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.