Plausible ways in which I will likely die as an old woman

Plausible ways in which I will likely die as an old woman

It’s important to write as an old woman, because you don’t want the universe getting any ideas. And while we’re on the topic of my particular brand of lunacy, I will point out that Folklore, as an academic field, also includes the study of superstitions, and the very fine and intelligent people who believe in them.

Last night I was socializing via Zoom with a couple friends, you know, as we do now, and at one particular ironic juncture I realized I was complaining about my failed strategies at eating well while simultaneously downing a chocolate-covered coffee bean at the rate of one per 80 seconds or so. I went through half a bag of coffee beans this way. <digs bag out of office garbage> Okay, so according to this 5 oz bags of beans, that’s about 2.5 oz of coffee beans I ate. I have no idea how much caffeine that is in grams. No one needs to Google this for me.

I’m usually up late, but after all those espresso beans I was up really, really late. For seemingly a lot of folks, this is often when their anxiety hits. My brain likes to do everything differently, so it plagues me with severe anxiety during the day, and makes the late evening a time of relative happiness. If I stay up past 1am or so, I move from a general sense of quiet contentment to an energetic, goofy punchiness. Like this:

Very often when this happens I make lists. This is the last I made last night this morning.

25 Plausible Ways I Will Likely Die As An Old Woman

  1. Tripping over my corgis. I will break a hip and go into shock. The corgis will try to help, but will fail to dial a phone and instead just stack balls around me. Eventually one of them will try to comfort me by laying on my chest, covering my windpipe. That will be the end.
  2. Doing the Brooklyn Shuffle in the shower and slipping on a gob of hair conditioner. If this happens I will demand that you write DIED BY DISCO on my tombstone.
  3. Accidental poisoning after I absent-mindedly sip too much from the glass containing my dirty paint water.
  4. Visiting Australia.
  5. Avoids surfing entire life because sharks, finally goes surfing at age 80, is eaten by shark.
  6. That kid whose delicate area I kicked in the second grade, when he wouldn’t let me pass him in the hall at school (I mean if you say, “Just try to get past me” you are in fact asking for it) finally finds me.
  7. Houseplants become intelligent and strangle me.
  8. Accidental knitting needle impalement.
  9. Finally takes that dream trip to northern Canada. Going for walk at night, sits down to watch aurora borealis. Falls asleep in snow.
  10. Murdered for making too many bad puns.
  11. Meteor.
  12. Trampled by gazelles in freak accident at zoo.
  13. Fake sneezes dramatically to entertain a toddler, whacks head on nearby hard object, never fake sneezes again.
  14. Finally eats a Brussels sprout, chokes to death.
  15. Starts playing the oboe, accidentally inhales the reed.
  16. Fermenting project gone horribly wrong.
  17. Goes to baseball game, sees foul ball, yells, “GOT IT,” shoves everyone else out of the way…..and gets it right between the eyes.
  18. Falls off train.
  19. Falls off boat.
  20. Accidentally sews/glues myself to chair while crafting. Tries to get up, falls over, hits head, knocked unconscious. Found by useless corgis (see death #1).
  21. Takes job on interstellar cruiser, travels to LV-426. Sees an alien, tries to pet it.
  22. Freak Instant Pot explosion.
  23. Someone finally lets me fly a plane.
  24. Goes hiking, sees bear in distance, reassures anxious friend, “Bears can’t run that fast.”
  25. Insomnia.

The Amy Irving Was Not Wrong To Put Her Faith In Richard Dreyfuss Hat

The Amy Irving Was Not Wrong To Put Her Faith In Richard Dreyfuss Hat

Not every hat name rolls off the tongue. I knit most of this while watching The Competition, a movie made in 1980 about a piano competition, in which Amy Irving and Richard Dreyfuss play rivals who fall in love. There’s a lot of romantic tension about whether the male lead can handle being a boyfriend to such a talented fellow piano player <eye roll> and there is definitely one unfortunate scene where Irving’s character tries to placate the guy’s bruised ego by pleading that she really isn’t as talented as everyone thinks <eyes roll back farther, circle all the way around, come back>, but other than that it’s not a thoroughly awful way to spend two hours and three minutes.

I get this nostalgia sometimes when I’m flipping through movie options, I’ll turn one of them on just because I know that most of the scenes will be filled with artifacts from days of yore, like cars with pop-up locking mechanisms, rotary phones (or phone booths!), stacks of books, desktop computers the size of our Labrador, or totally unlikely situations like where person A is at home and won’t be able to reach person B all day because B is driving. In a car. Somewhere. And there are no phones in cars. Back then we just had to hope people eventually decided to come home. It was a tense time.

