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Birthdays in the Time of Corona

For her birthday in the beginning of April my oldest granddaughter was going to have a really special birthday treat and go with her “little family” and her best friend’s family to Great Wolf Lodge and enjoy lots of water slide play. Obviously that didn’t happen but her birthday was not forgotten and she had surprise visits throughout the day as friends and family came to serenade her from six feet away.

My niece was one of those who came by and a couple of weeks later she invited friends to stop by her porch window and wish her son a happy second birthday. We brought his present to the door and walked back 6 feet.

The box under the birthday present (the felted playmat) is the present for her shower which had to become an Instagram event. My niece no longer looks like this and I have two new grandneices!

The walk or drive by birthday became the standard in my daughter’s neighborhood and when one of the parents had a birthday they kicked it up a notch. All her mom friends gathered on the sidewalk grass strip in front of her house for a birthday toast.

My youngest granddaughter’s birthday is coming up in June. She has been talking about a pool party since last year and while that’s still the plan it will probably just be a family party because while socially distanced birthday celebrations might work for adults they sound pretty impossible for children!

Dancing in the Time of Corona

Both of our daughter’s danced and end of the year dance recitals were major life events in our lives for many years. So it wasn’t a surprise that one of our condolence cards referenced the fact. My husband’s coworker wrote, “I can clearly remember (your) pictures of (her) in what seemed to be the 100’s of costumes she wore for her dance recitals and how (you were) so proud of all her accomplishments…”

Now that our grandchildren dance we are attending recitals again. This year was to be the first year for our younger granddaughter but of course recitals like everything else have been canceled this year. Their studio continued to have classes via Zoom and since they already had their costumes they continued to work on their recital dances. The idea was that they would do their dances at home via Zoom on the last day of classes dressed in their costumes and that the link could be shared with others. Since we became “a part of their pod” after 4 weeks of isolation, we purchased flowers for them and arrived at their house bright and early Sunday morning to find two very excited girls ready to dance.

It was not really a success to say the least. For one thing there was confusion about whether or not this was the day they were supposed to be wearing their costumes and inviting people to watch. The link hadn’t worked the week before and it was announced that there would be a make up day and the teacher thought the make up day would be the performance day but the director had communicated that the original last day was still the performance day so all the children were wearing their costumes and we weren’t the only family present in real life or online. Unfortunately the teacher insisted on a regular class and it became clear that it wasn’t really working when our youngest granddaughter spent most of the time looking at a book. But in the end she danced a bit of her recital dance and was very proud to show her flower to the class.

Our older granddaughter at the beginning of her Zoom class

Our older granddaughter who also has to attend school every day via Zoom was ready to go and did her dance several times. While it was a poor substitute for an actual recital they did get to put on their costumes and get their hair and make up done and do their dances and get flowers. My daughter also got some wonderful posed pictures of them in their costumes so this year’s Zoom “recital” will probably become just another “amusing” recital story like the year our daughters’ recital was 5 hours long!

“A Totally Shit Time”

This blog about stuff and pastimes has never been about my feelings or emotions but today I want to start by writing about my oldest daughter who died last week after living with Stage 4 colon cancer for almost three years. We will miss her so much especially her quick wit and her easy going temperament. I am so glad I got to be her Mom.

No one who know me will be surprised that I want to share a quote from a TV show. “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist” features this conversation between Zoey and her father’s caretaker on the day her father dies of progressive supranuclear palsy. “Is this when we have the talk about what death is like?” she asks him. “Death is hideous and ugly and grotesque and wildly, wildly unfair,” he says. “Or maybe death is beautiful and spiritual and transcendent and sometimes a very necessary and very freeing escape from our physical bodies when they are no longer habitable.” Exactly.

My younger daughter had another quote to relate. She said she kept thinking of a quote from the movie “Love Actually”. “Listen, it was always going to be a totally shit time” the character played by Emma Thompson says to the character played by Liam Neeson when they are talking about the behavior of his stepson after his mother dies.

