Put zip ties in your emergency car kit

Zip ties are the new duct tape.

You are driving down the highway and suddenly there’s a rattle or a scrape coming from under your car. You pull off the road worried that you’ve got a real mechanical problem. Nope, it’s just a piece of loose plastic. I had it happen this weekend while driving on the Kansas Turnpike. Naturally, it was after dark. I pulled into the next fuel/food stop, found a safe place to park and look under the car. Yep, it was a piece of loose plastic, hanging down and scraping the pavement.

My car is a 2016 Honda. Not an old car. No dents and damage. It shouldn’t be falling apart. But tell that to the scraping part, and Honda.

So, I got my pack of zip ties out of the glove compartment, and started looping. Usually there’s a screw hole in the plastic to loop the tie through, The screw hole is probably where the plastic should be fastened to the car, but it stretched out or the screw fell out. (Are you reading this, Honda?) There’s likely a secure piece of metal nearby that the tie can loop around to hold the plastic up. Sometimes there’s a need to chain some ties together to reach the secure piece to loop around.

This is not pretty, but it was a windy January night in the Kansas Flint Hills. I didn’t care to spend any longer than I had to, laying on the ground reaching under my car. It got me home without hearing my car scrape the pavement for 50 more miles.

It took several ties chained together, to reach the secure car part. Then I cinched them up to make it close.

How did I know to carry zip ties in the car? Well, this isn’t the first time I’ve needed them for a loose piece of plastic. Or the second time. (Are you reading this, Honda?)

Anyway, the temporary fix is that simple. Carry zip ties in your car. I’ve just ordered some more. Because there will be a next time. Sigh. I’m going with this assortment. It will help to have an assortment of lengths. https://amzn.to/3WdaJY8 (affiliate link)

If you get caught out with a flapping car part and no zip ties, don’t despair. They are probably sold at the nearest convenience store on the road. Dollar General carries them. They are carried just about everywhere, thankfully. You’ll probably only pay $2-$5 for a pack.



Merry Christmas!

It’s been awhile, but I don’t want to miss the chance to write well wishes for the holidays and a happy new year. It’s been a year full of new adventures, sewing projects, new recipes, home projects, and more to write about…as time permits.

Last year I stuck my toe back into teaching, by becoming a substitute. I thought I’d do it once or twice a week as a break from my regular work. Well, I enjoyed it so much that I substituted every day of the school year. Then, I accepted a full-time teaching position for this year. Every day has been a new adventure. I arrive home at the end of each day exhausted with nothing left in the tank, but happy and looking forward to the next day. I don’t want to sound smarmy or magnanimous as I say this, but honestly, this feels like the most important work I can do right now.

Now that I have a full semester under my belt, and time to prep for second semester, I’ll hopefully have time to do some blogging again. I miss it. Until then…

Have a lovely time, however you celebrate these special days.

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. 😉

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/

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/

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

Nicodemus, Kansas USA

Please allow me to extend Black History Month by a week, to tell about this unique and special place, the town of Nicodemus, Kansas. Nicodemus is the “only remaining western town established by African Americans during the Reconstruction Period following the American Civil War.” (Per Wikipedia)

(Image from Google Maps)

The National Park Service has a page telling the history of Nicodemus: https://www.nps.gov/articles/nicodemus.htm Here’s an excerpt from their page:

The small town of Nicodemus, Kansas sits quietly on the northwest Kansas plains. Founded by newly freed slaves in 1877, Nicodemus was a refuge from the Reconstruction-era South, a reflection of a mass black migration from the South to the Midwest after the Civil War. Nicodemus was the first black community west of the Mississippi River and is the only predominantly black community west of the Mississippi that remains a living community today. An all-black outpost on the frontier, this “unsettled” land offered a chance for black farmers and their families to start anew. Today, a few people and buildings remain from the original township, a testament to the resolve of the people of Nicodemus to build a new life on the prairie. Between the end of the Civil War and the 1880s, many courageous black settlers sought better lives, better land, and better opportunities in the heartland.

When the railroad was built, it didn’t pass through Nicodemus. The interstate highway system doesn’t pass through the town. The challenges getting to and from the town, and the Dust Bowl and other conditions in the region made it hard for the town and citizens to thrive. As the end of the 20th century approached, the town was down to just a handful of residents, and the buildings were badly deteriorating. There was concern that the town might literally disappear. The National Park Service brought it into their system. It’s now a National Historic Landmark and Site.

Nicodemus is a more thriving site now, with the NPS resources behind the ongoing restoration projects. They hold cultural events. Nicodemus has a great, active Facebook page, where they regularly post historical facts and photos of their town and related events and places. Here’s a post from today:

On my visit to Nicodemus several years ago, while I was speaking to the Park Ranger at the Visitor’s Center, a young adult black woman arrived, almost out of breath. She was attending a professional conference in Denver, and saw it as her chance to visit Nicodemus. She had rented a car and made the 5-hour two-lane highway drive to get there. I got emotional seeing her emotion; and I still get tears in my eyes remembering it. Like I said at the start, it’s a special place.

Television portrayal:

The town of Nicodemus was featured in two episodes of ‘Quick Draw’, a Hulu original comedy series set in Kansas. The filming of the series did not actually take place in Kansas unfortunately, but I still enjoyed the ‘Kansas feel’ to the series. The two Nicodemus episodes are probably my favorites of the series. I’m thrilled that they featured the town. Here’s a clip:

Here’s the series page on Hulu’s site. https://www.hulu.com/series/quick-draw-f15643e4-501e-44da-ac26-bbb3024bf9b1

Nicodemus on the web:

Getting to Nicodemus (It’s not on the interstate, or near any metropolis.):

Below are driving directions from airports in the region (Denver, Wichita, Omaha, and Kansas City), and from the Brown vs. Board of Education site in Topeka. Note: The Visitor’s Center is currently closed for the Covid-19 pandemic.

Three upcoming releases I’ll be watching

TED LASSO

The first four episodes are available now on Apple TV+. Future episodes are being released each Friday. The first episode was silly. From then on, each episode got better than the one before. I now don’t want the series to ever end.

This is the story of the coach who led last year’s (fictional) Wichita State Shockers football team through an undefeated season, and trip to the Rose Bowl; and then agreed to coach the Richmond, UK football (soccer) team. It’s London, Kansas, sports, and a bit of baking, all in one delightful package. In real life, there is no Wichita State football team. The university hasn’t had a football team since 1986, which makes this series even more awesome. They use the actual WSU mascot and logos.

IMDB page: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt10986410

FARGO, Season 4

The next season of Fargo will be released on September 27 on FX. It is set in Kansas City in the 1950s, and stars Chris Rock. I cannot wait. “Girl, you’ve got a panty on your head.”

IMDB page: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt2802850/

REBECCA

The latest remake of Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca will be released October 21, on Netflix. How much am I looking forward to it? I’ve written a whole post on it, that’s how much. Read it here.

IMDB page: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt2235695

(This is an entertainment report on the movie; not a trailer)



And now for some music: We are now in Round 5 of the Slice The Life 2020 Album Draft. For the latest ‘desert island album’ picks, click here.

For the latest Run-Sew-Read pick, click here. Or sample a song from the album: