Sunday, June 27, 2010

There's No Place Like Home

As some of you know, or have pieced together from reading this blog, for the past two years my sister and her family have been living in California as a result of a job transfer for my brother-in-law. They couldn't take Wilbert, their cat, so he wound up living with me - first at their house, and then this past year at my apartment. This week they moved back, and my nieces were adamant about getting their kitty back (my nephew seemed ambivilent) yesterday morning I packed up all his toys, his scratching pad, and his food to return him. My local Target store will miss me and my purchases, is all I'm saying about that.

Afterwards, I had to pack Wilbert himself up, putting him in the cat carrier that he so desperately loathes. After a number of ridiculous attempts, one particularly ill-fated one involving some tuna, I wrested him backwards and stuck him in. Intellectually, I know that it is for his own good - without the carrier, there's no way he'd make it from my apartment to the parking lot without bolting, plus it's safer to drive with him in the carrier (trust me, I know - he once got out while I was driving down I-95 going 80 mph and decided to sit on my lap). Despite this, it still always feels terribly cruel to stuff him in there, he hates it so much, and he struggles so much to be put in there that I'm always afraid he'll get hurt. (Not to mention me.) The only time he goes willingly into that carrier is after the vet has poked and prodded him so thoroughly that he is grateful to slink back in there and hide.

I had been anticipating this day for quite some time, and wasn't sure how I'd feel about it. I was worried the cat would not remember his house, and would think I had abandoned him to live with a bunch of strangers. (This despite the fact that he seemed to barely notice that all of them left him with me - as the vet said, I was "just somebody else doling out the cat food".) True to form, once we got to my sister's house the cat bailed out of the carrier, bee-lined it to the kitchen to see if his food was still in the same spot, and then spent a good hour exploring upstairs, where he used to while away the days sleeping. He then hid under a bed for a few hours, but he generally does that in the afternoon. Finally last night he decided to come down and explore the first floor of the house, slinking around here and there, then returning to sit next to me on the couch for a few minutes. Clearly, he will be fine.

I'm not so sure about me, though. It's weird how empty the apartment feels without him here -- it's a small apartment and when I was home he was almost always underfoot in some way. Sometimes he was just pleasant company - sleeping on the couch next to me, or lying at the foot of the bed, or sitting in the window surveying his kingdom (and the tree full of birds just out of his reach). Mostly, though, he was a big pain -- his 5:30 wake up calls via either yowling in my face or banging the cabinet doors; his uncanny knack of sitting on top of whatever I was about to reach for and biting me if I tried moving him; walking over the computer keyboards and somehow managing to hit the exact combination of keys that changed something requiring hours of web searching to undo; the cat hair that will NEVER disappate, no matter how much I vacuum; the cat litter that he would inevitably strew all over the bathroom floor; the furniture and cabinets and door frames that were used as scratching posts (goodbye rental deposit...). Oh, and let's not forget having to let the bathtub fauced drip at juuuuuust the right speed because someone cannot stoop to drink water out of a dumb dish, including the $40 dish I bought that has a little fountain spout on it which basically mimics the bathtub faucet. Or running the A/C all day during the summer so his little brain didn't fry (I live in on the top floor of a converted old woolen mill that traps heat like you would just not believe). And let's not forget that occasionally I'd do something (I have yet to decipher what) that he seemed to think required a swipe of a paw or a bite, and once or twice I stepped on his tail by accident which caused him to run after me yowling what I imagined to be the cat equivilent of swear words, and then he'd attack my ankles in retribution. Also, he would find a way to make it clear that I was sitting on what he at that moment in time had deemed HIS side of the couch, and would not be content until I moved.

But he was company, and in a lot of ways the best sort: I talked to him, and he never once talked back, and he was excellent at killing bugs. And he was fastidious about using the litterbox and never, not once, puked on the rug. Could I ever ask anything more of a male?


