Sunday, May 24, 2020

Happy Handcrafts...

Life is getting back to some semblance of normal for a lot of people in our state, but Hubs and I are needing to continue to practice physical distancing from others pretty much at the same level we have over the last 2 1/2 months as we wait  for him to have knee surgery this summer.  We do NOT want him to get sick and have this surgery postponed, or him have to suffer illness on top of a knee that has grown so painful he can't sleep in bed for much of the night. He's walking with a cane, and hobbles, and frankly, doesn't walk very far.  Driving is difficult.  It's getting old and waiting is getting harder and harder.  Trying to hang onto the positive that he has a date, and not focus on the fact that it's still over a month away.   

It's a small complaint, really.  It's where we're at right now.  

Okay... onto happier things.  Handcrafts!  😊

I finished February's portion of the Linen and Threads' 2020 Mystery Stitch-A-Long:

It will probably be lost on anyone not doing this SAL, but I will be adding some motifs throughout the year in areas where they will fit in.  This is called "Friends and Family Sampler"  and each stitcher is encouraged to stitch in the initials of meaningful people in his/her life.  But that idea doesn't float my boat at all.   There are so many spaces for doing this, even if I could come up with that many initials, I don't even know if I'd be able to remember who all they belonged to when I was finished.  So...  inspired by another stitcher of this sampler, I'm looking for some motifs that I can add.  Some will fit in naturally, some will add a bit of wimsy (like animals and insects).  I have to stitch a bit more on this before I have a good feel where those things will fit, but be on the lookout for them.  Or maybe they won't appear until the Sampler itself is finished.   Unless, of course, I change my mind.  We all know I'm fully capable of doing that - and possibly even prone to it.  Anyway...  though the stitching is small and sometimes tedious, I am enjoying this greatly. 

And this week, I started a shawl/scarf project called Inner Light.   Because I'm using two hanks of yarn that are from different dye lots, I'm switching back and forth between the two every other row.  I know the two balls look the same, but one is darker than the other and it becomes apparent when working them together. 

 As usual, all you get is a peek at this stage.  😉 

I think the mottling effect is interesting in this yarn that is hand dyed in shades of bright pink yarn.  Worked up, it's not nearly as bright as I imagined it would be - which is a good thing.  It was really bright in the hank.  

And that's it!  Come back next week and see if I've made any progress!  

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Bird Pillow...

I have a finish this week!   I don't know how many may remember this Blue Tit Cushionbut I started it on May 2nd, 2019.  Yesterday (May 16th, 2020), I finally finished it:

There is just simply no reason for this having languished  unloved in a basket for over a year!  Shortly after beginning it, I kind of cooled on all the color changes, but when I set my mind to it again this week, I had the front finished in just a couple of sittings. And the back in two more sittings.  I kid you not - this little 12-inch pillow does have hours in it, but it wasn't complicated.   The picky me wants to cringe over the the squiggly white on the wings, but I did it twice and it didn't improve the second time, so I decided to be done with it and call the squiggliness "artistic".   It helps that when I looked at the designer's pillow, her wings have squiggles too.  I am reminded that squiggles are, to some degree, inherent in crochet colorwork. 

And here's a picture of the back - because the back is just as sweet as the front:

Aren't those heart buttons cute?   I'm so glad I had purchased those many, many months ago.  If I hadn't, it could be weeks or months more before this was finished.  Note to self:  When starting a project, have all the pieces parts.  You never know when something like a pandemic will hit.


And lastly, on a non-YOP note, but since this could benefit interested YOPers, I'd like to link to a post I wrote recently about how to make links in a post that open in new windows.  The short of it is that links that open into new windows (as opposed to opening in the same window as the blog the links appear on) have benefits for folks who read blog posts on a devices like laptops, chromebooks, or personal computers.  The benefit to the blogger is that links that open into new windows are less likely to cause your blog from being lost to the reader while they're checking out your cool links.   If you're curious how to do this simple thing, check out my post. The simple instructions are early in the post; the rest of the post is just an explanation of why it's a helpful thing.

And that's all she wrote!

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Stitching A-Long...

This week I began a new project that should see me through the rest of the calendar year.  Linen & Threads hosts an annual Mystery Sampler Stitch-A-Long, and while I think it might have been sometime in March when I first became aware that they hosted these annual SALs,  I just recently decided to jump in on the one for this year. 

