Monday, July 30, 2012

It Seems Like Forever

Wow! I was only away from blogotopia for ten days? It seemed like a month, at least.

It all started when I made a very stupid mistake with one of my medications. I miscalculated my remaining doses, ran out completely, and had to wait more than a week for delivery of more pills. Has this ever happened to you? With hindsight it appears that I am a moron, an idiot, the stupidest person in the world – pick your description – but at the time I was sure that my prescription service would deliver in a day or two, based on past experience. Well, not any more. It took nine business days.
Of all things, I had to pick an anti-anxiety medication to learn this lesson on. Ironically, I wasn’t even taking it for anxiety, but if you ever want anxiety, try undergoing the sudden withdrawal symptoms. This is an experience like nothing else. I was dizzy, twitchy, irritable and weepy. I hallucinated big black shadows moving around and loud crashing noises right next to me. Electric currents buzzed through my head (this is so common it even has a name: “brain zaps”). Five pounds of my body weight mysteriously disappeared. Don’t worry, they came right back. J
Seriously, do not run out of your prescription medication. It is not fun, plus it can be dangerous. I monitored my symptoms and made sure I didn’t experience anything that was actually life-threatening. (Also the Piemaker was hovering constantly, which was mostly aggravating but did result in a delicious sweet-onion quiche and a new twist on Grasshopper pie. Pics later.)  I did finally receive the medication, restarted my daily dosage and am feeling pretty “normal.”

So with all of that, the beginning of my non-blogging week was a bit dull since my vision and my coordination were way off. I stayed far away from sharp objects and heavy equipment, but read some books and watched lots of TV.

I finished a fun series of books by David Rosenfelt about a defense attorney who gets involved in solving murders.   
(first in the series)

The main character is very funny, the writing is clever, and there are several nice dogs who feature prominently in the stories.

I also read an amazing book called Tales of an African Vet by Dr. Roy Aronson.  

Aronson worked in clinics, zoos, and in the field in South Africa and other countries for twenty-five years, and you get the sense that the stories he shares in this book are just a small fraction of his amazing experiences. Great book, worth reading just for the bit on the rhino that knocked its horn off.

A few of my favorite series are back on television, but they’re not making me too happy right now. First, there’s True Blood, which I simply adored in its first season, loved in the second season, and since then have just been waiting for it to return to its former glory.
I admire Alan Ball’s genius and the way he recreates our world in TB, but either his writers have lost their spark or I’m getting jaded or both. I just haven’t felt very inspired by either the existing characters’ storylines (completely different from the originals in the Sookie Stackhouse books) or the endless parade of new characters in the last couple of seasons. Still, Anna Paquin remains my greatest girl crush of all time so I will keep watching this program for as long as it is on.

Next is The Closer, and I swear my heart rate actually goes up whenever I see one of those “THREE. SHOWS. LEFT.” commercials on TNT. (Only two after tonight!)
I know it’s silly to get stressed out over a television program, but I am scared for Assistant Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson of the LAPD.

I don’t know whether she is headed for some sort of breakdown, or if she is putting on one of her performances in order to take down a serial murderer, but the whole thing is freaking me out. And obviously we know that in three weeks she will be gone, so something momentous is going to happen.
One of the things that viewers of The Closer will miss forever and ever is the magnificent vintage wardrobe, brought to us courtesy of Greg LaVoi. The man has a historian’s love of clothing, an insider’s knowledge of where to get the best of everything old and new in LA, and on this show, he fully utilizes his opportunity to see magnificent vintage suits and dresses in action on the gorgeous Kyra Sedgwick.

A sample of the vintage delights, source
Mr. LaVoi blogged the wardrobe planning for each episode. There are fascinating insights into how the storyline feeds into his costuming decisions, and how the clothes in turn help the actors develop their characters.

Finally, there is Breaking Bad. 


This is another program that had me enthralled during the first couple of seasons. The cinematography (does anyone still use that word?) was incredible, with shots so long you had to look away from the discomfort of the actors, cuts so fast you could barely follow the action, scenes composed with the balance and light of a Renaissance painting, and stark, angry shots of sheer ugliness.
The story was like an ongoing ethics argument – what would you do or not do to protect yourself or your family in dire circumstances? The characters and their actions were believable, and you could understand their “bad” behavior even while disagreeing with it.
Then at some point the tone shifted, and now the characters seem to be bad for no good reason, and I can’t identify or sympathize with anyone. I know, that’s the whole plan of creator Vince Gilligan, and I’m sure he’s going somewhere with this. Still, it is a curse of my personality type that I always need to know why, why, WHY people do things. Even if they are only TV characters.

