I am hoping this idea will help me get more done next year than I did this year.  A long shot but worth a try.


I suspect that New Year's Eve will be bittersweet.  It is my tradition to spend that evening with my son and Jen and the grands for chocolate fondue and Jack has joined in for the last few years.  It is always a joyous celebration that generally involves food, fondue, Christmas crackers and games.  This year, of course, we will not be together and I am already feeling sad about it.  But, chocolate fondue or not, a new year will begin and we are certainly ready for that.  I hope to spend this week tying up a few loose ends from 2020, and then I will be happy to kick this most disappointing year to the curb.


Friday, December 18, 2020

Binding Time

We are still just staying home so nothing is really new to report, but I have made some small progress in the sewing room.  Although I was told not to expect them until next year, the Fed Ex guy brought me the six small quilts I sent out to be quilted a few months ago.   I have always put the binding on my quilts myself, and I was dreading it this time because hand stitching is barely possible for me these days and, even when I try, it is not pretty.  It always seems like such a shame to put so much effort and money into a quilt and then mess up the binding, which I have done repeatedly.  But the quilts are not much good to anyone with unfinished edges, so I decided to just get them done and over with machine binding.

Quilt number one went the way they always do.  Not well.  Although it doesn't look bad "from the back of a galloping horse," as they say, the machine top stitch is not only messy but, in some cases, had to be doubled.  I have set it aside for now, but this is a binding that I need to consider ripping out.  Although I am toying with the idea of just going over it with a contrasting decorative stitch instead, to obliterate the mess that I've already made.  Or just leaving it alone.

But then I found both a new product and a new tutorial, and now I have the first three machine edged quilts EVER that I am pretty happy with.

The product is called "chenille-it" and it creates a cute, fluffy edging that I love.  I simply sewed layers of the 5/8" flat binding onto both sides of the quilt edges (which we first serged to prevent fraying), tossed it in the washer and dryer and voila, a pretty cute result.



(WHAT was I thinking when I chose that blue backing for this orange and yellow quilt?!  I was looking for a bright pop of contrast and I sure got it!)  I like the old fashioned cozy look that this binding gives the quilts.  It comes in lots of colors and I will be experimenting with it more going forward.

I also found a tutorial on flange binding and am really happy with the result of this binding, too.  The prep work takes more time than a regular binding would, but my first effort wasn't half bad.  I like the look of it and plan to use it again.  It doesn't show so well in the photo because the navy edge blends in too much with the brown chair, but that little pop of color on the inner edge of the binding makes me happy.  Best of all, it hides the machine stitching pretty well.  


I wish I had discovered these techniques before I finished the Grands' Quarantine quilts because those, like every quilt before them, have sloppy edges.  But at least the quilts I make for next year's Christmas will hopefully show some progress.  :)

Aside from sewing, it's been a slow week.  Jack sent flowers again, they do add a bright spot in these more dreary days.  The florist has been trending to red and white this month, with touches of red berries, pine branches and pine cones, which I especially enjoy.   And I made the pancetta-broccoli quiche recipe that I got from my friend Barbara at Cat Patches -- we both loved it and it will be a welcome addition to our supper routine!  No danger of us starving any time soon.  :)




Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Second Anniversary

Jack and I quietly celebrated our second wedding anniversary this week.  We took little note of the first and this year we had no choice but the celebrate without fanfare.  After missing the boat entirely last year we had promised each other, at a minimum, a nice dinner out, but those plans, like so many others, were changed by the pandemic.  At first I planned to cook but we decided that we would order a carryout meal for dinner instead.  That way I wouldn't have to fuss and we would be able to support a local business, even if a carry out meal is never quite as good as either a restaurant or home cooked meal.  But even that was not so easy because we discovered that our first and second choice restaurants are entirely closed.  So we settled on one of the only places open for take out, a local smokehouse.  Although I set place settings on the table, we ended up eating out of the provided containers because it seemed like moving the food to a plate was only going to make it less hot than it already was.  I wore the dress I was married in and we added a candle and a bottle of wine to dinner and called it  good.   A second anniversary, we learned from Mr. Google, calls for cotton or china gifts.  I created a piece of cotton fabric from scraps for a card and embroidered element 2 (Helium) from the periodic table onto a cotton shirt for my chemical engineer husband.    Jack gave me a china ornament for our tree.


I suppose like all marriages, ours seems both longer and shorter than two years.  I suppose it seems shorter because we have been nearly constant companions since 2012.  I guess it seems longer because we are well settled in, and because there have already been a fair number of changes.   In these two years, after over a year of my providing our only transportation,  Jack started driving again after being "grounded" after his strokes.  I sold my house and we bought another, but many of our plans for this house are still on hold; the huge flood that impacted much of our area and neighborhood has put workmen in short supply.  One of our wedding guests went onto hospice care, went back off again, and is doing well, against all odds.     One of the couples who attended our wedding is married now, and one guest, sadly, has been widowed..  Two of the children who were guests are now driving, and one was invited to join a national soccer team.  My grandchildren, who played cello and violin at our wedding, have gotten even more proficient but their orchestra has had to stop meeting because of the pandemic.  Jack's daughter got pregnant earlier this year, a quarantine baby, after he had all but given up on ever having a grandchild of his own.   We took a few mini trips to see family and a weekend at Lake Michigan, but no major traveling happened because of a variety of family illnesses and emergencies and now no plans can be made until  Covid-19 is under control.   I've damaged and repaired a variety of body parts, and several of our children have had a variety of upsets and changes, good and bad.  All in all, like all of life, these two years get a mixed review.  We are happy together, but being apart from our families has been hard.  There are, I'll admit, things from my 'single' life that I sometimes miss.  But I am not unhappy where I am, either, and I can't imagine being with anyone else.




