The Insidious Cousin of Rising Grocery prices: The Shrink Ray

This is what I’m talking about:

Tortilla chips at Aldi have gone from 92 cents a bag to $1.42 per bag. Dollar Tree items are now $1.25, instead of $1. Milk and gasoline were both $1.59/gallon less than two years ago. Milk has doubled since then; gasoline almost tripled. We can all do the inflation math. I’m splurging less to keep my budget in line.

And now turning attention to this product:

Photo from Walmart website

I’m not specifically recommending this brand of dishwasher detergent, because what works for one household isn’t necessarily right for another. Water hardness, dishes, pans, food and food preparation routines all factor in to what works. The range of positive and negative reviews on one retailer’s site shows that this detergent is great for some households, and for others it doesn’t clean and leaves a hard residue on the dishes. https://www.walmart.com/reviews/product/19653258 But this product works in my household, and finding a detergent that works consistently for me has not been easy.

For the past couple of months, I haven’t been able to buy this product anywhere. The shelf where it resides at the store has been bare. Today it was back, but look at the difference from my old bottle:

Same price, but the new one has been hit with a shrink ray. Grrr. I’m calling you out, Palmolive. This is an outrageous price increase. I didn’t realize the size disparity until I got home and set it next to the old empty bottle. I’ve tried before to make my own dishwasher detergent, and wasn’t thrilled with the product, but now I’m fired up to try again. Stay tuned.



Not related to the topic above, but from a time when I don’t think people bought much dishwasher detergent because well, most homes didn’t have dishwashers yet. Here’s a long-forgotten song from 1969 that I heard this week.

Spring break dancing — Shout out to substitute teachers!

Happy Spring Break! August 31 was my last blog post until now, because that’s when the school year started. That matters this year because I am substitute teaching this year. Sound awful? It’s not. I’m having a blast. It was the break I needed from my office/home office job. I put myself on a self-imposed sabbatical from my regular ‘day job’, and am very happy with my choice.

Of course, a few days have been nightmarish. I’m now afraid of 2nd graders. ūüėČ

When this school year started, most of the students had not been in a formal classroom since spring break of 2020, when the pandemic shut down schools everywhere. For 2nd graders, that meant they hadn’t been in a classroom since Kindergarten. For 5th graders, which is the age group I started the year with, they hadn’t been in a classroom since 3rd grade. In other words, there was an extended period of easing in of the classroom structure, behavior requirements and expectations. The expectation to ‘sit down at your desk and be quiet and listen’, had been long forgotten. The classroom settings needed other options. I was inspired to see how some teachers arranged their classrooms, with diffused or dimmed lighting, curtain panels to separate sitting areas, and floor seating pads, to make calming and comfortable environments.

Since those first two months, I’ve spent most of my days in high school FACS (fka Home Economics) classes. It’s as enjoyable and rewarding as when I was a full-time salaried teacher for those first few years after college. I consider this subject matter to be ‘survival skills’, and I approach it that way in the classroom, and I feel that teaching it is important work.

There is a dire shortage of substitute teachers in public school. That is in part because of the pandemic, but also probably because substituting pays a wage similar to the fast food sector, with no insurance or other benefits. If school gets cancelled for snow or other cause, substitutes don’t get paid; not even those of us who had already committed to a sub job for that day.

On the positive side, a substitute can generally choose what days to work. You can choose your job day-by-day. And because of the sub shortage, there are a lot of jobs to choose from each day. You don’t have to work days you don’t want to. I’ve worked every school day but two this year. I didn’t expect to work every single day, but was having fun from the start, so it’s been an easy choice to keep going. I now have my favorite schools in the district, where I enjoy working the most, and where I look first for sub jobs.

In Kansas, the substitute shortage is so dire this year that they relaxed the requirements. You are now eligible to apply for a substitute teaching license if you are 18 and have a high school diploma. Normally, the requirement is a minimum of 60 college credit hours.

