Thursday, April 9, 2020

H is for Homemade Teddy Bear

It's craft time!

A friend posted on Facebook the following gif on how to make a homemade teddy bear, and I thought it looked fun and easy, or I did the first time I watched it (don't worry, it's short):

The SECOND time I watched it, I realized it had been edited and included a trick in the editing that made it impossible to see one of the steps. However, that did NOT stop me from buying a couple of washcloths and a smallish towel from the dollar store so I could give it a try.

I watched the video and watched the video, but I couldn't quite catch what that trick move was, and all I could create was a wad of terrycloth that looked nothing like a bear.

On to Plan B. I Googled "how to make a teddy bear from rolled fabric" and found a video that got the same end product as the gif my friend posted, only it was an actual tutorial. The bad news was that it wasn't in English. I gave it my best shot. Here are the steps from the (non-English) video:

Roll one side of a wash cloth as tightly as you can to the center.
Do the same with the other side.

Twist the double roll of washcloth in the middle.

Fold the right side over the left side so
it looks like 4 uncooked brown 'n serve sausages..

Take the top, shorter sausages and move
them to either side.

Rubber band the top to make a head.

Stick a finger in the top of the head and
kind of fluff the fabric a bit so it's shaped more like a head.

Pinch the top of a sausage to make
an ear and secure it with a small, clear hair elastic.

Now pinch an ear on the other side.
You're not making a bust of Van Gogh.

Check to see that your supervisor approves.

Tie a ribbon around the neck and
VOILA! You have a teddy bear of sorts.

They are kind of cute....

If you're dying to make your own homemade teddy bear, all the materials you need are a washcloth (mine was 2/$1 at Dollar Tree), a rubberband, two small, clear hair elastics, and a piece of ribbon to make a bow. Impress someone who is easy to impress with your craftiness today!

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

G is for Gardening

If you are reading this with the hope that you will get some terrific gardening tips, you've come to the wrong place, because I hate, hate, HAAAAAATE gardening.

I hate having dirt on my hands. I hate pulling weeds. I hate touching plants when they have little hairs that grow on their stems or any other part of them, and I hate it even more if they have thorns. I hate the crawly things in gardens, whether they are crawling on their bellies or crawling with their feet. I hate getting sweaty and filthy. I hate when flying insects zoom by my head and I have to do a manic dance to make sure it's not caught in my hair.

I. Hate. It. All.

Guess what I had to do yesterday? Garden.

We've been out of town, staying socially distant by staying at the lake house (the view is good, even if we can't go anywhere; in fact, I saw a bald eagle fly by the kitchen window this afternoon). I went home earlier this week to take care of some technical stuff with my work iPad, and the first thing I noticed when I pulled up was how messy the yard was. Onion grass and chick weed were popped up all over the place, and the bushes on either side of the front door were out of control with new growth, as was the holly bush that I REALLY dislike and have tried (unsuccessfully) to kill.

This may or may not come as a surprise to you, but I have never mowed a lawn before. I don't know how to start the mower. I don't WANT to know how to start the mower. I never plan on NEEDING to start the mower, because I will burn the lawn down before I will mow it. Okay, not really, but I would surely pay someone to cut it before I would EVER do it myself.

My answer was to use the weed eater. Ours is a power one (if it were gas powered, it would go in the lawn mower category of me not using it). The cord has to be threaded through the mail slot on our front door to get power, as there is no electrical outlet on the front of our house (it's over 80 years old, so we forgive it for that ), but once that was done, I swung it like a scythe across the yard and took down the weeds. I also whacked the ground with it quite a few times, making some pretty fair divots, and you can conclude correctly that I don't play golf any more than I mow lawns. 

I got out the hand clippers, and the holly bush and I took turns attacking each other. I bled, it didn't, so I think we know who won. I trimmed the overgrown bushes down into respectable, rounded shapes (think sisters, not twins). I even cut down an old bush that was 3/4 dead, and if survives my pruning, great, and if it doesn't, oh, well, and it was at that point that something ran out of the flower bed and up onto the tire of our SUV that was parked nearby. 

It was a horribly hideous spider. Not a wolf spider, but something fleshy colored and huge and FAST. It sat on the tire, mocking me, and as I got brave enough to take a picture of it (zoom was my friend), I marveled that it was so creepy that I couldn't even tell which end was the head and which was the hiney, and at that moment, it TOOK OFF and ran towards me. 

Gardening. Done. Forever.

Ew! Ew! Ew! Ew!

Meh. Not bad.

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

F is for Fame

The summer of 1980 was hot, hot, hot. There was a drought, endless sunshine, and soaring temperatures. At night, the temps sometimes didn't get below 90 degrees. I was 19 and lived in a little duplex with no air conditioning, so it's not hard to remember.

I met a boy that summer that I kind of liked and he kind of liked me. We had hung out a few times, and one day, he told me a new movie had just opened that he really wanted to see and asked me if I would like to see it with him (duh, yes!). He picked me up in his 60's era Rambler that had, you guessed it, no air conditioning, and we drove an hour to the "big city" movie theater to see "Fame." I still remember that I was wearing a black, flowered sundress that had an open back, and my sweaty back stuck to the car seat all the way there AND BACK.

As we were driving, he told me that he knew a girl that was in the movie; he had known her when he lived in NYC (he was several years older than I was and had once aspired to be an actor). That was a fun fact. 

We settled into our seats in the blessedly air conditioned theater, holding hands, waiting through the previews for the movie to start. Then maybe a minute into the movie, he pointed to the screen and shouted, "There she is!" He proceeded to watch THE ENTIRE MOVIE leaning forward, elbows on his knees, eyes never leaving the screen. 

It seems he MAY have downplayed how much he "knew" this actress, and I suddenly felt as if I were crashing their date. So I did the mature thing and pouted throughout the entire movie and all the way home in his stupid hot car to my stupid hot duplex and hated my life.

It was our first and last date.


I saw the movie again later that same summer with my cousin and begrudgingly decided I rather liked it. It continued to grow on me and is one of my favorite movies (and don't ask me about the tv show - I hated it almost as much as I hated the abomination of a tv series that was created from the book "Little House on the Prairie"). 

Monday, April 6, 2020

E is for Escape

My children were young, around 4 and 7. It was a hot summer day, and we were gathering up our swim gear to go to the pool for the afternoon when I realized we left my daughter's pool floatie at a friend's grandparent's house after a birthday party there the day before.

I loaded the car with the beach towels and pool toys and snacks and two children and drove to the home where the pool party had been held. I parked in the one spot of shade available and rolled down the windows so my kids wouldn't poach in their own sweat, even though it was literally a thirty second errand. I even peeked over the pool fence and spotted the floatie sitting on the side of the pool where we (Emma) left it, and no, it is NOT asking too much for me to expect a 4 year old to get the ONLY item she herself carried into the party.

When I went to the door and explained to the homeowner that I needed to get the pool floatie, he let me in and pointed to a closed door that led to the basement and access to the swimming pool (it's worth noting here that the gentleman, who was home alone at the time, had had a stroke several years earlier and moved rather slowly, plus he was kind of grumpy, although I'm not sure whether that was due to the stroke or simply a personality trait). I apologized for being such a bother, thanked him profusely, and went through the door, carefully closing it behind me, and down the stairs. 

The basement of this house was a rabbit warren, as was the case with most of the homes in that neighborhood, as choppy rooms was a design flaw of many 1950s-era ranch-style homes, but after a bit of wandering, I found the "rec room" and the french doors that opened onto the pool area. I was met with a blast of hot air when I opened the door, and I quickly shut it as soon as I stepped over the threshold so as not to let the air conditioned air out of the house or the hot air in. I picked up the floatie, walked back to the french doors, put my hand on the knob and---it didn't turn. Locked from the inside. 

Thinking of my poor, hot children sitting in the sweltering car, I started banging on the french doors, but the many rooms, the flight of stairs, and the closed door were between me and the homeowner, and no amount of banging brought him to the rescue.

