Sunday, July 26, 2020

Custom Critters, Redoux

Got my new sewing machine yesterday. This is the first stuffed animal I’ve made in 25 years. I make up my own designs. Fun!

Made shirt and mask for my kitty. My husband Mike asked: "Is it male or female?"      Me: "Non-binary". 

Since I don't use patterns - just basically making it up as I go along - there are numerous imperfections in these critters.  This one wound up having short legs - the arms were longer than the legs - so I attached socks on the bottom to lengthen the legs. But then, one foot was larger and slightly club-footed.  In spite of that, after posting on Facebook, everyone loved it.  I sent it to be adopted by a friend, so that critter has found a new home. 

Back in 1988, I had the idea to make my own custom stuffed animals.  I had had a pattern for a sitting cat pillow, and after making a few of those, modified and added to the design, to make a stuffed cat doll.  It progressed from there. I used a lot of materials that I already had - I cut up a lot of old clothes.  Some of my characters were Chef Doggie, Carmen MirandaCat, Freud the Goat, Feline Fine and Feline Better, Artist Pup, Aloha Doggie, Landscaper Cat, Hippie Dawg, Surfer and skateboard pups, couch potato pups, and more. For over 2 years, I created these animals.  Then, I wound up giving them all away - one Freud the Goat to my therapist, a Carmen Miranda Cat was given to a friend who was battling cancer, and the rest to family - mostly my nieces and nephews.  What is heartening for me is that some of these critters were passed down to my grand nieces and nephews, who are enjoying them today!  
Just a few of my creations; niece Sarah holds one of my fancy dog critters, while reading.





Gopher It

I have a modest little yard project, and the biggest challenge is our resident gopher, "Gracie." 
I guess once you've named the critter, it makes it more difficult to kill her. I wanted to find a non-lethal way to keep my garden, just making it not a fun place to be for Gracie...though truth to tell, it looks like Gracie was here first. I'm a fan of "The Invisible Organic Gardener", who states that: "Gophers are natives to here, and belong here. They are not evil, and deserve the right to live in peace. Seek peaceful solutions, first before you decide to kill. Do like captain Kirk. He would tell Spock, “Spock, we are not going to kill today.” So, please be kind to your wildlife friends. They need all the friends they can get!"https://invisiblegardener.com/gopher-proof-plants-and-coff…/

So, I decided on a non-lethal way after reading about the lethal, killing methods that others use to kill gophers - they don't always work, and can be destructive to the environment and other critters, too. And I would just feel bad if I killed an animal (though I still eat meat - go figure). So, forget that.

Although when our friend Bob was visiting the other day, Gracie was kicking up a fuss with the dirt, very conspicuously.
 Bob said: "Gimmee your hose - now turn it on!" and he flushed out Gracie's hole. At first, I worried that she had drowned, but she didn't - he just gave her a bath, and made her kick up more dirt the next day.
So, I poured coffee beans and sponges soaked in peppermint oil into Gracie's holes, which so far seem to work.  I also planted gopher-repellant plants, like rosemary, ceanothus and salvia. 

UPDATE: This morning, the lobelia laxiflora was still there; later on I looked out, and it was gone. Like magic. Cross that plant off my list of things to plant in our yard again!

TWO WEEKS LATER: After I put pieces of biodegradable sponges soaked in peppermint oil down each of Gracie's entryways 2 weeks ago, I have not seen hide nor hair of her - on our property, anyway. Our plants - if not exactly "thriving" - are at least "not dead yet". Unfortunately, it looks like Gracie has now moved lock, stock and burrow over to Mom's yard (saw her throwing dirt out of it this morning).  I ran out of peppermint oil, so put evergreen and tangerine oil on sponges and put them down her entryways. 

Will that work? We'll see.....it may be a ping pong game "gopher gopher, who's got the gopher now? Gracie: "Deb Wong - Gopher it!!!"

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Civil War - Can't We All Just Get Along Now?


Happy Flag Day! Look, I'm not a big flag waver. I'd prefer a "World" flag, but then again, I'm an old peacenik. Anyhoo, there's a lot of news of late about taking down statues and Confederacy icons, which is really about time. It's been 155 years since the end of the American Civil War (which was not so civil, when you think about it). 