Greg is making some weird sandwich with his own homemade mayo. I thought this was peanut butter toast but clearly I wasn’t paying attention, he has the pickles out.

Lol, I just realized in this photo you can see A PILE OF WATNEY BISCUITS off to the side, on the left, on the counter, just tossed in front of the toaster. Hahahahahaha.

ANYWAY, this hat: Same ‘ole, same ‘ole! I’m still doing the same thing, and it’s getting to be more meditative and enjoyable each time. Friends are starting to take note of the rapid pace at which I seem to be pumping these out. One friend asked if I’d knit her a hat, and I thought sure, until I realized she had been on Ravelry and was thinking maybe I’d make one of those patterns. I had to explain that I’m currently in this phase where I have created my favorite basic hat pattern, cobbled together from bits of other patterns and Kate Atherley’s book Custom Fit Hats, and that I’m just doing that one thing right now.

What I didn’t say, but what I realized later when I asked myself why learning a new pattern felt like such a giant, impossible task, is that I think we’re all doing what we can to hold ourselves together, and I think this is my thing. And it must be done the way I do it, it’s like casting a spell. On myself, on the world. I’m trying to calm down. I need consistency right now. I need to something to rely on, something to steady myself against.

I was asking him a question and he has to read my lips because his hearing aids aren’t in, so he is looking at my face, away from the camera. I mean I know I’m biased but he’s one handsome kid. His microphone was live, so all his friends got to hear about how adorable I think my hat models are.

It’s meditation, for sure. I love everything about it. I love that I can just pick up two sticks (well granted these are circulars so it’s really “pick up four sticks connected by two lengths of plastic tubing,” but that’s way less poetic) and walk over to my yarn stash, grab anything worsted, and just sit down and cast on. Whether I’m parking in front of the computer, the tv, or just sitting on the floor with the doggos, my hands know what to do. Cast on 8, join in a round, use the increases Kate taught me (in her book, we aren’t actually friends, although I WISH), until I’ve got a few rounds, and then put in my favorite stitch markers, and start knitting away.

As the crown takes shape, a lovely spiral forms by the increases (you can do increases so this spiral doesn’t form but I mean why), and I get pretty mesmerized watching that take shape – I have to remember to stop and check the measurement, which I do by laying my hand over the top. When it gets to the top of my ring finger, stop increasing, and knit on until morning. Or the end of the movie, or the end of the playlist, or the podcast, or until the dogs tell you there is someone at the door, probably a murderer. It’s definitely not someone delivering a package. Murderer, for sure.

I tried to put this on Cal and he jerked his head back and looked at me like, “What do you take me for, ONE OF YOUR DOGS??” So I just set it down in front him, and he sniffed at it in his usual attitude, and then curled back up.

This time I added in a purl in between each increase, just to see what would happen. It added a pretty little divide to each spiral. And then I got partway down and knew I needed some different colors, so I added in some of the leftover yarn from the Aracorn hat, and then some old blue Malabrigo, and then some soft blue stuff I don’t remember the origin of.

And then at the end is just this warm, fuzzy little hat-beast you can wear on your head, it will keep you warm and toasty. Yes, I adore knit hats. I have ideas for about three dozen more, all of them based on this one simple pattern. The next hat is neon orange, for a friend who hikes on trails in parks that allow hunting. Hers is the first hat I’m making for someone else, and her head is much smaller than mine (hello, ALL your heads are smaller than mine), so I’m hoping I can break out of casting my hat spell long enough to remember to shorten the diameter of hers up a bit.

This hat definitely looks best on Greg, and he really likes it, so now it’s his.

Watney Biscuits Trial #2: I am not pleased

Watney Biscuits Trial #2: I am not pleased

Day 4, Trial 2 of The Biscuit Chronicles (every attempt takes two days, thus why this is taking forever and slowly sucking out every biscuit-appreciating atom left in my body) has yielded these little assholes:

Are you kidding me? I stayed up until midnight last night (okay admittedly that wasn’t hard, I continued to stay up until 3am to read A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik, a storyline which is coming along great, UNLIKE THE STORY OF CERTAIN BISCUITS I MIGHT MENTION) so I could get these damn things proofed the required 8 to 12 hours.

I even used real buttermilk instead of the soy yogurt I had put in the recipe yesterday (the recipe says either buttermilk or soy milk will work, IT LIES), just in case biscuits are offended by soy, like seemingly half the human beings I encounter (of all the ways I offend people, my preference for soy milk and soy yogurt has been the most startling).

