Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy All Hallows Eve

I survived the parade and party at school with Sweet Daughter today. Swim class was attended, and then trick or treating ensued with her BFF. While watching her go down a driveway and up the steps of a house, an older gentleman urged me to keep a close eye on her. I assured him that I was. Well, "someone" was stealing kids the next county over. Without ever taking my eyes off of her, I stated quite emphatically that "I'd like to see somebody try."

He quit trying to talk to me after that. Maybe it's because I thought to myself, "Self? What better way to 'steal' a kid than to act like you're the good, helpful guy?" and I kept aware of his whereabouts the whole time. Maybe he didn't smell "victim" and went elsewhere, or most likely, he was just trying to be nice and strike up a random conversation and I wasn't cooperating. He was there with two grandchildren, and chances are he was just fine, though a little odd in choice of ice-breaking conversation. Either way, it didn't matter. My job was to make sure SD stayed safe and had a good time. Mission accomplished.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Sweet Daughter Blogs about Goldie

As I mentioned earlier in the week, the goldfish got moved to a bigger tank this past weekend. Last week, Sweet Daughter had the opportunity to do some creative writing in school. She wrote about her fish needing a new home and asked if she could guest blog tonight, so here is her contribution -- fresh from first grade complete with creative spelling.
"I have a pet goldfish. Her name is Goldie. It will be four days intell we give her a bigger tank. She use to live in a pond. Now she lives with us. She is very crazy. She bumps into the tank alot. I hope we get her a bigger tank. She is bigger then you wood expect. She is way big. Bigger then a regouler goldfish."

At first, I was horrified by the spelling, but then I realized it was a creative writing exercise she did for fun, and it was all about the story. What better way to stifle creativity than by criticising something they haven't learned to do yet? Better that she enjoy the process, and the spelling will come in time.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

I’m not the village you’re looking for.

Last week, I was outside readying a larger fish tank for our resident goldfish, “Goldie”. I’d been given a hand-me-down 20 gallon tank that needed to have some hard water deposits scraped, and a rustic dark pine stand made out of 2x4’s that needed to be painted. I went outside where I soaked the tank with vinegar and then scraped it best I could with a razor. I was priming the stand when I heard Sweet Daughter talking to someone. There was a little girl in our yard, about 2 or 3 years old. Out by the bench we use while waiting for the school bus, were a teenage female and a woman (probably around 40) talking to each other, nineteen  to the dozen. I told the visiting girl to be careful, and to stay away from the razor blade (yes, I was keeping an eye on it) and the wet paint. SD continued to carry on a very on-sided conversation while the other two were absolutely oblivious as to the whereabouts of the youngest. After awhile, Shorter Half came outside and I said “Tag. You’re it. I’ve got to get dinner started.”

About 15 minutes later, SD ran in to say that the little girl needed to use the bathroom. SH was right behind her, and I said “Oh, no. She lives two houses away. She can go home and use the bathroom. That camel and its nose aren’t getting anywhere near this tent!” Shortly thereafter, I saw SH at the end of the driveway talking to the other two, who were now firmly ensconced on the bench.  He’d gone out to ask if they were okay, seeing as how they were sitting in someone else’s yard on their bench (for over an hour), without so much as a greeting, or introduction.  Oh, they were just fine! And he mentioned that the little one had to use the bathroom. Oh, she could go on into the house, no problem!

Not. When he told all this to me, I said it was a good thing I wasn’t out there, or they would have gotten an earful.

Fast forward to yesterday. SD was outside playing, and I was inside putting some stuff away when she ran in the house to tell me the little girl was back, and her mom had gone walking down the hill without her. I went outside, saw the girl, but the mom was out of sight. Michael W. was visiting and offered to keep an eye on things while I went in search of the mom, who was apparently out walking the dogs.

I caught up with her and asked, “Is that your little girl in our yard?”

She nodded.

I said, “You can’t just walk away leaving your child in some stranger’s yard. Do you understand?”


“We’re trying to teach our daughter that it isn’t safe to talk to strangers, or go in a strange yard without a grown-up she knows, and it’s certainly not okay to go in a stranger’s house. You walking away, leaving your child in our yard is not helping. And a six-year-old should not be responsible for a younger child. Do you understand why this is a bad idea?”


At this point the mom (who is the teenager, BTW) is continuing to give me the blank “if I just agree with her maybe she’ll shut up and leave me alone” stare, when I decided to make it short and sweet. With great conviction, I said, “You MAY NOT leave your child in our yard. DO YOU UNDERSTAND?”


Buy then, we were almost back to the house. I walked up and told SD that she had done exactly the right thing in coming to get me to tell me what was going on, and that I was proud of her. During this exchange, the little girl left with her mom.  I felt a little bad – the little girl can’t help that her mom is clueless. In her culture, maybe it takes a village to raise a child, but I’m not it.

