Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Bye-bye, Pinterest

I went to college in the early ‘90s, when Napster was everywhere. Most of the people I went to school with thought nothing of sharing music with each other, regardless of copyright. I was always uncomfortable with all that file sharing love, because while I had and have no great affection for large corporations, I thought it was wrong that the artist who created the music was getting nothing.

As you might imagine, my point of view wasn’t exactly popular. “Moralistic prig” is how one person described my position and while I got his point, he clearly didn’t get mine. I think the person who created the art should get compensated unless he or she has clearly said it’s a freebie. In my opinion, to do otherwise is stealing.

I got into Pinterest originally as a way to track sewing ideas, including fabrics, tutorials and examples of techniques I wanted to learn. I did initially wonder about copyright violations, but assumed/hoped that surely Pinterest had their legal ducks in a row.

Kent sent me this article yesterday, and after reading it I just don’t feel comfortable continuing to pin things. And it’s not like Pinterest is the only way to track those articles that interest me. All browsers have the ability to bookmark pages, and those bookmarks can be organized into folders. So that’s what I’ve done. I’ve also deleted my Pinterest account.

Obviously I run the risk of being labeled a moralistic prig again. Oh well. And don't think I'm trying to tell you what to do. I'm not. I'm just telling you why I won't be on Pinterest any more.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

A disclaimer

My former mother-in-law once gave me a necklace that appeared to be made from all the left-over thread I’d ever used to make oboe reeds. It was colorful, fluffy and not at all to my taste. While I appreciated her generosity, I wasn’t sure what to do with it because I knew I’d never wear it. I ended up tying it around the arm of a dining room chair and let the cats play with it.

Similarly, I have friends whose mothers-in-law either make or buy them gifts they find completely unsuitable. They are grateful for the thoughtfulness but don’t know what to do with the actual gifts.

So here’s my disclaimer: if I ever make or buy you something you would never in a million years get for yourself or even consider wanting for yourself, feel free to ditch whatever it is. Unless it’s my hot fudge sauce in which case (a) what’s wrong with you? And (b), give it back.

I'm posting this because in the last year or so I've made a lot of gifts. And I don't ever want the recipient to feel as though he/she is now saddled with a completely inappropriate gift for the rest of his or her life. That's just silly. Gifts from me are freely given and once given, do what you will with them. 

Monday, February 27, 2012

Bragging just a little

My niece, Beth, has a little baby girl named Valentine. I made Valentine a pink dress after she was born but I didn't make a newborn size. Babies grow so fast and first babies get so many clothes, I didn't want to add to the clutter. So she's just now the right size for the dress, which is about where I thought she'd be. Check out how cute this little girl is in the dress I made:

OK really, she's just flat out cute.

It's not the dress :-)

Saturday, February 25, 2012

My Saturday

Today I’ve
  • Read up more on reducing triggers for asthma, which is why I
  • Washed all bed linens in hot water (the hot water cuts down on dust mites; I always wash everything in cold water)
  • Heard from more than few people who believe my cats are the cause of my asthma

While I’m sure they contribute to the particulate matter load in the house, I’m also equally sure that this acute flare up I’m experiencing can be traced right back to the effects of the deconstruction debris and mold from January’s leaky pipe. It's a little early to be blaming animals I've had around me with no ill effects my entire life. Regardless, once I see my primary physician on March 8, and get referred to all the specialists I need to see, then I’ll have more information about what exactly is causing me problems and how I can mitigate the issues.

Tonight we’ll eat pizza and then groom the cats while we watch TV—they love to be groomed and swarm us every time we get the brushes out. Honestly, though, it’s pretty boring to groom them so watching some previous episodes of Criminal Minds will distract us as we brush and brush. Tomorrow, we’ll do the unforgivable and bathe them. I’m sure they won’t thank us for that!

Thanks for the well wishes I've received; this is new territory for me and I appreciate both the concern and the advice. 

Friday, February 24, 2012

Normalizer or awfulizer?

With thanks to my friend, Joy, for the term awfulizer . . .

I know a few awfulizers. Headaches are signs of brain cancer, lumps are other kinds of cancers, any forgotten detail means we have Alzheimer's, we’re all going to get laid off, the world is ending—I’m sure you know some awfulizers, too. Maybe you are one.

Not me, all my life I’ve been a normalizer—whatever is going on with me is normal, nothing is wrong, I’m fine and everything will work out. Usually I’m right, but sometimes I’m drastically wrong. When talking through this with Kent last night, he immediately reminded me of the scallops incident. He’s right, that’s a perfect example:
A few years back, my mother (an RN) was in town and took me, my brother and sister-in-law out to dinner at a nice restaurant. I ordered the scallops. When we were about halfway through dinner, I commented on how much I loved scallops even though I couldn’t really taste them once I’d eaten a couple, and wasn’t it weird how they make your mouth numb? My mother immediately told me to put my fork down right then and never eat scallops again. It had never occurred to me that my reaction wasn’t normal. I’m just lucky my airway didn’t close then.
I was diagnosed with asthma in my 20s while in the Army. I’ve basically ignored it ever since, and I’d decided surely I didn’t have any problems because I don’t wheeze. I didn’t know enough about asthma to understand that wheezing is just one symptom. Besides, I was a wind instrumentalist for decades and I've run most of my life too. How could I have asthma and do those things?

I got a wakeup call on Tuesday. As I wrote earlier this month, I’ve really struggled with breathing and with coughing ever since that pipe burst in January. So I went to the doctor on Tuesday; he ran a breathing test and I didn't do so well. In fact, my lung capacity was 50% of what it should be (his exact statement to me was that I had the lung capacity of an 84 year old). Boy, that got my attention.

I got some immediate treatment on the spot which improved things dramatically in the short term. I’m on some drugs to get me to the point where I can be on a long term care plan, and have a follow up appointment in a couple of weeks. I'm reading everything I can find about asthma from reputable sources, and I'm paying attention to my lungs now. I think I dodged a bullet.

I've also realized that normalizing everything is not any more effective or helpful than awfulizing things. So now I need to find that balance between the two. Don't expect me to turn into Chicken Little. But I probably need to back off the Orphan Annie routine just a bit.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

How to keep your cats from being bored

After reading Animals Make Us Human (great book, well worth reading), I realized Wally is destructive because he’s bored. I’d far rather find ways for him to entertain himself that don’t involve broken glass or shredded paper towels or him eating plastic.

We got an automatic laser pointer at Christmas; it’s got four different patterns it uses to twirl the light around and it runs in five-minute increments, up to 20 minutes. Best of all, it’s very portable so we move it around the apartment all the time. That way, the pattern bounces off difference places and isn’t predictable. The cats love it, and will come beg us to turn it on. Yes, cats beg. They just do it differently than dogs.

We also keep boxes we get from ordering things for a few days and toss them on the floor for the cats. They love to climb in and out of the boxes, especially if we have a couple stacked up. Best of all, sometimes the boxes have long wide strips of brown paper. When we have it, we put the crumpled up paper on the floor when we run the laser pointer. The cats will "hide" in the various folds of the paper and then attack the laser pointer. Hey, anything to entertain them.

The latest round of brown paper is on our couch at the moment awaiting one of us bundling it up and taking it to the trash. But Wally liked getting on a pillow on the couch under the paper. And where Wally goes, Eddie must follow.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Dear Alison,

The jacket for your doll is all done. See?

It's got a hood and is lined so your doll stays warm.

Tomorrow I will cut out the top for your mom, but I probably won't finish sewing it until Friday. Then I will send everything to you in Virginia.



Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Just for you, Alison

The quilt-making gene, both in terms of desire and ability, passed me by. My mother makes amazing artisan quilts of which I own two and they are beautiful works of art that are also usable. (I think it was William Morris who said keep nothing in your house you don't believe to be both beautiful and usable, or words to that effect. Mom's quilts are both.)

I also have the attention span of a gnat and need the instant, or at least a lot faster, gratification of garment sewing. Making quilts is time-consuming and you don't see what you've got til you are nearly through. I like that when I sew in a sleeve, it looks like a sleeve right away. I don't want to wait weeks to get that gratification.

However Alison has a new doll, one she likes a great deal. Her doll needs a jacket (which is next up in the sewing queue) and a quilt for sleeping. So here's the finished doll quilt:

I'm especially pleased because the two lighter pink materials are scraps left over from a shirt and a dress I made for her already. If those things still fit, she might notice the resemblance herself; she's pretty astute that way. The border and the darker pink in the middle of the quilt are left overs from material my mother got me (I finished a bag she'd started for me). The back of the quilt is a new piece of material, and I'm also using some of it to line her doll's jacket.

No, I still don't like making quilts. But I was really happy to make this one for Alison.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Well no wonder

I mentioned yesterday how much trouble I’ve been having with my lungs since returning home. I put it down to the holes in the walls and ceiling, plus the raw concrete floor (which is very dusty). I’m sure none of that helps, but yesterday I discovered that the door between the closet that goes under the front walk and the section where our water heater is located was not closed. As best we can tell it’s been open for two and a half weeks, ever since the public insurance adjustor came through our apartment while we were in Jamaica.