Yes, I read the recipe perfectly. I was very careful. Really the only difference between yesterday’s result and today is the crumb. I think I’m using that term correctly here. It has more crumb? More….loft. It’s like the mixture actually had a passing thought about becoming a biscuit this time, whereas yesterday it had no idea what it was, it was like, “Am I a pancake? A cookie? Do I even exist? What is even biscuit?

Today it was like the La Croix of biscuits, like a real biscuit walked by while my biscuits were cooking, and what came out my oven is the distant memory of a biscuit that my biscuits saw from afar while they pondered their life choices in my oven.

To top it all off, they still tasted bland and boring (my eighteen-year-old son said, “Mom, I love you, but I have to be honest, I can’t eat these”). I ate two of them with butter and jam (Kerry Gold butter with fine cherry jam, I am not messing around here), and even that didn’t improve things. I have heartburn. Is it the acid from the refined flours, or the fiery acid of betrayal, who can guess.

What’s next for Watney?

I’m not sure! I’m definitely done with this particular biscuit recipe. I don’t want to be done with biscuits entirely, but I need to ask in some sourdough Facebook groups what to do next. Watney is getting bigger, I fed him last night, so something needs to happen soon. I’m frustrated that the only two things I’ve managed to make with sourdough that work are pancakes and chocolate cake. These biscuits were a big failure and the four loaves of bread I tried last year were also failures. Shouldn’t some kind of bread product be possible here? I will keep researching.

At least the dogs are happy. We ran out of our bulk box of Milkbone biscuits from Costco a few days ago, but I’ve replaced their traditional biscuits with Folger’s Crystals my new La Croix Biscuits, and they can’t tell the difference:

The second pan of them today was even worst than the first photo, above:

The dogs are going to love those, they’re like cracked little frisbees.

These Mark Watney sourdough biscuits are not quite right

These Mark Watney sourdough biscuits are not quite right

Leeloo, my first sourdough starter of 2020, has died, god rest her multitudinous bacterial soul. We tried to stick her in the fridge a few months ago to put her in hypersleep while we slogged our way stressfully through the election season, but she didn’t make it. A perfect being, indeed! But that’s okay, because I made two other sourdoughs when the pandemic started (me and apparently seven million other people), and the second one has been brought out of refrigerator hibernation and is ALIVE!!

Roo and I named this one Mark Watney.

Much like the original Mark Watney, my Watney smells a little off, enjoys gardening, and can apparently survive anything. He also lives in a jar and is currently working on a way to contact NASA.

Everything I take a picture of ends up sitting at the end of my desk, where there’s good light from the window.

My sourdough Watney isn’t just alive, he is shaking his fermented booty (undoubtedly spurred on by the disco that both I and Commander Lewis so enjoy), he is bubbling every day, he practically says good morning when I come into the kitchen. Inspired by his vigor, I’m committed to finally learning how to do more with sourdough (gluten-free!) this time, instead of just relying on this incredibly delicious cake recipe that myself and my whole family loves.

Chocolate cake is great and all, but I like my treats to be treats, and it stops being special when it’s the only thing you can think to do with your leftover sourdough.

So last night I tried to make these sourdough biscuits.

I learned a valuable thing – or rather I guess I confirmed something I already suspected: I don’t read recipes off of screens well. I’m not sure why. The ADHD? My total and complete lack of executive function? I thought it was screen size, so I tried using my hubby’s larger iPad. Nope. I’ve tried using both recipes read from web pages and recipes read from PDFs (on a screen). Doesn’t work. Something just seems to go wrong with my focus, I chronically skip over ingredients or instructions when I’m looking at a screen.

This is a bit of a bummer, as there are so many great ways to digitally store recipes now, my favorites being the Paprika app and just using my PDF viewer (I utterly love Documents). But that’s okay. I can still transfer notes easily from the hard copies to my digital versions (both Paprika and the PDF editor make that easy). I’ll just start printing things out and cook from paper when I’m in the kitchen, and leave the digital copies as back-ups. And accept that I’m old school.

Part of making sourdough baked goods is making things at night to proof overnight and then get baked in the morning. With my introversion and night owl tendencies I really missed my calling as a baker, that whole mild wheat allergy thing notwithstanding. Last night I made the mistake of asking Greg a question right when I was in the middle of measuring some flour. I posted about it on Facebook:

Definitely start measuring flour, and then realize you’re tripling this sourdough biscuit recipe (sourdough recipes are often made at night for the next day; I promise I’m not going to be up at 1am shoving biscuits into my face but if I were you would not be allowed to judge me anyway) and wonder what those fractions add up to, and then ask your husband while you’re in the middle of pouring the third, or possibly the fourth cup of flour into the bowl, you have no idea because now you’re thinking about fractions and how interesting it is that some people’s minds will get a question like that and immediately their inner mental chalkboards are writing out numerators and denominators, and crossing things out, white lines on green, while others (like mine) will visually break everything into parts, picturing actual tiny bowls of flour partitioned into the smallest volumes, and mentally redistribute them back into whole cups and count them up again, and now maybe it’s a fifth cup of flour, what is happening? How many cups of flour did I put in? <dumps all the flour back into the jar and starts over again>

