Friday, June 26, 2020

By the Sea

Many of the homes we looked at in our exploration of the area had swimming pools in their back yards. The house we purchased did not. I wasn't keen on having a pool. I know how to swim, but I've never really enjoyed it. However, the Mister wanted one. So, we contracted to have a pool installed in our back yard. 

Here's the story in pictures:

I am so glad that we went forward with this project. I love having the pool. What a surprise! I find it amazingly refreshing to simply jump in, paddle around for a bit, and then get out. (Especially this week with temps in the high 90's and a heat index in the triple digits!) Our project has also given us a beautiful outdoor room where we spend many hours each day. 

Monday, June 22, 2020

This Little Piggy Stayed Home

We are staying pretty close to home. We are taking the Coronavirus threat seriously, especially due to our ages and infirmities. Funny how a microscopic spec can change the way one views herself. I have come to think that I might be old, instead of steadfastly denying it! But regardless of what the years say, I stay active and can't find enough hours in the day to accomplish everything on my list!

The dogs help me. They make me go out at least twice a day, and due to the nature of their breeds, they need long walks to keep them from going mental.

Luckily, at 10 and 10+ years of age, they are slowing down a bit so I can keep up with them. Were they younger, I'd never be able to walk them enough!

Our new community has several trails, lots of roads and open spaces, and a large, underutilized dog park.

 There are also many acres of cleared land for future development. We really aren't supposed to walk there, but I'll venture out there on Saturday or Sunday.

We come across all manner of interesting things:
  • Dogs: Naturally, there are other dogs all around us. Tucker is very friendly, but aggressively enthusiastic in his greetings, which is a bit off-putting for some dogs. Gypsy is very watchful of her younger brother, and wades in with her teeth barred and a bark that is definitely worse than the bite, if she feels things are getting out of control with all of the sniffing and wagging going on. So I assume a straddle-armed stance trying to let Tucker visit, and hold Gypsy back, and not let the dogs and leashes become entangled. It's awkward. It's physically taxing. I avoid it. Most often if I see another dog we change our course.
  • Food: Gypsy manages to find, and scarf up, every scrap of food that has been dropped by anyone along the sidewalk, in the middle of the road, and as we pass construction sites (we are living in a new and growing community. The homes pop up like mushrooms after a rainstorm, even with Covid-19.)  Gypsy especially loves construction sites! The workers drop all manner of yummy things on the ground. Especially bones; ribs and chicken wings and legs. Oh my! We get into quite a struggle as I work to pry Gypsy's mouth open and dislodge and remove the bone. Then, while I'm involved in that battle, Tucker usually has the time to find one for himself, and I enter into another battle. Before the virus shut things down, our community had "Food Truck Friday". Over a dozen food trucks would park around our central square and folks from near and far would arrive to indulge in a great variety of food choices. Naturally, some of this food found its way to the ground. Gypsy took it upon herself to be the official DFCU: "dropped food cleaner upper" in the community. She loved taking late walks on Friday, or cleaning up on Saturday morning, and can't wait for this event to begin again.
  • Scents: I wish I could wire the dogs' brains so that I could see what it is that they smell. I especially love to watch them when they catch a scent in the air. Neither dog is much on tracking scent, but on occasion I have been encouraged to keep up with them as they swiftly follow a trail. 
  • People: Tucker is the unofficial people greeter in our community. He talks to everybody. Some folks even talk back to him. He loves that most of all!
  • Critters: Tonight it was a rat. As we turned the corner on the trail, he was gathering up some sort of something in the middle of the trail. He scampered away. We see bunnies. The dogs used to chase bunnies in our yard in Colorado. The marsh bunnies here are better at freezing, and we can often walk right by them. There was the morning of the alligator: 
Can I go for a walk with you?
 And the evening of the gator; I wasn't far from the house, walking through a newly cleared area destined to become wetlands, mitigation for wetlands that were filled elsewhere for development 

Newly created wetlands. They were dry when I saw the gator.
purposes. We were about to turn into a large open area when an alligator charged across in front of us, heading for the lake. He was at least 8' in length, maybe even 10. He was moving fast. The dogs wanted him. I turned and dragged the dogs back. We won't travel in that area again! 

