Sunday, December 23, 2012

Here's what's going on in the valley.

    Two days to Christmas, which I don't celebrate anyway as I'm more the Bah, Humbug sort of person.  As we both work for the university  we've got 13 days off from work, which may or may not mean more things get done around here.

     Half that time The Manimal will be here at home.

     Formerly that would have meant I would get nothing done from my own project list as his list tended to steamroller over mine. This had something to do with sexism.  It would not have occurred to him to ask me what I wanted to do on a weekend, he simply planned what we would do, which was almost always work. Hard work.  He is very much a workaholic and spends his free moments at his job thinking up more things to work on at home.  It also has something to do with both of us growing up in the '50's when it was assumed men's ideas were more important than women's ideas and naturally ought to come first. (or only-est).
     To further brighten things this is a country homestead with acres (UK smallholding) not a suburban house with a swatch of lawn. There is plenty of backbreaking work here, loosely divided into 1-Must Be Done Now,  2-Do ASAP, and 3-Do When Time Allows. Also there's 4-Would Be Nice. Sometimes things just slide off the end of 4 and are gone forever.  There is more than enough to do here to take up all our time, both of us all day every day, just to keep this place is a clunky slipshod condition and keep us all fed and clean. (two humans, 18 fowl, 2 rabbits and 3 think-they're-humans)

I often think of Millie Pontapee's accusation: "You don't want a wife Adam, you want a hired girl!"
 However, the times they are a-changin.  Since I've become gainfully employed  with a real (albeit humble) permanent job rather than just a temp position, I feel in my heart that I'm more of a partner in the household and less of a doormat. I am not willing to do physically hard labor during the work week and then come home exhausted to spend my weekends hauling and stacking firewood or anything else that would make me wish I were for-petes-sake-dead already.
    These days I have taught myself not to automatically fall in with just anything the Manimal decides to do.  I ask myself first whether I have the energy to do it or whether it would exhaust me, because I do need to be able to go back to work when the weekend is over.
     It has taken half a century to learn to say No. or No Thank You, or You And Whose Army?

    So. The week Manimal is home I'll do some things with him and some of my own. He's got a good deal of book mending to do for folks including mending an old family Bible needed for someone's Christmas Eve.    
     When he's mending and repairing books and documents I work on stitching up here in the loft. It is oddly companionable as we can hear each other, or listen to music (The Nutcracker is playing right now) and converse as we wish. The dogs and cat follow me up to the loft and nap on the bed which keeps them nicely out from under foot downstairs. When he's home with paying jobs to do I get a lot done of my own.

      As a bonus complication he suffered a fall this past week. He was on campus to grade his students final projects and the stools in the bookbinding lab have adjustable legs, the type where one pipe telescopes into another and is held in place with a bolt in a series of holes. Manimal sat on a stool which had lost the bolt in one leg, the leg instantly telescoped and dumped him on the floor.  Concrete floor.The fall knocked him unconscious, and he suffered a concussion and a broken tailbone. This has slowed him down a bit, and while I sympathize with his pain the slower pace suits me just fine. It has been a more peaceful than usual week.  

     The second week of winter break The Manimal will be in London on business. I will be a lone homesteader, here holding down the fort. I'll be stitching on various things and tending animals as usual.  I've come a long way on sorting through the loft and hope to get through the last stack of three boxes and make one last haul to the Goodwill.
    Meantime here's the progress:
View from the stairwell.  Critters napping.

Sewing area where no one is currently using a sewing machine.

Bookcase, dolls abodes, and an ugly Rubbermaid cabinet that was here when I moved in. In spring I'll find it a home elsewhere.

Quilt I'm currently mending.

Sitting area, desks, and my fabulous hillbilly electrical system. There is only electricity on one side of the room, so I ran an extension cord over to the quilt frame for the lights and taped it down so I won't trip on it. When the quilts are done it can all be put away and I'll have more floor space.  I adore floor space.

Meanwhile in the valley snow has fallen and my camera battery has been recharged. Here's a few peeks out the window for those of you who live in southern climes and won't be seeing snow this winter.

East window (pardon my ball winder).

