I Survived!! (Originally published 12/7/2012)

My daughter turned 8 the other day. She knows I’ve had a stroke, and am not capable of doing as much as I did before. So I asked her what she wanted to do for her birthday. She wanted a sleepover for 10 girls. After I stopped laughing, I told her she would have to choose. She could have that many people, and more, but we would have it at a place like Pump It Up, or she could have a sleepover, but she could only have 3 girls over. She choice the smaller sleepover. Then she decided on the theme: Secret Agent Slumber Party.

Now I went to various party stores, and looked for spy party themed stuff like cheap magnifying glasses, and maybe some hats and trench coats. Nothing. Not even plates and cups and napkins. Finally, it was getting close to time for her party, and it occurred to me to ASK her what she meant by “Secret Agent Slumber Party.”

Well, you know, you use the blankets and stuff to cover yourself up. Then you creep out and find someone, and you spy on them!

Later that night, I told my husband. He busted out laughing! When he finally could catch his breathe, he said he could just see the little purple lumps (my daughter has a purple fuzzy blanket we claim is made out of muppet skin!), lumpfing along, trying to be all stealthy and shit! When he told me, I laughed until I had tears running down my face.

So we had three little girls over. We had pizza. We decorated the cupcakes I had made earlier (cakes baked inside ice cream cones. (Bad idea! They worked fine, but the moist cake made the cones stale within as hour! Don’t do it! You’re welcome.) We watched a movie, with popcorn. We opened presents. It was pretty good, even if it didn’t have anything to do with Secret Agents or Spies.

At 10pm, one girl’s Dad came to pick her up. The other three climbed (UNBIDDEN!) into their sleeping bags, all arranged on the floor, with pillow pets everywhere! At 11pm, we went to bed ourselves. At 11:30, I saw the bedroom door open, twice. There was a crying little girl in the hall. So we called her mom to come pick her up (she lives only two minutes away). At 1am, the remaining two girls woke up. They talked quietly for a while. At 2:30, they were loud enough to wake me up, even with earplugs! I have no idea how my husband slept though it. I got up and told them to go back to bed. At 3:30, they woke my husband up. He got up, and told them to go back to bed! At 4am, they woke me up again! I got them off the floor and made them sleep head-to-toe in the bed. They finally got back to sleep around 4:30. And slept late. Till 7:30.

Then we all got up. The little girl who’d called mom at 11:30 came back over. We cooked huge stacks of chocolate chip pancakes, and blue berry pancakes, and bacon (BACON!!)! Aaaaand they each ate one pancake. Except my daughter, who’d had cereal already, before we got up, and wasn’t hungry.

And then…it was finally over! I had survived! The girls were gone, and the house was back to normal. Everything was quiet again. Peace!

“Mom, next weekend, can I have another sleepover?”

AARRRRRGGGHHH!

The Stroke (Originally published 12/4/2012)

So I had a stroke. You wouldn’t believe how strange it feels to type that. I had a stoke. And nobody knows why. I have none of the classic risk factors. I don’t smoke. I don’t drink excessively. I’m only 48. There is no personal history of stroke. Hell, the only person I know of in my family to have a stroke is my Granny and she smoked like a chimney and ate fried food every day…and she was in her 80’s to boot!

So I had a stroke. It was weird. We’d gone to the Boardwalk in Santa Cruz the day before. I’d driven home because my husband was tired. Put our daughter to bed. Spent some time on the computer. Gone to bed. Normal stuff. I woke up at 5:30am to pee. Everything was normal. Then, I woke up at 8:15am, and couldn’t quite wake up, like I was still half asleep. My eyes were burning, like I’d gotten lotion in them. I tried to wipe them, but my right shoulder wouldn’t work, like I’d slept on it wrong. In trying to get up, I flipped the pillow onto my husband, and ended up sitting on the steps to the bed, braced against the wall. I thought about a tv show I’d seen, where the actress experienced a stroke, and she asked someone to look at her face when she tried smiling. I smiled. The right side felt funny. She had tried to raise both hands. I raised both hands. The right one didn’t make it off my leg. My husband, awake by now, asked me if I was ok. “No,” I said. “Call 911. I think I’ve had a stroke.” He tells me that all he could understand was “Call 911.” He called immediately. The paramedics were there in minutes.