Sunday, November 29, 2020

Thankful


We had a strange but Happy Thanksgiving week.  We visited a local farmer to purchase our turkey, which had lived happily on their farm until the day before.  I would not have bothered with a 20 pound turkey for just us, but Jack lobbied hard for us to have a whole turkey and all the fixings at our dinner-for-two.  I predict that will be a lot of turkey tetrazzini and turkey pot pie in our future, but he says he enjoys turkey enough to make it worth it for him.  Jack prepared the turkey and stuffing for us, and I confess to more than a moment of regret that he hadn't wanted me to cook, because I enjoy my cooking SO much more than his.   I needed to remind myself more than once that my cooking probably doesn't taste like traditional Thanksgiving to him any more than his does to me!    We skipped most of the sides we would normally have had, and didn't make any dessert at all,  to avoid the sheer volume of food, and I missed those a lot.  All in all, this was not a Thanksgiving menu to remember.

On Thanksgiving morning I made cranberry sauce, cranberry relish and yeast rolls to drop off at my kids' house for their Thanksgiving dinner.  Also included in my delivery was a box of cocoa bombs, a quart of locally made "wake up" coffee/mocha ice cream, and four advent calendars.  One of the calendars was filled with make-up for my granddaughter, one filled with cheese for my grandson, an advent doggie treat calendar for Allie, and an advent wine assortment for the adults.   I am clearly making up for not being with them by filling their house with reasons to think of me.   Silly, but it helps me feel a little more connected.    They sent home a couple of items they were having for Thanksgiving so that we could all feel like we had shared a meal.

The next day we bought an iPad and drove it up to my brother, a couple hours north of us.  With virus numbers getting worse, we wanted to have him ready and able to meet with us on Zoom or Google Meet so that we can continue to stay in  faux-touch until family gatherings are okay again.   His old computer won't handle virtual meetings so we decided to take action and I think he was pleased.    I took along a little tabletop tree that lights up; my brother has not had a christmas tree in a decade or more but confessed to me last year that he misses it, so, although he won't be surrounded by physical family this year, at least he will have a tree and know that he is in our thoughts.  

Meanwhile, here at home, the stockings are hung by the chimney with care . . .  and our holiday season is ready to begin.  

Jack, who would ignore christmas altogether if I would let him, didn't lift a finger to help with decorating the tree and he won't give any input on what holiday foods to make or gifts to buy.  My revenge is underway -- we take turns choosing a movie each evening, and all my movies from now until the end of the month will be holiday movies.  The ones we've watched so far have been awful, but I told him he has only himself to blame!

My birthday is this week,  and I am planning to make myself a cake today, something I have never done before.  Jack wanted to make or buy one for me but I decided that I want a cake that I will really enjoy and not waste calories on being polite, so the obvious solution is to make it myself!  Honestly, I wish I had thought of doing this years ago, especially because there were many years when my birthday passed by without notice, but perhaps I was too willing to remain silent and feel sorry for myself.  Jack is a big fan of birthdays and so the self-pity-plan hasn't been an option these last several years, and I've discovered that I like it!  I also bought myself a quilting advent calendar and one filled with candles-- another thing I've never done, although I have bought a lot of advent calendars for other people! -  so I am ready to celebrate for the next month, to make up a little for the isolation this year.    Our anniversary is on the 8th (2 years!) and Jack's birthday is on the 23rd -- both reasons to celebrate but so far I have no ideas for either.  Normally we would probably schedule a nice dinner out and maybe a weekend away, but neither of those are options this year.  I need to come up with a menu to prepare at home for the 8th and something fun for Jack's birthday, so it's time for me to get those creative juices flowing!

Friday, November 20, 2020

Mid-November

Our national election mess continues to disappoint.  I am amazed daily at how thin a facade of democratic principles our elected politicians had and how easily and publicly that facade has been damaged.

I have been keeping busy with little tasks, continuing our quiet life of isolation.  I bought a stamped embroidery sampler and a random assortment of carded embroidery floss from an etsy shop called Dropcloth.  If I finish the sampler, as I hope, it will be sewn into four little ornaments.  My hands are so frozen up by carpel tunnel and arthritis that even a few stitches are enough to start them burning.  It is frustrating; I used to do some pretty nice embroidery, if I do say so myself, and made several large pieces, but of course I gave them all away.  Now it is a challenge even to hold a needle still in numb fingers long enough to thread it, and my stitches, when I do try to make the effort, are uneven and disappointing because they are generally made with nerveless fingers.   But the Dropcloth samplers, which I first saw on Spiral, really spoke to me because there is something primitive and non-judgmental about them.  The artist says in her post,  "I used back stitch, couching, and french knots, but you can choose your own stitches to suit your own taste."  Somehow that simple permission, which I should have given myself long ago, was enough to convince me to put in the order.  I am stitching away now, using mostly running and back stitch and stopping about every six inches of thread, but it is giving me something new to do when I don't feel much like doing anything.  

Today, as I have been threatening my husband, I put up our christmas tree. I know it is awfully early, but it is that kind of year.   I have not decorated it yet (it is fake and prelit), or hung stockings; I will wait a bit for that, but now I have the fairy lights near the fireplace where I can enjoy both for the next few weeks.  