I fixed the flour and thought the hard part was over! I was wrong. My eye completely skipped the second instruction: cover and let sour for 8-12 hours. Miles came into the kitchen and we were laughing about something, and then I just started grabbing eggs out of the fridge and….didn’t realize my mistake until I was putting it all in the stand mixer. Oops.

I didn’t want to lose 12 tablespoons of butter, so I decided to put the mix in the fridge overnight, and see what happened in the morning.

I mean, they baked. I suppose you can put anything in the oven and if it comes out changed in some way and didn’t destroy the oven, the pan, or any other part of your kitchen, then you can claim that it baked. But they’re pretty funny looking.

They taste a bit bland, even though I added all the required salt. Note: more salt next time. Everyone who has seen them has had a good laugh, and the dogs are definitely complimenting my skills and pointing out that they care not for the shape of biscuits, as long as biscuits end up in their stomachs, so they each got one. I ate one and it was kind of like a very boring cookie, probably what Eowyn would make if we can surmise her cooking skills from that stew she feeds Aragorn. Or maybe she just made that stew from a recipe on her iPad instead of a printed paper on the counter, we’ll never know.

I have a lot of butter left, a lot of Watney left, and some time this evening, so I’m going to try again. Following the recipe with instruction #2 included. Printed out.

The Watson Hat

The Watson Hat

I know this will be a shocking development, but….I knit up another hat. Finished it last night. Roo and I are rewatching Sherlock, and I knit most of this while watching Watson get married and then become a widower. Poor guy. He’s been through a lot. Also Roo and I agree that Molly remaining single is just a travesty, because that girl is a catch.

I really like basic knitting recipes that I can reproduce over and over, adding my own little embellishments whenever I feel like. I enjoy knowing that I can just pick up my favorite needles (which we should really write as kneedles) and just grab a ball of yarn and go to town. I’m emphatically not trying to say that gauge swatches are useless or shouldn’t happen: for some projects you’re doing yourself a huge favor and learning a lot by making one (and in many cases not making one is tantamount to self-sabatoge). But I really like knowing that there are some projects where I can just pick up, cast on, and stitch away while I watch a movie or listen to a podcast or audiobook, or sit in some waiting room somewhere. I’ll make a post here in a bit that has my basic hat recipe.

I am going to try stranded colorwork soon. Just working up the nerve.

This is my favorite hat so far, I think. It’s close to The Salmon Hat, but the brim is wider, and the crown was more nicely done. I like this style because it’s warm, easy to wear, easy to embellish, looks great on most people, and having that long brim means you can adjust the length to easily fit variations in head length. It’s simple to stuff in a pocket, too, no bobbles or pom-poms to bulk it up. Certainly this colorway won’t get lost at the bottom of a bag. My friend is looking for a safety cap to wear while hiking in areas where hunting happens, this might be a good hat for her!

I used my usual Size 4’s with this, and the yarn is Noro Kureyon. I scored two 50 gram skeins for $5 each, and so this hat works out to about $8. I used one skein plus roughly 60% of the next skein. I’m saving leftover yarn for use in some other wacky yarn scrap hat to be made later. For years I’ve heard about how wonderful Noro is, and at first I used to wonder how any yarn could be that amazing, but then I got a skein, and yeah, it’s that amazing. These two skeins I got on sale were the only Noro on the sale table, and I wasn’t even that crazy about the colors by themselves, but something about how they were put together sucked me in, and yeah, I totally love this hat.

Finn was having none of it today.

The Aracorn Hat

The Aracorn Hat

The name is a portmanteau of Aragorn and corn, as this hat was finished mere minutes after we ended The Return of the King, and it looks like Flint corn (rainbow corn). The yarn is Malabrigo Mecha, in the colorway Archo Iris, and I love it to bits. It’s soft as heck, just butter through the hands, and it knits up in this gorgeous muted jewel-toned rainbow.

A couple nights before the new year, we were sitting at the dinner table mulling over our New Year’s Eve plans, and our son Miles said, “Wouldn’t it be funny if we could time it just right, so that Sauron’s eye would be falling right at midnight?” We usually watch Lord of the Rings every year, between Thanksgiving and Christmas, and after The Hobbit movies came out, we watched those too. This year we’d been a bit late and still had The Return of the King to get through before the clock struck midnight on December 31st. We loved Miles’s idea.

