Thursday, March 22, 2012

our trip to Orland


Rachael and I just got back from a trip to Orland, where we got to see Granddenny and Granni Di for the first time in five or six years. We were expecting the weather to be warmer in sunny California--after all, it was still snowing in Seattle, while the weather reports said that Orland was consistently at least five degrees warmer--but we ended up being chilly much of the time. I was sorry I hadn't brought my hat and mittens!

Rachael, cold

Right outside the kitchen window there's a quince bush which is always covered with birds. We saw hummingbirds, house finches, warblers, and lots and lots of sparrows. The sparrows like to eat the quince blossoms, which is probably why the bush has only borne one fruit in the thirty or so years Granddenny's lived there. Below are pictured a white crowned and golden crowned sparrow I saw while I was fixing dinner:



We got to meet Lolly, the cute new Kelpie. Granddenny and Granni Di kept telling us that she was a naughty girl, but Rachael and I saw no sign of it except that she kept trying to herd her big sister Genna. She was really pretty, with her big expressive eyes and giant bat-ears--Granddenny thinks she looks like Anubis. She was sweet and cuddly, too, and followed Rachael around the house to be petted.


We went to John Carter in Chico (Rachael's a big Michael Chabon fan and Granddenny liked the books when he was little), and afterwards took a tour of Bidwell Mansion. Granddenny and I had last gone there over thirty years ago, and neither of us remembered much except the case of stuffed birds in John Bidwell's office and the life-sized painting of him from which his eyes follow you all around the house. Unfortunately, budget cuts will close up Bidwell Mansion forever on May first unless its friends raise a bunch of money.

One of the high points of our trip was a visit to the Chico farmers' market. When we went to it in previous visits it was always summertime, and it was pretty similar to farmers' markets in Seattle except that the tomatoes and eggplants were cheaper. It was really different in March! We saw sugarcane,



avocado stand

and olives.


My favorite rice farm had a booth,

rice stand

and I got a real bargain on these unpasteurized almonds which were only $15 for five pounds.


Thursday, March 15, 2012

my sewing machine

sewing machine

Twenty five years ago, Grandma Ryan gave me a sewing machine for my birthday. She actually recruited our friend Mary to get one in Seattle, so as to save on shipping costs, and Mary took me along so I could help pick it out. We went to a cluttered sewing machine/vacuum cleaner store in far-off Ballard, where  the man recommended a Dorina Hobby 541. 'It's made by Pfaff, and has the durability and quality of a Pfaff, but is much cheaper.'

I waited till after my birthday to try it out, as I'm a stickler for doing things at their proper times. I took it around to Annie's, and she warned me as we set it up that I should have signed up for lessons at the vacuum cleaner shop. 'But it's all the way in Ballard,' I protested, 'and my sewing machine is too heavy to take on the bus. And the man at the store really didn't look like a seamstress!' 'Well, we may never be able to figure out the tension', she said. 'It can be really hard to get it set up at first.' We followed the instructions in the booklet for winding the bobbin and threading the machine, and tried to sew a seam. It sewed about one-and-a-half stitches, then made a terrible grinding noise and stopped. 'That's the tension,' Annie said. 'You'll have to go to Ballard.' I gave up, told Grandma I loved my present, and had Annie sew her a little book cover (pretending it was made by me with my present) to hide her trashy novels. My sewing machine has been at Annie's house ever since.

Rachael's been expressing an interest in sewing lately--she wants a hobby and doesn't really like knitting--and I decided to try to figure out my sewing machine's tension so Rachael and I could have fun sewing times with it. Surely, with the internet, it couldn't be too hard to figure out without going all the way to Ballard!

(this is a pincushion Rachael made me in Family Life in the sixth grade)


My sewing machine had been in Annie's closet for many years, then gotten lost for a while before resurfacing in the basement, so its outside had gotten pretty dirty. I washed it off and looked it over. The case had protected it from dust pretty well, and the only obvious thing it needed was a replacement for its broken needle. I got it a needle, set it up, and tried to sew. It made a stitch-and-a-half, then a terrible grinding sound! Its instructions were nowhere to be found, but I managed to find a free low-fi PDF  (nice printed copies were at least $20!). According to this, the problem was most likely that the bobbin tension was too tight, and I should loosen a little screw in the bobbin case.  I did this and tried again.


It worked! I decided to make a patchwork dog for which I'd bought the material and even cut out the squares fifteen years ago, but abandoned at that point. I'd originally intended to sew it by hand, but it would provide a valuable opportunity to practice making many, many seams with my sewing machine. It was a litlte tedious, but I got it done. Here he is right after I finished the sewing:

  unstuffed calico dog

and here he is a few days later, after I stuffed him:

Celeste and Ann, dreamy Diana

I think he turned out pretty well! His name is Celestin.