That was quite a lot of entertainment, so when the freakish drug withdrawal symptoms dissipated somewhat, I ventured back into my creative space and decided to catch up on a few things. I did some pattern archiving, had a conniption fit at the vegetable garden and pulled out the mostly dead plants, and worked through a couple of sewing remakes and repairs. I’ll share all that in some of my upcoming posts!

In the meantime, I’m going to start catching up with all of you, and see what’s been happening out there.


Friday, July 20, 2012

Be Right Back

I’ll be away from the blog for a bit while I do some other stuff. 

How long? I estimate it will be longer than an intermission but not quite as long as a hiatus.

See you soon!


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Just More Complaining, Plus Photos

I will not be giving an update on the vegetable garden today. I went out there with such high hopes, expecting to find bright green leaves and flowers and fruit weighing down the vines after the wonderful inch of rain. Instead, I found mosquitoes. Really? I have to put up with stinging scorpions, poisonous spiders, poisonous snakes, poisonous lizards, killer molds, infectious soil fungi, pollution, drought, and ethically retarded politicians. Now I have to deal with mosquitoes too? So unfair.

Plus, the rain is over already. 


I didn’t even get around to pulling out my purple rain boots. Since it was so hot, we just splashed around in flip-flops.  

I looked around for any signs that the rain helped us out. Some of the native plants responded cautiously.  
The Texas Ranger (Leucophyllum frutescens) was willing to put out a few of its brilliant purple flowers, but not the full display, perhaps sensing that that the rainstorm was already coming to an end.

I initially thought these bright green seedlings were baby mesquites, since the trees drop hundreds of these long, tan pods full of seeds.
However, it turns out that mesquite seeds need to be digested by animals before they can germinate.
It's more likely that the little green plantlets are actually from the seeds of a Baja Red Fairy Duster (Calliandra californica).  
The seed pods of this unusual plant pop open and the seeds fly out in all directions, with the result that I now have six of them after only planting one. It's a favorite of bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds.

I tried to get some shots of one my little hummingbird friends, but they were blurry as usual. I like to think he was going after the mosquitoes. They do eat a lot of bugs in flight, as well as snatching them from leaves and spiderwebs.   

Of course my two guardians followed me closely, ever alert to danger (or snacks).

So that's it. Of course we still have August, which is the traditional month for rain, so I will try to remain optimistic.


Monday, July 16, 2012

Cargo Shorts

car·go noun \ˈkär-(ˌ)gō\
Definition: the goods or merchandise conveyed in a ship, airplane, or vehicle : freight
Origin: Spanish, load, charge, from cargar to load, from Late Latin carricare
First Known Use: 1657
Synonyms: burden, load, draft, freight, haul, lading, loading, payload, weight

My heavy-duty, garden-worthy, cargo shorts are finished.

I probably won’t be hauling freight in them, but they should be able to take a beating in the garden. The fabric is a piece of olive stretch twill I picked up somewhere. It has fade marks along the folds and a few flaws, but for this project, looks definitely don’t matter.

On the other hand, durability is important, so the seams are flat-felled, the pockets are topstitched and edge-stitched, and I used heavy-duty snaps instead of buttons.

I cut the shorts length as in View A but added the side leg pockets and omitted the cuff. I also left off the belt loops. The back is plain with no pockets as in View C above, although you could easily put a patch pocket or another cargo pocket there.

The fabric was kind of a pain because it was so spongy and thick. I had to use binder clips to squash the mitered pocket corners flat. Eventually they got flat but not very square. 

I decided that two layers of twill would make the flaps and facings too thick, so I used some cotton scraps for facings.

I tried three different-sized hole punches and an awl to create a hole for the snaps before I remembered I had the Crop-A-Dile. It punched the perfect hole through all the layers so I could slip the snap in and hammer it together.

Lots of tools required (My tools. That hammer is not allowed to leave my room.)

I’m pleased with the shorts but don’t plan to make another pair in the foreseeable future. Not sure whether it was the amount of time spent staring at olive drab or the tiresome fiddling with layers of stubborn fabric, but I’ve lost my interest in utility clothing for a while!

