Sunday, April 26, 2020

A good week...

It's been a good week.  I'm concluding that either I'm getting used to this stay at home business, or the good news is starting to outweigh the bad.  I'm thinking both are true.

Monday, I got started on my second little bird cross stitch.  This is going to be a Marsh Wren:
There's a fair amount of back stitching to do (on the bird) and some more leaves to stitch, so I'm guessing I'm about half done at this point.  I'm really enjoying this little bird.

And then...  after a few days stitching the wren, I decided to switch things up and pull out my Sacred Space blanket again and see if I couldn't complete another section.   Remember this?

Well, I finally set myself to the task of finishing Section 5 (out of 9), but after hours of working on this, I still couldn't manage to finish this section - it takes such a long time to go all the way around this thing now.  But here's a little glimpse of what I worked on this week: 

 So close, and yet so far...

I'm starting to conclude some things about this project.  In a ZOOM meeting with fellow YOPers a week ago, I commented that I like to make blankets with worsted weight yarn (and I do), but I am reminded that highly texturized blankets get awfully heavy when made with worsted weight yarn.  So...  while I reserve the right to change my mind, I'm thinking that once I finish this section (which only has another round to go) I may be calling this blanket finished.  Also, I'm pretty sure I'll be finishing up the last of the black yarn I have for this project and not buying more yarn  sounds like a good idea.  So... hopefully by next weekend, I'll have this finished and there will be a dry day when I can lay it out on the grass and hang myself out of an upstairs window to take a picture of what is starting to feel like a beast of a blanket.

And that's it on the crafty front.  On a personal note, I'm happy to say I've finally gotten my second shingles vaccine - which was becoming very difficult during this lock-down.  After only one day of being laid low by the vaccine's side effects, I'm a happy camper - so relieved to have that task finished!  And that that is worthy of even talking about here is, I guess, a little peek into how one more thing we take for granted is made different by something like a pandemic and a social-distancing lock-down.

I hope things are going okay in your corner of the world.  It's the most beautiful spring here and it seems many are saying similar things elsewhere.   Is it a lack of pollution that has come with less industry and traffic over the last month?  Is it simply that we have more time on our hands to observe how beautiful are the blossoms, and sweet are the birds' songs?  I don't know the reason, but I'm trying to remain aware and grateful for these beautiful days - even rainy days, like today, are lovely this spring.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

What week of the lock-down is this?

It seems like it was a busy week last, but looking back I think it's just an illusion because we took the opportunity twice to leave our home and interacted with other human beings.  Oh, how this lock-down is affecting my perspective.

The first outing was to deliver some birthday gifts to oldest son on Tuesday.  He and his youngest brother share an apartment less than a half-hour away.  There was no hugging, or even much conversation - it was too cold and blustery to stand outside where we could keep a respectable distance.  Just a masked hand-off of a bag full of goodies  (including several masks I had made him and his brother).  And a picture snapped to commemorate the moment.

It felt very good to make in-person contact. 

And Thursday was the last time (at least for now) we'll be delivering meals to the COVID unit at our local hospital.  It has felt so good to do this and while I will miss doing it, I'm glad that so many others want to join in that the schedule is filled through most of May.  

I was also very glad this week to be able to talk with the head nurse - in person.  It had been a hard week in terms of patient illness and loss, but she had so much good to say about the staff.  And, to date, none of them have come down sick.  She was really happy about that, but her heavy heart was evident even through the mask she wore.   This delivering restaurant meals is such a small thing on an individual scale for any of us who are able to do it, but I hope it buoys the nurses and hospital staff in the COVID unit to know they're being thought of and prayed for.

And on a crafty note, with mask-making (for now) behind me, I cleaned up my craft room, packed away my mask-making supplies, and settled in to cross stitch on my Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher.   And Saturday evening I finished it!  Yay!

Cross Winged Collection has an amazing selection of beautiful bird designs.

Just for fun (and mostly for my future reference), here are some pictures of what Blue-Gray Gnatcatchers look like in real life.

And clicking on any of the files on this page gives an idea of what this little bird sounds like.  

Hopefully, this week I'll get started on a second cross stitch pattern from the same designers - this time, a little Marsh Wren.  

And lastly... here's a pic of middle son wearing the hot pink mask I made him.    I knew he wouldn't disappoint 😉:

I'm pretty sure there's a handsome smile under there.

And that, dear reader, is all she wrote!

Sunday, April 12, 2020

More masks...

First of all, I'd like to say I hope you have a happy and blessed Easter - wherever you are.  And I hope you are safe and well.  

It's been a busy week.  After seeing the masks I made last week (hubs posted pictures to his FB page) one of my sisters asked me if I would make her one.  How could I refuse?    I broke out some pretty bird-print fabric and made her two

As I finished them up, I started contemplating making a few more for us, and thought about asking my sons if they'd each like a mask - figuring I'd probably have to talk them into the idea.