Greg scrolled through the movie and got the timing:

It worked perfectly! At midnight Sauron’s eye fell and exploded, and we all held up glasses of sparkling cherry juice and yelled, “FUCK 2020!!”

Earlier that day I had started a new hat, and then found myself knitting furiously all through the movie. I began to see that I could actually finish the hat if I knit fast enough and I loved the idea of having a souvenir of these last hours of the year. I had to stop for all the parts of the movie that I really love (and make me cry). Every scene with Eowyn of course. When Aragorn asks her what she fears, and she says, “A cage.” And of course her “I am no man,” moment! But oh, after that, battered and spent, when she crawls over to Theoden with the last of her strength, and he says, “I know your face,” and she says she’ll save him, and he says that she already has, and then makes that little speech about how he goes now to his fathers, in whose mighty company he will no longer feel ashamed. <weeps>

Oh here, you can watch it on YouTube if you want:

I also love the scene in the night before the great battle, when death seems certain. Pippin is afraid, and maybe for the first time understands that this is truly likely the end, and Gandalf looks at him with such gentleness, and describes what death is like. The rain-grey curtain of the world falling away, and then you see it: the white shores, and the far green country beyond. And Pippin says, “Well, that isn’t so bad.” My knitting slowed down a few times to soak these (and some other) moments in.

Details:

Bulky yarn that I chose to knit up on size 4 needles, because apparently my hands needed a workout (and got one, hoo boy). But the fabric is tight and warm and windproof, so that’s a fine trade (won’t try that with a sweater, though, ow ow ow).

Pattern was simple, just CO 8, join, K1 M1, then K2 M2 for the second row, and then knit, then place markers. Knit one row, then knit an increase round (spiral increases, I love that effect), keep going until the circle is almost as long as my hand, then straight on until Sam marries Rosie. I found some worsted weight green yarn from somewhere to make the little line of green at the brim, but next time I ought to make that section longer, as it rolls up and disappears. CO with Jenny’s stretchy cast-off.

And then make everyone wear it:

The Salmon Hat

The Salmon Hat

Insert obligatory hand-wringing about blogging, here: It’s such a pain in the ass! I have such a terribly inconsistent history with it! I have made no fewer than a dozen blogs and abandoned them all, I can’t imagine why anyone would read them anymore, and indeed I hear blogs are dead anyway. Because now we have social media, and everyone is posting everything on social media, which is fine (I do love Instagram), but everything I post just disappears into an archive I can’t easily dig through, and with companies coming and going I’m never sure what will happen to projects I post about, and I require a way to keep track of these things. Thus: a hat post. Blogging.

I want to remember this hat. It will likely end up on someone else’s head soon, because it doesn’t quite fit me and I refuse to put anything hand knit at the bottom of a storage tub in the attic. Hand knits must be worn, and loved (and every few years left at a restaurant somewhere, and then cried over, and then found by someone new).

The Salmon Hat:

Knit on #4 needles (two circs), knit from the crown down. Bound off with Jenny’s Surprisingly Stretchy Bind-Off. Spiral increases.

Okay that light is crazy orange, I think it’s the plant light on the shelf behind me, but that’s okay, it’s a pretty good example of the hat’s color in bright light. I almost didn’t put this picture in because you can so clearly see the scar on my nose from my car accident twenty-nine years ago, but then I remember that this nose was once mostly removed from my face, and I decide that a little scarring is okay (maybe even slightly badass) and who wants a perfect nose anyway.

Hat adventures:

The hat is ever so slightly too short because I didn’t have enough yarn. The ball was only so big, and there was nothing I could do about that. I found it in a bin at the Eugene Textile Center, under a sign marked “handspun, half off”, which is possibly the only sign that will make me move fast (other than “corgi puppies, half off” or “small boats, half off”). And there it was, just a little ball of salmon-colored yarn, spun by someone who had clearly been learning how to get their singles even, and was now learning to ply. I could see their hands working it, I could imagine them cursing them when they had this long even part and then a few accidental hills and valleys. Several sections were badly overspun, and I worried they would create a few hard nodules of yarn in the finished hat, but no worries there. It’s very soft.

It isn’t long enough, but then it’s also a little too wide, too big around my already giant skull. My head is 24″ around, which is apparently ginormous in women. I’ve never seen a women’s hat pattern that wasn’t 22″ or less, usually 24″ hat patterns are “XL” or “Men’s”, which is basically my life, lol. There’s the ideal size of a woman’s anything, and then there’s me, living outside all the lines.