I've promised to see how Wilbert impacts both my nephew's allergies and my sister's new furniture, and take him back if necessary. I mostly hope it's not necessary, because he has a lot more room to run around at their house, and he will have plenty of company. In the meantime, I'm trying to figure out what to do. Part of me wants to run out to the nearest shelter and get another cat immediately, and part of me is thinking that really, my life will be a lot easier without a pet to worry about. I'm also a little worried about the precedent we've set here: yesterday my niece Grace told me that she wants a hamster for her birthday, and she thought that maybe the hamster could live with me so Wilbert wouldn't eat it. When she started rattling off a possible visitation schedule, I knew I was in trouble.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Nana Gets The Last Word

About an hour after finishing that baby basket I last posted here, I found out that yet another cousin of mine is pregnant with a baby girl. According to Wikipedia, she's actually a second cousin...although I would have considered her a third cousin until I consulted that chart, or at least a second cousin once removed. She's a lot younger than me, and I haven't seen her since she was like 4, so the idea of her having a baby is nothing short of ridiculous to me. Such is the way of the world, I suppose... I mean, I still have a hard time believing I am old enough to have kids if I so desired, and I'm on the brink of being too old to have them.

But you know as well as I do what happened next: I dove into the fabric stash and whipped up a little baby quilt to go with the basket (into which went some baby lotion stuff and some baby washcloths). I didn't have quiiite enough fabric to make what I wanted, so I cut up 5" squares of what I did have and "made do" (something that very much appeals to my Yankee roots). I faced a big time crunch, though, as my parents were down this weekend and I wanted to send the gift back home to Maine with them (thereby saving if not an arm then several fingers in shipping costs). Normally, I either hand-quilt or I tie knots using embroidery floss, but since this was such a small quilt and I found some very low-loft batting, I figured, well, it's now or never, and I machine quilted it.
(Apologies for the worse-than-usual photos, but I took these with my Blackberry.)

I will say this: machine quilting has speed on its side. However, I can see it would take oodles and oodles of time and practice to really get it down right. I had to contend with some puckering - one major mess that required a lengthy session with a seam ripper, and two or three small puckers that I left in, mostly because I was on the verge of losing all patience whatsoever and setting the thing on fire in my bathtub. Also, the upper left corner came out quite weirdly, but I think that had less to do with the quilting and more to do with some wonky border piecing. I also totally dorked up the binding, but that was just me being stupid. I was really on the fence about whether this was even gift material; after hand-stitching the binding, I turned to my mother and said, "Please tell me this is Good Enough". She gave it the thumbs up, which given my mother's complete and utter lack of any crafting skills means that I probably should have junked the thing, but I did not. And here's why:

As I was sewing this together, I thought a lot about my great-grandmother, who would have been this baby's great-great grandmother. I thought about how there's a little bit of Nana in all of us running through our veins, down through all these generations of strong and bold Irish women. And I thought about all those times all of us kids would descend on her little house with wild abandon and the shenanigans we would get up to, and she never once got cross. And this was after raising seven kids of her own, and after burying two others that died very young, plus putting up with shenanigans from my mother and her cousins who used to do things like put kittens at the bottom of Nana's bedcovers so she would think there was a mouse in the bed. You'd think that by the time us great-grandkids came around she'd have completely lost her sense of humour, but that was not the case. A few times she gathered us up and gently lectured us about the after-life*, but mostly she'd just throw up her hands and laugh along with us.

*She converted from the Episcopal church to the Jehovah's Witnesses back in the 1960s, so you can just imagine what these talks were like.

So when I surveyed the finished - if wonky- quilt I made, it occurred to me that were Nana still alive, she would have taken one look at this quilt through her cataract-ridden eyes, run her gnarled hands over the top, and proclaimed it "Just Grand". And I decided, who was I to argue? I rolled it up, tied it with ribbon and tissue paper, and it's off to Maine in the morning.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


Reminder: pattern from here

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Basket Case

Another cranky weekend - I have no idea what's up with that, and I'm really annoying myself. Hopefully it's weather-related (two rainy weekends in a row!), although it's suddenly become crazy-busy at work and I am also in the process of seriously cleaning my apartment in anticipation of visits from my nieces & nephew, who will be returning from California in a few short weeks. Work + Cleaning = Cranky Lori.