But then, on Thursday, middle son texted us a picture of a surgical mask.  His short message said they were to start wearing masks at work.  Every employee was given one, and was told it needed to last them for a week. 😧   

Thinking that just wouldn't do, I offered to make him some masks pronto - to which he replied with a hearty, "Sure!"

Still not having any "manly" fabric, I decided to dye a twin-size sheet I found early last week - a sheet we don't even have a twin bed for anymore.  

I had black, and blue liquid Rit Dye, so I figured I'd experiment a bit by combining them in different measures.  I tried some mottling (not terribly successful) and even a little tie dying.   I got a few nice shades of gray and blue from my efforts.  And I even decided to dye a pair of faded jeans while I was at it.  👍

I actually found a somewhat simpler, but same end-result pattern to make the Olson Mask this time around (and it comes in different sizes!).  Here's the link for anyone who might be interested.  

I cut out the mask pieces and started making them assembly-line style:

Not knowing how often son does laundry, I ended up making him six masks:

My plan was to make him five to get him through a work week, but he asked if I could make a pink one.  I told him I didn't have any pink fabric (which was true), but then I asked a friend if she happened to have some and she had this small piece of gorgeous hot pink in her stash.  I wish I could see his look of surprise, and hear him laugh when he opens up the box and sees a work-week's worth of masks and a hot pink one.  😄

Not knowing if son would like elastic at the ears, and how much elastic to give him, I made several different styles of fastening these on so he can decide what's best for him.

I thought the idea below pretty genius when I found it online.  The idea here is you put your head through the loop part and it sits on the back of the head, then the mask is put up against your face, and the loose ends are tied behind the neck:  

I tried it myself and it holds well.   I used a soft leather strip I had in my jewelry making supplies.  These masks have been a real exercise in using what I have!

And next up:  While I didn't get a separate picture showing the ear holders (below), I came across the idea of making "elastic" by taking a 1-inch strip of t-shirt fabric, and then pulling it taut so it curls up on itself.  You cut the strips whatever length you need to loop around the ears, feed the strip through the side casing, tie a tight knot, then hide the knot in the casing if you want.  These are super soft on the ears:
I made extra strips so he can replace them on the masks if he wants to.

And lastly, since he wears safety goggles at work, he asked for a wire across the top so he could mold it to his face.  I used this wire I found in my jewelry-making supplies:

I put a slightly softer wire (I'm guessing 22-gauge) in mine and hub's masks and they've come through the laundry just fine a couple of times, so I'm hoping this 20-gauge wire works well for son.

And that is how I spent a few days this past week.  I'm going to finish up a couple more for hubs and myself, and a few for another son who's interested in having something if/when he needs to run errands.  He's thinking he probably won't wear a mask to work, but we'll see how long he has a choice in the matter...

And then, I think I'm done mask-making for a while.  My hat is off to so many of you who've made masks for donating.  While I've been happy to make these for my family, I've found it exhausting to spend time bent over cutting out fabric pieces and then bent forward at the sewing machine for the length of the time it took to make these.  It probably doesn't help my sense of exhaustion that I spent time dying fabric, too.   As soon as I finish up the handful of masks sitting at my sewing machine still, I'm ready to reclaim my craft room for some peaceful and stress-free crocheting, knitting and/or cross stitching for a while.


And one last very happy note:   Yesterday morning, five of us YOPers met on Zoom for the first time.  How fun to hear voices of women I've only enjoyed through their written words up 'till now.  I hope to join in future Zoom meet-ups with any and all YOPers who can make it.  Thank you, Maria for setting it up!   It was so fun to meet up with you, Marsha, Liz, Mary-Anne, and Maria!  Maria even has a screen shot of all of us at the link that is her name! 

Have a safe and happy week, everyone!

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Making masks...

I'm finally making masks.  I don't know what took me so long, but with the infection rate rising dramatically in our area, I, for one, was happy to hear the CDC finally recommend everyone wear a face mask. I suspected we should have been wearing them for the last month, but as much as I hate to admit it, I simply wasn't motivated to make them before now.  It was some form of denial, I suppose.

But knowing we had to run an errand today, I got busy last night and made three (2 for hubs, and 1 for me):

I have a few pieces of girly fabric that suit me just fine, but nothing really masculine for hubs, so I cut up a striped cotton shirt that was in the donation pile.  I got two masks from the back of the man's shirt, and I imagine I can come up with one or two more with the front and sleeves.    

I used a pattern for an Olsen Mask (and benefited from the video at this link).   Video is also below:

And here's what it looks like on me:

Adding a disclaimer:  These masks are for personal use.  I've included information below about the details of these masks I've made that are comfortable for us.  Your sensitivities, or sensibilities may vary.  