Now, I am a Daughter of Union Veterans (three of my direct ancestors fought on the Union side in that war), but I am also the direct descendant of Confederate soldiers. My 3rd great-grandfather Benjamin Franklin Hammett was a Lieutenant who was wounded at the battles of Gettysburg and Chickamauga. My 3rd great-grandfather Thomas Cox Bowen fought in the Virginia Cavalry. Both of those veterans were my Grandpa Bowen's grandfathers, but not once did Grandpa wave a Confederate flag or even discuss the Confederacy. 

There's no honor in losing, sorry. It would be like having souvenirs of my two great uncles' "service" in San Quentin for armed robbery and kidnapping proudly displayed, or the moonshine still from another ancestor dug up and displayed, etc. Well...maybe the still woulda' been cool! 

Some things you just put away, acknowledge that they are part of history, and MOVE ON. The flag we use today is based upon the flag that our Union ancestors fought for, and won. 
I don't lord it over the "losers" - I am part of them, too - I'd just like to think that there is now just one side, "our" side.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

I Talk Funny to Cats

When I was young, I was talking funny to dogs, since that is all that we had.

I am not sure why I started out  conversing normally with an animal, then suddenly my voice takes on another
personality.

To be honest, this post should be called: "I talk funny to animals because I have talked to any furry creature I encountered (and a few non-furry ones) with a funny voice. I even funny talked a gopher out of a hole so that my photographer husband could get a shot of him (or her). 

When it was my family pets - or rather, pet family - I had a 
different way of speaking with each pet.  If I go any further in 
describing this, it all sounds a little nuts.  I somehow influenced my daughter, I guess, because she speaks funny to animals, as well. 


Maybe it isn't so weird to speak to animals.  After all, I am 
sure that St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals, 
spoke to animals.   If not,  Dr. Dolittle could be the patron saint of talking to animals.....

Sunday, April 26, 2020

It's All About the Stories

The stories will live on, long after we are gone. 
My own memories and experiences are interwoven with the stories told to me...added to the many stories I discovered when doing my genealogy.  

History and the tradition of storytelling among all cultures links us to the past, and the stories we hand down to our grandchildren links us to the future.  What stories will you tell?

For me, accuracy is important, at least in part.  In genealogy, I verify the facts with documentation & cross-referencing. For those who do not have the advantage of obtaining the records, you might at least connect to your ancestry through DNA testing. That way, you can find matches who may have that information - family trees which lead back to you. 

Mostly, I don't want my loved ones to be forgotten, that their lives mattered. I have lost two siblings, and I want some of their stories to continue - even if they are through my own recollections.  I would hope that others might do the same for me. 




Wednesday, January 29, 2020

We Owe our Existence to H.M.S. Pinafore

My mom often told us about how she met my father.  They were both students at Mission High School in San Francisco.  He was Class of 1949, she was Class of '50.  Mission High had about 1,000 students, even back then, so it wasn't a given that they'd ever meet.

I guess I owe my existence to H.M.S. Pinafore, and the Mission High drama department, because that is where they met, in 1949.  Mom was playing the character of "Little Buttercup", and my father was "Dick Deadeye".  Good casting.  



Both parents also performed in other musical productions at Mission High.  For example, my father played one of the Guards in "The Mikado".


Mom wasn't in that one, and she didn't perform with Louis Hagler in another play, so she may never had met our father but not for "Pinafore", as Lou was due to graduate soon after that production.  

Mom did get a nice mention in the S.F. Examiner about her role as "Little Buttercup".


This is one of those "what if?" moments.  Mom could have married this guy, George somebody(?) who she said was "very nice, a sweet boy, but dull as dishwater."  That's mom and George at the Polo Field in S.F., 1948.    And couldn't the photographer have left his shoes out of that shot?!?!? 


Sunday, January 26, 2020

A Moving Experience

When we moved to our present house in 2002, I vowed that I would never move again.  This was the first home I had ever owned, and moving was so exhausting, that I just didn't think I could go through that, again.

Added to this was that I love our little home.  Two bathrooms, my own office, and other extras.  Mike has a walk-in closet and en suite in the master bath. Open concept kitchen and living room area.  Great neighbors, short hike up our hill to view Mavericks, beautiful scenery and the harbor nearby. 
The HMB airport is our neighbor - I spent a lot of time at that airport as a child.  The location is not too far from our gallery, a 15- minute drive on a good day. 

Our home is a mobile home, in what used to be called  a "trailer park".  The houses today are by and large called "manufactured homes". To those of us who live here, they are real homes.  We have maintained the property since we bought the house. New washer, screen door, energy-saving refrigerator and overhead lights, paint, redwood fencing, and garbage disposal.  In 2015, we had the house repainted white, with turquoise trim.  




Recently, to make the house compliant with park regulations, we had our front porch stairs replaced, including handrails and awning supports, for almost $9,000.!  Features listed of our house include:



  • 2 Bedrooms, located at opposite ends of the home
  • Walk-in closet (master bedroom)
  • Built-in book case (Master Bedroom)
  • 2 full bathrooms, located at opposite ends of the home
  • En suite  (master bath)
  • Generous open-concept kitchen-living room area
  • Central heating in all rooms
  • Washer and dryer
  • Screen Door in rear of house
  • 14.8 Cu ft. Energy-Saver Frigidare refrigerator
  • Garbage Disposal
  • Energy-Saving light fixtures (kitchen and bedrooms).
  • Gas stove & oven (especially great during electrical outages)
  • Dishwasher (only used twice in 18 years)
  • 40-gallon hot water heater
  • Redwood fence
  • Generous rear deck
  • Reinforced fire-resistant front stairway hand rails, and supports


  • We pay a monthly lot rental fee of around $1200. per month;  we paid off our home when we bought it), which has never been an issue, as long as we are working.  But we now wish to retire, and if we do that, we will no longer be able to live here. 

    My husband Mike had an idea last year, which coincided with a significant uptick in our workload, due to the only other custom picture framer closing shop.  We were both exhausted every night after work, and at times overwhelmed. We are in our late 60s, and only make so much in Social Security payments -  certainly not enough to pay the lot rental here if we retired. What to do? 

    Mike remembered that his mother would be willing a duplex to him, and he thought it would be even better if we moved in before she left us. He approached her with that idea, and she agreed.  That way, we would pay no rent (after helping pay off the property), and could afford any other expenses with our Social Security income. Consider this:  property values have gone through the roof (so to speak), in the Bay Area. When we purchased our home in 2002, we paid $79,000, fully expecting it to depreciate in time.  But because the housing market has changed here, our home will be worth close to $200,000 - and more, if we are lucky enough to have a bidding war when we sell.  Crazy! Long story short - we are in the process of moving. 

    Little things I've learned along the way:

     1.  If it doesn't fit, get rid of it.  I had clothes in my closet that I was waiting to lose weight to fit into again.  After 18 years, I have finally realized that was not going to happen - unless I get really sick, and lose a lot of weight - and even if I do get sick, I won't want to wear those clothes again!   I don't have a huge wardrobe as it is - my closet is only half full - so will be easy to re-locate my threads! 

    2. Pace yourself.   Last time we moved, we had to do it in just a few days.  This time, we bought a shed, and have started moving stuff a little at a time.  We are not youngsters in our early 50s anymore. We have to guard our health.  Anything too large will be handled by professional movers. 

    3. Label those boxes! 
    Last move, I distinctly recall looking around for our kitchen implements and other items in hastily-packed boxes without labels. Very frustrating!  Best to label on both top and side of each box.  

    4.  Have friends help out, when they offer!  We have friends with skills and tools that we do not have. Door hangers, window installers, carpet cleaners, carpenters, etc.  We can trade favors - for instance, our friend Bob modified shelves in our new shed, and we are custom-framing a photo for him.  Bob did a wonderful job making the shelves fit in a way that we could not.

    5. If you don't use it, lose it.  Moving is a great opportunity to dump stuff that you will never need.  Anything that you just store and don't use, in reality, is just a waste of precious real estate.  We are downsizing - our new place will be smaller - which makes this rule even more imperative.  Donate to your favorite local thrift store or have a huge yard sale.  We do plan to "yard sale" some things, after moving.  I'm not saying that I have "all" the answers (as if!) but it is good to plan accordingly.  Looking forward to retiring in our new home!