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


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!