It was about mid-April when I made that decision, and with COVID-19 affecting things, it took over 3 weeks for materials to arrive.  Once fabric and floss arrived early this week, I pretty quickly sat myself down and started on it.  And this weekend, four month's behind schedule, I finished January's part of the pattern:

When completed, the whole design will measure just under 10 inches square.  
Somewhere around half the size of the original that is stitched 2 over 2.

I'm stitching this with DMC floss (815 colorway) 1 over 1, on 25-ct Lugana in Antique White.  It's a bit of a stretch for these eyes of mine, but with a bright light I'm able to do it!  I'm also finding that a sharp needle is easier to use with this fabric than a less sharp petite needle I'd been using and growing very fond of on other recent projects.  When I cross stitched in the 80's I, personally didn't know about any other cross stitch fabric than Aida, and had no clue that there were a variety of needles to stitch with.  Always something new to learn!

I'm hoping ,with some intense periods of stitching for a few weeks, I can get caught up and maybe by early-mid June I'll be on track to be ready and waiting for each new reveal over the last six months of 2020.  I'm thinking of this as something of a commemorative piece to represent our year of COVID, so if this takes me until there's a vaccine to finish it (and it could), I guess that will be fitting, too.

And lastly, I completely forgot last week that I had finished another small Christmas stitch:

This will go into my collection of smalls that will one day be sewn into little pillows.  That's my thought at the moment, anyway...

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Link options...

I'm going to stick my neck out and make a suggestion to my fellow bloggers.    Of course, feel free to ignore me entirely, but what I'm about to suggest is (hopefully) super simple on your part, and it could enhance your readers' experience on your blog - specifically, the difference in how links work affects those who read blogs on laptops, chromebooks, or PCs.  Creating links either way described below doesn't appear to have any effect on how phone readers experience links.  I'm curious about the experience of tablet users.

Disclaimer.  I'm close to being the most amateur of amateurs when it comes to blogging.  While I have personal preferences about all kinds of things, I am an expert at nothing.  The suggestion I'm going to make here is simply born out of  my personal experiences visiting various blogs and coming to some conclusions about what makes the whole thing a better experience for me as a reader and commentor on several different blogs.

Okay...  here we go...

I have found when visiting blogs (on a laptop, chromebook or PC), links open two different ways:  

1)  Links open up into new (or separate) windows.


2)  A link opens up to a new site, but in the same window. 

The whole point of this post is to share why I find the experience of reading, clicking links, and leaving comments is easier with the first option above than the second one.  And (I hope) to show how easy it is to create links described in the first option.  And I hope in reading this post, you'll understand why this option is good for your blog.  I wouldn't encourage anyone to do something that isn't to their benefit. 

I promise you this is about the easiest thing you'll ever do on your blog (if you're not already doing it).

In fact, it's so easy I'm going to tell you right now how to do it, and will provide pictures and the explanation again below for anyone needing a visual.   These instructions are only for Blogger bloggers.  Other blogging platforms may have  different ways to do this.


Get ready for it. 

Here it is:  When you're creating a link for your blog, while you're still in that little pop-up window, simply check the little box beside the words "Open this link in a new window".  Then press OK as normal.  That's it!   

You can change it the next time if you want to, but if you're happy with this option, you don't need to do anything ever again.  Whether you check the box, or uncheck it, that becomes the default until you change it.

Now read on if you want to know why I make the suggestion.

The first option above creates a new window and tab for the site linked to.  Both windows remain fully open (the first blog, and the linked-to site) until their respective tabs are closed. 

By clicking on this link, you'll see that the new page opens up under a new tab.  If that isn't obvious, what tells you it's a new and separate page is that there is no bold back arrow at the top left-hand of the screen.  To get back here, you'll be able to click on the tab that has my blog's name on it.  This page doesn't go anywhere, it stays open while the new page opens.  Don't forget to come back!  

The second option will open up a link in the same window (and under the same tab), making the original blog post disappear while the new site takes up residence in the window.  This option provides a back-arrow that allows one to toggle back and forth between the original blog post and the page that is linked to.  By clicking on this link, you'll see what that looks like.   Again, please come back!  😉

I'm thinking a lot of people probably don't make much of a distinction between the two options, but where I've found the distinction most important is when I'm leaving a comment, or when I don't want to loose track of a blog -- because invariably... when links open pages, keeping them under the same tab, I can start losing track of where I was originally.  And if I click on links within links, soon I've completely lost track of the original site I was on (or any pages along the way) and eventually that can degrade my web surfing experience if there were things along the way that I didn't want to lose track of.