The gate! Why didn't I think of the gate before? I walked along the pool area fence, feeling quite silly that I hadn't thought of just walking out through the gate in the first place. The gate had a regular doorknob for opening the latch, and---it was locked, as in it need an honest-to-God key to open it, from the inside or the outside.

I was trapped. 

The fence was at least 5 feet tall, although it might as well have been 10 feet, because it was topped with spikes and there was no way I was going to be able to climb it to get out (and I was a CHAMPION fence climber as a kid, and I DID contemplate dragging pool furniture over to use as a leg up, but there wasn't anything that was going to be substantial enough to do the job). The gentleman inside was at the front of the house and wouldn't be able to hear me if I yelled. The houses were spaced pretty far from each other, so no neighbor to help me out. It was close to 100 degrees, and I was dripping with flop sweat, coupled with plain ol' heat sweat from standing on a big slab of concrete in full sun (because who builds their pool in a shady area, and anyway, is there a hotter place to be than next to a pool that you can't get into?). 

And I was trapped.

I stood at the gate, hysterically laughing, because the alternative was bursting into tears, and that's when I saw something black stuck to one of the bars of the fence. It was a key keeper and the key was inside. I unlocked the gate, and I was free!

My kids were hot and cranky inside the car, having been fighting with each other probably from the time I disappeared inside the house. They did stop long enough for me to explain how my 30 second errand turned into ten minutes (or ten hours, hard to know), and we went on to the pool, and as far as I know, that homeowner either forgot all about me, thought he had imagined the whole thing, or thinks to this day that I'm still in his basement

The pool area of the house. French doors evident, as are
the spikes on the fence and lack of any climbing apparatus.

Saturday, April 4, 2020

D is for Doohickey

You may call it a thingamabob or a whatchamacallit, and maybe it's regional, but in my family, if you can't remember what something is called, you call it a doohickey. 

The etymology of the word is vague, but according to the website Today I Found Out, it appeared in print for the first time in a 1914 edition of Our Navy magazine and referred to gadgets on ships that the sailors couldn't remember the name for. It spread to airmen by the 1920s and within a couple of decades, its use spread to the general population and has been used as a placeholder for any object one couldn't remember the name of. 

Following are three of my favorite doohickeys (doohickies? doohicki?) that I don't know what to call but couldn't live without, starting with the fizzy bottle cap doohickey.

Several years ago, I was looking for stocking stuffers in a local kitchen store when I stumbled upon this:

After pouring soda out of a 2-liter bottle into a glass, my husband would always squeeze the bottle before screwing the cap back on, saying it made the carbonation stay in the product better. I, of course, never did it and couldn't tell a difference. This little cap was supposed to do what my husband did and I refused to do to a soda bottle.

By golly, it worked! My husband was so thrilled with it that he looked on the interweb and found and bought a package through Amazon of a dozen for not a lot more than I paid for one cap at the fancy kitchen store (which was around $5.99). We use them all the time - even ME!  All you do is replace the original cap with this one after you first open the bottle and pour a drink, then once it's screwed on tightly, pump the button on top until the bottle fills with air and you can't pump it anymore. Next time you open the bottle, you get that perfect "Pffffffffffffttttt" sound of a fresh bottle of soda.

My husband, a belt-AND-suspenders kind of guy, thought maybe we should have a back-up supply of bottle cap doohickeys, so he went on Amazon a year or so ago to order more, aaaaaaand he couldn't find them anymore. Anywhere. When I searched for them for the purpose of this post, I found they are now available at Minty Paradise, where they are selling them for the low, low price of $11.97 EACH, discounted from $23.97. Yikes! Knowing what I know now, I probably WOULD buy one for $11.97, but it by damn better never break!