And although it is warm-ish today and not Christmas weather at all, I picked up some "cocoa bombs" from a local candy maker who works out of her home.  I haven't tried them yet, but the idea is to place one of these candies into a mug of hot milk (or almond milk, in my case) and the chocolate melts into a chocolaty drink while the melted sphere releases a handful of mini marshmallows.  I bought them for my grands, of course, but I will keep one or two to try myself and I am looking forward to it!   Even if the idea is cuter than the result turns out to be, this is exactly the kind of little thing that makes me feel pampered.

Speaking of being pampered, November is my birthday month and Jack has already surprised me with flowers.  It's funny, this is a month I have dreaded for most of my life, but he has put the fun back into it.  Living with him has turned me into something out of a high school musical, I find myself singing and dancing around the house with no care for how I look or sound.  I have never behaved that way before unless I was alone or with my young children, so perhaps I am regressing.   It is not, I think, that we are deliriously happy, it is more that we are deliriously comfortable.  Whatever the reason, I like it, and he likes it, too.   I suspect that other men in my life would have enjoyed this freer me, but those relationships somehow never sparked the trust that made it possible.   I hope young people find it sooner, seventy years is a long time to wait.

Our backyard continues to provide a limited entertainment that truly brings us joy.  We had a visit this week from a pileated woodpecker, a fairly rare sighting in our yard although we know there are many of them in mid Michigan, just not usually within the city limits.  We also had a hawk stop by and window-shop our bird feeders.  I did not see him strike, but he got a good look at our rodent and songbird buffet.  It will be there all winter because we keep our feeders full when the weather is cold.  We have not seen deer since hunting season began, but we are sure they are out there.  There is no hunting behind us but if I were a deer I wouldn't trust us, either.    I put some "deer candy" out to try to tempt and comfort the city deer, but it appears that they are either watching their weight or are more into health food.  It was not until after several  hard rains, presumably washing away some of the sweetness, that the squirrels were finally willing to taste the "candy", which consisted of corn and pellets and molasses.   We would like to avoid having any of our local deer starve to death this winter, so I will continue to experiment, as with picky children, to find out what they are willing to eat.  Next up is likely to be sugar beets, a local crop, and hay.  Hopefully we will find something that helps them winter over when the cold temperatures are finally here for good.

                                    

Tomorrow is the three-year anniversary of Jack's strokes.  This is the end of the heightened "danger period" the physicians warned us about.  He will always be a a higher than average risk for another stroke, but we are grateful to have gotten here without further incident.   We have much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving season.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

A Mess

Although the Presidential election was two weeks ago, things have not gotten better yet.  Trump, of course, is still tweeting multiple times a day that he won the election, that the election was rigged, and that the democrats are trying to rob him.  His legal challenges to the election are being dismissed in state after state, but he is not deterred by that.  Today two large national militia groups announced that they will not recognize Joe Biden as president and will not follow any law or directive he passes.   They view themselves, said the founder of the largest militia, as founding fathers, and they are eager "to nullify and resist."  (Militia are illegal in every state, but they continue to grow without interference, another story for another time.)  Meanwhile, Covid-19 infections are doubling in our state every five days, deaths are rising, the hospitals are begging for help, and our governor has put some new restrictions into place.  Our Republican Legislature refused to meet with her to create a pandemic plan; instead, they are planning to try to impeach her for taking steps herself to stem the spread. They are also supporting Trump's claims that there was massive election fraud and vow to "get to the bottom of it."   It is a frightening time and hard to imagine healing this division any time soon.

But here at home things remain calm and bright, even as it appears from the news that the country, and even the state around us is falling apart.  My son's family had a Facetime visit with us this week, something we hope will become a regular habit (something Jack's large family does every week because he was smart enough to start it a dozen years ago), and it was so good to see and hear them.  My grandson told me about his experience as a beginning driver and cello lessons and my granddaughter talked about the art and theater she is doing.   Under the governor's latest order, all of the high schools and colleges in Michigan have gone back to remote learning for at least the next several weeks.  I am glad that my son's family will be able to stay home together for awhile now and keep themselves safer than when they were exposed to many other people during their work and school days.

Because of the pandemic, we will not be getting together tomorrow for my grandson's 16th birthday, although I plan to do a "drive by" to drop off his gifts.  We will not be getting together for Thanksgiving, although I plan to prepare a dish to share with them, just to feel that connection.  It is frustrating for everyone and even more frustrating to feel that our elected government is intent on making this time last longer than it ever needed to because of their rejection of science and common sense.  We already know that we will not be getting together for Christmas.  

Meanwhile, much is good, at least in my little life.    Our home-life is peaceful, which I know from past experience should not be taken for granted.  And we have lots of little joys along the way, including the kindnesses of strangers.

One little joy this week was a delightful package from a child named Grace,  a young Irish artist.  Grace's mother, aside from being mother to five, is an amazing home maker and also an artist, and I have followed her blog, her Instagram and (used to follow her) Facebook accounts for eleven or twelve years.  I saw Grace's Instagram posts because I recognized the connection between the two of them.  Recently Grace awarded me the "prize" of a portrait.  Grace drew my husband of me from a photo that I had on line and I received it, beautifully packaged and with a sweet note, in the mail this week.  She included in the package a set of the 'stickers' she made, and they are also adorable.  Her professional screen name is gracegoldenrose, and she is the sweetest child, no more than 12 years old, I'm sure.  A child with many talents, in a very talented family.  I love being able to cheer her on.   Jack and I plan to have our portrait, which is about 4 by 6 inches in size, framed and we will hang it proudly on our wall.   Everything about this makes me happy.