So let’s talk about stuff in this totally shit time. My older daughter lived alone so my younger daughter, my husband, and I had to begin by packing up her apartment. We reminisced as we sorted and packed and we realized there were several categories of stuff. There were things we wanted to keep for sentimental reasons like her first stuffed animal, there were things we wanted to keep because we or other family members gave them to her, there were things we wanted to keep just because we liked them or because we didn’t have one of them or because hers was better than ours, there were things we didn’t need but we thought other family members might, there were some things that we couldn’t keep at all because we couldn’t imagine anyone else having or using them even us, and there were things we wanted to donate.

Here is one of my daughter’s things in its home at her place. It now sits on the top of one of the black boxes in our entrance gallery wall.

And then we realized that this totally shit time is even shittier than usual in the time of Corona because all the donation places are closed and we have furniture, bags of clothing, and boxes of books, records, and appliances and more sitting in her apartment with no place to go.

Crafting in the Time of Corona II

I have wanted to make a wet felted play mat – an environment for play animals, people, and fairies to frolic on – for awhile. But it’s been a long time since I’ve done any wet felting so I wasn’t quite sure how to do it. I had taken a few felting classes with a friend starting with a Making Hats workshop using two different wet felting methods with Beth Beede at Snow Farm in 2003. Then we took two wet felting jewelry classes at the New England Felting Company where I also took Needle Felting Animals with Sharon Costello of Black Sheep Designs. I created some beautiful items in these classes and continued to felt but I never really learned about the different types of fibers. In fact, I used to drive my felting friend crazy because I called it all fluff. I knew that different types of fiber were recommended for wet versus needle felting but I was pretty confused especially because the fiber that was recommended when I wet felted a ball for my youngest granddaughter looked nothing like the fiber that I had left from the wet felting hat workshop. That fiber seemed more like the fiber I had leftover from needlefelting projects.

The directions I found for wet felted play mats on Pinterest seemed to be calling for fiber like that left over from the ball but that was the wrong color and not the type of fiber I had a lot of in the right colors for a play mat. After some more research I found that there is a type of fiber called roving which is fiber which has been combed until it all goes in the same direction. That was the type I had for the ball and I realized that was why the play mat directions I was finding called for making layers going in different directions. The kind of fiber I had a lot of was batting with the fibers going every which way so no alternate layers were needed. I still don’t know about the different types of fiber (like merino) and why some are recommended for wet felting and some for dry but I decided to mix mine all together and go for it. I had a lot of different browns from when I needle felted pancakes for my older granddaughter so I carded (blending using pet brushes!) those together. I did the same with a bunch of different greens some from needlefelting projects and some from wet felting ones. And then I layered two different greys – one from the needlefelted cat, based on a picture of Elwood, I made in the Needle Felting animals class and one from the beads I made in a wet felting jewelry class. The blue I used was from the basket I made using the ball method in the hat felting class (I thought I’d rather have a basket than a hat).

After making three layers of each color I decided to just go for it in terms of the actual wet felting as well since I didn’t quite remember how to do it and a lot of the directions I read were conflicting and confusing. I used a combination of rolling it in bubble wrap and a rolled up bamboo mat, patting it with my hands, and rubbing it with a small bamboo mat and it worked! I am so pleased with how it turned out. I needle felted some rocks to it after it dried.

A “flat lay” photo of the finished play mat

The little black bears I had out as part of our Spring decorating immediately gravitated to the play mat and they look so good on it that they are going to accompany it to its new home. I am giving it to my Chicago grandnephew for his birthday (he is having a coronavirus – guests on the sidewalk- social distancing birthday celebration tomorrow). I needle felted a cave for the little bears and I have a bunch of ideas (Thanks Pinterest) for future things to needle felt or make out of commercial felt to go with it for future gifts.