Two big burly guys hustled in, joining the “I’ve Seen Crickett Naked” club in the process, and asked me all the pertinent questions. No, I couldn’t smile. No, I couldn’t raise my right hand. No, I can’t squeeze your fingers any better with my right hand. No, I don’t smoke. No, I don’t drink much. No, I don’t have family history of stroke. They couldn’t get the gurney in the bedroom, so they put a robe on me, supported me over to the gurney, and started getting me out of the house.

Half way out, things changed. The paramedic didn’t believe me. I grabbed his fingers with my right hand and squeezed, hard. His eyes got big, but said since they had come out, they were taking me in. I agreed. Good thing, because the symptom came back before we could even leave. He put an IV in, after several attempts, and we took off. He told me that in all his time as a paramedic, he’d never seen someone “resolve” like I’d done.

I remember seeing trees out the back window as we drove, and not much more. I remember the same questions over and over. And then we arrived at the E.R., which wasn’t bustling nearly as much as I thought it would be.

I found out that peeing at 5:30 (remember that bit?) was a good thing. It meant that the stoke had to have occurred after that…which meant I was on the edge of the 3 hour window to receive the clot busting drug TPA, That may have made the weeks to follow easier.

After the TPA, they hustled me into the Cat Scan, to see if I had a brain bleed. They gave me Benadryl (I have an alergic reaction to iodine), and got ready to shoot me full of a dye so they could take pictures of my brain. They warned me that it would feel hot. Especially “in my privates.” Boy, they weren’t kidding! But it blew out my I.V., and I started cussing them like a sailor because the I.V. was BURNING! I resolved again, because my cursing became highly intelligible in the midst. Oh yeah, they got the pictures anyway. They put me in the MRI machine, twice. They had to elevate my legs or they would spasm and make me move too much.

I resolved 5-6 times that day. I could feel each time that it happened. I could feel my speech start slurring, and my arm control would fade away. I hoped each time the symptoms went away that maybe they wouldn’t come back. But they kept coming back. At one point, I could only focus one eye. At another, my hormones went haywire, and I cried deep, racking sobs for no reason.

My husband showed up, but could only sit by my bedside. My sister and her husband drove down, but could only tell me that I was doing better than could be suspected. They picked up my daughter from the neighbor who had volunteered to take her. I can only imagine how it must have felt for the three of them, watching me, seeing the symptoms come and go, and not being able to help. It was bad enough to have no control my own body. To sit and watch it happen to someone you love must have been terrible.

Eventually, the symptoms came, and didn’t go away. I had no control over the right side of my body. My right arm wouldn’t work, and neither would my right leg. After about 6 hours, they moved me from the E.R. to C.C.U. They wouldn’t let me eat anything, because they were afraid I would choke. They had a blood pressure cuff on my right arm for 24 hours straight, taking a reading every 15 minutes. Let me tell you…you haven’t LIVED until you try to sleep with that thing attached and going off every 15 minutes. Between blowing out the I.V. and the pressure cuff, I had some monstrous bruising on both arms. I told the nurses that I didn’t mind a bit…it meant I was still alive to see them!

At one point, they put me under, and slid a camera down my throat, to give me an echo-cardiogram (I think) from the inside.  They were looking to see if I had a hole in my heart that might have thrown the clot. It was definitely a good news/bad news situation. I didn’t have any hole…but that crossed 1 line on the increasingly smaller list of reasons this might have happened.

Twenty-four hours in C.C.U., then 2 days in I.C.U. The indignities I went through! Bed pans, portable commodes, starting my period. But they took good care of me. I only wish I could remember their names! But after 3 days in the hospital, with Phil sleeping in the pull out chair in the room, I was discharged. Phil transported me, oh so carefully, to the acute care rehabilitation center that they highly recommended. But that’s a tale for another day.

