Thursday, May 21, 2020

We Did My Birthday Right

My birthday was a simply brilliant day.  I could never have imagined such a satisfyingly perfect birthday celebration back in April when I started thinking about my birthday month plans.  I was so delighted and satisfied.  
This just goes to show I’ve still never learned to follow my mom’s advice:  Don’t borrow trouble.  I shouldn’t have bothered worrying about how it would shake out.  I still never learned to follow Hagrid’s advice either:  We’ll meet it when it comes.
I woke up in bed with both cats, made a pot of tea, talked to Matt, and started a new puzzle.  Matt cooked me breakfast.  I unwrapped my gifts.  People spoiled me this year, I swear.  My mom and Sarah called and sang to me.   
Matt and I packed a tiny cooler and went down to the river to bask in the sunshine and blue sky.  I stacked a few cairns and launched “rafts” of driftwood with stone passengers on top to see how far they’d go.  We ate Gardettos and enjoyed a couple beers.  I got a minor sunburn, we sat there so long.  It felt like summer.  We wandered the riparian zone.  We watched birds, many of which are in the showy, noisy courtship/breeding season.  
I had a hilarious “Houseparty” game night with some of my oldest and dearest friends from Sidney.  They sang to me.  The digital lag made it seem like in Harry Potter when they sing the school song and everyone pick’s their own tune and tempo so everyone finishes at different times.  I cackled and directed.  
Matt made chick'n fried seitan steaks, mashed potatoes, and gravy.  Followed up by cheesecake with homegrown strawberry topping.  MMmmmmmmm....
My dad called and then we had a videochat with my both of my sisters.  They sang to me, too. 
I decided to invite a few people over for a little outdoor celebration around the fire, landing on Matt’s brother Ryan and his wife, Bek and our friends Matt and Lacie.  They orchestrated a surprise Oreo sampling party—“It’s called a tasting and its classy”—because I’d mentioned the idea months back while we were all bowling.  Our public library had hosted an Oreo tasting and I wasn’t able to make it, but said I thought it would make a great birthday party—just have everyone show up with a pack or two and try all the bajillion flavors of Oreos that exist now.  I promptly forgot about this idea when COVID cancelled all my group plans.  Not my friends though!  They remembered!  I was so surprised and touched.  It was amazing. 

 My top three were:  Lemon Thins, Caramel Coconut, and Chocolate Marshmallow.  Those weren't what I'd have guessed would be my favorites either!  I mean, there is a Peanut Butter Chocolate for heaven's sake!
I actually had three face-to-face, COVID19-coscious birthday parties over the course of birthday week—Wednesday, Friday, Saturday.  Matt and I brought cupcakes over to his folks’ on Wednesday as a double birthday celebration for Sharon and me.   Wednesday was Sharon’s birthday.  Friday my (other) friend Lacee had us and two of “the gals” over for a fire and more cupcakes.  Saturday--my actual birthday--was the Oreo Tasting.  
They weren’t “normal” birthday parties or anything.  I didn’t get any birthday hugs.  (I didn't want any, I should note.)  We washed our hands more than I can ever remember at a party.  I put a bottle of hand sanitizer out on the picnic table with the Oreos.  We kept our space.  Nevertheless, despite the precautions, each gathering was a such a  special, fabulous good time.  It was SO AWESOME to get to celebrate and laugh and tell stories and share food with other humans again.  In the flesh!  Even with small numbers, no hugs, and all. 
I’ve had a super time hanging out digitally these past two months.  It works and serves its purpose.  But man…there’s nothing like the real deal, is there?  

Thursday, May 14, 2020

My Patchwork T-Shirt Dress

On Saturday I finished the patchwork dress I started back in April.  It’s the first time I’ve tried to make patchwork clothing and, while it was certainly a learning experience, I am pretty gall dang happy with how it turned out.  It is super comfy and quite colorful without being too aggressive.  The tie-dye and black contrast pleasingly.  It has nice deep pockets, of course.  The pockets are one of the features I love most about My Dress.

I immediately wore the dress two days in a row—Saturday and Sunday.  It had that shiny-new-dress-awesomeness going on.  I couldn’t resist.  I wore it again yesterday, basically as soon as it dried on the line.  It is a fabulous addition to my Me-Made-May wardrobe (and beyond).
There are four children’s tie-dye shirts and four adult shirts—three of which were black—in the mix. The youth shirts are old, old, old ones that never sold over the years in our tie-dye booth.  We were tired of dragging them around from show to show just for them to come home with us again.  I used one of my all-time favorite, but worn out and holey tie-dyes—the deep purple, green, and blue one—in the skirt.  In retrospect, that might have been a mistake.  It is much thinner, worn fabric when compared to the rest of the fabric.  It will probably be the first place holes will appear.  The black shirts, in both the bodice and skirt, were freebies I’d been given all of which had various logos on them.  I just avoided those as I cut the pieces I needed for my dress.   