Are you interested in giving this a try?  I can only explain how you can do this on Blogger, but hopefully other blogging platforms offer as simple a way to do this.  It's easy - if it wasn't, I wouldn't even try to explain it.  

Also, in case you're wondering...   you can go back and forth between the two options for creating links.  It's just as easy to change back if you want to.  But I have found that whatever option I choose, that option becomes the default until I decide I want to change it.  But why would I when I prefer the option I'm going to show you?  

To create links that open up into new windows (again, this is just for Blogger bloggers), click on the Link button at the top of your post.  That will give you this little pop-up screen:

Zooming in closer (and I'm sorry for the picture quality), the pop-up looks like this:

By checking "Open this link in a new window", and then pressing OK as usual, the link you create will open up into a new window, under a new tab.

It's that simple - for me, anyway.  Hopefully, all the Blogger  templates offer this.  Again, I can change this anytime I want, but whichever I have chosen, becomes the default until I change it again.  I love that I don't have to think about this every time I create a link.

Here's the thing... 

Though it's not really a thing...  

It's just that the reader who doesn't care about this, simply doesn't care.  ETA:  The first comment below tells me that when accessing blogs on a smart phone a distinction between different types of links isn't apparent.  So phone readers aren't affected by any of this.  That's really helpful to know.  But the great thing is that the reader who does care can have a better experience when links open up into their own window.  And through no more effort on a blogger's part than clicking a little box and forgetting about it!  

How is the experience possibly better for some readers?  Let me count the ways...

I often find I want to start writing a comment on someone's blog when reading something written early in their post.  Then I go back to reading again and I come to a link, and I suddenly have a delimma.  Do I click the link, not knowing whether it will take me to a new page under the same tab, and risk losing the comment I had begun?  Or do I just finish my comment and check out their links later?  Or... maybe not check out their links at all?

Having to make a choice at this point means a couple of things may happen.  I risk it, hoping the blogger has created a link that opens a new window (or tab).  If so, I'll find when I click back on the tab that is still their blog that my comment is intact and I can pick up commenting where I left off.  

OR, if their link opens to a new site that replaces their blog, when I toggle back to their blog (using the back-arrow), I find that my partial comment has disappeared.  😟

If this latter thing happens (and it often does), I now have two more choices:  1) I may tell myself I'll leave a comment later after I've checked out all their links, or 2) worse...  I may decide leaving a comment just isn't worth it.  The problem with the first choice is I often forget to go back and leave a comment on the blog that provided the link.  Or if I've clicked on multiple links after leaving the first blog, depending on if it's a blogger I'm familar with or not, I may completely lose track of their blog page and never find my way back.

To be clear, my suggestion of creating links that open up into new windows (under new tabs) doesn't eliminate the possiblity that a reader may close the tab to my blog accidentally and I could become lost forever to them.  But I've done what I can (something that costs me nothing at all) to make it easier for them to click on any number of links in my blog posts, peruse those links to their heart's content, possibly even fall into a rabbit hole heaven of links -- all the while my blog's tab sits there patiently, ready for them to "come back to mama" and maybe leave me a sweet comment. 😊

Now, all that said..  If  you're a Blogger blogger and you've tried my suggestion and have a counter argument to doing it, I'm all ears.  

And if, as a blog reader, you DON'T like new windows opening up, I'm curious about that, too.  I, personally, don't experience any downside to it.  If I find I have too many tabs open, it's simple enough to just close the ones I'm not using. As a blogger, the effort in creating links is identical for making links either of the two ways described above - i.e. there's no extra effort at all.  But as a reader and commenter, the difference can be huge.

Be kind if you're going to argue or educate me.  Like I said at the beginning of this post, I'm an amateur at blogging.  It's been a hobby for 10+years, and I don't expect blogging to ever be anything different than that for me. But I am curious what your personal experience is, and if you have a preference.  Did you even realize there is a preference to be had? 

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Super Power or Super Simple? Is there a difference?

Today, Mrs. T from Across My Kitchen Table wrote a fun post about her "super power" - which was a response to a week-old Wednesday Hodgepodge question originally posted by Joyce at From This Side of the Pond.  I encourage you to read Mrs. T's post.  It made me smile and will probably make you smile too.  

The writing prompt was:   ...when was the last time you felt like Superman? What's your superpower? Explain."


Okay, I confess...  I don't have any super powers, but yesterday I had a highly successful moment that made me feel so completely satisfied, I decided to share it after reading Mrs. T's post.

We've had a lamp in our living room with a semi-broken switch on it for I don't even know how long.  We've never bothered to fix it because it works some of the time.  Often enough that it keeps us hoping the next time we need it, it will come on.

Well, yesterday evening - just as the news started, and after hubs had gotten the lamp turned on - I asked if he could turn it off because the reflection of the light really messed with my ability to see the debonair David Muir on the ABC World News Tonight (6:30 every weeknight in case you have no idea who I'm talking about).  

Anyway...  hubs looked at me disbelievingly and said, "Do you know how hard that lamp is to turn on?"  

To which I replied, "Tell you what, if you turn it off, I'll switch that lamp with the matching lamp by my chair after the news is over."  

He turned off the lamp.

Thirty-some minutes later I was true to my word.  I gave him my working lamp and schlepped the semi-broken lamp over to the chair I normally sit in.  

Realizing I would soon find the lamp frustrating, I  decided to fiddle around with the bulb socket, hoping it was a simple thing like bending a metal piece inside to make better contact with the bulb. 

No such luck.

So I asked Hub if we had any extra sockets out in the garage.

What?  You don't have extra lamp sockets laying around?  Hub's dad was an electrical engineer and I figured at some point Hub had brought home some old sockets, along with the old switches, outlets and various other electrical tidbits he'd found when going through his father's workshop after his passing - so it was a reasonable question.  

Hub went out to the garage and triumphantly appeared a couple of minutes later with a plastic box holding a variety of old sockets.   Old sockets because electrical engineer father-in-law never got rid of anything if it could possibly be used again - even if the last time it had been used was 1950.  FWIW, there were several old sockets in old, but never-been-opened packaging.  Great!  One of those, even if it was old, should work!

I knew replacing the socket wasn't a difficult thing to do (because it seemed to me that I'd done this at least one other time in my life), but try as hard as I could, I could not separate the base of the socket from the socket itself.  So I did what any red blooded can-do person does these days and I googled it.  The answer was to press where it says "Press Here".  😕

Incredulous that we had missed that, I tried pressing and pulling, but it wouldn't separate.  Thinking I must not have the hand strength, Hub tried and it still wouldn't separate.  There was only one thing left to do, and that was to replace the whole thing (base and socket).  

I shuffled through the plastic box of old lamp sockets and found one that was the least worst match for our silver-colored (probably brushed nickel) lamp.

And in about 5 minutes I had that socket changed, and the lamp put back together.  And we now have two (well, actually four) perfectly good lamps in our living room!   And truth be told, I much prefer this old fashioned and simple push on/push off switch to the 3-way turn-knob switch that it replaced.

Husband looked at me rather admiringly...  And I knew what he was thinking (because he's said it many times")  "You're the mechanic in the family."

Which isn't saying a lot, but it's true.

And now, I'm feeling pumped to find some old lamps to rewire and re-outfit with working switches. I'm a fan of old lamps.  Maybe someday I'll take pictures of the ones we have  Actually, I think we only have three old (and by old, I mean older than me) lamps in the house, and one (non-working one) in the garage.   I think that's soon to change now, though.

Did I say I'm a fan of old lamps?

Old lamps will be the subject of a future post, I'm thinking...

So what's your super power?

Sunday, May 3, 2020

An uneventful, but fairly productive week...

So how are things in your corner of the world?  It's been a rather uneventful week here, but yesterday morning got us out to see the Indiana National Guard 122 Fighter Wing, AKA The Blacksnakes do a flyover to honor health care and other front-line workers during this time of COVID. 

Everyone was told to "social distance", but other than a written word telling people to not travel to watch the event, there was no attempt to stop people from doing just that.  So on a beautiful Saturday morning, a fair number of the population of our sleepy little town made their way to places where the flyover could be best observed.  And those who did were treated to a somber, and moving flyover.  That's it.  It wasn't exactly exciting.  There were no stunts.  Just four fighter jets flew over as we watched in silence.  As we soaked in the sun and the breeze.  Except for the social distancing, we might have forgotten all about COVID for a few minutes.  And then we got into our vehicles and drove home - us glad we'd gone and feeling thankful for our health care workers and all who are working during this time to make our world continue to turn; and proud of the pilots who flew those planes.


At home, I've used this uneventful week to finish a couple of projects. 

First, the piece I'm most pleased with - my cross stitched Marsh Wren:

The pattern is part of the Crossed Wing Collection, from the "To Wrent for a Song" set.