Kansas substitute requirements here: https://www.ksde.org/Agency/Division-of-Learning-Services/Teacher-Licensure-and-Accreditation/Licensure/License-Requirements/Standard-Emergency-Substitute-License-Requirements

And because we blog about sewing here:

This is what I’ve been helping sewing classes to make: Pajama pants, a hooded wrap robe/cardigan, and hand-sewn plushies. All are free downloadable patterns and instructions. Pattern websites below:

https://lifesewsavory.com/pajama-pants-pattern-free-pdf/
https://www.mygoldenthimble.com/make-your-own-cozy-hooded-robe-sewing-pattern-free-pattern-and-tutorial/
https://cholyknight.com/plushies/

A very special quilt pattern turns 89 today.

Here’s the pattern. It was published in the Kansas City Star on August 31, 1932.

What makes this pattern special? My grandma designed it…when she was 12. She sent it in to the Kansas City Star newspaper, who published it in their weekly quilt pattern series. Not knowing her age, they attributed it to her with ‘Mrs.’ before her name. That famous KC Star quilt series ran from 1928 to 1961. You can read more about it here. More information and a partial list of all of the KC Star patterns can be found here.

In 1986, the KC Star did a feature page on their quilt series, featuring The Purple Cross in their images.

Here is how the Purple Cross block can look in various quilt configurations. The diamond configuration was the first one I made. That is me and Grandma holding it.

Here’s a close-up of a kaleidoscope block.

Myrtle the dog stresses the importance of testing works in progress, and proper use of finished quilts.

This was the grandma who taught me to sew really well, on her dream machine, the Singer 401a Slant-O-Matic, that I now have care of, until it’s time to pass it on to the next generation.

The Purple Cross pattern is difficult. It starts out easy, when making the stars. But when you add the circle inserts it gets more complicated, and then the corners make it even more difficult. And then when sewing the blocks together I literally almost give up completely, feeling like I really don’t know how to sew at all! It would be slightly easier to construct if sashing strips are added between the blocks. As you can see from the examples above, I haven’t done that. I like the look of the blocks right next to each other.

So anyway, Happy Birthday to Grandma’s Purple Cross Quilt Pattern! Looking forward to making more of these quilts.



And now for some music!

The Slicethelife.com song draft continues, and is now on Round 5. The Run-Sew-Read.com round 5 selection will be this weekend. What will it be? I’m still deciding. A listing of the songs in the first four rounds can be viewed here.

For Round 4 I went for fun and ornery. Here’s the post, and below the song and video. http://slicethelife.com/2021/08/22/2021-song-draft-round-4-pick-7-run-sew-read-selects-half-a-boy-half-a-man-nick-lowe/

If you plant it they will come (Monarch Butterflies)

August is the season of the annual butterfly invasion of my back yard.

I’m not responsible for it. The Chasteberry bush was in my yard when I moved here almost 2 decades ago. It grows big and wide (8-10 feet tall and wide), it’s not pretty, and smells terrible. It actually gives me a headache when I trim it, i.e., a mild allergic reaction. But I put up with it just so I can enjoy these scenes in August. It’s like a busy airport for monarchs and other butterflies and bees.

When I started hearing about monarch butterfly numbers diminishing a few years ago, I thought it was a story concocted to advance a political agenda. The monarchs had never let up on their visits to my yard, and it never occurred to me that things were different elsewhere. It’s the bush. It brings all sorts of butterflies and bees.

Each year late in the fall after there’s been a freeze, I cut the bush down to the ground, and reclaim that corner of my yard. Then every summer the bush grows back with a vengeance, and then in August the Monarchs return to frolic with each other, do touch-and-goes, and feast on the purple flowers.

The Chasteberry has potential medicinal properties. I can’t speak to those properties with any authority, but the aroma and it’s power to give me a headache makes me not doubt its potential. The National Institute of Health has a page on the Chasteberry. https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/chasteberry

The Chasteberry has similarities in appearance to the more well known ‘Butterfly Bush’, aka, Buddleia. However, the Buddleia grows into a smaller, more compact bush, with a fuller purple flower than the Chasteberry. The Buddleia bush might be a more visually pleasing option for a front yard. Like the Chasteberry, the Buddleia also looks easy to grow, to the point of being a challenge to contain.

The Farmer’s Almanac has a page on the Buddleia bush and other butterfly attracting plants. https://www.almanac.com/plant/butterfly-bush

If a big bush isn’t right for your space, Zinnias attract butterflies too, are super easy to grow, and look pretty through the window.