Another wonderful surprise came at the hands of another person I don't really know.  Last year for my birthday, my son's family gave me a Shipt membership so that I could have my shopping done and delivered while I was recovering from my shoulder surgery.   Once the pandemic took hold, the service became even more valuable to us, because stores were limiting the number of shoppers and neither of us felt comfortable going out more than we had to.  Over time, a couple of the shoppers have proven themselves to be truly amazing at their jobs.  I added notes in my last few grocery orders asking whether the stores had a cheese advent calendar because I'd read that they were going to be available.   One shopper, Melinda, took it upon herself to check every store in the area for the calendar and today she found and delivered it.  Melinda has been a full time shopper for three years and she clearly loves her work.  Although I am not religious, I love advent calendars.   I have given my grands some kind of over-the-top advent calendar each year for the past several years, and I was really hoping to find the cheese one for my grandson so I am happy as a clam to finally have it!   My granddaughter's calendar this year is filled with make-up samples, and it was hard to think of something that my grandson would find amusing, but I think this will do it, even though the cheese itself is unlikely to be very good.  Melinda searched for and found another item on my fantasy wish list, too, 'cocoa bombs' that are dropped in hot milk to make a cup of hot chocolate.  She will be delivering those next week and they will be part of my Thanksgiving delivery to the kids.   Her kindness makes it possible for me to stay out of crowds and still provide fun surprises for my grands,  who are growing up way too fast, so she has been a bright spot for me during these long months of being apart from my family.

So I am ever aware that this is an amazing world with amazing people in it.  I am hoping, despite the state and national news, that we will somehow manage, despite the crazies and science deniers, to let life continue on a mostly even keel, no matter how unlikely it may sometimes seem.


Saturday, November 7, 2020

Things Are Looking Up

Finally, although not truly final, the new outlets have announced the results of the American election, and the results are good.  I am sad that they are not better, because they show a depth of division and a repudiation of so many things that were good in my fantasy America, but I am happy with the result itself.  And after all, we cannot fix what we do not admit, so hopefully, in the long run, this will have been an All Good time.  It is unfortunate that there will likely be a lot of drama before the January inauguration, and probably beyond, but most of that looks meritless at this point.  So yay.

Not much got done this week as I participated in the election by stress eating.  It's important to do one's part.  My sister's friend posted a funny thing about how she was stress eating so much that she might reach 270 (the needed electoral votes) before either candidate did.   My eating habits this week were much the same, and very little sewing got done.  I did use scraps to make a couple of patchwork Christmas stockings, which was fun.  I did not do a careful job because I was simply stress-sewing, but if I ever get actual holiday fabric I might make them again with more care and straighter seams.   For now, they'll do.  I am so clearly not a perfectionist, and while I sometimes regret it, I apparently don't care enough to change.

My embroidery machine is still in the shop -- when I called the other day, a month after taking it in, they told me they've been 'so busy' that they haven't even looked at it yet.  I guess it's a good thing that I've been too lazy to do much sewing, but annoying all the same.  With a machine that is worth more than my old car, I kind of resent them keeping it from me for this long, but there's not much I can do about that.  I am lucky to have a second machine, and I have a long list of things I hope to get working on now that I can stop checking election news!

So that's it for this week.  The cynic in me suspects that the rest of this year is going to feel like it lasts forever and is almost certain to see more attempts to damage our country, our people and our democracy.  But a new year will come, with new leadership.  Today I celebrate the corner we are about to turn.   I think a lot of us are going to have to re-learn how to relax again after this phase is over, but I am looking forward to the opportunity.

Saturday, October 31, 2020

November, The Countdown

This was a baking week.  Of course I made bread, because my husband has become accustomed to having it almost every morning with breakfast.  But I also decided to try out my new mini bundt pans by making a favorite poppy cake recipe.  I should have made it with the new King Arthur's sugar substitute that arrived this week, to keep the calorie count lower, but I went the full-sugar version instead.  I am scheduled to see my doctor in a couple of weeks for my annual well check and he is certain to lecture me about my diet.  So I am making hay while the proverbial sun shines.  My husband likes bread, but let me eat cake.  (Perhaps I secretly wish I were a closet queen after all, although probably not the mistreated Marie Antoinette.  But I digress.)

I made a few more masks this week, using the new adjustable ties that I ordered recently.  I wanted to get them sewn and mailed out so that my family members can try them and give reports.  I have made them so many masks that at this point they are all just humoring me.  But, aside from trying the new ear thingies,  I thought this would be a good time to get a few ready for the holidays.  I already missed using Halloween as a mask-making excuse, so it is time to get to work on the rest of the year.   I do not have a lot of holiday fabric in my stash, but I am finding some.

With infection numbers going in the wrong direction, it is unlikely that holidays will be anywhere near "normal" this year, so festive masks might be one of the few areas where I can display a celebratory mood, however insincere, since it will be hard to feel celebratory if I can't be with my family.  But despite my whining, I know we are lucky.  Jack and I are happy to be together, and we feel sad for people who are finding any excuse to be away from their spouses, suffering from too much togetherness.  

I won the sweetest prize from Denise at Count It All Joy  as part of a Halloween blog hop, and it arrived in the mail this week.  Denise makes adorable little fabric acorns that she tops with real acorn crowns, as well as little candy corn-shaped 'bean bags.'  She sent these, along with beautiful laminated autumn cut-outs and little rhinestone candy corn stick-ons in  a package that also included -- bonus! -- my personal favorite, Riesen caramels.  My husband teases that I would have married caramels if it were an option and he might be right.  What a nice surprise and a colorful little display to celebrate the season.


