A Cleaning Dilemma

One of the challenges I had with Flynn and Tiffany’s wedding cake was finding a suitable platter to put it on. I eventually found the perfect large white round platter, and was able to get it on sale. My idea was that after the wedding, I would give the platter to Flynn and Tiffany so they would have it as a memento.

However, when we got the platter back to the purple house and washed it, we had an unwelcome surprise. You might remember that the bottom tier of the cake was covered with red rosettes. Well, that red food coloring is apparently mighty powerful stuff. There were several bright pink stains on the platter.

So, we brought the platter back with us to Texas and yesterday I went to work on getting the stains off. Scrubbing with dish soap did nothing, so I filled the sink with piping hot water, added plenty of soap and a liberal helping of bleach, and left it to soak. Since it was too big to be fully submerged, I rotated it every so often. Not that it helped. After hours in the bleach solution, there were still several pink stains on the plate.

That left only the “nuclear” option. I set the platter on the counter, covered it in paper towels, and poured undiluted bleach onto it. The stains were gone in a few minutes. So when we give the plate to Flynn and Tiffany, it will come with a warning about the dangers of using bright red food coloring in anything destined to repose on that platter!

This morning I spent some time visiting with a friend who is in town for a few days. She is going through a very difficult time and I just wish there was something I could do to fix it—but there isn’t. Now that I know more of what is going on, I can certainly pray for her more intelligently, though.

This afternoon Lina and I went to Tyler to visit the trifecta of temptations: Jo-Ann’s, Half-Price Books, and World Market. I got most of what I needed and in fact I think I may be done with my Christmas shopping.

This evening we went to Books-a-Million, Michael’s, and Hobby Lobby. I really hope I don’t have to go out and buy any more stuff except food! Meanwhile, I have some heavy-duty crafting to do if I am to finish certain things before Christmas. I got at least a start on it tonight.

My Genius Idea

So, as I mentioned, I am very busy this week getting ready for Writers in the Field plus a ton of other stuff, and I had what I thought was a brilliant idea for my breakfast on Saturday. I wanted to do a trial run first, though, to make sure it would work, so I elected Jasper to be my guinea pig, since I don’t actually get any breakfast until Saturday!

This morning as my husband was leaving for work, I put on a kettle of water and got out my newly-acquired wide-mouth vintage Stanley thermos. Ziplock omelets are a favorite around here, and I had a feeling I could make one in a thermos. If you’re not familiar with ziplock omelets, here’s the normal way to make them:

  • Fill a large stockpot about ⅔ full of water, cover and bring to a boil while you prepare the fillings.
  • Put out a variety of ingredients such as: cheeses, ham, onion, green pepper, tomato, mushrooms, hash browns, salsa, chives, broccoli, avocado, etc.
  • Have guests write their name on a pint-size Ziploc freezer bag with permanent marker.
  • Crack 2 eggs (large or extra-large) into the bag (not more than 2) shake to combine them.
  • Each guest adds prepared ingredients of choice to their bag and shake and squeeze to mix it all up. Make sure to get the air out of the bag and zip it up.
  • Place the bags into rolling, boiling water for exactly 13 minutes. You can usually cook 6-8 omelets in a large pot. For more, make another pot of boiling water. It works best to have the lid on the pot while the omelets are boiling.
  • Open the bags and the omelet will roll out easily. Be prepared for everyone to be amazed.

So anyway, I mixed up the eggs and filling in a zip-lock bag, squeezed out all the air, sealed it, and put it down inside my thermos (I had to fold the bag in half but it fit easily). Then I poured boiling water in to fill the thermos, and screwed the lid on. When Jasper was ready for breakfast an hour and a half later, the omelet was perfectly done and piping hot.

Saturday morning I will be leaving the house early to drive to Dallas. I do not eat breakfast that early, but I like the idea of having a nice hot breakfast before a long day outdoors. I will make my ziplock omelet and take the thermos with me, and I can eat my breakfast once I get there. I am very proud of myself for thinking of this.