And because there’s no such thing as too many butterfly pictures:



Checking in on the Song Draft over on Slicethelife.com, we are now on Round 3. Here’s the awesome playlist from the first three rounds. https://slicethelife.com/2021/08/15/2021-song-draft-recap-rounds-1-3/

The latest Run|Sew|Read pick goes back to music my teenage parents grooved to before I was born: http://slicethelife.com/2021/08/09/2021-song-draft-round-3-pick-8-run-sew-read-selects-apache-the-shadows/

And for the synchronised guitar dance moves:

I click on the numbered list every time. And now there’s a song about it.

  1. “10 things you need for a perfect […]”
  2.  “5 must-have tools for a successful […]”
  3.  “365 ways to […]”
  4.  “These are the 23 best views in America.” 
  5. “These 15 images will make you forever see your [blah blah blah] differently.” 
  6. “You get one point for each experience you’ve had. Share your results.”

The list can be a round number like ’10’, or seemingly random, like ’23’. Anyway, I don’t have a cure; only the observation that the internet is an endless supply of lists for people who gravitate toward enumerating perfection and objectifying comparisons and rankings.  A numbered list or checklist is a way to compare yourself to others, or test your level of perfection against a list compiled by someone who is likely not qualified.  Example:  “24 ways to raise perfect children”, *barf*.  

Before the internet, it was magazines like Cosmo:

Kitty: Good news, Red. I just took Cosmo‚Äôs ten ways to please your man in bed test, and I got nine out of ten! But I didn‚Äôt get number three because I‚Äôm a nurse and number three is icky.”

So anyway, stop it.  I say caringly and forcefully. 

  1. If you are going to compare yourself, or if you are motivated by a set of goals, make sure the goals fit you.  Number them if you must, but make them your own.  
  2. When you are reading articles on the internet and you start to click on an article that is based on a numbered list, consider the source.  Consider the amount of time you’ll waste only to find that:
    1. Of course you ‘failed’ to check off everything on the list. 
    2. Of course the thing you think is the best didn’t even make the list.
    3. Of course you scored less points than your younger Facebook friend, because you haven’t been arrested or haven’t tried that one drug, or haven’t been to Gravahispanoslavanda. 

It is truly a worthless, and counterproductive exercise. ¬†I vow to remind myself of that next time I see a list to click on. Sure, that list of pretty views is missing the one I think is best, but that’s because the list is a few photos someone spent 5 minutes harvesting from other people’s internet sites.¬† Sure, ‘Karen’ made a list that got people talking or arguing, but ‘Karen’ may actually be a guy who really needs to put on some trousers and go mow the lawn.

Rant over.  Sorry for the list.

The Count Sesame Street meme

This rant has been festering in my draft folder for a really long time. Then this week, Billy Bragg, a singer-songwriter (who actually does his own social media interacting) put out a new song about these internet phenomenons. His almost-Cockney accent made me have to listen hard for the lyrics, but it was worth the effort. Internet behavior makes for good lyrics. ‘Rabbit holes’ rhymes nicely with ‘rabid trolls’.

“…Ten mysterious photos that can’t be explained are draining away the best of my day, and fragments of songs that I never wrote are rotting in the pockets of my winter coat…” “Just a click away from all of the facts…” “Common sense, like art, is in the eye of the beholder.”

https://www.billybragg.co.uk/

Apple picking season is here!

I ate the one in my hand, and it was ‘delicious’. The rest of the batch I picked are to be peeled, sliced and dehydrated.

My tree is four years old. The first three years I got a few apples. This year I got a bounty.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 8-1-harvest-1.jpg

The dehydrating process is simple: Peel, core and slice the apples, rinse or soak the slices with a Fruit Fresh (citric acid) and water mixture, lay the slices on the dehydrator trays, and run the dehydrator for several hours.

The capacity of my little dehydrator is about 15 sliced apples, which means I’ll have to dehydrate my apple harvest in several batches.

Back on May 20, the branches were laden with these bunches of little apples. It was painfully hard to thin them out and let the weaker ones drop. I wanted to keep them all. But that’s part of the process. I’ve been rewarded with a nice haul of ripe apples, and more still on the tree to pick later on.

In a week or two, after I’ve finished dehydrating the first haul, I’ll pick the rest and dehydrate them, and close the chapter on the 2021 apple harvest.

About my apple tree: It has three varieties spliced into one tree. Because of that, I don’t need two apple trees in the yard to cross-pollinate each other. The one tree produces fruit all by itself. It was a budget purchase from the home improvement store, during their annual Spring 2-for-1 tree sale. It was small enough that I dug the hole for it myself with little effort. Four years later, it’s the size of a large bush; with apples as high as 7 feet from the ground. A manageable size.

Side note about apple peelers: If you’ve never tried one of the red hand-crank apple peelers, and are skeptical about whether they work, I can say that they do work and I don’t want to be without one. They make quick work of slicing a large bunch of apples. Mine is low-end, purchased for $10 from the now-defunct Kitchen Collection stores. (I still miss Kitchen Collection stores!) I’m satisfied with the job my bargain version does. I’m guessing higher end versions attach more securely to the counter, or are made of higher quality metal, maybe? Just guessing. I’ve never tried one other than my own. Here’s one on Amazon that looks much like it. https://amzn.to/2WJcYJE (affiliate link)

Image from Amazon

Using the peels and cores: The apple cores and peels are not going to waste. I’m making Apple Scrap Vinegar. All it takes is the peels and cores, about 2 tablespoons of sugar per dozen apples, and some water. Let it ferment in a jar and you’ll have a handy vinegar with a nice apple scent. I use mine in laundry and some bathroom and kitchen cleaning. Full instructions for Apple Scrap Vinegar are here on this superb blog. https://zerowastechef.com/2014/10/30/apple-scrap-vinegar/


Switching gears from apples to music,… how about a song draft? I’m one of 13 participants in a 10-round song draft. My first two selections are here.

and here

But enough about my selections. We are two rounds into the draft, and what’s developing is a wonderful, diverse playlist. You can see all 26 of the selections so far here:

Today, 59 years after their training, one of the ‘Mercury 13’ astronaut-trained women will finally be on a space flight.

Back in October 2018, I wrote about the 13 women who trained to be astronauts in 1961.  Their program was shut down before any of them could be selected for a space mission.  Today, one of the 13 astronaut-trained women, 82 year old Wally Funk, will be on a space mission with Jeff Bezos. The flight can be watched here: https://www.blueorigin.com/  

Right now, it is 8:12am Central time, and lift off is imminent.  They have closed the hatch and are posting updates to their https://www.blueorigin.com/ site.

UPDATE 8:36am: The flight is back on earth, and here is a screen capture of Wally Funk emerging from the capsule!

 

My post from 2018:

Mercury 13–what I’ve been watching

This week I watched the Mercury 13 documentary on Netflix.  It is about the thirteen woman astronauts who trained for the space program in 1961.

I tried to be inspired and not let myself be consumed with anger at the stories told in this documentary. ¬†It wasn’t easy. ¬†There were plenty of moments that moved me to tears, at how these brilliant, accomplished aviators and scientists were trivialized and relegated to lesser status for being women. ¬†They were put through more rigorous testing than the male astronauts, and scored better on some tests. ¬†These 13 women qualified, but were banned from the missions to space.

Below is an excerpt from one of the woman astronauts’ testimony before Congress. ¬†She used the exclusion of woman nurses from Civil War field hospitals as her example of why women should be allowed on space missions.

Mercury 13 testimony highlight

National hero John Glenn then testified, drawing laughter from the senators when he said he would welcome qualified women astronauts with ‘open arms’. ¬†Then President Johnson ended the women astronaut program, saying, “We have to shut this thing down.”

More reading:

The IMDB listing.  https://www.imdb.com/title/tt8139850/ 

Wikipedia page.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mercury_13

National Sewing Machine Day is today (June 13)

For us sewing enthusiasts, isn’t every day ‘Sewing Machine Day’? Of course it is! I didn’t know until today that sewing machines have their own day. This article on PBS.org tipped me off. It’s a neat collection of sewing stories they’ve done over the years. (Click on this photo to view the story of this pretty old machine on Antiques Roadshow.)