I sewed a very simple piece last week that I plan to use as a backing; now I just need to put together a quilt top that will fit nicely underneath. I had started on one with a cream background but decided that I don't want cream backed with white, so I need to dig through the stash again.   I am looking forward to seeing how this little experiment turns out.

And autumn is still getting prettier, even though it won't last much longer.  Our house is surrounded by maples and red and other varieties of oak, which is nice since we aren't taking many "color drives" this year.


We have developed the habit of watching a movie every night.  This is more for Jack's benefit than mine, since he likes movies more than I do.  But the deal is that we take turns picking the movie.  Since we've been doing this for a few months now, it is not as easy as it sounds.  And as time goes on, we have started to lean toward romantic comedies, since they are never stressful.  Neither of us likes horror movies, but my tolerance for violence is a lot lower than his.  On the plus side, we have seen some really good (some really bad) and some interesting and thought provoking movies along the way.  The one that Jack hated the most was The Lobster.  And I think he most liked the Netflix documentary My Octopus Teacher.  I liked them both, although Lobster is definitely campy.  I am not sure what I've liked best, but many of them, even the silly ones, have given me things to think about.   We recently watched Life Itself, which has a dark start and a hopeful ending, and I find myself questioning both.  I like movies that make me question.  For sure we are open to suggestions, because choosing things is always stressful for me!

Speaking of stress, daylight savings ends tomorrow -- clocks here will be turned back an hour on November 1st, an added inconvenience that no one enjoys, although I remember walking to school in the dark prior to daylight savings, and that was no fun, either.   The string of hurricanes this year has also added some stress since my daughter in New Orleans.  She is fine, but still doesn't have power since Hurricane Zeta knocked it out two days ago.  Lucky for my peace of mind, I sent her a solar weather radio/flashlight/phone charger that arrived just two days before the storm, but it is still a rough go for her without air conditioning or refrigeration.  I hope our world leaders begin to take a more serious approach to climate change before our coasts are destroyed entirely.

So life goes on.  I am keeping busy, trying to keep my nerves at bay as we get ready to disrupt my sleep schedule with the time change and as we await the election.  We  have a Biden sign on our lawn for the first time ever, and it is not the same sign as many (many) of our neighbors have.  Jack says we are leaving it up, whatever the result; it makes me nervous to realize how little I trust my unknown neighbors or their intentions.  After all, I live in a state where ordinary (very ordinary) people organized a militia, showed up fully armed at the capital, and planned to kidnap our governor.  And so I bake, and sew, and watch romantic comedies, and wait for my children to call.  And when the election is over, I will need to start wrapping my mind around the idea that, before the month is over, my grandson will be 16 and I will be 71.  Good grief.  All in all,  I have a very lucky life; I would like to think we will built a future where other people can be very lucky, too.


Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Third Quarter

It is the last week in October.  In a normal year, I would be buying candy and we would be getting ready for the trick or treaters to come to our door next weekend.  Jack loves seeing the kids, and he always ask them if they have a trick for him, perhaps a joke or a song or a dance to share.  The little ones act shy and he reassures them that they can think about it and bring us their 'trick' on Halloween next year.  Everyone gets candy, of course, no matter how they respond.  But the older ones often surprise me by being excited to have a willing audience, and we have heard jokes and songs, been treated to dances and even a trumpet solo.  This year, of course, we are not encouraging visitors because of the pandemic, and since our front porch is still broken up, it is just as well.  Jack and I have both called the local contractors several times, and so far no one has given us so much as an estimate, so the future of our repair is looking bleak.

We had a rude surprise early this morning when I went to wash my hands and discovered that we had no water.  It was early enough that I really wanted to go back to bed, but instead ran around the house checking all the faucets and making sure we had electricity.  Finally I called the water department and learned that there was a water main break around the corner.  With no shower and no workable bathrooms I found that I also had no hint of a good mood, so my plans to go out and do errands ended right there.  Instead, I sewed some masks and spent more than my usual too-much-time on my computer.  But I did reflect on how lucky we are to have and expect clean, running water when so much of the world has no such expectation.   It bothered me that I couldn't properly wash my hands for over eight hours; what must it by like to live where hand washing is a rare luxury.

Speaking of luxuries, I bought a small table this week from an artists' website, Society6, where Emily Rainsford Ryan, a bloggy friend and Irish artist, has posted her paintings.  The art is available on all sorts of items, from tote bags to masks to furniture, and I chose a little table that will be used for our coffee in the screen room when it gets warm again.  Until then, we will use it in the living room, where we seem to have a constant need for a moveable surface for our laptops.  It is just the touch of whimsey my soul needed this week.

The weather has again been damp and cold.  Birds are crowding the feeders, an endless line of them, constantly in motion.  Blue jays land in numbers on the deck to eat the bits of acorn that the squirrels drop from the trees.  I am mindful that a robin died from the cold last year, sitting on her nest of eggs.  The nature center said that she may have frozen but, just as likely, may simply have not taken in sufficient calories during the day to make it through the cold night.  So now that temperatures are most often in the 30's we are keeping the feeders filled.  The squirrels are in a tizzy, twitching their tails at one another, and coming up to our window to seemingly shake their little fists at us.  One of the errands that had to get done this week was a trip to the feed store so that we can stock up on corn and other grains and seed for our greedy little friends.  Winter is certainly coming.  In  preparation, I had both of our fireplaces checked and cleaned; the gas fireplace looks so much more cheerful now that it has been given some proper attention.  The previous owners neglected it badly and it has taken until now to find someone who was able to come and bring it back up to a good condition.  I was already spending a lot of time in front of the fire, on these chilly days I  settle in front of the fire with coffee and my laptop and sometimes wonder whether I will ever get up.