We have also had a few run-ins with pigs. Yes, we have wild pigs in the area! Of all the critters we have encountered in our years of walking, I think the pigs evoke the greatest reaction from the dogs. They go nuts! I didn't have time to take pictures on the three encounters we have had. Once it was a piglet running in the scrub next to us. I'm sure the rest of the family was nearby. Another time a group dashed away from us in the brush. The third time I came around a corner to find 4 or 5 piglets and about that number of adults rooting in freshly turned earth in the wetland development area. I was thankful they were more afraid of me and turned hastily to leave. The pictures I have included are from the Babcock Ranch Eco Tour which is about 5 miles from our home. I have to say they are kinda cute, at least from a safe distance! And heck, these lands are their home. We encroached on them!

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Pretty Colors to Completed Quilt

Last spring I took it upon myself to help a quilt shop owner who was moving her shop. I decided I should lighten her load by buying some fabric. I had no plans. I just thought the colors were pretty.

In the fall I looked for ideas for quilt blocks using only four colors. I came up with this Jacob's Ladder idea. But, then decided I needed another color... or two! The half square triangles that make up the Jacob's Ladder are too similar in color, and it's difficult to see the pattern. Later I began incorporating other colors.

I knew I wanted to have a center "medallion" set on point. I changed my central blocks, then added some "Flying Geese" around the border, followed by a sashing. I began building the Jacob's Ladder pattern around the medallion.

Of course, I did have some help! Gypsy added her suggestions frequently. 
Tucker would simply barge in to rearrange my blocks. 

This is getting exciting! It is really taking shape now!

Next I added some pieced borders to create the drop for the quilt. Oh, and of course, I had to go shopping for more fabric, several times!

I'm not sure I love the additions. They take quite a departure from the size of the other pieces. But... done is better than perfect, and the colors are bright and refreshing!

The quilt is growing so large that the top of the quilt will not have the last pieced border, as it would not fit on my long arm sewing machine at that length!

I pieced scraps together and made the backing, and then loaded it all on the long arm. 

Now, to quilt it.

I can't wait to have the quilt on our bed. I selected a bamboo blend batting, which I've used once before. The finished quilt should be quite light. Perfect for our Florida home!

It's taken just about a year.
It is finally completed!

A friend of mine just told me that a near-by quilt shop is having a 40% off sale..... 

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Divine Divan

I think I am fortunate that we aren't the type who go out to dinner often. Cooking every night is an everyday thing for me, so unlike many of my friends, I am not struggling with quarantine cuisine during our "shelter in place" confinement. Sure, we've had our "I don't want to cook one more night" dinner of French Toast (on Easter Sunday no less!), but for the most part I manage to get something on our plates that is fairly nutritious and tasty. A few times since the lockdown began I have been inspired to go above and beyond, making do with what I have on hand. One night I became inspired to make lobster/crab fettuccine using leftovers from a Friday Night Date Night Take-Out seafood supper, a recent addition by our community eatery. My fettuccine began with a base of home made stock from lobster and crab shells and lots of other savory things. I served it on home made pasta. Oh, and it was delicious! This was something I had never made before. Thank God for the Internet and lots tons of recipes, with ratings, at one's fingertips... literally!

Bits of lobster and crab waiting for the stock to reduce.
Pasta waiting to be cooked.
Most recently my inspired meal choice was Chicken Divan. 

I've never had Chicken Divan. The idea came about from a conversation with my bff. She mentioned, with a fair bit of excitement,  that she was cooking it for dinner that evening. I mentioned that I had never had it before, and asked how she made it. She rattled off the recipe. It sounded tasty (who doesn't like gooey, melted cheese?) and I tucked it in the back of my brain. 

Flash forward... well, in these times the days don't seem to flash... but suffice it to say... later, I decided to make the dish for dinner. I searched online to look at recipes and I also found the history of the dish.

Wikipedia tells me that: "Chicken Divan is a chicken casserole usually served with broccoli and Mornay sauce. It was named after the place of its invention, the Divan Parisien Restaurant in the New York City Chatham Hotel where it was served as the signature dish in the early twentieth century. Its creator was a chef named Lagasi."