It's stitched in DMC thread on Confederate Gray 18-count Aida Cloth. 

And for my amusement (and possibly yours) here's an information page about Marsh Wrens.

Listening to the video that is featured at this link, I'm now sure I've heard this bird chirping around the pond at the local wetland area where I sometimes walk.  

And secondly, I finished my Sacred Space:

At this size (made with worsted weight yarn) it measures 62 inches across.  A bit bigger than lap-sized for an adult.  Or a child could use it for a napping blanket, or a TV watching blanket...  It's tempting to entertain completing it to full size, but that would make this thing large enough to cover our queen sized bed, and that is just totally unnecessary.  So, I'm calling it a day.  And will be storing it until its purpose is revealed to me.


And this afternoon is being spent making some more COVID masks.  😣    That's what I'm calling them.  I have a feeling once COVID is passed, or vaccinated out of existance, we'll not be sporting face masks anymore so yes...  I think referring to them as COVID masks is exactly correct.  Anyway... I was called upon to help procure some masks for some extended family members who still did not have any, and rather than spend my time searching out masks online that I can't tell whether or not they'll fit, because of who these are for I decided to just make some that I'm pretty sure will. 

I cut out the fabric yesterday, so hopefully that will make the task of sewing them up a little less tiring. Though after making just one, I took a break to post this.  Have I said before I dislike making masks?

I did decide this time to cut out more mask pieces than I think I'll sew together for now, and I will store them for the future. That doesn't mean I'll want to make them in the future.  It just means that part will be done if I feel compelled to again.  The word that I'm sending out with these is that my sewing room is closed, but time will tell if I can hold to that.

Please no advice to just say no.  I wasn't asked to make them this time. I offered because sometimes you just have to do a thing you don't want to do 'cuz you'll feel worse if you don't.  It's not guilt.  It was simply the right thing to do.  This time.

I'm honestly not sure why I dislike making these as much as I do.  I only know I do.  For my immediate family, I don't feel that way.  But beyond that, I pretty much despise the whole business.  I wish I didn't.  Hubs wishes I didn't (and that certainly doesn't help my disposition about it all).  But I do.  No sense pretending I feel differently.  And I figure if anyone reading this feels the same way, they'll appreciate my honesty. 'Nuff said.

And on that happy note, let me wish you a good week ahead, everyone.  Here it looks like we'll have days of sun and temps in the 60's all week.  Actually, those temps may last until the middle of May.  It's my perfect weather!  😊

Friday, May 1, 2020

Ham & Bean Soup

We've had a stretch of chilly, rainy days this week and I knew it was time to make some Ham & Bean Soup.  I keep this simple by using Hurst's HamBeans brand 15-Bean Soup Mix, but I make it more like Ham & Beans than the recipe that appears on the bag.  Which I think basically means that I leave out the tomatoes that are in the recipe on the bag.  I also usually toss the seasoning packet.  

I don't follow a precise recipe, but here's how I tend to make this yummy soup:

First I prepare the dried beans as directed on the package.  I've done the long soak and quick soak methods and both work beautifully.  Once the beans are softened, I move on to putting the soup together.

When using the quick cook method or soaking overnight, I drain off the water the beans have been soaking in.  I don't know if that is considered wasteful, but the water is dark and murky and it holds zero visual appeal.  

Anyway (and either way - long soak or quick soak), to the drained softened beans I add 10 cups of water (this time I added some chicken stock I had leftover in the fridge).  If I have a ham bone, I add that to the pot at this time, bring to a boil, then turn down the heat and let this simmer for about an hour. 

During this time, I saute a chopped onion, several cloves of garlic, and cut-up some carrots and ham pieces.  I don't measure.  I like lots of these things, so I just put in what looks pretty to me. 

After an hour, I remove the ham bone and clean off as much ham as I can, adding that back to the pot along with more chopped-up ham, the sauteed onions and garlic, and chopped carrots.  I bring this to a boil again, stir, then turn heat down to low, cover and simmer for 40-60 minutes longer, coming back as often as I think to to stir it again - at least every 15 minutes.  If this cooks down too much, I will add more water and more seasoning (salt, pepper, bullion) to taste.

Serve with any kind of bread, and this is one healthy and hearty feast.

Mmmmm Mmmmm Good!

Unless I'm sharing this with others, I package up at least half of a pot of this for the freezer to enjoy later; and hubs and I eat off the freshly made soup for a couple of days.  It gets better each time I pull some out of the fridge to heat it up.  😊