My musings often seem to take a dark turn these days, maybe they always did.  I was trying to imagine what 'normal life' would be like once the pandemic is under control by way of a vaccine or otherwise.  My Old Normal involved picking up my grandchildren from school a time or two each week, and then spending a little time at their house with them. often merely as a backdrop while they did homework, and sometimes making them dinner. I sometimes drove them to their lessons, and sometimes took them to dinner.   But Joseph, my oldest, starts drivers' training next week, and the pandemic is far from over.  That means that my window of time where they need me for transportation and, therefore, where I am able to move seamlessly into small areas of their lives, is almost closed.  My son sent me a photo of Joseph this week, to show me the new coat he bought.  All I saw in the picture was that he is suddenly more man than boy.  They are growing older and getting even more busy, and while I am delighted about that, I am also sad about the time with them that I have lost.


Sunday, October 25, 2020

Still Staying Home

My sweet granddaughter was in a play this week and, both when the kids auditioned and when the first notices were sent out,  it was billed as an outdoor performance.  I bought tickets for the second night and was very excited at the prospect.  I miss seeing my family.  So much.  A day or so before the play, the drama teacher changed it to an indoor venue.  I understood the decision, no one in their right mind plans outdoor activities here this time of year because the weather is always unpredictable and sure enough, it rained like crazy the day of the first performance and even our high temperatures are on the cold side.  My daughter in law attended the first night's performance and reported back to me.  They sold only 100 tickets in the 700-capacity hall, and people were told to wear masks but, typically, many of them removed them as soon as they took their seats.   No one from the venue reminded people to put the masks back on.  The seating areas were marked to provide distance, but some people were seated less than 6 feet from other patrons.  Her conclusion was that it was a moderately good attempt but still risky; my son advised that I stay home and opined that it had been well intended but poor judgement on the part of the school to hold a public performance at this point in the pandemic.  I struggled with the information all day, but ended up staying home.  I keep telling people we need to follow the science and concluded that I needed to listen to my own preaching, especially at a time when our infection rates are escalating.  I figured that it would be better to remain healthy for future events in the kids' lives than to risk my health over one small event.   But seeing so little of my family makes me sad, and missing even one small play makes me sadder.

I made and sent off another small star quilt to be quilted, this one measured 50 inches square.  I forgot to take a photo after I added the final border, which is blue.  

They are so quick and easy to make but really, I need to stop making little quilts for no reason, I suppose.  When I went through my stash looking for border material, I was horrified to find yards (and yards) of fabric, much of it still in shipping packages, that I had totally forgotten I have.  I could make dozens more small quilts and still not run out of options.   So maybe I should go ahead and make them and then next year give one to everyone I know!   I do have a couple other super simple patterns I am thinking about making this week.  I also sent out a string quilt to be quilted, a ridiculous expenditure to quilt so simple a project, but I did it anyway and am sure I will be happy enough for it when it comes back to me.  None of my quilts are expected back before Christmas, so I am especially happy I got the Grands' quilts back -- they are both wrapped and tagged and waiting to be given, while I continue to work on getting over my disappointment about the wrong colors on their backs. I keep reminding myself that I should never spend (well over) five minutes of worry on something that won't matter in five years, but I am evidently not good at letting go.

We are seeing deer regularly out back as the leaves fall and the view opens up.  As you can see from the photo below, they blend in so well that we hardly notice them until they start moving.   Do you see this one?  He is just behind the fallen tree in the middle of the photo, on the right side of the center.


My daughter, my youngest child, turned 41 this week.  Yikes.   All things considered, she is doing well; this is the first birthday either of us can remember in her adult life when she was (she says and I hope and believe) sober.

So I am thankful for that.  I am also thankful for the many woodpeckers visiting our suet feeders this week, for the wandering deer, and for the cute and cozy socks my husband has been making for me to ward off the morning chill.

To paraphrase what Jack says to virtually everyone he meets, including the kid at the fast food burger place, tell me your size and he'll make you a pair of socks!   It is one of his favorite relaxation activities; the more he has on his mind, the more socks he makes.

It is chilly today and I am being domestic while Jack works outside, taking temporary control over the ever-falling leaves.  I made Snickerdoodle pancakes for breakfast, and have a hamburger veggie soup simmering for dinner, along with a cast iron cheesy pizza.  Comfort food for a lovely autumn day.

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Fall Colors

Colors of all sorts are on my mind this week.  First, since the leaves in our back yard have begun to change color in earnest, Jack and I invited our favorite photographer over to take our pictures again.  Karen has lost so much business this year during the  pandemic because her main income is from wedding photography and large events have been banned all year.  So we decided to at least have her do our photos a couple of times which is, of course, a drop in the bucket but, we figured, better than nothing.  If all her friends chip in a little, maybe it will make enough of a difference to matter.  I am saving our favorite shots for a possible Christmas card, but here is a little sneak preview.   We sure have gotten shaggy this year!  One would never guess from the look of us that it was not all that long ago that Jack worked as a Chemical Engineer and I as an attorney, both for conservative employers.  I confess, I kind of like this throwback to my hippie days!