It was a pretty normal school day and I also ran some errands. I did quite a bit of painting. This is just me being obsessive. I had bought a cheap wooden box and a couple of trays to store things in for the class I’m teaching this weekend, and for some reason I felt compelled to paint them. Which means I for sure won’t have the time to make the bag I’ve been wanting to make for the last year! Lucy thinks I don’t need any more bags, but she is wrong. I need a very specific bag for writer events where I need to have a water bottle, my sketchbook for notes, and the lap board for supporting the sketch book(plus multiple writing implements, etc.). I have some awesome fabric too—just not a lot of time!

Jasper went to Mercy and Daniel’s for math tutoring, supper, and being talked into helping with the public library’s Halloween event. I’m sure he’ll have a great time scaring people.

This evening I also finished composing a document I’ve been working on for a couple of weeks now. This is a handout for my class this weekend, because clearly I am incapable of teaching anything without creating a handout to go with it. This one required a great deal of research and I am glad I finished it and was able to print it.

A Very Small Group

This morning was cool and drizzly, so Jasper and I gave up on our plan to do school at the lake. I actually wore a sweater when I went to Walmart to pick up a few things. Not a very warm sweater, but still! I even turned on the heater in the car too. It was 64 degrees! In past years I would not have found this temperature chilly at all, but now I am more sensitive to cold.

I spent part of the morning processing sand. I had put out a plea for sand on Facebook and a friend dropped some by the house the other day. I only need about a cup. So I washed it under running water until the water ran clear, then I baked it in the oven until it was dry, and then I sifted it to get out all the little pebbles. What was left fit perfectly into the container I had bought for it.

I know you’re dying to know what I need a cup of sand for. I am getting ready to teach a class on historical writing implements at Writers in the Field next month. Part of the class will be a demonstration of how to turn a goose feather into a quill pen. And part of that process is heating the quill in some hot sand for a few minutes. I found a perfect tiny copper pot to heat the sand in at an antique store last week. I can heat it over one of my many tea warmers. And now I have the sand. I’ll do a trial run soon to make sure I know what I’m doing.

The reason I started a new knitting project yesterday was because I had signed up for a second small group at church—this one focused on crafting for charity. I thought I’d get going on something so I’d already have a project started when I went to the meeting tonight. I am knitting a scarf for The Red Scarf Project, which is something I’ve wanted to do for years (look it up, if you’re not familiar with it).

So anyway, I took my scarf and drove to the home where the meeting was to be held. The hostess was a woman I’d never met. I was the first person to arrive. After several minutes had passed, it became clear that I was the only person to arrive. Six ladies had signed up, but I was the only one to show up. So it was just me and my hostess. I like to think we both made a new friend tonight. She liked my red scarf idea and plans to make one herself. Meanwhile, we sat and chatted while I got several rows knitted on my scarf. I am knitting it as a tube so it will be double thickness. I want it to be very warm for whoever gets it.



Almost a year ago, after I had lost fifty pounds, I celebrated by ordering a dress on sale that I thought I would like. It was a very loose “hippie” style and I was delighted to be able to order a smaller size than the one I had been wearing.

Then things went wrong. First, I was charged a massive “overseas transaction” fee, more than canceling out the money I saved on the dress. When it arrived, it was not the deep rich purple that had been depicted on the website. It was a very reddish purple—more of a magenta. I have nothing against magenta, but I had envisioned myself wearing actual purple. And finally, the sleeves were proportioned for someone several sizes smaller than the rest of the dress. The dress itself fit well enough, but that wasn’t much consolation when I couldn’t squeeze my arms into the long narrow sleeves.

I complained to the company, and they were very apologetic, but they never followed through on refunding my money. I planned to donate the dress to a thrift store, but never got around to it. So today I saw the dress still hanging in my closet, and I decided to see what I could do to make it workable for me.

