Monday, August 18, 2014

Black Cat Appreciation Day - Belated

According to the most esteemed, scholarly, news feed of it's kind. Cuteoverload.com reported yesterday, that it was officially Black Cat Appreciation Day.  Someone failed to notify me in time!
NOT that it matters much. If you ask Jacques, every day is Black Cat Appreciation Day! duh. 
 
My sweet baby, who knows he is SO handsome.
The best Craig's List find, ever!

When I first decided I needed a cat in Philadelphia, there was no doubt in my mind - I wanted a black, male, cat. All of my experiences with them had been wonderful. They are quite the personality-plus little guys. I had just finished cat-sitting for two black kitties, Ezekiel and Nico, and knew that's what I wanted.   Nico, (left) little butterball, with the LOUDEST purr I have every heard. Sweet - just wants love, scared to death of his own shadow, used to wake me up in the morning by bumping his wet nose against mine when the snooze went off. This usually took about an hour. 
Ezekiel, who sadly has gone on to the happy hunting grounds, was so miserable the entire time I was watching him. Used to being able to roam a neighborhood, the confinement of a two-room apartment, though large, was tough on him.  He showed his love by butting his forehead against mine and just held that pose for a while. He was a really neat cat. Sure of himself, he introduced himself the first time I met him by hopping right up onto a chair until he was almost eye-level,  expecting to be noticed. 
The cat I had to leave behind in California - Baghira - was also a great big fluffy black ball of sweetness. Baggy was so sweet, I never had to put him in a cat carrier to take him to the vet. He always knew what was up, but he never ran. He just stuck to me like velcro until we were sitting, and then stuck his head under my arm. He never realized that the rest of his 16lbs. of rump was still sitting on my lap in full view of anyone!
Baggy played his cards right. I caught him as a tiny kitten. He fit into my hand. Someone had burned his paws with cigarettes - you could see the burn marks on the pads.  He was like one of those little "pills" you throw in water and they immediately expand into some giant sponge or something. We added food and within a week he tripled in size. My mother, the dog lover, was not in favor of keeping this little guy. But every time she would go out to the patio (where he was staying), he would be the biggest love bug. After four weeks she said, "I guess we have a cat now." We had to juggle "schedules" between Max the wire hair Dachshund - who HATED cats - and Baggy (named for Baghira in the Jungle Book). But we made it work. Sadly this was all long before the age of digital and so I only have film images of sweet Baggy. You'll just have to take my word on all of that.  

I found Jacques after a long search on Craig's List.
Five months old (approximately) and skinny, the little guy came reluctantly. He was very nervous at first and so I just let him be.  I was working from home at the time so we had plenty of time to bond and get used to each other. He developed into quite a character. Sometimes, it's almost as if he is trying to have a conversation with me.    
Jacques has put up with all kinds of my antics. Trying to entice him to bubbles,  
Playing Harry Potter dress up. 
He is the inspector, checking on all of my life's choices,
But not working too hard.
Snow, by the way, is really not his favorite season.
 
As if I needed any more evidence, I was trying desperately to find a picture of me and Melanie's sweet kitty MJ, who was another great little character. I know I sent her a picture of me and MJ, but now I cannot find it! So I hope she doesn't mind too terribly that I stole an image from her website. Lots of TLC needs to be sent to Melanie because her sweet baby, MJ, passed away this spring, tragically and suddenly.  He was a very sweet, attentive, young, inquisitive, sometimes devious, but always innocent! little guy. Always with his mommy Mellie. Here he is in his usual place of occupancy, Melanie's lap as she worked in her studio. 
So - Hooray! for Black Cats! Adopt one today! Your life will be infinitely better for it. 

PS: just so you know, I edited considerably! I have oodles of Jacques pictures. This post could have been miles long. In fact, I'm considering making a post titled, MINE. I need a place to post all of the images of Jacques sitting on my stuff, as is his right, because it's his anyway. I'm just staff. 

Sunday, August 17, 2014

A very productive weekend

Yes it was. Very productive. Brace yourselves...
I think it was the result of a particularly bad allergy week and that I did nothing during the week. Now you must understand something - I. Do. Not. Have. Allergies. No I don't. But about four years ago all of the sudden April and May became very sneezy. Now it seems that I am to be treated to another bout for the month of August. This time the allergy package has a bonus! Itchy eyes. At first I thought I was just having an eye irritation after all of the crying on Monday for the devastating news about Robin Williams. But the irritation did not go away and was compounded with more sneezy for the rest of the week. I must have used about 8 hankies a day because that was all that was in the light colored wash. Practically took up the whole laundry line. Anyway - come weekend time, I had purchased more Zyrtek and the generic Benadrill and it was manageable. Today I seem to be much much better. I sure hope it was a one week thing.

But on to the productivity!
Last weekend! I finally finished the green flowered blouse! Yay! As I said - it was one of those too-many-years-in-the-making projects. Don't let my Omi see the tailoring which is, ahem, well, for her would be unacceptable. You can see the stitchs! gasp! But no one else (I hope) is going to notice.   
I'm happy with it. It fits, it doesn't pucker anywhere weird, and it stayed together when I wore it. What more could anyone ask for? 

