Friday, May 31, 2019

Laundry & Sewing

That was my day.  Laundry and sewing.  It got hot today--90 degrees according to my phone thermometer--and humid so the a/c was on.  I thought about going to the Y but... did I really want to drive three miles to get all sweaty?  I decided that the answer was no.  So I hauled more winter clothes downstairs, started the laundry, and, after lunch, got to work sewing up the denim Dress no. 1 that I cut out the other day.  I'll admit that the main reason I was so eager to get it sewn up was that I love the bug fabric I used for the pockets, but also because I had to piece together two denims and I wanted to see how that worked out too.  All that's left to do is sew the pockets on (they were pinned for the photo shoot) and turn the hem up another time and stitch it down.

Even better, when I was moving the empty laundry sorter I kind of bumped into the tower of bins that most of my fabric lives in and caught sight of these two fabrics--one is actually a striped tablecloth but I'll make it into a dress, the other one, an Asian print, I bought to sew a jacket but I'd wear a dress more so a Dress no. 1 it will be.  Aw, man, I meant to look to see if there were any sheets at Goodwill tonight that I could cut up to make a robe.  I'll stop over tomorrow, it's only three blocks away.  (I was going to say that I'd stop on my way to or from the Y but I'm going to stop saying I'll go so you don't think I'm a slacker and be surprised and pleased when I do go.)

This robin had a wonderful time bathing today.  Robins are the best, most enthusiastic bathers.  They bathe alone and usually manage to splash at least half of the water out of the birdbath.  Sparrows come to bathe in a crowd.  They, too, splash out most of the water but there are usually eight or ten of them in there at once, all splashing and flapping.


I had a bowl of slow-cooker French Onion Soup for lunch today.  The cheese on top looks like of globby but it really tasted great with a couple crackers and a handful of grapes.  Man, I make good soup.

D'you wanna know how down in the dumps I've been this week?  I realized this morning that I haven't knitted one stitch since last Friday.  A whole week without knitting.  I rectified that this evening.  I took my Fake Isle Hat which I had ripped back to the plain knitting and took another run at learning how to knit with two colors of yarn, one in each hand.  It went very well.  I got four rounds knitted between 6:00 and 8:45.  LB was there and she helped me learn how to trap the carried yarn so that my floats (the little piece of yarn that "floats" behind the other color's stitches) weren't too tight, which makes your knitting pucker.  Maybe I'll be happy enough with this hat when it's done to enter it into the Fair.

Oh, I have to tell you.  Yesterday I finally got brave enough to send the 10 rewritten pages back to the UW-Madison professor who critiqued them for the Writers' Institute and offered to read the rewrite.  She emailed back this morning (already!) that she loved it, that I need to finish the book, and she's willing to answer questions, no charge.  I've been intimidated by the need to add 20k words but one remark she made today will, I think, be the catalyst for the additional scenes that will get me there.  Whew.