West window. The shamrock was dying when I brought it up to the loft, but is doing very well up here.

The big window at the south end of the house. I can see this from the loft as well as the loft is only over half the main part of the house and the livingroom is below this window.

The slope across the driveway where Lilly chases the deer out of our front yard early in the mornings.

Reindeer for Manimal's bookbinding class. I'm Bah Humbug, but I like baking cookies.

Goldie. She's the brightest of the hens, and anytime the door gets left open (by Lilly) Goldie sneaks in to help herself to some dog food. This has never occurred to any of the other chickens and apparently Goldie is not giving away her secrets.

The golden triangular bit is the ceiling of the livingroom, which the loft overlooks.  Very handly for chatting with the Manimal when he's down there. I also toss my laundry over the half-wall rather than try to wiggle down the stairway with a huge basket in my arms.

Clearly there's a delicious lot of space to work up here now.  The second week of winter break there will be no Manimal, just the 24 of us homebodies. I think of this as "time alone". Haha.  Aside from sorting the last three boxes I hope to get some sewing done. I've got curtains to make, and then I'll start on my winter sewing list, a shirt for the Manimal for a start and then the rest of the list which is long and getting longer as the little grandmanimal is starting to outgrow things.

I think it's going to be a lot more fun to work up here now that there's room to work and a place for everything. Yay!

Hope you all are having fun doing whatever it is you do this time of year.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Ten Thankfuls

Ten Thankfuls

1- I am thankful Middle Child has blogging skills that I do not, and that she generously offered to tidy up my blog to make it more readable. Especially that she fixed the header so that readers no longer have to spend half an hour scrolling down a huge picture to get to the text.

2-I am thankful the Manimal allows me to have the loft for my very own, because my inner child thrives in having a place to play far above the chaos of the real world below.
   This past week I made a wee "dollhouse" that is not a house at all. It is freestanding rooms and can be packed flat in a box or drawer.  I made it for some wee girls who have come here to stay. Recycle features of the project: a bunch of Lundby dollhouse furniture from the '60's that had been lingering in a box, three old gameboards I cut down to  make the walls, leftover scrapbook paper for the wallpaper and floors. It sits atop a bookcase for now and can be packed away when the space is wanted for something else.

The bookcase is the sturdiest thing I own, and was built by a lovely grown man I had a mad crush on when I was a girl.

I especially like the corner cabinet. I need to find a way to fix a broken table leg though, maybe a tiny drill bit and a half inch of paper clip or toothpick?  Someone had glued it once, but that didn't work.

There's a bench for the piano, but I'm making a new cushion for it.

The chairs were originally red which did not (in my artsy opinion) look well with the '60's harvest orange appliances.  Also the knobs were green which didn't suit me. Picky, picky, picky.
    The table was white, which was ok-ish, but had a paper top printed with a red and white checked cloth. It was quite tatty, as forty year old paper often is, so I stripped it off and repainted to match the mod wallpaper.  The black cat in the corner followed me home from work yesterday. I have no clue to his history. He is flat. Perhaps he is meant to travel by mail?

Sugar Cookie and Ember Flicker Flame are waiting for bedtime stories.  I knitted their blanket on my lunch breaks at work.  Much quicker than working on people sized things.

Hardest part of the project: reassembling the sink, which sometime over the years had got smashed to bits. I glued my fingers together four times trying to hold tiny pieces together long enough for the superglue to set up. The washcloth carelessly flung on the sink is actually glued down and covers the largest crack.

3-I am thankful for company out here in the forest.

As I write this Dan is at my crossed ankles and Pyewacket is by my left knee. Close enough to keep warm.  All summer he's the independent sort, but come chilly weather he's ready to nap near a (human) heat source.
Miss Lilly is just the other side of my ample bed table. She likes a bit more wiggle room.

4-I am thankful my job schedule gives me three days off in the middle of the week. When I had a job that gave me ordinary weekends off my dear Manimal had more things to do scheduled for the weekend than any two humans could possibly accomplish. He is a perpetual over-booker. This kept me perpetually exhausted because I was not capable of saying ,"BUT I DON'T WANT TO DO ALL THAT STUFF! " Now he's off at the weekend and free to overbook to his heart's content, while I go to work and do my 8 hour stint.  I'm free mid-week while he's at work, not around here to schedule my To Do list for me.  Life is better this way.  When he retires and is home all day I may need to take a second job to get out of the house more, hahaha!

