Good humor makes all things possible.
-Charles Schultz-

With mirth and laughter let old wrinkles come.
-Shakespeare-The Merchant of Venice-

Thursday, February 23, 2012

How's the car?

This morning my check-engine light came on.  My little Camry is very reliable, but it is now fourteen years old (which seems impossible to me) and from time to time problems crop up.  I wasn't terribly worried but called my mechanic, also very reliable, and arranged to bring the car in to be diagnosed.

The funny thing is that when I saw that check-engine light I immediately thought of my dad.  "It's my Janny!" he would exclaim when I called him or when he'd call me.  And then he'd say, "How's the car?"  I suppose that phrase embodies the perpetual worry about their children that many fathers carry with them.  It meant, how was I getting along in the world?  Did I have what I needed to get by?  Was I safe?

My parents divorced when I was small and I grew up without my dad under my roof.  I saw him regularly but we didn't have a particularly close relationship.  (Although many of my friends whose fathers did live with them report not being especially close to their dads, either.)  I'm sure I was an adult before I gave any thought to what that was like for him.  He was as much a product of the times as I was and I recall one of his oft-repeated mottoes was, "never cry unless there's blood" which seemed to reflect his dismay at having fussy children who bawled about everything.  He also said,  "eat what's near" because he grew up in a large, poor family and cleaned his own plate but spawned such thin and picky eaters it's a wonder we lived.

(Disclaimer: I apologize in advance to any of my siblings who might rightfully argue that they were not crybabies and that I, in fact, was the whiner.  Whatever.   Dad also told me that I got "the good feet and the good ears" and I'm not sure what special attributes he assigned to any of them but I have always been very vain about my fine flat ears and stunning feet.)

My old dad tried hard to teach me how to change my oil and a flat tire and put on chains.  He could fix anything, build anything, and make anything grow.  Understandably, he must have wondered how I would ever get by, especially when it became clear that there wouldn't be a man around to do any of those things for me.  It may just have been a reflex to ask "How's the car?"  but now I understand what it means to have a child wandering loose in the world without a dad to fix everything.

My dear mechanic just called to tell me that he's sorry but the Camry needs a lot of work.  Of course  I don't relish the idea of my meager, carefully guarded savings account sagging even more than it already is,  but maintenance is as inevitable as heartache and my little car needs to last well into the foreseeable future.

Dad would roll in his grave if he knew that  Al Hart's Chevron  was now a head shop.  Sigh.

So at least for now, Dad, the car's all right.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Since I'm here anyway

So this is what I had before.  My couch and loveseat are practically perfect: exceedingly deep and comfortable AND the zippered microfiber cushion covers are washable.  I used to launder my old sofa's cushion covers so I felt brave enough to peel these off and throw them in.  They never appeared to be dirty, but the wash water was nasty.  Imagine not washing your jeans for years? Gaaah. I just wish I could wash the whole thing.   The loose pillows that came with it just never rang my bell.  (The chrysanthemum pillow was a World Market find and I made the dia de los muertos one; that's a recurring theme around here.)  I also made the elephant print table cover. Every room should have an elephant in it somewhere.

And that reminds me:  I made the table!  I needed a good sized corner table because the couches are 40" deep, so I marched over to Lowe's and bought a 36" round top, boards for the legs and  eight brackets, and screwed the whole pile together.  I keep wine and beer under there and apparently a bunch of other junk I had forgotten about.  I'll get on that shortly.

Full disclosure:  here's what's under my round table.  What a mess!  I mean what fine craftsmanship!

My former mother-in-law gave me some Christmas money a while back and I replaced the murky and cheap magnolia print from Big Lots that hung behind the couch with this bright canvas from World Market (25% off.) It became the inspiration I needed to finally make new pillows.  Her house is filled with lovely [real] art so that seemed like the proper option.  She seems to still like me and I appreciate her not throwing the baby out with the bathwater, so to speak.

Move over, Nate Berkus.

Lillian and I cut open the pillows only to discover that there were no liners--just bunchy wads of polyfill.  For hours and hours we fluffed and stuffed until we had eight big bouncy pillow forms made (by me) of old sheets.  I worried that the dot pillows would look crumpled but the piping kind of holds them up.  Piping, by the way, is so easy to make--I just folded grosgrain ribbon over 3/8" cording (JoAnn) and sewed it with the zipper foot, but then it was a stinker to get both halves to fit together.  After the first one I abandoned my plan to have the zippers along the piped edge, and placed them about three inches in from the side, so they're hidden when flipped around to the back.  The chevron pillows  have a plain seamed edge so those zippers went in with no problem, and the cream ones have an envelope closure with buttons (from my button jar) sewn on.  I found the plum velveteen pillows at World Market on sale--I couldn't have bought the fabric and zippers for much less.

I made four each of the chevron and print plus two smaller cream ones.  

Just in case you accidentally assumed I've always had good taste and was proficient at the sewing machine (and I can forgive you if you did),  here is a ghastly little quilt I made with the ugliest textile scraps in the free world.  In my rather lame defense, I made it when I was about ten or twelve.  I actually sewed (and wore, God help me) a garment out of each fabric, except for a few that my grandmother made into glider cushions, or perhaps a bed for her old cat Scrapper (who was mine when I was little). 

 My current cats admire it but I think it should to go back into the cedar chest so someday my grandchildren can snicker at it.

But why, you might reasonably wonder, should my couches have all the fun?  The rest of the room, except for the spanking new coffee table I bought last year,  was equally dreary.  So I decided to change the stuff hanging over the fireplace.

(I tried to hang the skeleton print there but she was a little too small, so she's cozily watching us go up and down the hall, thanks for asking.)

I found this hammered metal star 70% off at JoAnn and finally expanded the display upwards on the tall fireplace wall.  The seaside photo was taken by my former father-in-law decades ago and I am hoping to replace it with one of the spectacular pictures of zebras or lions or--hey!--elephants! taken by my friend Dr L on safari in Africa.  The one on the bottom that looks like a painting of crap is really a mirror reflecting actual crap.  Art imitating life.

This image didn't enlarge too well.  That's the fabric (Amazon; my best friend!) I found to make a new table cover.  It kind of echoes the shapes in the abstract dot print, but on a larger scale. There should be enough left to make either one more pillow or a runner for the top of the coffee table.  (Hemnes from Ikea.  Ikea is my second-best friend.)  I haven't ordered it yet, but when I finish those I'll post a picture.
And that concludes my DIY post for February, dismal photos and all.  Fortunately for you there are thousands of other sites bursting with crafting and homemaking advice.  Off to Pinterest with you, then!

Finally, today is my sister Susan's birthday.  Sue is my role model in every way: she is so beautiful, very fit, really smart, a wonderful cook, a fun grandma, and her house is immaculate.  Most remarkably (to me), she does not own one single useless item.  I've long since stopped thinking I can ever be like her, but it's nice enough just warming myself in the reflected glow. 

And oh yes, Happy Valentine's Day.  I baked cupcakes for the family Lillian babysits for, and by some coincidence there was extra orange creamcheese frosting.  Oh dear!

A little more cat hair and they'll be perfect.