Time to venture outside and see if any of the plants are still alive.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Propitious Precipitation

Good news! The disappearance of our desert city has been postponed for at least another week. We were just moments away from drying up and blowing away with the next dust storm, but our so-called rainy season came through with actual rain this year. There have been so many years when we have waited and waited, but not gotten more than a few drops. Last night we went over one inch for the year to date rainfall, which is cause for celebration.

As usual, I was transfixed by the sounds and smells created by the water. It’s so rare to see these sights that I took some photos to remind myself next time we go into an eight-month (or three-year) dry spell.
Water spilling off the roof

The temperatures have only dropped slightly, to around 100 (38 C), but the rain itself is cool and there is the psychological cooling effect of the gray clouds above rather than the burning sun. It’s a nice break for us.
Raindrop patterns in the pool

While the standard definition of a desert is an arid place than receives less than 10 inches of rain per year, the Sonoran Desert has a wide geographic range and can receive between 3 and 15 inches depending on the altitude, latitude, proximity of mountains, oceans, and other features.
Phoenix is located in a section of the desert called the Lower Colorado River Valley. While this lovely name conjures images of verdant meadows with birds chirping in willow trees as the river rushes by, the reality is that it is second only to Death Valley as the hottest, driest place in North America.

I hope we’ll get to enjoy rain for the rest of July and throughout August. It would be a big help to the desert wildlife and plants, as well as the humans. Maybe the waterlogged citizens of England can send their rain our way!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Serving Up Delicious Spam

Fellow bloggers, do you ever read your spam comments? Some of mine are suitable for framing. 

“I am not much of an internet reader to be honest.”
  • That's okay, as long as you keep up with the important stuff.

“I am no longer certain where you are getting your info.”
  • It implies that at some point he/she was certain where I was getting my info.

“Electricity strolling, jogging, operating, and leaping are large influence actions.”
  • This is definitely a topic for a future blog post.

“That is good to know they are like that, many a time you get no response to these problems with other sites.”
  • Indeed.

“Tiffany Jewelry is a day-to-day offering, and was developed in and amongst the fertile lands of what is acknowledged nowadays as Pakistan.”
  • This is the kind of priceless insider information that makes blogging worthwhile.

“When these were put on, the bride turned to the groom and began laughing at how he looked.”
  • I wish I had been there.

“The posts are very short for novices. May you please prolong them from subsequent time?”
  • An historic moment: the first time anyone has ever asked me to write more rather than less. 

 “My husband and I are currently following the Fat Loss 4 Idiots Diet.”
  • Next you can try the Guaranteed Six-Figure Income 4 Slackers Plan.

“Your website is excellent but with images and clips, this website could be one of the greatest in its field.” 
  • I can reach for the stars! 

 “The best and stylish purses are usually in great need amongst all teams of ladies.”
  • Forget the jerseys, get team purses! 

 “That is really fascinating. You’re an excessively skilled blogger.”
  • Hear that, Napoleon Dynamite? I’ve got skills. Excessive  skills.

 Oh, the joy that spam can bring.

Have you had any inspiring spam recently?


Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Shorts, Finally

It seems like ages ago that I talked about making shorts, and I did finally get around to doing it. Of course, I didn’t just make a pair of rugged cargo shorts for gardening.

First I made soft, comfortable rayon shorts for lazy days around the house.

Then I made a couple pairs of seersucker shorts.
A bright green pair, from this pattern.

A more retro look in pastel stripes, from my straight-leg pants pattern.

  It has a matching top, as an homage to the playsuit trend that’s popular this summer.
Thank you for not mentioning that my carefully matched chevron pockets are pointing in opposite directions. Uh, I did that on purpose. Yeah.

McCalls 2060 from 1954. So cute! I love these little 40s – 50s rompers, but I think some of you might know what I mean when I say that one-piecers are not very convenient.

After I got all the frivolous shorts out of my system, I settled down to the serious business of making shorts for gardening. Photos of the finished product will have to wait for another day, but I can tell you the process involved a hammer, binder clips, and a Crop-a-Dile, among other heavy equipment.

Hard work, but that's okay, it helps postpone the moment I have to actually go outside into the heat and deal with the garden.


Monday, July 9, 2012

Tomorrow is a Very Big Day for Someone

Happy Birthday to a Very Special Person

She’s so smart
She’s so pretty
She likes the dogs
And loves the kitties.

She can write
She can act
She’ll protect you
If scorpions attack.