So you better understand what I mean, here’s a picture:
The green box is the area that holds our water heater plus the main water shut off for 3 Claremont Park. The red line is the door (really more of a hatch) into that room from our closet. Built from bricks, the room isn’t finished and gets pretty damp. We know the room tends to be moldy and there’s just no way to fix that, although we’ve gone in and sprayed bleach water from time to time. But the space isn’t part of our living space so we keep the door shut unless the water to the entire building has to be shut off. I never go in there and when Kent goes in, I either leave the apartment or stay far, far away.

I’m a little relieved to identify more of a cause for all the coughing. I'd hate to think my lungs were just crapping out for no reason.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

This and that

I have a strong dislike of paper towels (or napkins) with anything printed on them. They are far too cutesy for me—I’m not looking for my paper towels to add anything to the ambiance in my home and I think the ink is just a waste. But I inadvertently bought a two-pack of paper towels with the awful printed crap on it. Normally I use very few paper towels because we have seven really good dish towels made by Kent’s grandmother. But I’m sure using these as fast as possible. Out, out damn towels!

I resisted making beans from scratch for years because somehow I got it in my head that prepping and cooking dry beans was a huge chore. Wrong! Most of the prep is passive—the beans need to soak and it’s not like I have to do anything to them while they soak. And then they have to cook; they can be cooked on the stove (faster) or in the slow cooker (slower) but again that barely takes anything from me. Dry beans are also much, much cheaper than canned beans plus the packaging is minimal. So far, I’ve only done black beans but pintos are up next. We do love “refried” beans—I put it in quotes because they aren’t actually fried. Who wants all those calories? Instead, they are mashed.

The holes in our walls and ceiling are covered with plastic. We’ve mostly moved our furniture back into place with the exception of our armoire. It normally stands on the wall with the holes and under the big hole in the ceiling. Wally loves to eat plastic and we think he’d get on the armoire and figure out how to bite the plastic up there. That plastic isn’t entirely smooth because of some drywall that comes out just a bit (there used to be an ash dump there from the building’s fireplaces).

My lungs are mad, mad, mad at me. I hope that covering the holes will help with all the crap in the air here in our apartment because the coughing is driving me crazy. I don’t have a cold, I don’t feel bad at all—I just can’t stop coughing and I’ve had to use my inhaler every day.

Here's a random, totally gratuitous picture of the boy cats:

What’s new with you?

Friday, February 17, 2012

Method acting

Eddie likes to bring us toys in the middle of the night. We’ll wake up and find the hedgehog or one of the little fur mice lying on the bed with us, or worse we’ll trip over a toy in the dark.

Wednesday night, he brought me two toys. I knew he’d brought one because it makes a small, almost cute whistle noise when it’s batted around. The sound woke me up and I knew I needed to get that toy put away or I’d hear it all night long. So I turned on the light and saw the hedgehog and the whistly toy. I guess he really wanted to play.

In the morning, he was going to town playing with the whistly toy so I thought I’d get a video of him. Of course as soon as I turned on the camera, he quit playing.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A nifty trick

I use broth a lot in the recipes I cook, because it adds good flavor without a lot of calories or fat. But I refuse to buy broth any more. Store-bought broth is expensive and can be high in sodium. Plus I don't know how it's made. With my broth, there's no added salt or any sort of preservative. But making broth takes time and I don't care for the texture of the meat when it's been basically boiled all day long.

Last week, I learned a new way to cook the bird. My daughter-in-law, Jen, puts a whole chicken in her slow cooker and roasts it all day (or all night) long. She doesn't add any water, which surprised me at first. But really, it's just like roasting a bird in the oven, only at a lower temperature. Once the bird is cooked, she picks the meat off and makes stock with the carcass. What I really like is that this method means I can put the bird in the slow cooker and go do other things. Plus using a whole bird is a lot cheaper than using chicken pieces.

Here's my first slow-cooker chicken:

As soon as the chicken cools, I'll be taking the meat off the bone for other meals and then making broth of my own. This chicken probably had a lot of water injected into it, because there's a lot of water/juicy stuff in the slow cooker. So this may turn out more like a boiled chicken after all, but I hope not. And if it does, well I'll try again with better chicken.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Catching up

Heading to the birthday dinner
Here’s a picture from my birthday—we’re dressed to go to dinner and I’m wearing one of the dresses I made.