Crafting in the Time of Corona I

When I realized I was going to have lot of time on my hands I thought about whether there was anything I had been wanting to make but hadn’t gotten around to and remembered a pom pom cherry garland I had seen in a store. It became the first thing I crafted in the time of corona.

And then I remembered I had been wanting to try making some yarn dollies for awhile so I made two.

I liked the way they turned out and plan on hanging them on the Christmas tree but I didn’t like them well enough to make multiples (or maybe it was just the wrong time of year) so I had to come up with another idea.

I used to do a lot of cross stitch embroidery so I looked to see if I had any linen (I did!) and then I looked at my saved patterns to see if anything appealed to me and while I found two possibilities they didn’t really seem right (that Christmas thing again). Then I remembered that I had told my Step class teacher Amy that my new favorite saying was what she often said at the end of a number; “Over and back to the finish line!” and that I had thought to myself that it sounded like a embroidery motto. So I decided to make Amy a present for when I get to go back to the gym. I googled some images and designed a silhouette pattern.

I framed it without the glass. I had seen that suggestion from a cross stitching blogger I follow

It came out so well I decided to make a yoga one too. I didn’t have a phrase in mind but after a few days of thinking about it came up with “Ground Down” the words Ken uses to indicate that he is finished sharing yoga philosophy with us and is ready to begin the practice.

Finished but not blocked or framed. I’ve ordered a 6″x8″ frame

There was a small piece of linen left so I decided to make two Zumba ones. I couldn’t think of phrases that Angel or Alberto use regularly so I decided to use song lyrics. It took a while to find then since I googled what the songs sounded like to me. What I thought was “Puerto Rico” turned out to be “Esta Rico” which means “It’s Good” or “It’s Rich” which worked. And googling the partial lyrics from a song both teachers use “Uno, dos, tres, cuatro yeah yeah yeah” led me to the right song which included the line “Todos se mueven” which means “Everybody moves” which seemed perfect.

You can see how different the figures look when you use less stitches but I think they’re perfect for Zumba. I plan to put them in 5″x7″ frames and I’ve ordered black mats with a 4″×6″ opening for them

After I finished these I decided it was time to switch to something else and I remembered that I had been wanting to try wet felting a playmat for awhile and since I hadn’t done any wet felting in a long time I undertook some research…

Pizza in the Time of Corona

We have had restaurant pizza, either take out or in house, every Friday night as long as I can remember. But the only time, except for when runners blithely pass me on a walk, that I feel like I have not observed social distancing was when I went to pick up a pizza at the beginning of the stay at home order. While we are being encouraged to patronize restaurants for take out during these “unprecedented times”* it actually makes us uncomfortable so we have started making our own pizza. So far we have had white pizzas with different toppings – ricotta, pesto and artichoke heart, and a Greek version (spinach, feta, and kalamata olives). We also had a red one which when I bit into it immediately sent me back to my high school years and the pizza place near Tappan Zee High School. The pizzas are definitely “a work in progress” but it seems like making our own might be one of the lasting changes in our lives from the time of corona.

The Pesto Artichoke Pizza I made

* I’m collecting euphemisms for how these times are referred to.

Reading in the Time of Corona

With the library closed and my Kindle picking the absolute worst time to break I ran out of fiction pretty quickly after I read my last four library books, a mystery I had bought at a dollar store and never read, and a few books from the laundry room shelves. I tried reading one of my saved Book Bub books on the Kindle app on my iPad but I just don’t like reading books that way – magazines yes but books no. So I’ve turned to the books I often read if I’m out of new books or during times of change – my Nero Wolfe collection. I usually dip in and read a few in no particular order and at first I started that way and read one of the novella trios. But then I figured since it seems we’re in this for a long time and we’re listening to our cd’s in alphabetical order perhaps I should read the Nero Wolfe books in an orderly fashion as well. Obviously chronological is the way to go in this case, I just finished the first one and will begin the second one tonight.

Photo from New York Times Article “Is that free book germ free?” April 15, 2020
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