I finished my Quarantine Quilts for the grands and sent them off to be quilted, but I was in a hurry and made a series of errors.  One big error was that I submitted both identically sized quilts in the same order.  The quilts were returned today and I discovered that somehow I must have mixed up the order numbers, because I ended up with the wrong backing on the wrong quilt.   Since both quilt backs are cuddle material, and both colors are pretty neutral, that might not seem like a major life event, but I am a little sick about it -- Renée just re-did her bedroom in cream colors, so the cream backing was supposed to be on her quilt, but it ended up on Joseph's quilt instead.   Joseph's backing was supposed to be gray, but the gray backing ended up on Renée's quilt.  So frustrating.  Although the quilts are very, very similar, Renée's has just a little sparkle and a little bit of French language, since that is what she is studying, while Joseph's lacks the sparkle and has a bit of Spanish.  And each quilt has borders of their respective high school colors.  So I can't just switch the recipients.   I expect to get them both bound and wrapped this week.   That shouldn't take long because I intend to machine-sew the bindings instead of hand sewing them;  I want them sturdy enough to wash frequently since I hope they will be well used.  After that, I have until Christmas to convince myself that my error won't spoil the gifts because there is nothing I can do about it.  I hope the kids still like them, despite the less than idea color choices.  They are both well mannered and would not purposely hurt my feelings for the world, and I know that they will act pleased by the quilts, but I  hope that deep in their hearts they aren't wondering how I got it so wrong!

                                    

I also got another little star quilt finished.

                                        

I hung a few pictures on our walls this weekend.  Hanging things is a job that Jack claimed for himself and he has been reluctant to give it over to me, even though his last few attempts have been just a bit off because of his defective vision. As a result, most of our walls are still bare, well into our second year here.   I've held my tongue and have not changed the things he put up, but today he was busy raking leaves and told me to go ahead and hang the things I had set out.   I don't know whether he is aware that his attempts haven't been up to his usual standards or not, but I was glad to be able to do it myself without having to say why.

I have undoubtedly said this before, but Jack functions so well that I forget sometimes how much of his vision was affected.  He has never complained in the three years since his strokes, but he once mentioned that my face in the hospital room was the last thing he saw clearly before the strokes occurred.  I know that I would not handle such a loss with such grace.

The election is just over two weeks away.  I have voted and I am trying to stay out of the news cycle as much as I can.   We are not seeing people so there is no one to influence, we've put up our signs and offered ourselves as volunteers (an offer that has so far not been responded to), and there is really nothing else that I can do.   It will be a long, anxious couple of weeks, even so.

I discovered a blog this week that lists, under a tab labeled Gratitude,  things that the author is grateful for.  Not every day, not any specific number, just small things, which she calls 'serendipities."  I need reminding these days that, despite things out of my control that sometimes make me anxious, life is good, and so I am hoping that I will incorporate her idea in my posts from now on.  It helps, sometimes, to stop and remind myself how fortunate I am.

Today I am grateful:

1. That I completed the "quarantine" quilts when I did, in time to have them quilted before the Christmas rush at longarm shops, because my embroidery machine is back in the shop and I am not sure I would be able to get them done in time now. 

2. For the luxury of having more than enough to eat.

3. For our continued good health.

4. For cozy evenings next to my husband, with a glass of wine by the fire.

Saturday, October 10, 2020

And The Beat Goes On

Maybe it was the news of the expected baby, maybe it was the cooler weather, I don't know.  But something seems to have given me a little bit of 'oomph' this week, at least for a couple of days.   I made two little quilt tops, about 40" square, a size that I really should be able to quilt myself on my home machine.  But, contrary as usual, I decided that I Just Don't Want To, and I sent them out to be quilted instead.  I suddenly have a dozen ideas for quilt tops that I would like to get done this year. I loved making these small ones that were finished in a day or two.  I've started on my next one, the same design as the blue and green quilt because I have uncovered several charm packs that I've accumulated over the years with no clear purpose.  It will be finished tonight or tomorrow.   I am still working from fabrics in my stash, although I had to pick up border material for the ones I made this week because, although I have boxes of material, I don't have a lot of yardage.  We'll see how long this small burst of energy lasts, hopefully long enough to get a couple more done and whittle down that scrap pile!  I have suddenly relaxed into making things that are super simple, which takes the pressure off.   I have in mind a few others that are almost too easy to justify doing, but I think I will do them anyway.    If I don't care for them when they are finished, I don't have to keep them, after all.  There are lots of places where the warmth of the quilt is more important than my opinion of the design.  But I have to admit, I like these first ones.  Jack likes the star best and it is a very simple pattern so I'm happy to make more, but I need to find or purchase some background material first.



I told my husband that, according to the internet,  his new grandchild is about the size of a strawberry this week.  That charmed him and his daughter, so I sewed up a couple of masks for her with strawberry fabric and we put them in the mail.  I am glad to see him start to relax and have fun with the idea of a new baby coming into our life.

                                                

I've been told that my grandson has a girlfriend, and was warned Not to bring it up with him, which is not going to be a problem since I haven't talked to him in weeks.  Those exciting teen age years!    First loves, first heartbreaks, so many milestones.   I miss those kids so darn much.

My sister is still ill, but they have discharged her again from the hospital.   They ran a million tests and told her they were going to run a million more but then, with little notice, they sent her home instead.  She is still suffering from lots of very unpleasant symptoms, as well as pain.  No one seems to know how things will progress from here.   I understand that these terrible, drawn out effects from Covid-19 are relatively rare, but they are frightening when they happen, and even more frightening when they happen to someone you love.  I feel terrible for her.   She is glad to be home, and we are all hoping that the quiet and comfort of being in her own place will help her truly recover.