My cake
And here’s a picture of my birthday cake. Kent told them the name to put on the cake and he said there was a pause and they asked if I used the whole name. I think maybe the decorator started to spell my name incorrectly because you can see a bit of a bobble in the script. I’m sure it was very hard to get all nine letters on that cake!

Smithfield got a dusting of snow late Saturday afternoon and this is a picture of Alison getting ready to run, run, run in it. The next picture is Eliot at the door watching her. Pretty cute, huh.

Alison has gotten old enough that she understands when someone is leaving. Yesterday after lunch, she walked toward me and I could see she was tearing up and wanted me to hold her. I picked her up and she told me in a tiny sad voice that she didn’t want me to leave. Awww that broke my heart.

All in all, I had a really fantastic visit. I love seeing Ben and Jen and the kids and even more, I love it that they invited Kent and me to see the ultrasound. I feel very fortunate to have family like this.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

It's a . . .


I’m in Virginia this week. Ben and Jen invited us to come for her ultrasound yesterday and we wouldn’t have missed it for the world. It’s amazing how much detail you can see in those scans today. Ben and Jen said the images were even clearer than they were two years ago with Eliot.

Ben apparently has natural skills at reading the images; he’s known the gender of each of the three babies just by looking at the image—before the tech says anything. That’s how it was yesterday. I looked over at him and he was grinning. The tech saw it too, and asked him if he knew. He said yes, you couldn’t miss it. She laughed and agreed. So grandson number two it is!

Alison wasn’t really interested in having another brother and had told Ben that if it’s a boy, “you just keep it to yourself, Daddy.” He’d already told her he would get her an American Girl doll if she wasn’t getting the sister she wanted. So on the way home, we stopped at Target to pick up a doll. Kent had to head to the airport after that so he didn’t get to see the kids open their presents.

Eliot was far more interested in the cookies and rolling around on the tissue paper with the cat than he was in the toys.

C is for cookie!

And cat!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

What I did on vacation

Do you remember having to write those silly essays the first day back to school when you were in grade school? Here’s what I did and didn’t do while I was gone:

  • Didn’t get sunburned. It helps a lot that I married a redhead who only burns. We are diligent with the sunblock and shade.
  • Sat on our balcony a lot. That’s because it was extremely windy at Ocho Rios. In fact, none of the normal water activities occurred last week—no sailing, wind surfing, no catamaran cruise or glass bottom boat trips or even scuba or snorkeling. The seas were pretty rough and the wind was relentless. We felt sorry for the people who chose that resort so they could go out to the little island where nude sunbathing is allowed. The island was only open for half a day on Thursday and again on Friday. Plus it rained a lot. Rain in Jamaica is still better than winter rain in Boston.
  • Got sick. Yep, I got a stomach virus that required staying in for a good day and a half. Rotten timing.
  • Sat on the beach when it wasn’t raining and I wasn’t hanging out in the bathroom. I love watching the ocean.
  • Read eight books. I’m so thankful I have a Kindle because I wouldn’t have carried eight books with me.
  • Ran into the same two awesome couples we had dinner with two years ago on my birthday. We made sure we had dinner again with them this year and just generally enjoyed the heck out of seeing them. Kent and I have decided we want to be like June and Charlie as we grow old. Now we just need to find a Peggy and Joe to hang out with us.
  • Had dinner our last night there at the restaurant that’s built out over the water. That was both the best food we had there and the coolest view.

Getting home was a chore, I won’t lie. The weather was bad enough that our tiny plane from the Ian Fleming Int’l Airport (their spelling) to Montego Bay ran 40 minutes late which cut things closer than I would like getting cleared through Customs and security. I told Kent he can expect as I get older that I’ll want to get to the airport earlier and earlier and probably when I’m in my 80s, we’ll need to get there the week before. Plus it was pretty bumpy—not the worse turbulence I’ve ever felt but it’s somehow scarier in a tiny plane.

As I was boarding the plane to head back to the US, the retractable handle on my suitcase decided now was a good time to quit working. It’s still broken and will go off to the repair shop shortly (so glad for a real life time guarantee). Then the pilots for our flight from Montego Bay to JFK couldn’t get into the cockpit (security code didn’t work). That problem was resolved the old fashioned way, with brute force.

Anyway, I could go on but I won't. We’re back and it was a decent vacation. The best part about it was spending all that uninterrupted time with Kent. He tells me he wishes I could relax as much at home as I do when we go someplace else. I do too, but I think that’s not likely to happen. So I will take the vacation with him whenever I can get it and turn into a jellyfish then.