5-I am thankful I made lots of petticoats.  Fall is here, we are into layering weather. More petticoats means more warm air trapped around me, which feels quite lovely. Plus I adore the swishiness of petticoats and the multiplicity of colors.

Ghastly picture, but my photographer is a 'one shot and lets get going' kind of guy.  Still, the goofy grin expresses the joy of  romping about in petticoats.

6-I am thankful for the good winters past I have spent knitting up nice wool socks. Cozy, cozy, cozy.

7-I am thankful for Ember's suggestion that I fix my floor bed to allow air circulation. I did this by putting the slats under it that used to fit the iron bed frame.  With both the slats and the spaces between the floorboards in my primitive-ish space here I think the mattress will be able to breathe ok. As a plus, if I need to/want to move the whole thing it's quite easy to do.

8-I am thankful for my darling offspring and thankful that they forcibly dragged me into the modern era by firstly making me get an email account, secondly insisting I learn to text and thirdly suggesting I do a blog.  These peculiar forms of technology allow us to communicate across vast miles, and since I adore them beyond all reason and miss them dreadfully it is wonderful to be able to interact without requiring time off and plane fare.

9-I am thankful for the Envelope Budgeting system. It's quite an old system, but new to me. Using it I find I no longer have too much month left at the end of the money. In fact, I now come to payday with fistfuls of cash left over from the last payday, an event previously unheard of in my financial life.

10-I am thankful for zucchini bread. It's just a tad too late for me to take a picture of that for you but it is a wonderful thing indeed.

  Is there anything anywhere that feels better than being thankful?


  The Manimal was talking about retirement the other day.  I'm incredibly likely to outlive him, probably by a good forty years as I'm planning to live to 120.  This means I'll get to retire twice, once when he does, and once when he croaks.
   I suppose the first retirement will take place here, as he assures me the only way he's leaving this place is feet first and carried by six.

   For my second retirement I have decided I would like a change of geography. I want to live in an ancient village in the UK.

    The village is to be located in the middle of a triangle, equidistant between Dibley, Clatterford St. Mary and Ballykissangel.
     I shall have a bright blue bicycle to retire with and I'll weave it a wicker basket.  I'll knit a sturdy sensible brown cardi against the chill and fog.  Also a bright striped scarf to warm my chin(s).I'll pedal along in my cheery skirts and petticoats to do my marketing and visit my friends.
    Yes, Realists, I know BallyK is in Ireland, but by the time I retire the tectonic plates will have shifted.
    Yes, I do realize Dibley and Clatterford St. Mary are fictitious, but obviously since you can SEE them on the tv screen they exist somewhere under an assumed name.
    Yes, I am quite aware that BallyK is also fictitious, but even in Ireland the same rules apply.

    You've had fair warning Dear Mother Country. When the earth moves I'll be coming right over!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Relearning How To Cook. A humble beginning.

Smallest Child and I are embarking on a mutual project of learning to prepare more mate-friendly suppers.

    Her reasoning is that she and her husband work different schedules and she's often the one closer to home at a reasonable supper-preparing hour. She also claims she is tired of eating the same six things she knows how to cook over and over and over...
    My reasoning is that I work a four day weekend, so I have three whole days off in the middle of the week. A girl can't spend ALL her time just having fun, so I ought to resurrect some useful domestic skills. I am also tired of eating things that invariably start with "take a lot of olive oil and add a lot of garlic and sprinkle liberally with hot peppers" and rather than teach Someone Else to cook things the way I like them it seems more practical to just cook them myself and let Someone douse them with Sriracha to his heart's content.

   The beginning of our project was a lot of food related texted messages and a good bit of wallowing around in various recipe files and cookbooks. (I like reading cookbooks, even when I have no intention of cooking the things described therein.)
Then we remembered Queen Dot's chicken broccoli casserole, a mid-century classic, and I agreed to try and recreate it and to share the results with Smallest Child, who when I emailed the recipe to her promptly suggested I share the joy with the rest of the known universe. Or at any rate My Known Universe, which is rather smaller than the main one.

   Herewith is the email I sent her, because I'm too bone idle busy to re-write the whole thing when it is easier more fun to cut and paste.


Dear Sweetie Pie,

   Here's Queen Dot's Chicken Broccoli Casserole, a good "old fashioned" recipe from the 1960's, as made by me this weekend. It is a highly tweakable recipe.

   I started with 2 rather large humanely raised and undrugged chickens (not raised by me...I'm not killing my laying hens!)
   Queen Dot always used one chicken, but I wanted an extra casserole for the freezer so we could eat it on a day we don't want to cook.

    I washed the chickens, (removing the giblet packets) and plonked them in my big stew pot with a handful of carrots, about half a big celery, two fist sized onions and a spoonful of peppercorns.
    This I brought to a boil, then reduced the heat and simmered it for a long time.  Maybe couple of hours? Till the meat falls right off the bone.  Then I hauled the meat out of the pot onto a baking pan (the jelly roll pan with a good edge) and let it cool for awhile.

    As the meat cooled I strained the bits of veg out of the broth and set the broth to cool so the fat would rise to the top. I spooned off as much of the fat as possible and put it in a pyrex cup in the freezer to chill. The sediment sinks, and then the fat can be saved in a jar in the fridge for cooking.

   Next I greased my baking dishes (with chicken fat since I had plenty available) and layered chopped broccoli over the bottom and and added some of the cooked carrots just for a bit of cheery color. 

   I took the chicken off the bone, and layered the dark meat on top of the broccoli.  I was using two 9x13 inch pans, and just the dark meat really was enough to cover all the veg. They were big chickens.

  On top of the chicken I poured and spread out a can of diluted cream of broccoli soup (I found some with no MSG!). One can per 9x13 pan, and I diluted each can with about 3/4 c of chicken broth. Aunt Dot always used milk because that's what the original recipe says, but to me broth gives more flavor. You could also use cream of chicken soup, cream of mushroom soup, or a homemade white sauce.

  I made stuffing (also while the chicken cooled) of a loaf of whole wheat bread (dried in a 250 degree oven, just keep turning the slices till they're crunchy dry.) with broth to wet it good and chopped celery and onion. I also chopped up one chicken breast and mixed it into the stuffing.

    The other three breasts I double wrapped and tucked into the freezer for later use in soup, casserole, chicken salad or whatever. Queen Dot always used the whole bird, she must've had scrawny chickens.

  Next I put the stuffing on top of the soup layer.  It was thick, not something you can pour on or spread with a spoon. I formed it into flat blobs by hand, layed the blobs on and smooshed them together. (smooshed is a sophisticated culinary term.)

    Then I baked the whole thing at 350 degrees for about a half hour.

    And I put the second one in the freezer.

(Note pyrex pitcher with fat rising to the top)

    THOUGHTS: (Aunt Dot would write "Thots", as she felt the whole 'ought' spelling was a waste of time, space and ink)

    One chicken would make one 9x13 pan full, plus leave you an extra breast for something else. Or you could leave the breast meat out of the stuffing (it really wasn't necessary) and have two breasts for another supper.
     Soup Base or boullion cubes jazz up the flavor nicely if you have any on hand and like them.
     You could make it with canned chicken, thereby making it a good recipe for a not-shopping day since the rest of the recipe is stuff that is typically in the pantry.
    You could leave out the chicken entirely and add more vegetables (but then you couldn't rightly call it a chicken broccoli casserole so you'd have to think of a better name.)
    You could top it with commercial stuffing, which keeps nicely on the pantry shelf (but I don't because around here it has MSG in it)
    You could top it with savory cracker crumbs instead of stuffing if you had any around.
     You could layer in some shredded cheese somewhere.
  Anyway, there it is. Give it a try and let me know how you like it.

    Love you!

PS-  You could leave out then chicken, use chopped apples and pears and pineapples and maybe bananas instead of veggies. Then drizzle melted butter over it, top it with a mixture of oats and brown sugar, and after baking put some cream or ice cream on top. It wouldn't be a casserole, but it would be good.

Thus endeth the lesson.

   While things were simmering, and baking, I sorted a bit more in the loft and loaded up the truck for a happy jaunt to my favorite Goodwill store.

There I very happily parted with the old iron bed I've slept in for the last twenty years or so. I love the bed, but I love having less stuff even more.  I kept the mattress, not a modern innerspring sort but a simple cotton futon mattress that I inherited from Smallest Child many years ago. She was moving to New Orleans and as I recall it wouldn't fit on the very overcrowded moving van.
    A long happy summer of sleeping on the front porch on the futon mattress from the livingroom has taught me that I like sleeping at floor level better than up on a bed. I like the way the world looks from down low or something.  Since the decluttering began I've hauled off five truckloads of Stuff I Did Not Need, and so I no longer need under-the-bed storage space.
I'd like to hear an Amen!

I've learned that I like not having boxes of things stored underneath the bed when I sleep. It was nice for a few weeks to be able to easily sweep under the bed.  It is easier yet to have the mattress on the floor and not have dust bunnies get under there, and not have to sweep them away. Middle Child (who is an avid de-clutterer) reminded me that with the bed down low I'll have to wash the bedding more often, but with two adorable doggies who like to sleep on the foot of the bed and who shed and occasionally walk in the creek I wash bedding pretty often anyway. Sometimes quite suddenly. So I don't see this as a hardship or a drawback.

    Here's the bed as it looked about 90 seconds ago. I love digital cameras. I could not get either Daniel (left) or Lilly (right) to face the camera. I was lucky to get them to hold still., having awakened them by pulling out a camera.

   Now you know I didn't drive all the way to Goodwill in a pickup truck with ONLY A BED FRAME to donate. That would be a waste of space and gasoline, wouldn't it?  I also took along nine computer paper boxes full of miscellaneous, not photo worthy as the boxes are identical.  They contained extra sheets for twin beds we don't have, craft supplies, shoes, boots, more books and too many other things to remember. And with so much more stuff out of the way I also happily parted with a five drawer dresser, which adds 7.5 square feet of  useable floorspace to my loft. Yay!

    I see in the above picture another thing I did this past week. I sawed the legs off my mama's antique sewing table. The antique police will no doubt come arrest me any minute now.
    It's a small folding table with a measuring ruler carved into the front edge. Very useful for a person who sits around hand sewing a lot (as I do). I hadn't used it literally in years though.  Since I do most of my hand sewing whilst sitting crosslegged on the bed (look, another happy occasion to use whilst!)  I have been using my little black plastic useful-but-disheartening lap desk all these many years in the valley.

   I was thinking one day as I sewed that it would be tres useful to have a desk that was a bit bigger than the lap desk, and that had its own legs so that I didn't actually have to hold it on mine the whole time.         
    I thought the little sewing table would be a lovely size (it is 19x36 inches) but of course the legs were of sitting-on-a-chair height.  As I was raised by antique loving collectors I do truly know it is a mortal sin to whack the legs off an antique. Then I mused that Mama, who bought the table, has been dead a great many years, and she never used it much herself as it was.
      Next I considered that in the sin department I've been unapologetically divorced since 1993, I'm "Living In Sin" with the Manimal, and I covet my neighbors ass. (Miniature donkey actually.)
      So I thought In for a penny, In for a pound, and I measured where my knees come to when I'm sitting crosslegged, got out the Manimal's little Japanese chop saw and whacked approximately 13 inches off each leg. Of the table. 
    I say approximately because that is how I am with sawing things. Since the table when in use is sitting not on an even floor but on a mattress piled with quilts approximate is plenty good enough.
   I've used the table every day since I shortened it. Yay! It amply holds whatever I'm sewing, or designing, or drawing. It has that nice built in ruler so I don't have to get up and fetch one. My little mini computer fits neatly on one corner of it too, in case I want to watch The Vicar of Dibley while I sew or have the need to Google a stitchingn technique. Perfection!

   In other news (and I use the term very loosely)  on my days off my friend Candy "decorated" the front of my work locker with all sorts of random bits of cheerful rubbish she's collected in the dorms. Students tend to wander through life leaving behind them all sorts of peculiar things. Also in dorm living there's a tendency to come up with projects and festive occasions that require "one for everybody" which means if you find a wierd little cast off useless item in the dorm you're quite likely to find sixty more of them.
    One Two of the items inelegantly scotch taped to my locker were little rubber smiley face figures (I will not dignify them with the term doll). One green and ugly, one purple and ugly.  Funny. Ha. Ha.
    On my lunch hour yesterday, as a sort of counter-joke to Candy's decorating efforts, I decided to dress the smiley figures.  I've got the green one done, (I also made a peaked hat for her little bald head) and am just getting started on a gold suit for the purple one, Because of course you can't dress one and not the other, that would be mean.
     One of the guys at work, upon seeing miss purple dress, tells me he "has the whole family" in his supply closet, by which I think he means one of each color.  I wonder how many that is? I wonder if I could sneak in there and put clothes on them? Hmmm.
   Here's something about us  Blue Collar Workers: we are easily amused.

    I am able to do this sort of daft thing to amuse myself because happily somewhere along the rolling of the years I have gotten over caring whether people think I'm weird or not.  Very liberating, that.  If  "they" think I'm nuts, that is fine. I think they're nuts too. Which worries me not a bit. In truth I think the entire universe is just a giant can of mixed nuts, rolling around in space. And I'm happy to be here.



Thursday, September 27, 2012

RAIN...Day Three.....

      Yes, my lovelies, it's been raining here for three days now. I am tempted to post pictures of our grumpy wet hens, but they look so pathetic it might spoil your appetite. Not that they were thrilled with the drought this summer either, but they seem to like the steady downpour even less. 

     Instead I will post pictures of an old friend. I cannot remember when it was that we got Blue Bunny for Daniel, but he has been getting alternately chewed and resewn, patched and repatched for several years now. He is starting to look like art. Recently he was found by Silly Puppy and somehow lost his eye and a good portion of his face. Luckily my scrap basket is always at the ready and I recently received a box from Smallest Child that held the perfect stuffing for dolls and creatures.  (Thank you Dollbaby!)

    When she is not busy being an adoring wife and affectionate kitty-mama or dressing up as a young man and firing cannons at historical reinactments, or lindy hopping in the street with her mister, Smallest Child is New Orleans finest shop girl, and she sells shoes among other things, (Check out Trashy Diva online for vintage inspired adorableness.)  In the shoe shop they use little nylon footie stockings for trying-on, and on account of germs they're used once and thrown away.   Smallest sweetly installed a bag for collecting them for me. Queen Dorothy (my father's sister) often used her old worn out stockings to stuff rag dolls, and now I've got a fine collection of them to use myself. They're much nicer to work with than that nasty fiber-fluff stuff that is sold for stuffing things. Stockings can be packed in firmly which makes a much less floppy creature and that is most important if the doll is going to be embroidered and otherwise embellished or the creature is going to be hauled all around the house and out into the forest by rough and tumbly dogs.

Here's bunny with his face patch, and I'm putting in footie stockings to fill out the shape of his face and replace the original fluff (which was all over the lawn). Does the fabric I'm patching his face with look familiar?


When Professor B.  designed his series of three dimensional angels he hired me to hand sew the fabric panels he printed onto the welded frames.  The blue one is just behind me, you can see the wing over my right shoulder. Naturally I saved the scraps because the fabric he made is so interesting, based on a scan of a pile of glistening glass shards.  While I think it would be unethical to use another artists art to make my own art..... I figure it's ok to use it for a patch on something that will only be seen here at home.  It's a very sturdily woven cloth, so the patch may outlast the rest of the bunny.

Looking better, but needs a smile.

That's better!

All spruced up and ready to face the world again.  His eye is needle tatted, his neck is Grandpa's old chambray work shirt and his ear is a scrap from Grandma's old muu muu.  It looks better on the bunny.

While I'm thinking blue, here's the lovely yogurt cups the Manimal brought back from Paris. We use them to drink out of, which is something you wouldn't want to do with American yogurt cups.

This is the afghan I'm making for Onlyest Son.  His old one was wearing out (I think I made it a decade ago).  I happily crocheted the squares on my lunch breaks all summer, then procrastinated putting them together. In a drought with temps above 100 it is too hot to have a lot of afghan on your lap stitching it together. Three days of gray, chilly rain has been perfect for stitching all the squares together. I'm working on the edging now and hope to mail it this weekend.  He's probably not reading this, so don't tell him ; )

The Manimal leaves for London on Saturday morning very early.  I'll be working my usual three day weekend, but come Tuesday I'll be up in the loft sorting and packing joyously.  I'll return and report!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Here Lately....

  My darling Middle Child is a splendid essayist (find her at and her bloggery is a continual delight to me. I look forward to her thought-provoking analytical musings.
   I, on the other hand, am more of a catch-up-on-the-news blogger.  I live in an isolated valley far from my dear ones, and this is how I let them know I'm still alive.  Here's what's been going on in the valley the last couple of weeks:

I've packed a good many boxes of stuff in the loft. (I wish I could rotate this picture for you)

I've loaded up the pickup truck and hauled the boxes off to Goodwill.  For a long time I was stuck in the decluttering process because I kept remembering how much was spent on my heaps of un-needed things. Shouldn't I sell them to get some of the money back?  Shouldn't I personally give each and every item to someone I know will take good care of it?  Then I began studying Ebay and other online sales venues. There's an awful lot of stuff in the world and most of what gets listed never sells. Things I don't want to keep other people probably don't want to pay auction price plus postage for. And I honestly don't want to have the troublesome task of listing, selling, packing and hauling things item by item to the post office.    Finally, I hit upon my new mantra: That money is Already Gone.  I repeat this to myself often as I pack stuff to be given away.  Yes, I've given the thrift shops a lot of things that are "actually worth  money."But isn't that the point of thrift shops? I estimate this summer I've saved YEARS of time by giving things away by the boxful and truckload instead of trying to sell them or personally find adoptive homes for them.  The way I see it, I've spent half a century accumulating these things, and it could easily take that long to get rid of them if I do it one item at a time.  I feel I haven't another half-century to waste on the same darn stuff.

Here's a pretty sight--empty floorspace in the loft. It makes my little heart sing.
And look! There's some in the other direction too!

I've also been stitching up a doll.    She's number ten in a series of embroidered and embellished cloth dolls made in the 1940's-50's and every one of them start out really showing their age.  When I get them they look like this--generally stained and with some holes where the 60-70 year old cloth has worn out or been  moth bitten.   Sometimes they have limbs missing.

Mouth stains are very common, children like to feed their babies. 

The hair is usually moth nibbled as it's made of wool yarn which is apparently delicious to moths. It also is generally wonky looking.
There is a  secret to making good looking rag doll hair, and this secret is unknown to most home sewers, so wide  and crooked parts and bald spots are par for the course. Not a problem to me since I'm going to take the hair off anyway.

As you can see, she's got an odd torso. Not sure why her head is bowed like this.

A trip through the washer will take off a lot of the staining and eliminate any musty smells. This girl wants to float, so I had to pin a heavy bath towel around her neck to drag her underwater.

Once she was through the wash I found three holes in her, two in her neck where the seams are and one on her forehead where her hair was stitched in.  I had open her up and  empty out her raw cotton stuffing in order to get her dry. While she was gutless I patched her gaps with some pink gingham from Grandma's old bedroom comforter. It doesn't match her skin very well, but for my purposes that matters not a pins worth! When I put her back together I added a dowel inside her to strengthen her neck. Cloth doll necks so often become floppy, which weakens the seams.

Here she is with a bit of her embellishment done.  There's a lot more stitching to do before I put her back together.  I'll get back to her next week.

This week I've been busy stitching up some clothes for First Granddaughter's Lalaoopsy doll.  For sewing enthusiasts interested in decluttering their fabric stash I must warn that making doll clothes for grandchildren's dolls is the slowest way of getting fabric scraps out of the house.
 A box and a truck is much quicker.