So how did I get this hat to be too big? Once, a long time ago, I read something about body proportions, like how your height is the same as your wingspan, that kind of thing. And one of those was how your hand, from the bottom of your palm to the tips of your fingers, was the same as the diameter of your head. So even though I had a perfectly good book on making hats filled with tables on how to figure out when to stop your increasing, no, I like to knit by the seat of my pants, so I just knit until the circle’s diameter was the same size as my palm.

In my defense, this worked, sort of – the hat IS the same size as my head, but I forgot the crucial part of knits: EASE. I needed some negative ease for the knitted garment to actually stick to my head. In other words, the hat is too loose because it’s the same size as my head. It should have been slightly smaller, so it has to stretch slightly and grip.

I still love the hand trick though. I’ll use it again, I’ll just stop at the top of index finger to build in some ease. Who needs a pattern anyway?

From there it was just knit, knit, knit, watch a watch Two Towers, then knit some 2×2 ribbing, and then cast off with Jenny’s stretchy bind-off, and DONE!

It’s too big for my adorable husband, but I think he’s cute in anything.

Too big for my oldest teenager, although he says he’d love one his size, in dark blue! So that’ll have to happen.

Masks! Here are my notes:

Masks! Here are my notes:

A lot of people are asking how I’m making my masks. Here’s some information!
(If you’re wondering why I’m making masks? I wrote a post on Medium here, but as far as I can tell it has zero traffic, I should just re-post it on the blog).

The pattern I’m using:

I’m working with the pattern from Craft Passion.
Her blog post about the mask is here: https://www.craftpassion.com/face-mask-sewing-pattern/

Her official YouTube video on making the mask is here:

Here’s another video from someone who is making the same mask but using hair elastics.

I like this pattern because:

  • If fits me (and my family) better than the accordion masks, which gape at the sides and don’t seem to retain their folds after washing. We’ve had good luck with everyone, teenagers and adults, from using the “man” size pattern (we don’t notice any extra problematic fabric). Our faces range from the very round (my head would roll a long way if you removed it from my shoulders) to the very narrow (one of my favorite ways to elicit a laugh and eye-roll out of my husband is to ask him, “Why the long face?”). With all of us, this pattern fits well.
  • There is space for a nose wire (I’m using jewelry wire and some pipe cleaners just arrived), which really helps the fit. Nearly everyone in our house wears glasses, and if the nose wire on this is bent so that it lays flat against the face, and the glasses are placed gently on top of the mask, there is no fogging, hurrah!
  • There is a pocket for an extra filter, which I like since I’m not entirely sure how long the fusible interfacing will remain intact through many washings. The pocket means that at some point you could add a bit of t-shirt, a shop rag, etc.
  • According to this video, this style is more of a “surgical mask”, which she seems to say will protect better than an accordion style.

I’m following the pattern for the most part, except I’ve streamlined some things via my own sewing-by-the-seat-of-your-pants method. Here are some notes:

  • I have an edge stitch footer but I’m not using it, changing feet takes too much time, and I can usually stitch pretty straight.
  • When stitching the sides to create the elastic/strap channel, I just fold the fabric over and zig-zag. I don’t bother with double folding. The zig-zag will likely take more abuse anyway, including the scrunching that will happen at the sides.
  • I edge stitch (using the regular foot) the top and bottom of each mask because it helps it lay flat against the face, but I haven’t been stitching the middle seam as that appears to be mostly decorative. The prototypes I made at the start didn’t seem to benefit any from that line of stitching so I just left it out.
  • I’m using serger thread that I just stick in a measuring cup and thread up through the usual way. I have a Bernina 530 that is one of the most beloved gifts my husband ever gave me, and it makes this easy. Berninas also have monster huge bobbins which means I don’t have to stop that often to re-spool a bobbin. #teamberninaforever
  • For the linings, I was originally using my stash of batiks and nice cottons, but realized I had a bolt of 100% cotton muslin, so I’ve switched to that. Now I’m using the batiks just for the exteriors. I figure if we have to wear masks, we might as well get our art on while we do it.
  • I line ALL pieces with non-woven fusible interfacing, at least until the stuff runs out, after which my shipment of shop towels will likely arrive and I can include one of those as something to put in the filter pocket.
  • I’m using a denim needle, which I had to switch to after two other needles broke. The denim one seems to be holding up just fine.
  • I use pinking shears for the curved pieces instead of snipping.