I came across a link to the WORLD'S BEST Chicken Divan and stopped there. I'm glad I did! I read through the the blog post/recipe and began pulling out the ingredients. Because I can't go running off to the grocery store I made a few substitutions and changes, working with what I had on hand. I guess we all have similar limitations! 

I certainly identified with New York Time's columnist, Sam Sifton's column entitled "Substitution City".  He wrote: "With everyone out of this pantry item or that one, recipes have become mere suggestions of where you might start. They’re like assembly charts from Ikea when you have only 60 percent of the fasteners."

 The major substitution I made was using the broth from a can of chicken noodle soup, mixed with water, for the chicken broth and bouillon... and what the heck, I threw the noodles in the casserole as well. Knowing that canned soup tends to have a ton of salt in it, I did not add any other salt in my cooking. 

The recipe link above has detailed instructions. Here is my "Cliffs Notes" version:
  • Sauté seasoned cut broccoli and cauliflower (I didn't have enough broccoli) in olive oil for 30 seconds, then add 1/2 C of chicken soup liquid and water. Cover and cook for 2 minutes. Remove with slotted spoon and put in a baking dish.
  • Add some butter to the pan after removing the veggies. Increase the heat. Put in cubed chicken that was previously seasoned liberally with pepper and paprika. Sear the chicken for about a minute, then stir and cook only until just done. Spoon the chicken on top of the broccoli/cauliflower mix.
  • Add a hunk of butter and some olive oil to the juices in the pan. Add some flour, seasonings and make a paste. Add more of the chicken soup liquid with water, some milk (I used half and half) and cook to thicken. Add sour cream, shredded cheddar and parmesan. I also plopped in some mayonnaise. Combine and spoon over the vegetables and chicken. (The recipe called for corn starch. I used it. I wouldn't use it again. My sauce became very pasty. I don't think it needed additional thickener.)
  • Pour some bread crumbs on top and cover with additional shredded cheddar. (When I make this again, I'll add some pats of butter on top of the bread crumbs)
  • Bake for 30 minutes at 350 and then enjoy.... thoroughly!

Just an aside....
this was posted on FaceBook. It was written by Haroon Rashid.
Wow... what a powerful message, putting us all in our places!

We fell asleep in one world, and woke up in another. 
Suddenly Disney is out of magic. 
Paris is no longer romantic, 
New York doesn't stand up anymore, 
the Chinese wall is no longer a fortress, 
and Mecca is empty. 
Hugs & kisses suddenly become weapons, 
and not visiting parents & friends becomes an act of love.
Suddenly you realise that power, beauty & money are worthless, 
and can't get you the oxygen you're fighting for.
The world continues its life and it is beautiful. 
It only puts humans in cages. 
I think it's sending us a message:
"You are not necessary. 
The air, earth, water and sky without you are fine. 
When you come back, remember that you are my guests. 
Not my masters."

Friday, April 10, 2020


In my last post I included a video I created. I made the video to show others how to use the bias binding foot of a Singer Featherweight sewing machine to make straps for face masks for our health care providers, since elastic is difficult to find. I put the video on YouTube and posted a link to it on the Singer Featherweight FaceBook page that I belong to. I have received such positive feedback. Many people are sewing masks, and those that responded to my post were thrilled to learn how to use that presser foot, which came standard with all Featherweights. And, this was before our President suggested that we should wear masks when we go out! The demand for masks is even greater.

Following my first video I perfected my technique, and put a second video "out there".  I posted a link to it on the Singer Featherweight FaceBook page, and again I received many nice comments. But the best compliment I received was a message from the Singer Featherweight folks asking if they could repost my instructional videos on a page dedicated to mask-making.

Shortly after I received a notification of an order being shipped from the Featherweight shop. I didn't order anything! Evidently they sent me an order of bias strips as a thank you for letting them post my videos. What a great shop!!

Sew, this is the mask my group has been making.

We are using the FU mask pattern:

Most of our masks are going to nurses who are wearing them over a disposable mask, which due to availability, they must wear all day, or in some cases, all week. The nurses are able to replace the cloth mask after seeing each patient, keeping the disposable masks more hygienic when used patient after patient. The cloth masks are laundered and are ready for use the next day. For this purpose, I have been using a layer of cotton fabric and a layer of batik. The weave on the two fabrics is of different thicknesses, so may have a bit better filtering capability. I know that the mask would not stop the virus. That is not the intent!

