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’s ten ways to please your man in bed test, and I got nine out of ten! But I didn’t get number three because I’m 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

Homemade Sauerkraut

All you need is a head of cabbage and a teaspoon or two of salt. I wanted a bigger batch this time, so I tripled it.

The recipe:

Here’s the direct link to recipe and instructions I followed: https://www.thekitchn.com/how-to-make-homemade-sauerkraut-in-a-mason-jar-193124 I chose this one because it is simple and geared to a small-scale batch.

The advice from this wonderful blog was also a big help. https://zerowastechef.com/2014/03/29/sauerkraut/

  • The basic steps:
  • Step 1: Rinse the cabbage head and remove the outer leaves. (Don’t discard the outer leaves. They will be used in the jar.)
  • Step 2: Quarter the cabbage head, remove the dense middle, and slice the quarters into thin shreds, 1/8 to 1/4 ” wide.
  • Step 3: Sprinkle the salt on the sliced cabbage and knead or scrunch it until the cabbage feels a bit wet and wilted.
  • Step 4: Stuff the cabbage into a jar, and compact it. Those big outer cabbage leaves you set aside can be used now, to cover the cabbage. Then put a small jar or weight on top of the leaves, and then loosely put a lid or fabric cover over the jar. Don’t seal the jar shut, because pressure will build up.
  • Then wait, one to four weeks, depending on how strong of a sauerkraut taste you want.

MORE ABOUT THE PROCESS AND TIPS IN PICTURES:

Slicing the cabbage:

This can be done with a big knife or a mandolin slicer. I used a mandolin slicer, which had the cabbage in shreds in no time. My mandolin slicer is the low-end in price and features, but has served me well for over 10 years. Pictures below. Here’s a link to one on Amazon that looks very similar. https://amzn.to/3htT9OA

The slicer comes with a safety warning from me. I have twice tried to cut off the end of my finger while slicing cabbage. I should have been wearing my cut-resistant safety glove.

Post slicing band-aid
The safety glove to put on before the finger cut, not after.

The slicer comes with a pusher to keep hands away from the blade, but it doesn’t work well with cabbage. Some mandolin slicers actually come with a glove. Here’s an example on Amazon: https://amzn.to/3olbqPu

Image from Amazon
Image from Amazon

The scrunching/kneading process:

Once you have your pile of sliced cabbage, sprinkle the salt over it, and knead or scrunch it until the cabbage feels somewhat wet, heavy and wilted. I sliced and kneaded one head of cabbage at a time, because that is the limit of my space and equipment. Here’s a before and after picture of the cabbage. I used a paella pan for the scrunch/knead process, which works great because it’s big and wide, with sides to keep the cabbage from falling on the counter or floor.

Before the scrunch/kneading
After

Use a big-enough jar for fermenting:

You need some extra room at the top for the liquid to expand during the fermenting stage. For three heads of cabbage, a wide-mouth gallon jar worked well. For one head of cabbage, I used a quart-size mason jar. The one time I filled a jar to the top with cabbage, the liquid expanded during fermenting, and oozed out the top. I lost valuable liquid needed for the sauerkraut.

This picture below shows the packed shredded cabbage, covered with a layer of the outer leaves, and a small empty jar on top, that is being pressed down by the gallon jar lid. The lid on the gallon jar is not tightened. It is kept loose enough for air to escape.

What to watch for during fermenting:

In a day or two, you’ll see the liquid becoming more prominent, and then some bubbles will appear around the top. It’s working. You can periodically open the jar to push the cabbage further down, stir it, rearrange the cover leaves and weight on top. I haven’t done much in the way of stirring, but did push the cabbage down to keep it submerged in the liquid.

The green color will gradually turn to pale yellow. You’ll notice it by the end of the first week:

Day 1 color
Day 7 color

The sauerkraut taste will become stronger with each week the cabbage ferments. There will be a slight sauerkraut taste after week 1, and by week 4 it is really tasting like sauerkraut.

  • The salt measurement is approximate.
    • The amount of salt called for can vary quite a bit in recipes. I added more salt in one batch, and it did change the taste, but didn’t ruin it for me. The amount of salt and taste will be a subjective thing for you.
  • Storage and shelf life.
    • What is the shelf life of homemade sauerkraut, and how is it best stored? I don’t know yet, because I keep eating it all! The taste is quite nice.
Kielbasa & Sauerkraut, mmmm.

UPDATE 5-24-2021 — Another helpful site! After initially publishing this post, I discovered this site that is also full of great tips and answers to questions. https://www.makesauerkraut.com/sure-fire-sauerkraut-in-a-jar/

Nutritional information (for a head of cabbage and tsp of salt):

For one head of green cabbage
For one teaspoon of table salt

Is there something familiar about this face and voice? It’s actress Elizaeth McGovern (Lady Grantham on Downton Abbey), and her band.

The links in this post may be ‘affiliate links’, meaning when one is clicked and a purchase is made, I may get a small commission from Amazon. The commission will help offset what I pay to keep my site free of ads.

The Alexa series — One room; Two Alexa devices

For someone with limited communication and accessibility abilities, two different Alexa devices in one room can help. My mom now has two Alexa devices in her room at the assisted living center: The Echo Show and the Echo Dot (3rd gen.). Here’s why, and how she uses them.

Customize the ‘Wake Words’. The Show is set to respond to the name ‘Alexa’, and the Dot is set to respond to the name ‘Echo’, so the devices don’t get confused and both try to respond. This is called changing the device ‘Wake Word’. There are four different wake words to choose from. To make the change, go to the Alexa App > Devices tab > [the device] > Wake Word. See the screenshot below.


The Echo Show

Image from Amazon

When people ‘drop-in’ on Mom, they show up on the Echo Show device. She sees and hears the person dropping in, and that person can see and hear her.

From the Show, she can also stream a TV show or movie from the Prime selection, see news and weather updates, and when dormant, it displays a slide show of the photos in her Amazon photo cloud.

She can also use the touch screen on the Show if she’s having trouble speaking on a particular day.

Echo Dot (3rd gen.)

Image from Amazon

The Echo Dot device was added because the Dot mic understands her better. It’s good for when she wants to call someone in her contacts, listen to music, get the news or weather report, or listen to an audio book.

Drop-in setting: This is the other important setting on the ‘Dot’. The Dot is set to allow drop-ins only from ‘My Household’. The ‘My Household’ setting includes only the Alexa devices that share her wifi network. In other words, the only device that can drop in on the Dot is her own Echo Show. Her contacts in other locations can drop in only on her Show. Here’s how we use the ‘My Household’ drop in set up on the Dot:

  • Enabling her two devices to drop-in on each other, allows them to be used as walkie talkies. This helps her communicate with in-person visitors. She can barely speak above a whisper. Social distancing and mask requirements make it nearly impossible to hear her from the required 8-10 feet away. She can speak into the Dot, and the person sitting at a distance with the Echo Show can hear her well. Sometimes our visits were outdoors, where we had to contend with lawn mowing crews. Other times we we’ve been separated by a glass barrier. The walkie-talkie set up is the only way we could hear each other.

  • When I drop in on her Echo Show, and our conversation is finished, I can speak through the Echo Show to her Echo Dot, and start an audio book, or music, or a news or weather briefing.
    • “Echo, read my book.”
    • “Echo, what’s my news briefing?”
    • “Echo, what’s the weather forecast for this evening?”
    • “Echo, what time do the Kansas Jayhawks play?”

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