My second featured doohickey is this one:

I had a time looking it up, since I had no idea what to call it. It's a scraper, but if you look up kitchen scrapers, this is not what comes up. It's shaped like a piece of bread, but don't even bother adding that to your Google description, because it won't help a bit. I did finally find it listed on Amazon, but now that I need the link, I can't find it. It's made by Norpro, and I'm pretty sure you might be able to pick one up at kitchen stores like Bed, Bath & Beyond, because my dad bought this one, and it was shortly after he discovered the wonders of Bed, Bath & Beyond and bought stuff from there all the time.

I use it to loosen dough that I have rolled out and also to clean dough off whatever surface I used to roll it out on. I use it to scrape baked-on food off of pans (think stuck cheese on a pizza pan, which is what I used it for last night). I use it to scrape food from the edges of pans when a spatula won't do the job. It's a wonderful little tool.

You need this scrapey doohickey. Go get one.

My final featured doohickey is this little piece of magic:

Years ago, at a Pampered Chef party, I was looking for the cheapest thing I could order and someone recommended this tool. One end is used to open 2-liter bottles (which you can then cap off with the fizzy bottle cap doohickey). There is a slit at the very tip of this end that you can use to slide under a pop tab and lift it up with out killing your fingernails. The opposite end is used to break the seal on jars the first time you unscrew one. It has a strong magnet on the back, so it can be stuck to the refrigerator, and I love it.

Here's the bad news: Pampered Chef discontinued them, but it is possible to find them on eBay.

Got any can't-live-without doohickeys at your house?

Thursday, April 2, 2020

B is for Block

When my family talks about "that time the basement flooded," that phrase has to be finished with a year or specific event. It has flooded from a broken water pipe (more than once). It has flooded from a broken sewer pipe (that was REALLY not pretty). It has flooded from heavy rains. And it shouldn't take anyone in our family by surprise that this happens, but it never fails that there were boxes of books or old clothes or Christmas decorations, or MY favorite, cherished old toys that were on the basement floor, none of which were enhanced with the addition of flood waters.

About three years ago, there was a doozy of a flood caused by endless, torrential rainfall. My dad was temporarily in a nursing home, receiving rehab for a knee replacement. I had been sandbagging the lake house because of the very real risk that it would flood from rising lake water, and while this was going on, the basement of my dad's house was quietly collecting water. We didn't find this out until I took him home from his 3 week stint at rehab and was met with the delightful odor of wet basement and ruined memories.

The good news about the Great Flood of 2017 was that it caused us (me) to clean out the basement and throw out a lot of stuff that should have been disposed of years ago. I bagged it all up in huge contractor bags, and my dad had a guy take it all to the dump. It also made the basement more navigable, and once my dad could go up and down the basement stairs safely (which apparently happened right after I left), he began poking around down there and finding interesting items he had forgotten he even owned. This is the very long, dull introduction to the very short story about one of those items.

My grandpa was a pilot. He got his pilot's license in the very early 1930s and joked that it was signed by Orville and Wilbur Wright (it wasn't). He was a commercial pilot and also "flew the hump" during World War II (flying supplies over the Himalayas). The family had to move all over the country, depending on what airport he was flying out of. 

When my dad was in junior high, my grandpa worked for Slick Airlines and was based in Denver. It wasn't unusual no matter where they lived for pilot friends of my grandpa's who were on layovers to stop at their house, either for a meal or to spend the night. 

One such fellow who stopped to visit hailed from the west coast, in redwood country. My dad, always interested in puttering around and working with wood, mentioned that he had heard that redwood had pretty swirls in the grain and he sure would like a piece of it some time. 

About a month after the man's visit, my grandpa came home from the airport with a block of redwood with a shipping label and handwritten note glued directly onto it. It was addressed to "Young Vinyard" and had instructions written on it to hold it at the field for my grandpa to pick up. It was signed by the visiting pilot.

After 65 or so years of being moved from house to house and then stowed away in our basement, and thanks to yet another basement flood, my dad found his block of redwood tucked away in the basement. (Terrifying side note: my dad was planning to CUT THIS APART until I caught wind of his plan and vetoed it.)

Finn checking out the block.

The block is 10"x7"x5" and weighs
almost 10 pounds

The note has deteriorated a great deal,
no doubt from all the humidity in the basement.