Know the signs FAST!

Facial distortion – can they smile with both sides of the mouth?

Arms – can they lift both arms and hold them at the same height?

Speech – can they repeat a simple phrase without slurring?

Time – If they have trouble with any of these things..CALL 911 immediately!

These simple test can save a life. They did mine.

I've got an Etsy store! (Originally published 1/31/2012)

Hi. My name is Crickett, and I have an addiction. I know the first step to recovery is admitting I have a problem. My (newest) addiction is fabric dyeing.

Rainbow gradations!

It started with a kit. A kit, I confess, which I have had for probably 2 years, and simply never found the energy to do. So I simply decided that it was time to do it…and then three weeks later, I did! And Oh My Sweet FSM!!!! I fell in love! Just swirling the dyes around in the tubs made me grin and cackle out loud!

Then I had to have MORE! MORE, I tell you!! So I placed an order for more fabric and my favorite primary color dyes and stuff. And this weekend, I tried tray dyeing. Not every piece turned out as well as I hoped, but they were still amazing!

Now of course, I want to do even more! But this new habit is a little expensive – Oiy! In order to pay for my new habit, it seems I will have to sell some of my new pretties.

Hence my new Etsy store! See that pretty new gadget over on the right? That shows the items I currently have available. I’ll be listing more when I can get good photos.

I only hope that others like the colors as much as I do. I really enjoyed making these, and I hope to make more!

Like Mother, Like Daughter! (Originally published 1/21/2012)

I am constantly berating myself to get my butt unglued from this computer, and DO more with my daughter. I know that she feels safe and loved, but I also know that kids just want more of our attention and time than anything else. And being an introvert makes that really difficult for me. So this evening, I was reminded of exactly how little that can entail.

While she was still eating her dinner, I pulled out a cross-stitch project that I’ve recently unearthed and been working on again. She’s seen me cross-stitch before, although it has been a couple of years now. But this time she was fascinated, asking all kinds of questions. I explained to her how it’s done. She wanted to try doing a stitch on my project. I groaned inside. I should have known better than to try working on something so complicated in front of her. Now I’d never get anything done on it!

Right? Wrong!

Instead of brushing her off, I thought about all the supplies I had in my sewing room. So I took her in there, found some aida cloth, an embroidery hoop, some embroidery thread, and a spare needle. I set it up for her, showed her how to thread the needle and do the stitches, and let her go for it. I kept encouraging her, explaining that it took practice and patience to learn how to do it well. I had threaded her needle the way I do mine, with the double ends threaded, and using the looped end to “tie” at the beginning. But that gave her trouble, because the ends of the thread kept slipping out of the needle as she tried to work. So we pulled everything out, and started again, and I showed her how to work it using a needle threaded as if you’re sewing, and how to stitch over the doubled ends to keep them from pulling out. Since the needle couldn’t unthread, that worked much better for her.

So for 10-15 minutes of effort, I had one very happy girl. I see the crafting gene has been passed down.

Now why does this display rotated here, and right side up everywhere else?

Fabric Bags Tutorial (Originally published 12/19/2011)

Wrapping season is upon us! Run for the hills!

Or, if you’re like me, instead of buying more wrapping paper (killing trees, creating more waste, etc.), you can look to your favorite hobby, and fondle some fabric!

For the last couple of years, I’ve made fabric bags to wrap all our presents in. There are several ways to make them, and today, I’d like to show you the latest method I’ve come up with. It’s a drawstring bag, with a flat bottom and a ruffle. I think it makes a very cute bag! I’m lazy…I make it once, and use it again and again!

I usually tend to kind of wing it, but I decided to take measurements, just to make sure they worked out correctly because I know some people simply can’t handle winging it.

Step 1. How big a piece of fabric do I need?

Start out with the box that you want to wrap.

First, measure the box, both around the sides (S), and around from top to bottom (T). Write those measurements down. The measurements don’t have to be really precise. You can round up to the next inch, and it won’t affect much. Or you can be as precise as you want, and deal with the math in a few minutes.

Now for the math. You need at least one side seam, plus a little ease, so that you can get the box into the bag. I tend to be generous, so Side+2″ for one direction. I’ll try to come back later and add direction for a two seam bag.

The fabric will need to go from the middle of the top of the box, completely around the box. Now since you’re going to be using TWO sides of the bag to cover from bottom to top, you’ll take that measurement and cut it in half (top/2). Don’t forget a seam at the bottom (+1″). In addition, it needs about two times the size of what ever ribbon you’ll be using as ties. I used 1/4″ ribbon I had sitting around, but I don’t like to go less than 1″ on the drawstring, for looks and usability, so I added 2″ (+2″). Plus twice a nice ruffle on the top. The bigger the box, the bigger the ruffle needs to be to look good. I thought a 4″ ruffle would look good (+4″) And, you’ll need that ease as well, plus some to finish the edge…about 2″ again. So (Top/2)+1″(seam)+(2xribbon width)+(ruffle height)+2″(ease+top edge finish).

As you can barely make out in the picture above, my box was 31″ around (S) by 23″ top to bottom (T). So my formula was 23″+2″=25″, and (23″/2)+1″+2″+4″+2″=20.5″. So I needed a piece of fabric that was 23″x20.5″.

To check, you can lay out the fabric, and fold the fabric around it, to make sure you haven’t missed any thing. I found a piece that was a bit bigger in both directions, and just used that

Step 2. Cut the fabric.

Step 3. Sew the basic bag.

Here, you’re going to use what ever sewing method works for you, to sew the basic bag shape. If you measured like I did, you will need to sew a bottom seam and a side seam. I have a serger, so I used that. But you can just as easily use your regular sewing machine, and either go back and either pink or zig-zag the edges.

Step 4. Finish top edge.

I used my serger to do a narrow rolled hem. You can do the same on either a serger, or your regular sewing machine, or fold down a narrow 1/4″ hem (fold twice, pressing, for best results) and sew it down. Your choice.

Step 5. Pin the casing.

Remember how tall you wanted the ruffle, and how you were going to use twice how wide your ribbon was? Add those together, and fold over that much of a cuff, wrong sides together. Since my ruffle is 4″ and I said 1″ minimum for ribbon, I measured down 6″ (i.e. 4″ + 2×1″).

Mark it if you want to, or just pin as you go. I placed my pins near the folded edge. Make sure you only pin through two layers of fabric, not four! I just lifted the fabric to either side of my ruler, and pinned it. Like I said, I kind of wing it. If you’re making a wide bag, slide the ruler down, and repeat as necessary.

Flip it over, and do the same thing to the other side.

Then flatten the sides, so you can pin the side seam. Now the only tricky part here is the side seam. You want to try and make sure that the seam doesn’t twist…and mine ALWAYS want to. So open up the cuff till you can see the seam and make sure it’s not twisted before pinning it.

Step 6. Sew first casing seam.

Now that you have it pinned, you can sew the first seam of the casing. How wide was your ribbon? Make your seam about 1/4″ wider than that, so that your ribbon will fit, even after you finish the casing.

My ribbon was only 1/4″, so 1″ works fine for my bag. You want to reinforce stitch across the side seam, so when you sew past it, reverse back across it and continue sewing. Or if you forget (like I kept doing), just go back and sew over it again. Trim all your threads when you get done.

So now you have a bag with a nice finished top edge, and a flange in the middle.

Step 7: Sew down the casing.

Fold that flange down. Pin it if you like, or just hold it down while you top stitch near the edge. (Wish I’d chosen less busy fabric for this.)

Step 8: Measure and mark to square up the bottom.

You can skip this step if you’re in a hurry, or just don’t care. The bag will still work fine, and serve you for many years to come! But squaring the bottom only requires two short seams, and makes it look much better, and stand up a bit better.

First you want to start with the corner between your bottom seam and side seam. Turn the bag inside out, and flatten the corner so that the bottom and side seams are touching. Do the same for the other side, and lay it out so that the bottom seam is up.

I know there are better explanations of how to fold it, but you can see how the corner is folded so that bottom seam is running across the middle of the folded corner. It will look kind of like dog ears.

After you have the bag folded and laid out (the top of the bag gets folded out to the side out of the way), and you’ve gotten your box on there, move the box out toward the corner until both box corners almost, but don’t quite touch the folded edge of the fabric. Draw a line along the box, across the corner dog ear. That’s your stitching line. If you stitch there, the box bottom will fit nicely into the bottom of the bag with a little ease. Pin if you like.

Move the box and repeat on the other corner of the bag. Now if you move the box into the center, you can make sure that your bag won’t try to squeeze your box.

Step 9: Sew to square off the bottom.

Sew along both of your marked seam lines. Cut off the dog ears. Now go back and pink or zig-zag the finished seams. I used my serger.

Step 10: Drink a glass of wine (or your favorite adult beverage) because the hard part is over, and you’re almost done. You deserve it!

Step 11: Cut the stitching at the seam in the casing.

Remember where you reinforced the stitching across the side seam when you sewed the casing? Good, because it will keep your side seam from unraveling after this step.

Using a seam ripper, or a pair of small embroidery scissors, clip the seam in the casing, so that you’ll be able to slide your ribbon through it.

Step 12: Cut your ribbon to length.

If you’re like me, even though you measured everything, the idea of measuring the ribbon is just soul deadening. So lay your bag down flat. Unroll your ribbon and lay it doubled across the bag where the casing it. Add enough to both ends to make it pretty and so that the ribbon doesn’t get lost in the casing.

Ok, Ok, Measure the width of bag, and multiple x two. Add length of ribbon tail x two. Six inches is always a good minimum. (width x 2) + (6″ x 2). Happy?

Step 13: Thread ribbon through the casing.

I have this really cool, long, red plastic bodkin that threads through the casing, and then you thread your ribbon through a big eye on the end, and pull the ribbon through. I LOVE it! You can always use a safety pin on the end of the ribbon to thread the ribbon. Tie the ends of the ribbon into knots so they won’t easily pull back through the casing. Or you could tie little beads or jingle balls on the ends if you like.

Step 14: Wrap your box!

You’re done!!!! Drop the box into the bag, pull the ribbon tight, and tie a bow. Isn’t that gorgeous!

Now go finish that wine.

I’d love to see pictures if you use this tutorial to make one!

Gingerbread Houses! (Originally published on 12/18/2011)

Last year, my daughter was in Lawton Elementary, in Seattle, WA. One of the families there hosted a fund-raising event: a gingerbread house making party. It sounded like fun, so I bought tickets. It was amazing! They had tables lining the walls in two rooms, with buckets of candy on all the tables. You grabbed a plate, took a handful of anything that looked interesting, and sat down to your own pre-built house sitting on a sheet of foam-core board. They had at least 2 mixers in the kitchen busy churning out icing to use, mostly in white, but colors were available as well. Everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, you could think of was there and ready! There were probably 20 kids with parents there. This was just one of the rooms everyone was working in.

Turns out that they’d been doing this for quite some time. It started as a family event, and just mushroomed. They would buy candy throughout the year, mostly on sale and usually in bulk, and store it for the event each year. So it wasn’t actually candy that you’d want to eat, but nobody cared – it was just amazing the variety and quantity they had available.

So we had a blast! My daughter would pick out what she wanted, and tell me what she wanted where, I’d put the icing down, and she’d stick the candy on. Here’s what we ended up with.

The proud maker!
Front view.
The waterfall.

So this year, I wanted to make another house. I know that my daughter has more fun when there are other kids involved, so we invited the girls from down the street. I also remembered making a kit house a few years ago, and how little candy there was in the kit. So when I bought the kits (I wasn’t crazy enough to try and bake the houses myself!), I started buying all kinds of candy. Not as much as they had last year, but probably 2 dozen different kinds. Then the night before, we pre-built the houses.

 
Using blocks to prop up the walls till they dry.
 
Everyone working on their own house.

 Check out the candy stash all along the front of the table!

Working away!
Proud maker!

So it was a good day all around! Hope you have a good weekend too!

It's a dangerous business, going out of your door. You step onto the Road, and there is no knowing where you might be swept off to. (Originally published on 11/29/2011)

With sincere apologies to J.R.R. Tolkien.

We stepped out on the Road last week, for the Thanksgiving holiday, and ended up in Albuquerque, NM!

My Mom works at the Forestry Department there, so we figured we’d be nice and stop by and let our daughter visit with her Gammy. They had a great time! Kaylee saw Gammy working on a quilt, and wanted to make one (never mind that she’s seen me working on dozens of them!), so Gammy helped her make her very first quilt…on a sewing machine!

While they were busy doing all that, we went up to the Bandelier National Monument to see the cliff dwellings. We passed this great waterfall on the way. Loved the way the water had leeched and redeposited the soda ash from the volcano into this fantastic display!

Then I saw this really cute unicorn at the grocery store, and couldn’t resist getting it for Miss Ma’am. I think she may like it.

With permission, we invited Phil’s friends over for Thanksgiving dinner. Amazing…for a guy with no kids, Stef seemed to have great fun horsing around!

On the Road back, Miss Ma’am found an old pony ride.

And we stopped at Meteor Crater.

It was a 17 hour drive both ways. I’ll post more when my butt is no longer molded into the shape of the car seat.

A Pinkalicious Thanksgiving! (Originally published on 11/18/2011)

About a week ago, my daughter had the day off school, so we went to the Fabric Outlet store in San Francisco. I told her she could pick out any of the fake furs, and I would make her a coat out of it…I don’t know if I’m brave, or just crazy. Anyway, I thought she’d pick the white with pink spikes, but she chose the pink rabbit fur. I picked the hot pink tiger.

I spent my spare time this last week making her coat. Given that I’ve never made a coat, or worked with fake fur, I had no idea how it was going to turn out. I knew it would get messy…it did. I took the cut pieces outside to shake the loose fur out. Now my back yard is coated with pink fur. I followed some tutorials, and they definitely helped. But nobody had a really good tutorial on how to sew fake fur with a serger. I may have to make one myself for the next coat (mine).

But today, I have pictures for you. Enjoy!

I was particularly pleased with the button holes!

The lining of the hood is the only part I am displeased with. Since I serged the lining to the hood, there’s not much of a seam to press, and you can only use a low heat on the fake fur, and not for very long or the polyester fibers will melt. So the seam won’t turn well. I thought about top stitching, but the fur makes that daunting. So I’m leaving it for now.

And that’s the inside lining.

She had such a blast wearing it today. I’m so glad she likes it. I’ll have to start on mine after Thanksgiving.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Halloween Party Time! (Originally published 11/1/2011)

So Phil got home last Friday night. And now he’s sick too. I finally get well, and have an alternate adult to hand off duties to…and he gets sick so I have to take care of him.

Anyway, the school had their Halloween party last Friday, too. I donated…wait for it…CAKE POPS! I’m sensing a theme here. But at least I got pictures this time!

I practiced restraint though, only 30 of them this time. lol

I stayed for the parade and for the party. I got some pictures of that too! First they had to bring their own chairs out to sit in when they weren’t IN the parade.

Then they had their party! And I got more pics of the cake pops! lol

Guess who picked the one with black sugar?

And a good time was had by all!

Unfortunately, I didn’t get pictures of Halloween itself, so I can’t show you the fabulous bubble-fogger, or how everyone who came up to the house ooo’d and aaaah’d over it. I love how the kids can’t stop trying to pop the bubbles! Hope your Halloween was happy!