My order of operations:

  1. Fuse interfacing to the lining fabric and mask exterior fabric.
  2. Cut out all pieces using fussy cutting to maximize the interfacing. I’m trying to cut between 10-20 pieces at a time.
  3. Cut out the nose pieces using a cardboard template I made for this purpose. I’ve got a lot of these.
  4. Ask teenage son to iron all the nose pieces, which he does because he’s awesome.
  5. Stitch all the curved seams on the linings and exteriors.
  6. Use pinking shears on all these curved pieces.
  7. Insert and stitch nose pieces into linings.
  8. Stitch up the sides of the linings to create the pocket piece.
  9. Stitch the linings into the exterior shells.
  10. Stitch the channels on the side (again, using zig-zag, is functional, takes way less time and looks great).
  11. Once I have a big stack of these, iron them all. Ironing gives them a great shape, and really brings the whole pattern together.
  12. Edge stitch the top and bottom.
  13. Cut all the hanging threads (Greg is offering to do this, I love him so).
  14. Cut out a piece of twill tape to use as tie.
  15. Sew twill tape (it’s 1″ so I sew it in half).
  16. Insert twill tape using bobkin.
  17. Cut wire for nose piece, insert into pocket.
  18. DONE! Put it aside and finish the next one.

I do the fusible interfacing as one big step, as well as cutting out all the pieces. Everything else just has to go in order.

Good luck, stay healthy everyone! ❤

A few things to do when you're stuck at home

A few things to do when you're stuck at home

I made a list of things I might want to do, and pretty soon it grew into something I figured might be useful to share with friends. Here you go!

Chilling out when the stress gets to be too much:

  • My husband Greg got me hooked on this wildly charming YouTube channel called Doggie Corgi. Every video is just peaceful music and an animation of a corgi having a day with his friends. There’s an Instagram, too. This one is my favorite:
  • I use the Calm app almost daily. There are stories to fall asleep to, meditations, and music. It’s wonderful. A lot of their stuff is free right now.
  • Another app I love is Insight Timer – if you dig bells with your meditation, I think this app has the best tones (and intervals!).
  • A great resource if you just want something on the screen, is the 4k Relaxation channel on YouTube. I actually use these often, when my anxiety gets bad. One of my go-to’s is Pacific Northwest Coastal Oregon. If you use the search bar for the channel, and put in “hike”, you will get a list of virtual hikes. This might sound strange, but it’s incredibly peaceful. Try it. You might think that nothing can beat a real hike, and you’re right, real hikes are the best. But this is a surprisingly awesome alternative when you’re stuck at home.

Going places without going places:

Books & eBooks:

  • Among the many options for buying books online (I imagine you don’t need a list of those), there’s also downloading all the classics for free at Project Gutenberg.
  • Don’t forget your local public library, which likely still has online services working. You can login to your account using your library card number, and download books using Libby.
  • If you have an eBook reader (Kindle, Kobo, Nook, etc.) and want to learn more about expanding your ebook horizons, check out Mobile Read Forums. Lots of great information about buying, using, and troubleshooting different types of eBook readers.
  • My favorite app for managing my hoarder’s collection of eBooks is Calibre. You can use Calibre to reformat Kindle books so that they’ll work on other types of readers, which is really helpful if you have a big Kindle library but want to use something like a Kobo (I love my Kobo Forma).
  • Open Culture has a long list of free eBooks.

Audio Books:

  • Most people know that Audible exists; it’s Amazon’s audio book company. Many people don’t know that Libro.fm exists, a different company where you get to choose a favorite independent bookstore, and all your audio book purchases through libro.fm benefit your chosen store. The Libro.fm app is very similar to Audible’s app, I love it. It’s worth noting that I’ve had excellent customer service from both companies.
  • My favorite audio book so far has been As You Wish, by Cary Elwes. It’s a memoir of his time shooting The Princess Bride, and his stories are funny and heartwarming. If you want other ideas, you can do Google searches for things like, “Best Audio Books of 2019”, etc, and that will give you a jumping off point to all kinds of “Best of” lists. There’s a lot out there.
  • My go-to’s for comfort in difficult times are Alan Watts and Pema Chödrön. Pema’s books are read by her, I really love Getting Unstuck. Many of Watt’s titles are recordings of lectures. My favorite book of his is The Wisdom of Insecurity, but my favorite Audible title from him is Out of Your Mind.
  • You can find out more about Great Courses on their website, but the idea is that they’re supposed to be college-level courses that anyone can take. Years ago they used to be pretty expensive, but you can find the lectures from many Great Courses on Audible. I’ve found all the ones I’ve tried to be well made and interesting. A particularly good one is Writing Creative Nonfiction.
  • You can find tons of free audio books that are in the public domain at LibriVox. My good friend Clarica can read you something!
  • Open Culture has a list of 1,000 free audio books.