Monday, October 5, 2020

Snap

Once, more than 40 years ago, I became so upset over a college friend's plan to get her mutt-dog pregnant so that her children could "experience the miracle of birth," that I stood up, told her I didn't want to see her again, and left.   And I never did see her again, although she made a few overtures over the years.   I have no idea what became of her, and have not wondered much about her, but I have wondered more than once about me, and what  made me snap like that.   Certainly, I considered that her plan to purposely impregnate a dog with no plan for the pups, in a world over-run with unwanted pets, was irresponsible at best, and I have not changed my mind about that.  She was, I thought, a selfish, silly woman, but there are many of those, and I did not view it as my job to chastise the rest of them.  I can't say, exactly, that I am sorry about shutting her out of my life.  But I am still surprised at the memory of my snap, and that fascinates and confuses me on some level.

A similar thing happened this week.  A childhood friend, someone I was close with in elementary school but only in Facebook contact since then, is a Trump supporter.  She and her posts are one of the reasons that I took myself off Facebook, to avoid ugly confrontation.   This week she sent me a sappy "meme" saying that we could respect one another's different opinions and still "play in the same sandbox."   She added the question, will you still play in the sandbox with me?

I could, and probably should have just ignored her text.  Instead,  I snapped.

I responded that Trump had, several times, supported and refused to condemn white supremacist groups.  I could not understand how my friend, herself part of a large Jewish family, could overlook or support that.   And I told her that I would no more play in a sandbox with a Trump supporter than with someone who had given  support to the death marches.

I suspect that the isolation is making me a bit dramatic.   Once again, I can't exactly say that I am sorry,  and I have no regrets about losing her friendship, but I am again bemused to have had such a BIG reaction to such a little irritation.

Perhaps it does not surprise you that I have not held onto any relationships from childhood or college?  I will be 71 years old next month. It is a good time to consider who I want to become, where I want my focus to be, going forward.   I am not sure whether it is time for me to become more tolerant or to speak out more forcefully.   There is, after all, a time honored tradition, at least in children's literature, of cranky old people in every culture; perhaps I should use this year to embrace it.

Saturday, October 3, 2020

October Surprise

After so many months of predictable ordinariness, this week had little ordinary about it.  We were surprised by the ring of the doorbell last weekend, a very unlikely event in the time of Covid.  Unexpected visitors simply do not happen these days.  Outside the door stood Jack's younger son, Zack, and his wife, Katrina, telling us to come outside for a surprise.  We could see a masked woman getting out of the car but it didn't register with either of us who she was at first because she was the last person we expected to see -- Jack's youngest child and only daughter, Abi, was standing in our driveway with her boyfriend, Ben, all the way from their home in the District of Columbia, with no prior notice!  We were stunned.  They claimed that they were there to drop off Jack's gift from last Christmas, a wallet that Abi had back-ordered, and when he took the wallet out of the box he discovered (with a little prompting) that under the wallet was a sonogram!  They were actually in town to announce Abi's positive pregnancy test and to tell Jack that he was going to be a Grandfather.    

I'm afraid that social distancing went out the window during their tearful embrace and for the week that the visit continued.  Although we tried to be more careful and more distant than would have been normal in the past, and although we did try to visit outdoors as much as possible, we also shared some time inside our house as the temperatures got colder, and Jack, with my encouragement, also  spent time alone with Abi.  They drove to a local forest to go walking, went target shooting, and visited her favorite coffee shop and cafe.  I spent a lot of time cooking and sanitizing.  Although we grilled steaks and had all the fixings, my biggest culinary hit for this crowd was my homemade pretzel bites and smoked gouda dip.  

Now that Abi has returned home, while Jack continues to adjust to the news he had been craving for the past decade, we will quarantine again to be sure that Nothing Bad Happened.

My sister is in the hospital again; she has permanent lung damage from "Covid webbing," as well as shingles and some new stomach problems, all tied, she is told, to the virus.  She has been in the hospital for well over a week again this time, while they are trying to get her pain and the infections under control.  We do not take the threat of this virus lightly.  

I gave Abi a little rag quilt I made when she first told me she wanted to have a baby, and have already started trying to decide what baby items to start sewing.   Meanwhile, I finished the two "quarantine" quilt tops for my Grands and sent them out to be quilted.  When they are returned, I will need to label and bind them, but then I will be able to wrap and put aside my first two Christmas creations.  That will be a good feeling when it happens because they are my largest planned projects for the holiday.  This week I plan to monogram a few towels for my family and Jack's, more little Christmas tokens to pack away.  My daughter in New Orleans phoned me several times this week with ideas of things I could buy for her gifts this year, so I am well into planning mode.

Our circles of contact are growing.  My son, a university dean and mathematics professor, has been teaching two classes a week; many of the students opt to attend virtually, but some students choose to be instructed in person.  My granddaughter will be starting in-person classes this week, which also means that my daughter in law, who works for the same school system,  will start teaching in person.  My grandson's school plans to begin in-person instruction at the end of the month.  We are all waiting to see how their schedules work out since they will attend different hours at different schools.  I have offered to pitch in with chauffeur duty as I have every other school year, but with a bit more trepidation than usual because of the virus.  We will figure it all out and do it as safely as possible, probably with masks and open windows, but there's little doubt that it will be a more stressful than usual year.    I know it will be good for the kids to have 'real' school again -- they have missed being around their friends so much --  and I have to admit, I will be glad to see them under any circumstances at all!

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!