She’s an artist
A storyteller
A gardener
An excellent speller.

She’s my niece
I must confess
I don’t see her much
But I think she’s the best.

Happy Tenth Birthday tomorrow, Miss K! Hope you have a very good day!
(images source)


Saturday, July 7, 2012

One Lovely Award

What a week! I wasn't feeling great, just one of those weeks where you feel sort of blech. Then our air conditioning went out, giving us a painful opportunity to empathize with the thousands of people suffering through record heatwaves and power outages all over the US. Three days and $800 later, we were just glad to get back to a livable temperature. (Also glad that it was only a repair and not a system replacement that might cost ten times the amount.) Then I discovered that our cable company has been overcharging us for at least six years, adding up to hundreds, possibly thousands. A very long phone call to customer service netted me only a small refund. Sheesh! Is this week over yet?

But nice things happened too. The blogging community never ceases to amaze me. Ten months ago, when I started posting my little lists and projects, ramblings and mumblings, I never imagined that anyone would even find my blog, much less read it and even respond to me. Now I have 22 followers, which might not seem like much, but it’s exactly 22 more than I ever expected to see. Thank you all so much for your interest, support, and all the entertaining interactions we’ve had!

And now, on top of all that loveliness, I have been nominated for an award! It is the One Lovely Blog award, which I’ve received from the talented Virginia Robertson from Tangent Gardening. Thank you so much, Tangential One! Virginia is an Arizona gardener also, but she seems to have much greater success than I do in growing vegetables, fruit, and flowers in her corner of the desert. I am envious, but don’t let that distract from Virginia’s kindness and generosity in nominating me for the award.

The One Lovely Blog award is another one with the mysterious and murky origins. Different sites give different rules and different badges for it, so I’ll just stick with the ones that Virginia used.
  1. Thank the blogger who nominated me.
  2. Post the One Lovely Blog badge (I have moved the award badges to the side bar so they’re easier to see!)
  3. Share seven random things about myself that people might not know.
  4. Nominate ten other lovely blogs for the award.
Here are seven things about me that you might not already know:

1.     I drink more than a gallon of water each day. I got thirsty when I moved to the desert 15 years ago, and I still haven’t gotten over it. I carry my big cup of ice water everywhere I go, and refill it every time it’s empty. In the cooler months, I occasionally drop below a gallon, but when it’s hot, I usually go over.

2.     I had a total of 13 paid jobs and 7 volunteer positions during my 35-year working life. No wonder I’m tired. (Favorite job: beehive observer. Most dangerous job: candy store clerk.)

3.     I learned to sew at age 14 when my parents gave me my first sewing machine as a junior high school graduation present. I took a class at the local Singer store, and was the youngest person there, by a generation or two.

4.     I am not good at throwing things away. Okay, so you might already know that. I have my tax returns going back to the early 1970s, and my passports back to the 60s. I have 30-year-old college textbooks and 20-year-old computer software guides. Torn-out magazine articles, Christmas cards from people I can’t remember, and supplies for hobbies I gave up years ago.

5.     I have visited 25 of the 50 United States but only 9 other countries. Considering the complications of modern travel, I don’t have any plans to increase those numbers. But never say never!

6.     I call myself a writer, but I don’t follow the rule of “write every day.” I only write when compelled by a story I find so vitally fascinating that I can’t eat, sleep, or talk to anyone until I get the thing typed and out of my head.

7.     My favorite movie changes pretty regularly but currently it is Sita Sings the Blues. It’s difficult to describe without just giving a list of ingredients: Hindu legend, modern relationships, ancient art, brilliant animation, 1920s music recordings, gods, demons, monkeys, cats, puppets, and the ultimate, eternal power of the feminine. See it here. (The link takes you to the home page for the film maker. Page down to the link to view the film. It’s an hour and 20 minutes long.)
And finally, there are so many blogs that I love to visit. I nominate the following to receive the One Lovely Blog Award:

Sew Vintage, Sew Fun 


Sweet Life Garden

Feel free to pass the award along, but please don’t feel obligated. I don’t want this to turn into a chain letter kind of thing. (Does anyone remember chain letters?)

Happy blogging, everyone!


Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happy Fourth of July

Happy Holiday! It’s a great day to:

Enjoy the outdoors

Get a little crazy

Spend time with family

Catch up on your rest

Have a Happy Fourth of July! From a Polish-Scottish-American (left) and an English-Mexican American (right).
And me!