Online classes:

  • I imagine most of you iOS users (Apple products like iPads and iPhones) know about iTunes U, an app that connects you to free courses. Lots of interesting things to take!
  • I just discovered that on Amazon Prime there is a Great Courses channel, and I decided to do the free trial. The one I’m watching right now is How to Draw, and I’m enjoying it. The channel is $7.99/month after the free trial period.
  • Kahn Academy is known for helping students learn math, but there are lots of other courses you may not know about. Economics, history, and astronomy & cosmology, to name a few!
  • Open Culture has a huge list of 1,500 free online courses from universities. I’ve never clicked through to any of these, but the list has dozens of titles I want to check out.
  • Craftsy has become Bluprint, and while I’m not a huge fan of their new layout, the content is still great. I have thoroughly enjoyed my Craftsy/Bluprint classes.
  • I really enjoy Skillshare. Bluprint classes are better edited more polished, but Skillshare has a huge range of teachers, and many of their classes are much shorter in length making them easier to get through.
  • I’ve had several friends tell me how much they enjoyed their Coursera courses.

Miscellaneous:

  • Do you know who your representatives are in the local, state, and national governments? No? Find out here.
  • You could learn a new accent. Here’s how to fake a British accent.
  • Got a ukulele, irish whistle, ocarina, or guitar sitting around? No? Just me? Any instrument you have at home, I can almost guarantee you that there is a YouTube video that will teach you to play it.
  • Play a card game. Here are the rules to all your favorite games.
  • Make a zine.
  • Make a mug cake. They’re easy and tasty.
  • Check out playlists on Spotify (or your favorite music service) for different decades. Try listening to the year’s hits from when you were a little kid. How many do you remember?
  • It’s a good time to weed the garden.
  • Clean out your inbox.
  • I recently discovered that there are old Jane Fonda exercise videos on YouTube. This has been fun.

Recumbent trike, new trail

Recumbent trike, new trail

This is the best day I’ve had in a while, and I’m incredibly grateful for it. The news has been so overwhelmingly bad over the last few weeks, and everyone has been under so much stress. The adults in our family all notice that we’re exhausted, even though not that much is going on at home. We’re taking naps in the middle of the day just to give our brains and body a rest from the constant onslaught of things to worry about.

Today the sun was shining and the temp was up, so Roo and I decided to take the bikes out along a local trail that we hadn’t tried before. It turned out to be the best decision we could have made.

This is my Catrike, which I just got a few weeks ago. I love riding bikes, but it’s become increasingly hard over the years with the fibromyalgia. The regular riding posture leaning over the handlebars causes immense pain on my wrists, shoulders, and low back. I had a recumbent bike years ago, it was incredibly comfortable. I began to check out YouTube for reviews of newer models, and found a channel created by Sylvia Halpern who takes long tours on her recumbent trike. Sylvia’s channel pulled me (happily) down the rabbit hole of trikes, with their many benefits. They’re great for people with injuries, chronic illnesses, different types of handicaps related to mobility, balance problems, the list goes on.

A year or so later I found myself at Recumbent PDX in Portland, trying out a few models to see if this trike idea was a good one. The Catrike was love at first test ride, and we brought it home.

It’s been a fantastic bike for me, I just love it. Would highly recommend this to anyone who can’t ride a normal bike because of pain associated with a traditional riding posture. I’m able to ride without extra pain, it’s still mind-blowing to me every time we go out. It also lets me get my heart rate up, getting my cardiovascular system in shape. People with fibro are told to exercise to help the pain, but it can be nearly impossible to find an activity where increasing pain doesn’t stop you before you can get your heart rate up. With the trike, I can ride long enough to become winded, without causing all the extra pain that would normally haunt me for the next few days after a ride on a regular bike.

My original bike doesn’t languish – Roo inherited it! She loves it!

There’s a park nearby where Roo and I will often bike to, but today we decided to go past the park by a few blocks, and see if we could discover something new. We ended up finding a local trail that runs along the river. A vast waterfront park, with a good half mile of flat rock to walk on. It was exactly what we needed after the week we’d had.

The sun was shining, and we pulled off the trail and parked near the water. We took off our shoes and waded in a bit, but mostly sat on the bank and just watched the river go by. The air was fresh and smelled like water on rocks, a forest-y smell that I love. We had a snack, read our books, and took off our sweaters to let our skin get all the vitamin D.

I drew a little sketch in a signature that I will bind into a new journal.

I enjoyed the sketching, and I have a big stack of books that will help me get better once I have time to read them all (hey, looks like I might have some time), but I still want to take tons of photos wherever I go. I think I will always be a photographer at heart. All I had was my iPhone, but I really love the camera on that thing, and the Portrait mode gives you some neat options.

Here’s two minutes of ducks, for no reason at all: