Archive for the 'before coffee' Category

For want of a horse…

Featherweight in front, Singer 404 slant needle in back.

More like, for want of a [specialized part], I’m putting off servicing the [*&$#@%!!*] sewing machine. We have a second machine that I could get parts for, and I’m going to oil it today. The latest things I need to procure (shopping remains a pain in the neck) …. a small amount of kerosene to clean the gears, and some carnauba wax to polish the outside of the machine. The old manual didn’t talk about these things: it’s almost like the machine is possessed with Loki’s trickster spirit. I sincerely hope not.

This smaller machine is an inherited Featherweight. I added new parts that were missing, so I haven’t had a chance to get it running yet. Fingers crossed it isn’t temperamental. I’ll be working off and on to get it up and running, but only when the kitten is sleeping.

Counting months

Timex watch next to a tiny flowering plant on a pebble planting bed.

While in this holding pattern, the world keeps shifting. I drove to the post office (the first time in 2 months) so that I could drop off my vote. Voting by mail is new, but positive — less stress, and no gauntlet of people to pass.

In 2 months,

  • A grade school was torn down, explaining the ever present, mysterious truck sounds and construction noise.
  • Several storefronts have shuttered.
  • The post office is again a hub of activity.
  • People are (mostly) wearing masks to shop.
  • The USA is in a cycle of protest (my heart is with the protestors, and here’s a link to student coverage of the protests).

The natural world offers daily surprises in the yard. An amaryllis we forgot last winter is blooming, our roses are more beautiful than ever, and poison ivy (boo) has come up from underneath the reclining chair in the yard. I go out for evening walks, to avoid groups of people and the sun. It’s lovely to wave at people in their yards as I admire the sunset.

So how about you? How are you marking the last days of spring sliding into summer?

Reading: Map

Every so often I read the New York Times, to see the news from New York (and the world). Very seldom does an article touch me like the Incalculable Loss interactive feature in Sunday’s online edition. Seeing the names of people who lived in my hometown and in the next towns over in print in the big city paper (while listening to the Memorial concert on PBS) … I was a mess. And that brings me to Map: Collected and Last Poems by Wislawa Szymborska (available here from IndieBound and available for loan at the Philadelphia Free Library).

Reading poetry is interesting. One minute it’s an abstract play of words, rhythms, experiences unlike anything you’ve known before (although you can imagine the emotional pull). The next, you’re nodding that you know how the writer feels. “Family Album”, with its photographs of “citizens of sepia past” whose “days flew fast, their vanishing was due to influenza”, makes me bleakly think about current events. Other poems are delightful. I particularly liked “Landscape”, where a female figure in an old master’s landscape speaks. Here’s a snippet:

"On the right is my house. I know it from all sides, 
along with its steps and its entryway, 
behind which life goes on unpainted." 

In that poem, I love the idea that there is another dimension to the painting that the Old Master didn’t know, and left unpainted. It lets my brain skitter off when looking at any painting, to wonder what was left out, behind the surface.

The poems are short — about a page to a page and a half. If you want to sample Szymborska’s poetry without going to a library or buying a volume, here are five poems from when she won the Nobel Prize in literature.

Are there any great poetry books or novels that are speaking to you more strongly than they would have before this time when you can only talk with family via phone or online? I like to think that I’m lucid reading, while substituting a shadow-life of online meetings for my normal interactions with friends. At least when I read poetry, it allows me to think about something else while I dream.

Kittens get bigger

One of my Dad’s argument against getting a kitten was that the kitten wouldn’t be small for long. As a child, I thought that having a kitten grow up was the point. I may have secretly hoped to adopt a tiger by mistake, so I could have protection from the angry dog at a house I walked past on the way to grammar school.

Raphael turned 10 months old this May the Fourth. He is busy ensuring that his big sister doesn’t get too much peace and quiet. Sometimes they both curl up on different surfaces for a long drowse. With the world being a little weird these days, I’m glad he’s in my life.

  • Even if I wear a mask to drop him off at the vet’s like it’s a clandestine exchange.
  • Even if he’s a pain sometimes (wires… those on the VCR are wonderful and worth pawing and pulling).

When I’m not working, conjugating verbs for class, swearing at the sewing machine or trying to knit, I’m busy playing with the kitten. Because they do get bigger, and now’s the time to teach him how to play with humans with his stabby claws sheathed.

Beehive springs and more

We’ve been getting to the root of the problems with my Singer 404 slant needle sewing machine. First: there was a thorough cleaning. Top thread snaps. Second: disassemble more of the machine.

First few bits of tension. Hah!

Reassemble the tension mechanism for the top of the machine and test it (perfect). Do a test run with a new needle. Thread snaps. Third: investigate the guts of the machine to discover that the timing is off. Several of the screw threads in the undercarriage are suspiciously rough. Reassemble everything. Thread snaps. (There’s a theme!) Continue reading ‘Beehive springs and more’

Stitching up the stash

This was going to be a dress.
The universe laughs*.