[Note:  If anyone has any black t-shirts they’re looking to get rid of, hit me up.  I'll take 'em!  For rag rugs and other upcycling projects.]

I love having a serger.  It is a game changer for my sewing.  I wouldn’t have even attempted this t-shirt upcycled dress project without it.  I also think this is the first dress I’ve made with it from start to finish.  All the rest were made on my standard sewing machine, though I have retroactively finished many of the older dresses’ interior seams with the serger. It looks so professional and clean on the inside, too.

With my first successful patchwork garment behind me, I want to make a crazy-quilt style patchwork dress.  Crazy quilting always makes me think of my Grandma Nina.  It is her quilting specialty and it really suits my vibe, I think.

Friday, May 8, 2020

A Six-Course Appetizer Dinner

There is a song I know from the Grateful Dead called “Men Smart, Women Smarter.” 

Years ago, during setbreak at a show in Colorado, Matt and I were talking with the folks near us in the crowd.  Matt brought the conversation around to that song, saying it was a perfect song to play right before the break…

     ---and the gal next to him interrupted with an eyeroll and a scoff to say “That’s what my boyfriend always says, too, because it is the perfect time to go take a pee and get a beer.”-- 

Matt continued with, “I was going to say it was perfect because it reminds all the guys, right before the break, how lucky we are to have such nice women around.  I mean, it’s always the girls going to refill everyone’s water bottles, passing around gum or snacks, taking care of everybody.”

Then they looked at each other like they were both a shade confused about what had just happened.  Looking on, I was awash in gratitude that I was there dancing with Matt instead of that other dude…  I mean, I’m sure that guy is nice in his way, but I could help but recognize that Matt is a gem, so thoughtful and respectful and kind.
A pesto breadstick twist
Recently Matt decided he wanted to Do-Something-Special-For-Us.  Something different.  Something extra fun and novel.  He has a household reputation as a pretty great idea man.  

All morning he pondered his options within the restrictions of only using stuff we already had at home. 
Potato wedges, almond cheese, seitan wings.
He called me on his break at work saying that I should “put on something nice” and get ready for a little surprise later.  
Matt knows what I like.  Fried, bready, tan things--with dipping sauce!
When he got home he handed me his menus to peruse—one for food and one for drinks.  He offered up an assortment of my favorite drinks, plus one special “quarantine cocktail” of his own creation, and a six-course all-appetizer dinner comprised of foods that I adore. Almond cheese and chips, corn fritters, potato wedges, pesto breadsticks and red sauce, seitan wings, and pakoras.
Matt bought some Lucky's Coconut Water with Espresso when they closed for good in early February.  It was my favorite coconut water. He intended to bust them out as roadtrip surprises, but instead occasionally just slips me one.  "It exists!"  I have no idea where his stash is...or how long this surprise and delight might last, but it is awesome.  Matt says I "live the beverage life" in that I am a pretty big fan of drinks.  This assortment is full of favorites.
He had a tremendously good time writing up the menu over his lunch break, coming up with the descriptive phrases and picking the fancy font.  He said that writing menus would be a fun job.  

He took my drink order—I went with the Quarantine Spritz, of course—and then he got to work in the kitchen.  He requested that I play my guitar and sing to him while he cooked.
Isn't that one sexy looking cocktail?!? 
It was delicious. Mmmmmmm…and it was so surprising and delightful.  So unexpected and entertaining.  

We’re out of taper candles so we put a votive on top of an upturned water glass instead.  We dug up a lacy table cloth I didn’t even know we owned.  

Using only stuff we had at home he dreamed up a really special night. I was so impressed.
He’s an outstanding man.  I can’t believe my good fortune.

Saturday, May 2, 2020

Bye-Bye, Dead Tree - Hello, Epic Garden

I have a suspicion that 2020 is going to be an epic gardening year.  There are two major factors.
Our first fire while enjoying the more expensive view. 
First, we’re home all the dang time these days, most notably on the weekends.  Second, the neighbors finally removed the half-rotten tree along our property line last week so now our garden can bask in the full glory of the sun.  