I put a 20-gauge wire in the top (and machine-basted it in) so I could shape it on my face - otherwise, breathing with this on steams up my glasses big time.   I'm doubtful it will come through the wash with the wire still usable, but I'm going to try it and see.  The next masks I make, I'm going to take more care to create a neat casing along the top so that a wire can be slipped in and out.  The  really cool thing is, this tutorial suggests using pony tail holders for the ear pieces.  Genius!   I wonder if they would work equally well on the rectangular masks...  I think I will try that pattern, too, and see.   I found four elastic bands in a bathroom drawer, but when we were on our errand today I stopped in at the Dollar Tree and picked up a bunch more.  Thin ones work best, I believe, and have to be more comfortable than thicker elastic.

BTW, here's a tip (I found online in a video of a medical person explaining how to wear various masks) -- to keep from steaming up your glasses while wearing a mask like this:  Fold a tissue several times (lengthwise, until it's about an inch wide) and lay it along the top, but behind the mask.  I did this, and with the wire, the tissue wasn't even visible.  And it worked.  I haven't road tested it - by shopping or moving around a lot, but just wearing it around the house for a while, it seemed to stay in place.  I'm sure the wire helps.  


Back to the errand we ran earlier today...  I'm really glad to share that our little church (along with some other churches in our small town) are delivering meals to the COVID Response Team at our local hospital.  I signed hubs and I up for today (and a few times in the future).   It's an opportunity  to support some local restaurants and give encouragement to those medical personnel who are working so tirelessly and bravely.  In a time of fear, loss, exhaustion and trauma, it felt good to do something tangible.  


On a yarny note...  I am half-amazed, half-embarrassed to show my dishcloth knitting for the month of March, but here it is!

I'd call this stress knitting, but honestly, I haven't exactly felt stressed.  Or worried.  Of course, I haven't been struck with sickness, so... easy for me to say.

I've asked myself so many times, "What am I feeling?"


Oh yes.  


Sometimes - yes.  I assume we all have had moments where we are overwhelmed by the loss and pain and trauma many are experiencing - if we are not experiencing these things ourselves.  

To be honest, I don't think a day goes by - probably not an hour goes by without realizing at some point that I am distracted.   

Yeah, I think it's fair to say my dishcloths at the moment have been "distracted knitting".  When I couldn't focus on anything more complicated than knit and purl, back and forth, row after row.  When sleep hasn't come until 3 am, or when words for cohesive prayers have been elusive, my hands kept busy.  

I pray you are kept safe and well in this time of uncertainty.


In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.  And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.

                                  Romans 8:26-27 New International Version


Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Potato Leek Soup...

Having received an immersion blender for Christmas (or rather...  having gifted myself one for Christmas), I'm thrilled with what a great tool is for for making creamy goodies like Potato Leek Soup.  In fact, it's such a great tool, and this is such a good recipe, I've made this soup three times now since the beginning of the year.

There are numerous and similar recipes online, but I started with this recipe found at Once Upon a Chef  and adapted it to what I had on hand.  Giving credit to the original creator of this recipe, I record here how I made this soup so I can easily find it again.  If  you make it (or follow the recipe linked to above) I hope you enjoy it as much as we do.

Potato Leek Soup


3 Tbs butter

2 to 4 good size leeks    
3 cloves garlic (minced)
2 lbs Yukon Gold potatoes - peeled and cut up 
7-8 cups chicken broth
2 bay leaves
1 tsp powdered Thyme 
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper (approx)
Chicken Bouillon (if desired)
Heavy Cream (~ 1 Tbs per bowl)

  • The original recipe calls for 4 large leeks, but I just use whatever comes in a bundle - typically I get 2 or 3 leeks in a bundle.
  • I sometimes mix other potatoes with Yukon Gold
  • Original recipe calls for 3 sprigs fresh thyme - dried, powdered thyme is what I had
  • I almost always end up adding some chicken boullion to my soup after blending it.  I don't know if you'll think it needs more, but this heightens the flavor for me.  I could just have poorly trained taste buds. Don't add it before tasting.


If you're not familiar with cleaning leeks, here's a quick video tutorial - I prefer to cut them in half lengthwise and clean them before chopping them up.  I clean and chop leaks about an inch into the dark green stalk.  And being a plumber's daughter, who's sometimes learned the hard way that Dad was right, let me advise you...  dump the sandy, dirty water outside - not down your kitchen drain.

Melt butter over low heat in soup pot.  Add the leeks and garlic.  Cook, stirring so nothing browns.  This takes 10 - 15 minutes.  

Add the potatoes, broth, bay leaves, thyme, salt and pepper to pot and bring to a boil.  Stir, turn heat down to low and simmer for about 30 minutes (or until potatoes are very soft).

Remove the bay leaves (and sprigs of thyme if using fresh), then puree with an immersion blender until smooth.  At this point, the soup can be cooled and frozen for future use.  To eat now, read on:

Ladle soup into bowls, then add about 1 tablespoon of heavy cream to each bowl and stir.  If needed, nuke in microwave for 30 seconds to heat back up after adding cream.

Soup can be frozen without cream.  Just thaw, reheat, and add cream to hot soup.

This soup is great alone or with a light sandwich.  Very filling.