…. for unexpected reasons. Making masks so I can go out to the grocery store once a week while hopefully keeping other people safe. I’m reading sobering guesstimates about the likely death toll in my state, and my only response is worry about the world in general. So I guess I’m right on schedule, and working around to grief. Maundy Thursday communion over the internet was something new (although the wine was a LOT better). [Insert Dad joke about “Monday, Thursday… what happened to Tuesday and Wednesday?”] Real talk though: it’s worth it. Too many of my friends work in healthcare to risk making their jobs worse.

I’ve been doing virtual traveling: German or UK travel programs are my current favorites. Also a LOT of Time Team archaeology shows from the BBC. I know it’s a privilege that I can stay inside and rot my brains with tv, while our poor bus drivers, grocery clerks, and medical personnel and hospital cleaners have to keep on going out into the unknown for us.

Stitching up the stash uses some of the pretty expensive quilt cottons that never quite made it into a quilt. Once I’m done with a few more of these face coverings, I’m hoping to make the blouse that’s been on the back burner forever. But I may not be that motivated.

So, what’s been on your needles, on your Kindle queue, keeping you occupied indoors, etc.?

* A benefit to wearing a mask outside I hadn’t anticipated – fewer allergy related symptoms. Take that, Bradford pears!

Silliness and books

The silliness…..

I’ve been segmenting my evenings from serious stuff (work/the latest news). And once, when we didn’t have power because of a line repair, I went to the movie theater to enjoy their heat, light, and be amused for a while.

The Movie

Silly movie to go see: Knives Out. It doesn’t pretend to be anything other than a Christie-esque whodunit, with actors who give the performances of their lives… people who I wasn’t sure would fit in a comedy ensemble (Don Johnson, Chris Pine, Daniel Craig). And Jamie Lee Curtis and Christopher Plummer play their roles with elan (and a whole lot of humor). It does have barf humor/plotlines. If you can’t deal with that… I’d skip it.

The Books

Catherynne M. Valente, Space Opera. [Link is to an independent bookseller in the USA, but I suspect it’s available on Am$z0n or can be ordered in your region.] First, if you don’t know what Eurovision is, go here. And then imagine it held in space, between lots of planets. Somewhat reminiscent of the good things from Hitchhiker’s Guide, with a unique story/universe, etc.

Rosemary Mosco’s Birding is my Favorite Video Game. If you want a taste, check out her Bird and Moon comics here. This was a gift from a very smart family member who found out I was a fan of the comics. It was read by multiple family members before it was wrapped. Nerdy and fun. Possibly teen friendly.


We keep hoping things will get better, while we try to make things better. Double exertion/double exhaustion. I just have to remember that I can only influence what I touch, and cannot stop everything in the world to fix it.

Rose blooming in a yard.
Oh Texas rose, you are so thorny… you tower, queen of the yard.

Work has been busy (a good but exhausting thing), so I haven’t been online as much. And, we’ve made a few urgent visits due to older friends and family not doing as well as hoped. Although, other younger family members are improving their lives, or growing into adults step by step. So there’s this weird balance.

The garden is a source of delight — black headed vultures in the driveway eating their takeaway, hummingbird nest in one of the cedars, butterflies everywhere. A church nearby has created a monarch butterfly garden, and they’ve also been visiting the yard, along with the swallowtails.

Our two cats are sorting things out after 3 years (3 years, really?) of anger. The younger cat still has the crazies at specific times of day, and we just have to be prepared with a feather toy or a willow stick with leaves on it to distract her from scaling curtains and destroying the woodbound trunk in the living room.

Gearing up for spring

There’s snow on the ground, more forecast for later tonight. But… we have cut pussy willow branches in water, sitting on the kitchen counter (lovely fuzzy pussy “paws”)… and the Gardener says the forced bulbs should come up soonish. I’m looking at recipes for fastnachts and Jeck cookies. And there has been a little bit of prep for Valentine’s Day.

Once the sleet melts, maybe I’ll have a look outside again. But I’m uninterested in searching for anconites under the snow while sleet is still pelting down.

snow drops for hint of spring
The snowdrops aren’t here yet, but the yellow aconite is underneath sleet right now.

How about you? Are you in the mood for spring, or are you enjoying every second of winter sports and freezing ice in interesting shapes?

Advent Calendar Day 21

Day 21 is a visit to the Strathmore Sculpture gardens. It’s a lovely place to visit, especially before a Baltimore Symphony Orchestra concert at the Strathmore Arts Centre right outside of Washington, DC. I hope to go back and enjoy the inside of the museum associated with the garden, since they have juried art shows, and other art exhibits indoors. If you’re visiting DC without a car, both gardens, mansion and the music venue are easily reached by a Metro stop.

Bird bath by unknown artist. Strathmore Sculpture Gardens, Bethesda, Maryland.

We’re getting close to the final days of Advent. Yes, I didn’t provide art every day like planned, mostly because work got in the way. We’ll see how much I get scheduled before I have to focus on further house staightening to hide evidence of Christmas prep. Here is bonus footage from a Baltimore Symphony Orchestra performance. (It shows tour footage from when they got to perform in the UK.)


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