Of course, the neighbors didn’t cut the tree down to enhance the sun exposure of our garden.  That’s just a side benefit. 
Garlic plants and the greenhouse.
Now I am a tree hugger, keep in mind, but goodness me!  Am I delighted to see that particular tree go!
Before
If it had grown up in the forest I’d have happily watched nature take its course.  Dead wood is critical for birds, especially woodpeckers, and the tree’s waning nutrient is slowly returned to the earth and the ecological cycle goes round and round beautifully, as it should. 
After
But, this tree wasn’t in the forest.  It was in the neighbor’s yard right up against our shared property line, smack dab in the middle of town.

We could tolerate the shade just fine, but over the past three or four years, limbs thicker than my thigh started to fall with alarming regularity.  Last July we reached out to the neighbors about it becoming a hazard when a big honker crashed down right where I’d been standing 10-15 minutes previously, hanging clothes on the line. The main trunk was so rotten the sun shone through the middle.  The canopy was cluttered with limbs that had broken off and were just waiting to for gravity to finish with them.  It seemed like a matter of time before something landed on our garage or the neighbor’s house or the fence. Or Matt.  Or Ginger.
During
The tree needed to go.

And I’m glad it is gone, too, though there is also a little bittersweet there.  I feel bad for the birds that lived in the tree’s rotten and easily excavated limbs, even if most of the inhabitants were the almost universally unloved (and invasive) European Starling.  Our yard below, including the garden, feels astonishingly open, almost naked—it’s huge now—and it will also likely require more water.  We’ve definitely gotten a more expansive view of the Rims now.  That’s lovely.
The timing of the tree’s demise strikes me as a gift from the Universe.  We’d just run out of firewood for our backyard pit since we have a fire a couple nights a week lately.  We’re certainly well stocked again now.  “Everything you take is less work for us,” the tree folks told me.  It is all super dead and burns readily.  

The best part of the timing though was that, since I am working from home, I was able to watch basically the whole tree removal thing.  Golly!  What a thing to see, too!  Toward the end of the day I finally just took my work stuff out to the back step so I could work and watch at the same time.  It made more sense than making a trip to the window every few minutes.  I could feel the big chunks of the tree—THUMP—when they fell to the ground.  It was distracting.  Fascinatingly distracting.

Cliffnotes:  
  • That arborist is an artist, not to mention an exceptionally strong human being with impeccable aim. 
  • That tree probably took 65+ years to grow and eight hours to be undone. 
  • Humans have so much power to alter the landscape. 
  • People do the all sorts of the craziest things for a living.
I can’t wait to see what the peppers and eggplants do with all that extra sun this growing season.  I don’t care if we do have to water more frequently.  Pros and cons to all things.  I’d rather have the sun.  Last year we worked up a homespun drip irrigation system using the ditch water so maybe the timing is perfect here, too.

Pea vines are poking through the earth.  We can easily see the rows now from the kitchen.  Potatoes have been planted.  The shallots have sprouted and the garlic is nice and tall. Greens and herbs are up in the greenhouse.  They were joined last week by pepper, eggplant, and basil plants that we started under lights in the basement.  They’re loving it.  I’m loving fresh basil!
Peas
Usually late March or early April is when Matt and I start getting wanderlust and head for the hills…or desert or prairie or…wherever our heart calls us.  We especially like going to Yellowstone for the early season quiet.  It isn’t unheard of for us to spend every April and/or May weekend in the park.  That clearly wasn’t in the cards this year.  

Our governor’s shelter-in-place directive specifically had a clause permitting outdoor recreation (though it also encouraged essential travel only, which would often be at odds, if you ask me).  Even with the seal of approval on hiking and paddling and such though, all Forest Service campgrounds and cabins were off-limits (not to mention Yellowstone).  We had a cabin rental for early April that was cancelled, for example.  We booked it back in March when our DC-Shenandoah plans got quashed.  Our in-state alternative would also get nixed in due time however.  We talked about backpacking some weekend or other, but ultimately just decided to stick closer to home.  We made a day trip to watch birds.  We explored a new county park we heard about.  We go on a lot of bike rides. We’ve paddled around in our kayak at Riverfront Park.

And we hang out in the garden even more than before.
Looking in on the plants from one of the windows. We’re opening a few windows every morning and then close them up again each night to regulate the temperature. 
I can only assume that closer care will lead to a more beautiful and bountiful garden.  Sometimes the garden suffers for all our gallivanting.  This year we've been able to jive with what is best for the plant’s schedule, instead of working around our travels and whenever we have a “free” evening.  We’ve had all sorts of free evenings to work with this past month.  