Having lost another fifty pounds, I found I could get the dress on with ease. However, the sleeves were still on the snug side and not long enough to be real “long” sleeves (because I have ape arms—not the company’s fault). And who wants long sleeves in Texas anyway? I’m not a fan of close-fitting clothes in any season, but especially not summer. So the obvious solution was to cut the sleeves short. Having done that, I looked at the cut-off sleeve fabric and thought surely there was something I could do with it. After cutting off the seams, I used my rotary cutter to cut the fabric into strips which I turned into flounces to sew onto my newly-short sleeves.

In a couple of hours, I went from having a dress I’d never wear to having a dress I really like. Not bad for a Saturday in which I got a lot of other stuff done too!

I cooked two big pots of chicken and got it all chopped up and put away for a future meal. I drove up to Hobby Lobby and Michael’s and got more wedding stuff on sale. I did some housework and cleaning and sorting and found a tote bag that’s been missing for quite a while!

Meanwhile, poor Walter and Jasper had to do their yard jobs in the searing heat. The heat index was 108º this afternoon! It got so hot so fast this year, and we are dying for rain. I have to water my garden every single day if I want anything to survive.

My own brush with the heat came after supper when I ventured out for my evening walk. I have to walk outdoors on Saturday because the gym is closed. I must admit, I prefer the air conditioning!

Waiting for News

STILL no word on Lucy’s CAT scan. I hate the uncertainty!

Mary had planned to leave today, but then decided to extend her stay until tomorrow. No one complained! After she came back from Mercy’s and went on her morning run, I took her to my favorite bookstore/coffee shop to look around and have some coffee. I was also able to show her the standing desk there that I envy every time I go!

We made it back in time for lunch and I took a nap because I didn’t have to sew. It is such a relief to have the sewing project done.

Oh, did you want to see it? Well, here it is:

5-9-18 Mary's weighted blanket

The 25-pound blanket. Now Jasper and Lucy want them too. If I make any more though, they won’t be pieced!

I did some reading this afternoon, and Mary took some photos for me, and I made brownies, but mostly I just goofed off and enjoyed not having to sew. I LOVE sewing—don’t get me wrong—but this project was very difficult to do because of the weight and size, and I am glad to have finished it.

This evening Jasper went to youth group. Lucy went out with Bri, and my husband spent hours showing Mary his Russia photos.


Also Comes in Handy as a Weapon

This morning Mary and I went with Lucy to get her scan. She had to drink a large quantity of a barium “milkshake” and then wait for 45 minutes. I didn’t envy her. I had to do that once and once was enough!

The scan itself was very quick. We have no idea when we might hear the results. When we left the imaging center, I took the girls to their favorite coffee shop to get coffee by way of celebration that the scan was over. The place was so full there was nowhere to sit so I waited for them in the car. It’s not like I was going to get a five-dollar drink anyway!

By the time we returned home, it was almost lunchtime and the whole morning was gone, which meant I had not had a chance to work on Mary’s blanket. I rested while everyone else ate lunch and then went back to work, after putting supper on to cook. I found I could get three rows of squares filled and stitched before needing a break to rest my shoulder. Four days of hunching over a sewing machine has been very hard on my “bad” shoulder.

I had hoped to finish the blanket before supper, so we could finally use the table again, but I didn’t quite make it. Spencer came over for supper and everyone ate in the living room while I kept sewing.

I finally finished the binding at 9:10 this evening, and let me tell you—that blanket is HEAVY. It contains 21 pounds of weighted beads. With the weight of the fabric added, I’m sure it’s in the neighborhood of 25 pounds. My arm and shoulder muscles are sore from manhandling all that weight for the last two days. This blanket can double as a workout aid—or a weapon. Can’t you just see it? “One step closer and I’ll whack you with my blanket!”

Mary is spending the night with Mercy tonight, but she’ll be back in the morning. Hopefully we can get some photos of the blanket tomorrow also. I like to think it is pretty in addition to being functional.



Why I Need Fabric

Can you believe January is almost over? Time is moving so fast.

This morning while Jasper was having his online math tutoring session, I drove up to Hobby Lobby. I needed one more lobster clasp to finish my Christmas bead garland re-stringing project. (It has now been finished at last.) I also needed some stiffener and fabric to make a bag.

In less than two weeks, I will be heading to a writers’ conference in Dallas.  In preparation, I took on a ridiculous project. I painted two 12×6 inch pieces of one-eighth-inch plywood. I made many, many mistakes. I learned some things I didn’t know about glow-in-the-dark paint and permanent markers. Here are the two least embarrassing sides of the four I painted:

1-30-18 two boards

What on earth are they for? Well . . . . Back in October, at Writers in the Field, I tried out a new note-taking format, which was a little square sketchbook. I loved it. I could get by with a smaller and lighter bag than if I had to haul around a full-sized clipboard, let alone a laptop or even an AlphaSmart. My only complaint was that I didn’t have a firm surface to put my open sketchbook on while I was taking notes. (My lap, for the record, is not firm.)

So I got this idea of having a little piece of wood that I could rest on my lap, but that would still be compact. I went to the hobby store and found a 12-inch square piece of plywood, and had my husband cut it in half. But of course I couldn’t be happy with a plain piece of wood. So I bought paint and some stencils and now with the conference looming I finally got around to painting. One of the things I love about medieval times is how they put so much effort into making everyday objects beautiful, and I love the idea of doing that even if I don’t have the skill!

Now I have not one but two little boards to rest my sketchbook on, but that means I need a bag that will accommodate a 6×12 inch piece of wood, along with my sketchbook, writing implements, water bottle, etc. The bag I hoped would work is a little too narrow. Bags that are wide enough are too deep. I don’t want to have to carry a massive tote bag. I bought a bag at Walmart that I thought would work, but it’s about half an inch two narrow so I will return it.

Which brings us back to why I bought fabric this morning. I plan to design and make a custom bag for carrying around at conferences where I will be taking notes. I don’t think I’ll get it done in time for this conference, alas, but now I have the materials. Having spent an inordinate amount of time on this nonessential accessory, maybe I should put some effort into getting my book ready to pitch, right?

The Donut Debtor

Ever since the donut shop opened within easy walking distance of our house, Jasper has made a habit of walking over there to buy donuts for his breakfast every Wednesday morning. When an adult sibling is visiting, they are expected to get up early and go with him for a sibling bonding experience.

This morning, Flynn had offered to go with Jasper and buy enough donuts for all the donut-eating members of the family (everyone except Mary and me). They ran into a problem, however. The shop’s card-reading machine was not working and thus they could not accept Flynn’s credit card for payment. He did not have enough cash.

The owner was not concerned. Since Jasper is such a loyal customer, he said to go ahead and take the donuts and Jasper could just owe him $7 and bring it the next time he came in. How often does that happen these days? Credit from a donut shop?

Of course, I made sure to get Jasper over there with the $7 later this morning. I wanted the shop owner to know his trust had not been misplaced.

Mary was gone all morning visiting with a friend, and Spencer was at work, so it was a slow morning. We had planned to go to that new coffee shop/bookstore this afternoon, but when I looked it up I saw that it is closed until after New Year’s, so instead we stayed in and Flynn got the other kids playing a game he had brought. They had a good time.

I took Lucy out to buy a dress because she is going to a wedding on Saturday and she needs something to wear. She found something she can be happy with.

Later, I had to make an emergency yarn run. Yesterday Jasper had been outside having an airsoft battle with his neighborhood buddies, and when he came back in I saw that he was wearing my scarf. Now I have scarves that I wouldn’t mind him wearing, but this particular scarf is precious to me because it was given to me by my best friend when I was fifteen. It is the only thing I have from her, and I didn’t really want it to be worn by my teenage son.

He complained that he was forced to wear my scarf because he doesn’t have one of his own. I’m not sure how that happened. All my other kids were subjected to hand-knitted scarves from me quite early in life. Clearly, I could not let this injustice continue. So I hightailed it to the craft store and bought some yarn. He wanted “camo” yarn so I got the closest I could. It is now seven inches long.


The Mystery of the Missing Gift & Guilt Gifting

I hope your Christmas was as enjoyable as ours. I was up early working on our big Christmas brunch. I haven’t figured out a way to sleep in on Christmas Day yet.

Eventually everyone got up and we had our brunch before opening gifts. I think everyone received at least one gift they really liked. But when the gifts had all been opened, I was puzzled. Jasper hadn’t opened one of his gifts from us, and it was nowhere to be found. I remembered wrapping it, but we couldn’t find it. We looked and looked and looked. Nothing.

It wasn’t until evening that I thought to look in my sewing room, where I had originally stashed some gifts. That’s when I realized how dishonest my memory can be. I had NOT wrapped Jasper’s gift. It was still there, in the bag from the store!

I was just so relieved I could finally give it to him . . .

This afternoon we were able to have a video call with Mercy and Daniel, and watch them open the gifts we had sent them. It was good to see her looking so happy!

There were some gifts I gave this year that were motivated by guilt. Like the hammock straps I gave Spencer, because I had given him a hammock for his birthday, but it didn’t come with any straps that would enable him to use it!

And maybe you remember that last week I was frantically working on a project that had to be done by Wednesday afternoon. That project was making a Japanese kimono for Mercy—something I had promised her for Christmas six years ago.

In my defense, there were several road blocks. I bought the silk for the kimono and had it on hand six years ago, but when I went to cut it out, I discovered that it needed lining. There was no option for making it unlined. So I had to wait until I could save up for more silk for the lining. (If you’re going to go to all that trouble, you might as well use the right fabric.)

At some point I did cut the thing out, but when I started reading the instructions I found them virtually impenetrable. I took the first tentative steps, but then gave up in frustration. I didn’t want to mess up with all that expensive silk.

So I’ve had this kimono hanging over my head for six years. I really wanted to finally make it for Mercy, so this time I did some research and found out that lots of people found the pattern very difficult to follow. I found a YouTube tutorial on how to do the sleeves, which had stumped me before.

I spent three days working on this project and in the end I succeeded. Today I got to watch her open it and see the expression on her face when she realized what it was! She had to wait a long time for that gift!

Mercy's Kimono

The guilt gifting prize, though, belongs to a gift I gave Mary. When Mary was eight years old, we were deep into our Little House on the Prairie days, and Mary wanted a “little house” type dress. I bought some pretty blue and white fabric and prewashed it . . . and never got around to making the dress.

By the time the guilt started getting to me, she was long past the age when she had any interest at all in a dress of that type. So, four or five years ago I had the bright idea of using some of the fabric to make a fleece-lined throw. I bought fleece in a coordinating color . . . and then I did nothing. Until Saturday, that is. I laid out those fabrics and made a blanket from them and then tied the two layers together with yarn.

I blush to disclose the fact that Mary is currently 26 years old. She had to wait 18 years for me to make her something from that fabric. We’re calling it the guilt blanket now.

We finished off the day with the traditional turkey dinner, a Christmas movie, and dessert. Lina made a pecan pie and Mary made a fabulous raspberry trifle. My daughters are great cooks!

Sewing, Writing, and Roasting

I’m pretty happy with today. I finished a sewing project which was my big goal of the day, and got some writing and music stuff done. (Hit my word count goal.) I finished a knitting project too.

I also broke in a new appliance. I got one of those round glass convection ovens because it was dirt cheap and I’ve heard other people rave about them. I used it to roast a chicken, which is supposedly something it excels at.

It did do a good job of roasting the chicken, but it took much longer than expected. One of the selling points of these ovens is that they are so much faster than regular ovens. My chicken took an hour and a quarter to be fully cooked, instead of the promised half an hour, and at a temperature of 480°! That is not much faster than a conventional oven, and I think it heated my kitchen up even more. So at this point, I am kind of skeptical. It might be a nice “extra” to have when cooking holiday dinners. And I suppose if I wanted to make a fancy dinner in a hotel room, I could . . .