31 May--Barbara Malcolm, Horizon. 

Sunset the next Tuesday found me back on the porch with a glass of wine.  I’d painted another stripe on the porch railing near the first one, and “September 10, Watercolor Class” on the slat below.  The wine was for courage.  Tonight was the first night of class and I was nervous.  That afternoon I had been going through my closet, for the third time, trying to find something to wear that I’d be comfortable in that would help let me blend in, when Clara knocked on the back door and came in.
“I’m back here,” I called out.
“What are you doing, Gail?” Clara said, surveying the mess of discarded clothing on the bed.
I was quiet for a moment trying to decide if she would be hurt that I’d kept this from her,  knowing that she would be, but I needed a little courage to get out the door, so I went for it.  “I signed up for a watercolor class at the craft store in Simpson Mall.  Tonight’s the first class and I can’t decide what to wear.  Help me?”
“Okay.”  Clara started sifting through the clothes.  “How come you’re taking a painting class?”
“Oh, I don’t know.  Their ad last week in the Times caught my eye and I signed up before I thought about it too much.  Guess I’m looking for a change from the ordinary in my life.”
“Not me.  I like my life ordinary, just the way it is.”  She held up a blouse, shook her head, and put it in the heap of rejects on the bed.  “I take care of Hank, he takes care of me, the kids are grown and gone, and I can volunteer at church or help with the blood drive when I want to.  I’m too old for changes and surprises.”
I flipped through my closet and held up a flowered dress.  “No, not that,” we said in unison.
“Right now, I feel like change would be good,” I said.  “Retiring has left me feeling kind of useless and I guess I’m looking for something to fill my time.  Plus I’ve always liked painting the house and thought maybe painting on paper would be fun, too.”
Clara’s voice changed.  It got softer, and smaller somehow.  “So how come you haven’t said anything about it?”
I turned to look at her and was surprised to see tears in her eyes that made me feel guilty that I had kept the class to myself.  “Oh, Clara, I was afraid I’d chicken out and then you’d be disappointed in me when I didn’t do it.  I wasn’t trying to keep anything from you.”
Her face relaxed at my words and she turned back into the Clara I knew.  “Do you have any idea what kind of people are going to be in class with you?  Could be some sort of whacko hippies, you know.”
I laughed so hard I had to sit on the bed.  “Whacko hippies?”  I wiped my eyes.  “Good grief, Clara, I’m not going to New York.  It’s just a painting class in the next town and not a very big town at that.  Besides, hippies went out of style in the seventies.”
 Clara sniffed, “Well, what do I know, Miss Up-to-date.  I’m just a simple farm wife.  I don’t travel in the sophisticated circles you do.  You’ll probably make tons of new friends and forget about me.”
I put my arm around her.  “Don’t be silly, Clara.  We’ve been friends for some thirty-odd years and we’re not going to stop because I’m taking a painting class at a craft store in a one-horse town by the interstate.  Now, let’s figure out what I should wear so I don’t look too foolish tonight.”
We finally decided on a pair of navy polyester slacks, because they wouldn’t wrinkle on the drive, and a long-sleeved floral blouse I had ordered from a catalog.  Sensible oxfords rounded out my look.
Clara left to fix dinner for Hank and I had a quick bowl of Esther soup before getting ready.  I took a shower and twisted my long, fine, dark-brown hair, my natural color thank you, into a bun at the back of my neck, taming the wispy bits with some styling goo one of my sons had left behind after his last visit.  I dressed and put my wedding pearls in my ears.  Taking a look in the mirror on the closet door I decided I looked all right, a little prim and boring perhaps, but it had been a long time since I’d worried about how I looked.  Too late to do something about it now.  I grabbed a sweater, my basket of art supplies, my purse and keys, and was out the door.

Holy Moses, did it rain tonight.  Thunder, lightning, and pouring rain.  It mostly stopped so that we could get to our cars outside Goodwill without drowning but picked right back up once I drove into the garage.  Good timing.  As hot as it was when I left home (86 degrees) at 5:45 PM, after the rain it was almost 30 degrees cooler (58 degrees) when I got home at 9:00 PM.  It's not supposed to get to 60 tomorrow.  I just don't get this whole weather pattern.  It's like someone's thrown two or three seasons up in the air and it's falling randomly on us day by day.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Burying The Hose

I meant to, I really did.  See, when I mowed the lawn a week ago I forgot to reattach the bales-watering hose when I finished mowing that part of the backyard and proceeded to water the patio for 15 minutes.  I read in Straw Bale Gardening that he dug a shallow trench and buried his hose just under the grass so he didn't have to worry about mowing the hose or remembering to reattach it.  Brilliant, I thought.  Not so fast, said the grass.  I tried but first I couldn't get the shovel into the ground far enough, then I couldn't wriggle the shovel enough to make space for the hose to fit in there.  I gave up pretty quickly.  I guess I'll keep doing what I did last night, mow that part of the backyard first and then reattach the hose immediately.

It's a good thing that I was home when the phone-line-Diggers-Hotline guys came (not to be confused with the gas-and-power-lines-Diggers-Hotline guys; I didn't know they were different, did you?) because I went out and pointed out the phone boxes on either end of the retaining wall and asked them to mark if there were any buried lines up there.  Man, was that a good question to ask.  First, because they didn't mark those the first time they came when no one was here, and B. because the lines swoop down the slope for a bit and then swoop back up to run right in front of the retaining wall, right where CG plans to build the new stone wall.  Grr.  I called and left a message on CG's phone giving him the news.  I hope this doesn't mean delays while the lines are moved.  Maybe they're deeper than the wall or drain tile will be.

Once the Diggers guys were gone I gathered up a tarp, two loppers, a bow saw, and some gloves and went out to trim the daylights out of the forsythia.  I had to almost double over to mow under it yesterday and noticed that branches were pressed to the soffit and scraping the siding.  I confess that I just cut things off that poked out or crossed other branches and all of the ones that touch the house.  I should probably look up how and when to trim a forsythia, shouldn't I.  Ah well, it grows fast.