Sewing Machine Patent Model | Antiques Roadshow

I’ve done a few blog posts profiling my machines, and have more still to profile. Here are the stories I’ve told so far:

Here’s the lovely Vera, and her story such as I know it: The lovely Vera has been called up for active¬†duty.

This was my grandma’s 1958 Singer 401A, that I learned lots of sewing skills on at her house.

This was my first antique sewing machine purchase; a 1917 Singer 66k hand crank, manufactured in Clydebank, Scotland. Still one of my most precious machines. The blog post: This machine is a sewing ambassador.

The two below are my ‘modern’ machines. It’s hard to believe the Bernina 930 is about 35 years old. I’ll never want for anything more modern. This will likely always be my main machine. The serger/overlocker is my newest machine. Five years after its purchase, I still have a love/hate (mostly hate) relationship with it. (Future blog post coming on that.) But it does serve a purpose.

In future posts from time to time, I’ll continue to profile my machines one by one. There are a couple more Berninas, and the rest are vintage Singers. There’s a Featherweight, another beautiful hand crank machine, and more treadle machines. Each one is different and special, at least to me.

Which is better, new machine vs vintage? The debate will continue to rage on about whether modern machines are better than vintage, and whether to go computerized or mechanical. You can see where I come down on those issues. I love sewing with my old machines, and I love that if something malfunctions, I’ll probably be able to fix it myself.

Yes, you can restore an old Singer yourself. If you’ve wanted one of the old black Singer machines, don’t be afraid to buy one you see at a good price. Use the serial number to date the machine. The site http://ismacs.net/ has a great database of sewing machine manufacture dates, and a collection of manuals, photos, etc. The parts for the machines are still made, and the machines are quite simple mechanically. Some cleaning, oil and minor adjustments may be all that’s needed. You can buy the bobbins, needles, belts, etc. at a sewing store, some discount stores, or online. Youtube has many excellent videos on how to do the cleaning, oiling, adjusting and repairs if needed. If you find an old machine at a great price, give it a shot.

A Theater for Dreamers, by Polly Samson

This book and the audiobook are now available in the US! I highly recommend the audiobook. The author, Polly Samson, reads it aloud, and her husband provides the soundtrack. This is a particularly big deal when the husband is David Gilmour, the guitar player and vocalist for Pink Floyd, and Polly one of the Pink Floyd lyricists. The book is set on the Greek island of Hydra (pron. EEdra) in the early 1960s, when singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen was living there. The story centers on young adult ‘Erica’ who has escaped the family home of her youth at the Palace Court Bayswater in London. Her recently deceased mother was once a peer of the artists and poets Erica encounters that summer in Hydra. Several of the characters will have recognizable names from that decade. The book is a sublime story and listening experience.

It’s been a long time since I pre-ordered a book, but this one I pre-ordered on the day I found out it would soon be available in my country. I was not disappointed. It transports the reader and listener to 1960s Hydra, during this time in 2021, when the world has endured a year of no travel. It is a soothing escape. I’ve listened to it in the house via my Alexa speakers. But it would be ideal for listening on a chaise or swing in the back yard, or at the beach. or a campground. If you are seeking an escape, it’s right here. Bring your headphones.

There are many mentions in the book of the Palace Court Bayswater in London. That is where Erica the main character, grew up. I’m vividly transported there with every mention, because in 2013, I stayed at the Palace Court in Bayswater. If the walls could talk. It was home to several famous musicians back in the 1960s. It is now closed, but hopefully not being renovated and cleansed of its spirits. I looked back through my pictures of that trip and realized I didn’t take any pictures of my rented flat. It’s as if I knew I couldn’t capture the essence in an image. And it’s true, I couldn’t have.

David Gilmour and Romany Gilmour released this lovely song and video in conjunction with the book. It has a Pink Floyd feel, and a Leonard Cohen feel, set along the streets, walkways and waters edge of Hydra.

Want to watch and listen to more of the Gilmour-Samsons? During the pandemic lockdown, they recorded a series of videos called the ‘Von Trapped Family’. Here’s the series. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D9WIFlFQk54&list=PLsDZ7QcsbDR8ty8ebVrbQ2tXDw3Nxkbb8