Now that we have been encouraged to wear masks ourselves, I am adding a layer of iron-on interfacing to my masks. I have been cautioned not to make the masks too thick as then it becomes difficult to breathe. One of my neighbors is cutting fabric for the masks for me. That's one less task that I have to accomplish. It makes the process quite a bit easier.

Each morning I wander into my sewing room and get to work. It's a new day and I begin with great zeal. About mid-day my back begins to hurt. I hate what I am doing and by the end of the day I decide that I'm done. I will not sew one more mask! I deliver those that I completed to the lead person in our group when I walk the dogs and return to watch TV with my husband, read a book or play a game on the computer. A good night's sleep erases my discontent, and the next day I set about my mask tasks with renewed ardor!

Thursday, March 26, 2020

I'm Strapped

A post went up on our community FaceBook page that one of the residents in my new community is making face masks for medical personnel. One of her friends is a nurse and made the request, so Jacky made a few masks for her. Requests popped up almost as fast as the virus has spread in New York! Jacky put out a plea on FaceBook, and on Thursday she reported that over 300 masks had been made by people in our community!

While people were busy sewing, a problem arose. Jacky ran out of elastic and the elastic she ordered was backordered. She asked if I could make some straps. Ick! I thought of the challenge of sewing and turning small tubes of fabric. It certainly was something I could do, but not something I really cared to do... but in the spirit of helping I wandered into my sewing room. Then, it hit me! My Singer Featherweight machines come with a bias binding presser foot.

It is intended to apply bias binding to a raw edge of fabric, but I wondered if it could turn and sew a strip of fabric, without applying it to anything else. The answers was, "Yes!"
I also wondered if it would work with something other than fabric cut on the bias (which is another pain!) and again, the answer was, "Yes!"

Within a few minutes it was working! Sure, there were a lot of goofs and a bit of experimenting with how to hold the fabric, and what sort of fabric to use... but, ta da!!! I had straps!

The presser foot takes the strip, folds the bottom edge in and turns the upper edge on top of it. The machine stitches it all in place. I found that I could use a glue stick and glue one piece to another, making a long chain with the fabric strips, and sew them all as one long strip, then cut them at the glued joints.

I made a video! 
I thought it might be helpful for people to see how it's done, 
knowing that a picture is worth a thousand words!

I took my straps to Jacky's house, leaving them on her front porch, and she incorporated them into masks.

Jackie's nurse friends sent her a hearty thanks, and a picture to show how grateful they are. This particular group is using the fabric masks on top of the regulation N-95 masks, allowing them to change the fabric mask for each patient. This lets them use the N-95 mask for multiple patients, trying to hang on to their dwindling supply.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Life in the time of Coronavirus

Last night I started thinking about the book, "Love in the time of Cholera". I don't know that I've read the book, but the title came to mind as I contemplated how our lives have changed in such a short time. Googling the book led me to Daniel Defoe's "A Journal of the Plague Year", which apparently was inspiration for "Love in the time of Cholera".

I began web-site skipping, clicking on links and hopping from one site to another. At one I stopped to read a bit of Defoe's work, written in 1722. He wrote, "We had no such thing as printed newspapers in those days to spread rumours and reports of things, and to improve them by the invention of men, as I have lived to see practised since." Hmmm, thought I, what an eloquent way to say "false news", which seemingly was an issue even in the 17th century (another Internet hop to see when newspapers were more widely printed in London).

Then a hop to a list of pandemic books: The 20 Best Pandemic Books to Read During Coronavirus. (This being only one suggestion from about 357,000,000 results (according to Google) that flashed on my screen in 0.64 seconds) in the event you want to read about similar events, fact and fiction.

From there a link to "The Retreating Horizon of Time in Coronavirus Quarantine" by New Yorker author Don Chiasson. His piece begins: "As space constricts, for many of us, to the four walls of our houses and apartments, time seems to have overflowed its usual containers. It feels as if we have stowed away in the belly of a ship, uncertain of the duration of the voyage and without a view of the stars to chart our positions. A day feels one way when we imagine weeks of this, another way when we imagine months. The port appears to be receding as we approach it: a week ago, it felt like the journey-less journey on the S.S. Sameness would be over in late March, then in early April. On Monday,   “July or August.” News reports later that day seemed to suggest that we’d be living more or less this way until a vaccine for covid-19 was available, in perhaps eighteen months. (Much worse fates than boredom may await  some of us, if the terrifying forecasts hold.)" 