Friday: this other blouse was a bit less of a long and drawn out project, but still a relief to be finished. This is the same pattern as the pink and blue blouses from this post
It's my first stretchy fabric success! I think I only had to re-thread my surger once? That's pretty darn good! But I sure did fiddle and fiddle and fiddle on Friday. My Omi would have been much more proud of me for this blouse. Now it fits really well. Think I'll wear it tomorrow. 

In a crazy fit of productivity on Saturday (anything to not think about the allergies) I tackled some more of those projects I've been meaning to do for a while now.  A few years ago, I read an article in some outdoorsy magazine about using recycled umbrella tops for shopping bags. And I thought - what a great idea.  
Between Pedro and me, over the last year we collected quite a few. As a native Californian, one of the natural phenomena in Philadelphia that still surprises me, is the discarded umbrella. Once broken, the umbrella is simply tossed aside. It is not unusual to find their spidery mechanisms sticking up out of a garbage can. More often you find them blowing across the street or somewhere equally inconvenient because the former owner has simply tossed them aside in frustration. I was actually carrying a pair of scissors around for a while so I could cut the top off immediately instead of hauling the whole thing home. I stopped collecting after a while because I really wasn't doing anything with them. 
The bags are pretty easy to make. The article claimed they would also be waterproof because of the umbrella material. I don't think this is true. I made the dark green one back in the winter and have used it to pick up my farm share every week. One week I got caught in a down pour and didn't worry too much because the bag was supposed to be waterproof. Hmmm. The bag was soaking wet and so were the contents. Thank goodness they were just vegetables. 
Not all of the bags have been taken for a test drive yet so maybe some of the other fabrics work better.  This one is from the cutest umbrella I bought in Korea. Unfortunately the wire frame broke as soon as I got it home. But the fabric was so cute I just couldn't throw it out. The bags all have at least one bottle holder, this one has two. The best part about these bags is that you can leave the "closure" on the bag and use that to roll the bag up to practically nothing!

Fits right in my purse!  

I also had two XL umbrella covers.  The stripy one and the beige plaid one. I spent most of the day trying to figure out how to make a yoga bag with matching tote.
 I think I did OK once I worked the math out for the circular end pieces. My allergy brain did not compute the simple C=πd equation. (20in= 3.14d, solving for d the first time I got 9.55.... Good Grief! That's not even possible. Finally the second time I got something closer to 6.5. Much better.)
The yoga mat bag is slightly loose because I like to just roll everything up together - wet towels, mat and everything - all at once. I take it out as soon as I get home and wash and dry everything. The tote bag is a bit smaller than the other totes, but still one water bottle slot and plenty of room for clothing change, or ??? I had every intention of making another one out of the beige plaid material but I just ran out of steam. Maybe I will soon. I'm not really interested in keeping these, maybe I should sell them on etsy? What do you think?
And I don't know why, maybe I was feeling a little guilty that I'd run out of steam - 

 So I made some yoga head bands out of defunct leggings and iron-on butterflies.
  This afternoon I decided to spend my time in my garden.  It is blooming beautifully and I just needed  some time to enjoy it. As an added bonus, I manage to get a really good rough draft of my syllabus finished as well.
This week I'm, hopefully, taking a Mozzarella making class at Reading Terminal! I say hopefully because I'm nervous that not enough people have signed up and it won't run. I'm really excited and shall report back on my success or disaster - however it turns out.

But garden garden garden!
Another chance to play find the mantis:
 Her close-up:
 Teddy bear sunflowers:

 Regular gorgeous sunflowers which need to be protected from the squirrels:

And lastly,
Oh Captain my Captain.... 

I'm so sorry you had to leave us. We will miss you very much. 

Sunday, August 10, 2014

mostly sunflowers, but also some other stuff

The sunflowers have arrived...
and they are gorgeous.  
Chinese lanterns are turning orange: 

Something is under the morning glories - a mouse? Something else? 
Whatever it is, it's the most interesting thing in the yard by far. 
Well, with the exception of what I did today. 
The garlic patch as it has grown in after the harvest.  On the left is the tomato plant that is thriving. Behind it is a tomato plant that has mostly died. Sadly. It was a Black Krim. They were unreal! So yummy! I do hope that this thriving plant produces fruit that is just as good. 

The garlic patch;  cleared and being inspected.  
 
I decided to be pro-active about my mustard greens. I love them so much. But I usually just let the seeds blow all over the yard and what grows grows. I've tried replanting them in more convenient places but they don't like being transplanted. So after conditioning the soil, I picked all the mustard seeds and crumbled them into this new patch. I'm excited to see what happens - to see if my plan works.
 