At any rate, the highlight of my week was discovering the crafting blog Be*mused, written by another Mainer-in-exile who uses the same whoopie pie recipe my family does. I'm not sure if her quilts are more beautiful than her knitting, or vice versa, but I spent several hours reading through the archives, completely enthralled with her work. In those back entries I found a link to another blog, Pink Penguin, where there was a really cute pattern for patchwork baskets that I immediately thought would be a great project. My first one...well. While it's not a complicated pattern, there are a few little tricks, including the necessity of cutting the basket lining to the correct size (!). Oh, well.

It had a few glitches, and I realized that using a heavier material than cotton for the bottom was a good idea. I made a quick visit to the fabric store yesterday morning and found some linen, which the pattern calls for -- but a coarse, heavy linen, which on my second attempt proved a much better choice:

I still have a few kinks to iron out (both literally and figuratively), but I think this would be a really great baby shower gift (made in the right fabric, of course). The basket is small, but large enough that you could put in some baby lotions, shampoos, etc. and a onesie or bibs. I don't know about you, but I often find myself in the position of giving baby gifts to co-workers, extremely distant cousins, or others that I don't know that well personally, and don't necessarily have the time or inclination to make a baby quilt. This project can be whipped up in an hour or so using scrap fabric and batting, but still provides a hand-made touch. And it can be used to store things later on. Win! I see many more of these in my future.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Funky Town and Back Again

I found myself in a grand funk this weekend. Not the good, George Clinton/Parliament sort of funk, but the ugly bad mood sort of funk. Usually I'm pretty good at shaking myself out of a mood like this, and usually a little time with some fabric or yarn does the trick. This time nothing was working, not even my attempts at dredging out an old piece of writing I've been pecking at for a couple of years. This afternoon I finally stomped off in a rage to AC Moore and aimlessly wandered the aisles, glaring at anyone who happened to cross my path. Oh, it was a dark, dark mood...not unlike the rash of thundershowers that blew through this afternoon. As I wandered, the only thing I seemed to want was canvasses, which was odd because let me tell you: I am not a painter. But I've learned not to ignore these sorts of compulsions; they generally come from a place that needs to be listened to, and it's a voice that generally won't shut up until it's been assuaged. So I found a package of 2 for $10 and figured, well, I've thrown money away on worse things.

On the way home, though, I remembered that when my sister and I were little and would visit Grammie, our dad's mother, she would set us up at the kitchen table and we would make collages. She gave us pieces of butcher block or sometimes even wax paper, and she would cut pictures out of magazines for us to paste onto the paper. It was really simple, but we loved it and we'd spend hours ripping up the magazines, looking for anything that we thought was cool or pretty or interesting. Anything was ok unless it was reptilian in nature: Grammie hated snakes, even photographic representations of them.

So when I got home, I hauled out the Modge Podge, bits of old scrapbook paper, a bit of ribbon, some beads, old magazines, and some really old Cray-Pas (oil sticks). And I made collages. I trashed my living room floor and am still peeling glue off from myself in strange places, but it worked: my mood vastly improved. Fine art? Hardly. But I don't even care. I even cut up a few lines of the story I'd been working on and stuck them on there.

Here's the really funny part: ever since Grammie died, one of my aunt's has found that whenever something important happens or something reminds her of Grammie, she sees a butterfly. For example, when my aunt's daughter had a baby last year, I made a baby quilt and quilted butterflies on it - not knowing anything at all about the Grammie-butterfly connection, until my aunt saw the quilt and got this really funny look on her face. Just now, as I inserted the photo into this blog entry, I realized there are butterflies in my collage. Fabulous.