Monday, October 17, 2011

My First Car

Because all the other cool kids are doing it ...
UPDATED to add photo: Mr. Valiant was a 4-door sedan, not this uber-sporty version.
My first car was a 1968 Plymouth Valiant. My parents bought in the fall of 1967 when I was 4 years old. It was white with a dark blue interior, seated six fairly comfortably, and had seatbelts but no A/C.  It did have a fantastic vent system, though, including one under the steering column that literally made your skirt fly up. It had a slant six under the hood, “posi-traction” in the back, and was considered a compact car. Compared to the 1971 Plymouth Fury III wagon we had, it was.
Before I was allowed to get my driver’s license, I had to prove to my dad that I could change a tire unaided. It was then that I learned the lug nuts were threaded differently, depending on which side of the car you were on -- the whole “lefty loosey, righty-tighty” thing varied. I believe the logic being that they were threaded so that the rotating wheels would be tightening the nuts instead of loosening then as you rolled down the highway.  I also had to do some body work on it, which meant the white paint also had patches of Bondo, and both bare and rusty metal primer. It was an appaloosa of sorts.
At some point in the (very) late ‘70’s, my dad installed an FM converter (I now had 2 AM and 2 FM stations to pick from!), and later on a cassette tape deck under the front seat. It was sometime during 1981 I figured out that if you recorded Journey’s “Escape” on one side of a 45 minute tape, and Foreigner’s “4” on the other, you could listen to “Don’t Stop Believin’”, flip the tape over and listen to “Juke Box Hero”, and back again ad infinitum.  (It was a 3 hour trip from college to my parent’s house, and parts were a radio waste-land. Don’t judge.)

Good times in it? Eh. Can’t remember any of particular note. But I can tell you how it ended.
It was the summer of 1983, and The Police were playing (Synchronicity Tour) about 70 miles away. Tickets were not cheap for someone making $1.35/hour plus tips (which, on a good night, was about $2.00). This was a Big Deal. My roommate, a coworker, and I bought tickets (back when you had to stand in line) and planned for our big night out. We bought vintage dresses. We did our hair and makeup. We climbed into “Mr. Valiant” and headed south. We got out of town, and we were heading down the ramp onto the highway and … nothing. I coasted to a stop on the shoulder, popped the hood and had no idea what had gone wrong.

It didn’t take long for a nice gentleman in an 18-wheeler to stop and come to our aid. At least that’s what I thought at first, but since he had even less of a clue than I did as to what was wrong, it was clear that he just wanted to get three 20-year-old women in black dresses and big hair into his rig.  Not so much.

Okay. We were in what was considered a fairly rural part of Minnesota. As we sat there on the side of the road, we considered our choices, of which there weren’t many. Finding a phone, and calling a tow truck seemed to be the only option.  Luckily, the nearest farm (with actual buildings not just crops) seemed to be on our side of the highway, so I set off down the road to where I could see a corn crib. I climbed down across a ditch, and up through a barb-wire fence. The wire was loose enough I could go through the strands.  I plowed through another ditch and came to a second barb-wire fence. This one was too tight to go through, but too loose to go over, so I followed it down to the corn crib. I climbed up one side, over the fence, across the end, and down the other side. At which point I saw the cows. And the cows saw me.

Did I mention the dress? And the pantyhose? And the heels? So far they were all unbesmirched. Not even so much as a snag in the hose.

Okay. Back to the cows. We came to an understanding that we were not going to bother each other and I headed off down the cow path hoping to find something. And I did – I found a small farmhouse. In the middle of nowhere. I seriously don’t even remember a driveway , but I knocked on the door anyway, and I heard “Ja??” and the door opened. There was a fairly old gentleman looking at me like I had two heads. From the back of the house I heard another, younger, male voice say “WHO IS IT??” This was the bachelor son who came charging out to see who dared disturb their solitude.

I mentioned the dress and the big hair, right? Did I mention that my big hair was four different colors? Now granted, they were all natural colors* (black, my natural brown, red and the ends bleached white) but this was rural Minnesota in 1983, and I’m sure a space alien would have been etter received.
Anyhow, I managed to explain that I was having car problems, and I just needed the use of a phone book and their phone to call a tow truck, and I would be on my way. And that I would gladly pay for the long-distance call.  The son translated for his father, and they eventually let me use the phone just so I’d get the hell out, I think.

So, I headed back down the cow path, waved at the cows, climbed up, over and down the corn crib, through ditch one, through the second fence, and across ditch two, and back to the car to wait for the tow truck. I have to say that the three of us garnered a lot of attention while we waited. The tow arrived and the next problem was that even though I specified I needed to pay with a credit card when I called, the driver didn’t have the imprint machine with him.  Then there was the problem of fitting 3 females into the front of the tow truck. It was, uh, snug. So we headed back to our college town, the other two girls were dropped off at my house while the tow truck took me to a cash machine. I paid the guy, we dropped the car off at a service station (closed, or course) within walking distance to my house and I hiked back. My coworker was prevailed upon to drive us to the concert in her ’68 Camaro, even though the linkage was iffy. We walked into the venue and dropped into our seats just as the concert started. It was awesome.
Then things got interesting again. We got lost in the wrong part of Minneapolis on the way home. We stopped at a Burger King to ask the nice policeman for directions, and he thought we were hookers. Luckily we convinced him otherwise, and he pointed us in the right direction.