I ended up picking far more mustard seeds than I needed. And many of them are still green. But I'm going to pick all these pods and let them dry out. There is no reason I can't have a LOT more of these. They grow like weeds!  
During this maintenance, I came across a rogue tomato. It already has fruit so I hiked it up to a trellis. I'm curious about what it will produce. As far as I'm concerned - one can never have too many tomatoes.  
The garden maintenance was most of the afternoon. This morning I got back to work sewing on another one of those several-years-in-the-making projects.  
I bought this fabric in Los Angeles in the garment district back in the '90s. I've always loved it. In it's first incarnation it was an awful sundress. I mean really awful.  I probably wore it twice before I just couldn't stand the sight of it. 
This time around it is going to be a lovely tailored blouse (I hope). This was similar to the pink one I recently finished in that, I cut it out wrong, had to revisit it, got bored/frustrated and just left it in the cloth stash for a few years.  But now - as long as I can find the right buttons, I think this one is in the bag. Yay! 
Swee'pea is very happy about the sewing madness: 
It means lazy mommy has pulled out piles of cloth and is too distracted to put everything away where it belongs. This makes the perfect little kitty nest. 

But mostly, tonight, my thoughts are with Ann and her family. 
Her father, Carl, passed away last night at the age of 99. Such a kind man, and what an amazing life he lived. My love to you all. 

Monday, August 4, 2014

Weekend Update

I know you are all on pins and needles wondering about what happened after my lasts posts. Haha - sorry about that again. I know I was cheating, posting so many in one day and then not even really posting... but leaving you hanging. I have now posted the complete chapters of July 31st. And I think it was what I needed to do. It gave me some energy to do some more on Sunday evening.  

But first - oh the poor kitties: 
Vet visit - it was so. Traumatic. 
  
As I was hoping, this "carrier" was much easier on Swee'pea. Now, maybe it was because there was no prior association with this particular carrier as the one which ALSO takes one out to the car, and the vet, with the pokey things -but I just plonked him in and zipped it up and voila! Crated kitty. No blood (mine. nice!) Jacques had to be shoved into the other carrier. This was not so easy with my 15lb-er who immediately knew what was up and went spread eagle and I had to unhook each back paw-claw from the edge of the carrier while still hanging onto the upper portion of the cat and pushing down.  This should be an Olympic sport. It takes strength and coordination.  Shoot - they jump horses in the Olympics... cat-crating for gold - why not?!
The vet was a new one. My former vet, Dr. Connor - wonderful Dr. Conner, left the practice. :( Very sad day. But I am quite happy with the new vet. She had a similar demeanor towards cats. Calm, let's them do what they need, responds appropriately etc. I liked her. Not sure the boys liked her though.  Dr. Connor always took their temperature in the ear. This vet took it - ahem - up the rear. And you could just tell by the look on Jacques' face that this was a bit unexpected and not entirely to his liking.  But we made it through. Jacques got the rabies shot and then immediately tried to crawl into the carrier where Swee'pea was "hiding." Practically sat right on top of him.  Swee'pea got a small steroid shot for the itchies and mouth ulcers and Dr. Guth (new vet) thought that maybe he was allergic to the cat litter? Okay - well, maybe? That's definitely an easier fix than constant medication, right? So we'll give that a try. We got home, and lots of Greenies were doled out. Then all was right with the world. 

While we're on animals, I thought I'd post pics of the Mantis. I don't know if it's male or female - not exactly sure how to tell. I want to say "she" so I think I will.  She is about doubled in size by now.
Here she is, posing for her closeup: 
They are so cool! Their heads are reticulated (is that the right word?) They can actually turn their heads to look at you, unlike most bugs. It's a little creepy but also really really cool! 

And just in case you'd like to play find-the-bug - she's here... in this photo: 
Right here:
 
One of the real reasons I wanted to blog today is because there was progress on The Shoes!  Woohoo! But only progress. 

I neglected to mention that I had made some booboos.  There are two in this photo - can you spot them both? 

 The first is the highly uncomfortable nail-in-the-wrong-direction, quite obvious in the lower left side of the wooden shoe. The other is the inch and a half of wood I managed to chip off with more of the nail-in-the-wrong-direction technique.  This was of course, unintentional. 

I worked some more on getting the uppers nailed to the wooded part. 
And have done a pretty thorough job, except that I made the left shoe looser than the right. Can you tell? The left one is that which is currently under construction and so all is not lost. The first order of business at the moment is to fix the nail-in-the-wrong-direction situation and adhere the busted piece of wood back in place.  
 So that's where we are. The nail is gone, and the shoe is clamped. The adhesive needs 24-48 hours to cure. I'll check on it later.
In the meantime, the creative juices were still flowing.  The blouse I mentioned before of stretchy fabric is still proving to be a challenge. I tried a few things to solve the problems of turning the edges in.
 
But I didn't like the results and so have tabled this project in favor of a new one...

A new dress:
 This is a Vogue pattern from back in my college days - '95 or so.  Yes really. A 20-year-old pattern.  I really wish I still had the first dress I made with this pattern.  It was gorgeous. Beautiful burgundy-brown with great big peonies on it. Lovely.  But alas it probably made it into a thrift store bag at some point.
While this pattern is still really flattering and I have put together most of it in this brown,  I'm not sure I like it.  I've washed this red fabric and might make another one out of this.


This fabric has also been in my possession for more than 20 years. So (sew! snort - punny) enough is enough. Time to sew something out of it!  Might as well be this cute little number.