I foresee less travel for us this year as a whole, but especially out of state—which is cool in its own way and certainly novel for us.  Of course, I might say differently in a month.  Who knows at this point?  
Can you see the letter I written in the embers if that log?
The first wave of our tie-dye gigs have been cancelled or postponed.  Ditto for our outdoor summer concert season.  We’ve temporarily stopped making “Big Plans.”  Matt says it is peculiar to not have a destination he’s researching for us, but he’s been spectacular at dreaming up Small Plans to enliven our days.  The kayak adventure, say, or the new park.  He was also able to once again reserve a forest service cabin, for later this month as part of my birthday. 
Strawberry plants along the main path in the garden.  I really like our brick walkway.  It’s made from salvaged brick. 
For the most part though, we’ll stay home and garden in the sunshine.   

Friday, May 1, 2020

Me Made May 2020

I put a note in my dayplanner this year, prompting me to come up with my Me Made May 2020 challenge.  I’ve botched the last couple rounds with May somehow creeping up on me in the fantastic rush of spring.
One of our little fruit trees looks gorgeous right now. 
“I, Beth, aka BLD-in-MT pledge to wear at least one handmade garment per day throughout May 2020.  I will also finish one new garment this month.”
Ginger is a watchful sewing supervisor. 
I have a couple of things in mind in regard to the new me-made item.  My patchwork, recycled t-shirt dress—currently in progress, maybe. Or I have never made a top or shorts for myself. That might be a swell learning experience.
I recently re-configured my sewing space downstairs, butting my large table up against my sewing desk in the center of the room for better light. An unexpected consequence is that now Johnny can get up on my sewing table, too. Twice the supervisors making sure I am on task.  Johnny’s back legs don’t work the best so she could never make the leap up onto the table like Ginger. Now she just makes a few quick hops from the floor to the chair to the sewing desk to the table!
For a good while there I was really rocking a solid Me-Made wardrobe.  I’d made more than a dozen versions of My Dress alone.  Then some of my girlfriends gave me a bunch of leggings and stretchy knit dresses and tops and…I’ve basically been a one-trick-feels-like-jammies-pony ever since.  I also am officially a pants-wearer again.  I think it is official because people no longer comment on it when I wear pants.  “Whoa!  You’re wearing pants!”  My pants have become normalized again.  Both factors have contributed to a decline in my dress-wearing.  Which, since I typically only sew dresses, has likewise curtailed the homemade nature of my wardrobe.  So it goes.  It’s not like anyone is keeping track except me.
Before the plants moved into the greenhouse it was our hammock swinging, book reading backyard clubhouse. 
I have made a few stretchy knit garments since back in 2015 when that was part of my MMM objective.  I’ll probably rock the heck out of them this month.  Spring is already feeling like summer so heaven knows it is dress season…and I am certainly well prepared there.

I can’t believe it is May.
My St. Patty’s Day outfit, which is me-made. 
That also means it is my birthday month.  I’ve dreamed up a bunch of ways to celebrate it, as is my tradition, though they’re rather different things this year.  No bowling alley party, say, but inviting folks to come donate blood with me, for example.  Other ideas include: Digital drinks with the girls.  Cake every week.  Kayaking Lake Elmo.  Camping with Matt.  A Thai take-away picnic with my godsister.  Simpson’s trivia via Zoom.  My sister, Lisa, is already spoiling me with little care packages.  Matt started my birthday month by coming up with another Coconut Water With Espresso from Lucky’s, which closed down on February 12th. I know there’s a stash somewhere in my house but I don’t know where!

For so many reasons I am looking forward to a fantastic month ahead.
A Zoom Simpson’s Trivia night with my sisters and their kids from March. 
Matt and I are continuing to lay low as our state begins reopening bars, restaurants, and shops.  We’re not going crazy at home, I guess, and have no compelling reason to be the first guinea pigs.  I realize not everyone can have this luxury (notably we’re both still getting a paycheck, have no kids, really enjoy each other’s company, are able to do a big shop and then not go back for weeks, etc.) and I know a lot of people don’t want to stay home, even if they can.

I have mixed feelings about that, but long ago learned to stop trying to run other people’s lives. The mixed feelings come in because all of our lives are so interconnected.
On Sunday we got contact-less takeaway from Fancy Sushi and had a keen picnic in the sun. 
Regardless, it seems that operations at our favorite breweries and music venues are still going to be so altered, if they reopen now—half capacity, socially distant,  no ordering at the bar, etc.—that it won’t be the same vibe that I’m missing right now anyways.  Same with hanging with our friends without hugs.  Matt admits that working for the health department skews him cautious. I have an autoimmune condition so I skew cautious, too.  We’re not in a rush.  We’re gonna give it a few weeks yet.  See how our fair state fares.
Queen Ginger of the Bedroom Curtain Cape. 
Even if it IS my birthday month.