When we finally got home, roomie made popcorn, we sat in the kitchen, and I made the mistake of asking what else could go wrong. She screamed as we got dive-bombed by a bat. Did you know that when you are cowering behind your bedroom door trying to talk to your roomie about how remove said bat, that the sneaky bat bastard will crawl under your door and over your foot? Yeah. The boys in the frat house next door thought that the two of us, still dressed for the concert, had come up with the best come-on line ever. No, thank-you-very-much, we really did just need you to come over and provide bat eradication services. That was it.  Sorry to disappoint you.

I ended up sleeping in extra bed in roomie’s room with a tennis racquet next to my bed. My pantyhose made it through the evening intact. The bat made another appearance the next night while I was at work and the landlord came and took care of it. And the autopsy showed that Mr. Valiant died of complications from a failed oil pump. May he rest in peace.

*Regarding the hair … what was supposed to be some subtle red highlights and black lowlights turned out quite a bit more dramatic than anticipated. I was going through a rebellious phase while I was watching my mom die of cancer and so I thought “What the hell?” and bleached the ends white while I was at it. Mom was not happy with me.

Saturday, October 15, 2011


Getting tired of reading the same old articles on gun control? Try a game of Gunnie BINGO! Check off the phrases below as you go and see how long it takes to get five in a row. Or, go for volume and see how many total boxes you can check off in just one article.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Out of the mouths of babes ...

Sweet Daughter has a place mat with a map of the United States on it. Tonight she ironically pointed out that both Maryland and Massachusetts are shaped vaguely like handguns.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

A Pumpkin-colored Bedgown

Sweet Daughter was ready for a new warm-weather garment for reenacting. So I went down to the sewing room and dug out the two Rubbermaid tubs labeled “Wool, 18th century” and started going through them, looking for something  she’d actually wear. I found a piece of pumpkin-colored wool that wasn’t long enough for a petticoat, and that she actually liked. I then dug out my copy of “Women's Dress during the American Revolution; An Interpretive Guide” and looked at the bedgown pattern. There were written directions for making your own custom fit garment … but they were scaled for an adult female, not a six-year-old. So, I made a few educated guesses regarding proportions, then I made a fitting muslin, and then I laid out the wool.

Did you know that you can get a perfectly straight line by tearing most woven fabrics? Snip, rip and you’re good to go.

With my fitting muslin tweaked, I folded my rectangle of wool over at the shoulders, and again down the center line and drew chalk lines where I needed to rip. Since this garment is all 90 degree angles, ripping instead of cutting made sure that my lines were straight and the finished garment would hang evenly.
The center of the garment is on the right, the sleeve is sticking out on the top left, and the part that sticks on on the bottom left will become a pleat over the hip. The small squares are the underarm gussets, the rectangle is the collar, and the reproduction print is to line the cuffs.
After cutting out the basic shape, I opened it back up and cut up the center line to the shoulder, and across the top fold, making a neck opening.
I inserted the underarm gussets, and sewed the sleeve and side seams. I sewed the pleat down the back, and tacked it down. I sewed the box pleats over each hip, and tacked down the top edges.
Gusset from the inside -- those are water marks from when I pressed it, not mold.
And from the outside. Not perfect, but I'm not obsessing about this one.
I attached the collar by sewing the rectangle across the back cut edge, and the attaching the shorter cut edges to the sides of the rectangle. When you’re done, you fold the rectangle in half, and the front edges of the bedgown fold in as well, making a facing.
Collar sewn to the back neck edge.
Collar with on side sewn.
Since SD does NOT like the feel of wool on her skin, I decided to line the cuffs and neck. I went down and dug through my scraps, and found just enough of a reproduction cotton print for the job. And the best part was that it had just a bit of that pumpkin color in it. I cheated, and attached the cuff lining with the sewing machine.
I went ahead and prick-stitched the edge of the cuffs, and blind-hemmed the lining. I hemmed the bottom and I added a lining to the collar and top part of the front edges.
The pleat to the left is the center back, the pleat on the right is on the side, over one hip.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011


His Majesty's Detached Hospital are turning their collective coats and are portraying Americans at Colonial Williamsburg's "Prelude to Victory" this weekend. I'm a bit behind the curve in preparations, but it will all come together at the last minute. I hope. Besides the Mittens From Hell, I made a wool bedgown for Sweet Daughter so she'd have something to use as a warm jacket. And this evening I made two dozen scones, finished a bed tick, and mended a pair of breeches that had worn through in the seat. I still have to finalize a menu, make another two dozen scones, do the grocery shopping and figure out what else I'm going to prepare ahead of time.

The weather is supposed to be beautiful.