Reading this gave me pause (another hop to find that online dictionaries don't know the origin of this phrase) and reflect; being forced to stay home and have all the time I want to sew and create certainly seems novel (sic) today, but how will I feel in 2 weeks, 2 months, a year?!

Enough of this sobering, stressful stuff! I'm going to turn off the news. I'm going to stop my Internet hopscotch, I'm going to put my proverbial head in the sand and I'll show you a few things that have kept me occupied this week.

First, they are building five homes across the street from us. I hope that the company completes all of the homes, and that we don't end up staring at the shells of homes for years until our economy straightens out. They have been working steadily on them, and almost every day I stop and take a picture from the same place, showing three of the home sites. When the homes are finished I think it would be fun to make a slide show, somewhat like a time-lapse photo. Here are a few pictures:

March 1: Adding plumbing and digging footings
March 6: Pouring concrete for the first 2 houses 
March 10: Block exterior walls complete on first 2 houses
March 20: Roof trusses going up on first house
I've been enjoying time in my sewing room. I have a wall hanging on my long arm quilting machine. I have almost finished the quilting.

Each day I try to make a whimsical bird. The birds will ultimately be used in a quilt that will be a gift to my brother and sister-in-law. 

On Tuesday I had my annual Medicare "Wellness Exam". For those of you who aren't of the age, this check up isn't much of a medical check up, beyond making sure that you are breathing and your heart is pumping. This year the PA actually touched me to listen to my heart and lungs. Last year, I recall that the Doctor sat in a chair and asked me questions, and didn't come close as I had a horrendous cold. 

On Wednesday I woke up with a UTI. Of course! Why couldn't this have come a day earlier when it would have been easy to get it taken care of? Due to the circumstances in which we find ourselves, I did not want to go to a medical facility in town and the office where I went for the wellness visit probably wouldn't be able to see me. However, I had received an email that a "Meet with a Doctor" app had just been approved by our care providers. I downloaded the app, and after waiting a bit, I was online, video-chatting with a doctor who prescribed some antibiotics for me. This was one of the easiest visits to the Doctor I have had in... well, forever! The UTI seemed to involve my kidneys. I have been experience discomfort over the kidneys for several days since my online visit, but I think it is finally clearing up. 

On Thursday and Friday cove molding and tile was installed in our pool. We are thinking the pool will be a welcome relief to hot summer days if we can't travel to California as we have planned.

On Saturday I proposed a drive-in, driveway happy hour to our neighbors. They all said, "Yes"! I think everyone is itching to get out! We spread out on chairs and in golf carts and chatted for a bit.

On Sunday Gudrun Eria led a Quarantine Quilt-Along. She presented a pattern, and had four different video sessions on FaceBook. Other quilt artists participated as well. I pulled fabric from my stash and worked on the quilt for several hours during the day. My BFF introduced me to Gudrun and the Quarantine Quilt-Along, and she and I chit-chatted and sewed together through the magic of our iPhones. Gudrun and her production team put together a song playlist with 100 appropriate titles for "Life in the time of Coronavirus", which included songs such as:  
Don't Stand so Close to Me (The Police)
In My Room (Beach Boys)
I Say a Little Prayer (Aretha Franklin)
U Can't Touch Me (MC Hammer)
Our House (Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young)
It's Gonna Get Better (Stars Go Dim)
I Will Survive (Gloria Gaynor)
Only the Lonely (Roy Orbison)

The pieces for the quilt make my long arm machine look like it is meant for drying laundry 
Gudrun is on the computer leading 4,000 some quilters around the world in making her quilt!
I have placed many of the pieces on my "quilt wall" to see how they look.
I need a bigger flannel wall!

I hope you are all hanging in there and staying healthy. 

By the Sea

Many of the homes we looked at in our exploration of the area had swimming pools in their back yards. The house we purchased did not. I wasn...