I did that instead of going to the Y today.  I'll go tomorrow.  I also returned those black and red Klogs on my way home from getting my hair cut.  I put them on meaning to wear them and they hurt my toe.  They kind of hurt my toe in the store but I thought that was the fault of the socks I had on.  Nope.  I had the receipt and returned them.  I'm not sad, that was a true impulse buy and not one that sparked joy like the red Birkenstocks do.

30 May--Barbara Malcolm, Horizon.

An hour later I sat in the parking lot of the mall, staring at the row of bargain bins on either side of the entrance to the craft store.  My heart fluttered and I could feel sweat trickling down my spine as I worked up the courage to go in.  I studied the people coming and going, trying to figure out if I’d fit in.  Fitting in had been my way of disappearing all my life.  I knew that if you blended in with those around you, few people made the effort to single you out.
Giving myself a mental shake to shut up Great-aunt Mame and firm orders to quit stalling, I grabbed my purse and went in.  I stopped at the service counter where the clerk checked my name off on the class roster, gave me a list of the required supplies, and pointed me toward the painting department.  I grabbed a cart and strode down the aisle determined to get what I needed and get out, but a stack of baskets caught my eye.  One that looked like a small picnic hamper with sturdy handles seemed just right for carrying my art things back and forth.  I checked the price--$28.95, too expensive.  As I reached to put it back the clerk working in the aisle pointed out a tiny sign that read “All Baskets in This Section 75% Off.”  A quick calculation convinced me that just over seven dollars was a good price for a nice basket.  Into the cart it went.
The painting department was a sensuous revelation.  It only took a minute to find the small set of watercolor tubes and the five brushes required.  But I couldn’t tear myself away from the brush rack.  There were large, full ones with firm bristles and bamboo handles, small ones with what looked like no more than nine hairs and lacquered handles, fan shaped ones, and round and flat ones galore.  I spent many minutes touching each one, stroking them on the back of my hand to see how they would feel and move on paper.
And the paints--there were large tubes of acrylics, tiny expensive ones of oils, and medium tubes of watercolors.  I couldn’t resist opening the tubes and inhaling their rich aroma.  The acrylics all smelled like the art room at Kingman Elementary, the watercolors didn’t have much of an odor, and each oil color smelled different from the others.  The colors were mind-boggling:  luscious reds like passionate kisses, blues for every patch of ocean and sweep of sky, lemon yellow so tart it made my mouth pucker, greens for every leaf and blade of grass.  I couldn’t imagine how anyone would ever use them all.  I also saw the metal trays with cakes of paint like I’d bought for the boys when they were little, and that had so frustrated me as a child when I couldn’t make the paint do what I wanted it to.
Consulting the supplies list, I turned to the rack of sketchbooks and pads of watercolor paper.  I was amazed that there were nearly a dozen different kinds of paper for watercolor alone.  Checking again to make sure I had the right size, finish, and weight, I headed for the checkout.  Paying for the class and supplies cost nearly eighty dollars even with the discount.  Now I couldn’t back out; I had too much invested.

Our weather is wacky.  Today it was sunny and about 75.  Tomorrow it's supposed to be cloudy, maybe rainy, and 85.  Saturday is supposed to be cloudy, rainy, and 65.  It's no wonder that my bales are only 70 degrees.  Up 10 degrees, though, which is good.  Maybe I'll get the carrot and radish seeds sown this weekend.  Maybe even tomorrow.  After I go to the Y.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

I Pretended To Be A Writer Today

I met my writing partner ACJ at The Attic this afternoon, read her the rewritten 10 pages from the Madison critique, then buckled down to start outlining the manuscript to see if I can find places to add scenes to beef up my word count.  It's been over a century since I outlined anything so it was a slow start but I started listing scenes and days and just kept going.  Tomorrow I'll email the rewritten pages to CDS in Madison to see if she feels like I've got a handle on it.  Which I thought I already had but I'm notoriously bad at objectivity where my writing is concerned.

After I got home I stalled as long as I could before going out to mow the lawn.  Diggers Hotline came again today to repaint and reflag the places where important things are buried; this time I didn't run over the flags with the mower.  I kind of hate my yard, it's hilly and a real pain to mow.  But it's also about a mile walking around and around, up and down, so I need the walk, especially since I've kind of been slacking off on working out.

I've been having a tough, sad couple weeks (it didn't help that an old friend who lives in Ohio only found the obit online yesterday so I spent some time on the phone with her rehashing the last year of Durwood's life and decline) and I'm trying to think of ways to get through it.  I had a brainstorm today and threaded Durwood's wedding ring (which he barely wore but it feels like him to me) on a chain and wore it.  Having it around my neck and being able to touch it helped.  I promise that tomorrow I'll go to the Y and work out.  Cross my heart.  You know, I was sure that by this time I'd have "gotten over" the crushing sadness but I'm not and I don't need to be.  I mostly paste a smile on my face and keep moving forward.  

The bleeding hearts have burst into bloom the last couple days.  We all know that I'm not a pink fan but these arcing sprays of flowers make me smile.

The sky was all orange when I went out to unplug the fountain tonight.  It doesn't show the vivid color in this photo but, trust me, it was lovely, tinting the very air golden.

29 May--Barbara Malcolm, Horizon. 

The buzzing of the timer called us back to the hot kitchen to finish the pickles.  It took us the rest of the afternoon.    I don’t know why I didn’t tell her that I’d signed up for the watercolor class.  She’d been my best friend for over thirty years.  We’d supported and consoled each other through the loss of our parents, Clara’s stillborn baby, and Bert’s sudden death--all the big and little tragedies of life.  But I was reluctant to share this with her.  I felt like I was taking the first step into a new part of my life and, since she was such a huge part of my past, I wanted to keep them separate for a while.  Every time she got near the feed store calendar I’d watch to see if she noticed the note about class starting, but she was too interested in passing on all the gossip she’d heard at her Red Cross volunteer meeting the night before and didn’t see it.
Friday morning I stood in the kitchen surveying the ranks of jam jars, shining like jewels in the morning light, and rows of pickle jars, with their greens, whites, and reds glimmering in brine.  Admiring them, it made sense why so many of the Old Masters had put ordinary objects into their still life paintings.  It felt good having things put up for the winter, even though there wasn’t anyone else around anymore to eat them.  I enjoyed their homey beauty.  Putting the last big canning kettle back in the pantry, I decided to drive to the craft store after I showered and get the supplies for class before I chickened out.

Tomorrow I get a haircut.  Hooray!  I promise to wear workout clothes to the salon so I can hop into my car and zoom right out to the Y.  Promise.  You know, I've had the furnace and the air conditioner on this week, and also had it all turned off.  I'd like to have it all off and the windows open for a time before the heat and humidity of summer arrives (if it ever does).

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Growing Things!

This morning the landscaper CG stopped over to firm up plans for rebuilding the retaining wall.  He said that they'll start this weekend or next Monday at the latest.  Hallelujah.

Lots of things are growing lately.  The lilacs are in bloom and they smell like heaven.

The apple trees are in full bloom which should last for maybe two more days but petals are already beginning to fall.

                                             A few of the lilies of the valley are beginning to open.

Right next to them are the ferns.  I am enchanted by the curly tops of the fronds as they unfurl.

On the side of the house I spied two poppy buds and I can't wait for the ones in the garden to pop up.

The allium in front are in full bloom and I'm happy to discover that there are some in back too.  (don't remember planting those, hmm)  The flowers are amazingly complex when you look at them up close.

I planted the replacement patty pan squash (the first one didn't get watered enough and it croaked, I rearranged the soaker hose) and found a meat thermometer that registers temps below 100F so I can see how the bales are cooking.  They're supposed to be around 80F but are only 60F; that's how cool and cloudy spring has been.  Pitiful.


There are a couple onion sprouts and one shallot sprout visible in the second season bales.  I can't wait until there's a sea of green in there.

Mama robin is building her nest on top of the driveway light again.  I knocked it down this morning early but by mid-afternoon she had it built right back up.  I won't fight her, she'll just have to learn to deal with me driving in and out and walking around watering things.  Maybe she'll be too disturbed and give up before laying eggs.

When I started to fix breakfast, I realized that I neglected to make granola yesterday and had only 1 tablespoon left so I whipped up a batch (takes about 40 minutes) first thing this morning and then made another batch this afternoon once I got home with more oats and Rice Krispies.  Which reminds me that I need to put dried fruits on my ALDI shopping list.  They have the most reasonably priced dried fruit.

When I stepped outside to unplug the fountain tonight I saw a strip of bright orange sunset off to the west and managed to capture a bit of it for your enjoyment.

I'm not sure I want to keep putting pieces of Horizon on here.  I'm afraid you'll get bored.  Thoughts?