Tuesday, February 28, 2012

"Render Unto Caeser" roman stripes for April

I am not in the mood to re-type (& if you read with any regularity, you are sick of reading) the long version.  The short version is I am still digging out from the inability to bring over from the camera, sort & then upload my photos for a couple months now.  As a result, I am going to stagger the publishing of these, but all three will be up in plenty of time to give extra time for the more difficult blocks.

As for other changes, I am actually starting to think posting the first three in late February & the next three in late August might be a good permanent change to make, as it works better with holiday schedules, etc.  Let me stress that the block deadline is the same (always the last SATURDAY of an even numbered month) & generally I expect to get you three blocks at a time, ideally giving more time for anything more complex.

So without further ado, the block due on the April deadline (April 28, 2012) is kinda-sorta about that other exciting deadline that happens in the US anyhow in April.  I am calling it Render Unto Caesar in honor of it being tax time & all & the block itself being a version of the roman stripe.

You will need (at least) four fabrics.  The first is a solid, light-in-color 10.5" x 10.5" square.  I say light in color because we will be placing the other fabrics over it & it might (will) show through.  This does not mean you need to limit yourself to white or even off-white but you do need to limit yourself to an actual SOLID, not reads-as-solid (those little white on white patterns can be seen through a thin top fabric). In some parts of the world I know solid fabric in 100% quilters cotton can be hard to find, so for this reason & this one time ONLY a polyester blend would be acceptable.  It should still be the same weight, same texture, same overall "feel" as quilters cotton (no spandex, no double knit, no voile, no metallic, no denim, do I need to continue?).  Or you can just go with garden-variety 100% cotton white muslin,  but keep in mind that 1/2 of the visible finished block will be this fabric so please do not use any old sheet.  Also please be sure the background fabric, whatever you use, washes clear; this would be a lousy time for a color to run.

As for the other strips, go to the scrap bag.  You will need at least three more fabrics & very likely more.  We will be working with strips of not less than 1.5" wide & not more than 3.5" wide.  They also do not have to be a consistent width (i.e. a strip can be 1.5" wide at one end & get gradually wide until it is is 3.5" wide at the other, in fact one or two variable strips is actually ideal).  The first strip MUST be the darkest strip & in a perfect world would be either solid or read-as-solid.  It does not have to be black, it can be navy blue or a deep purple or anything we would all agree is dark.  

The others really are scraps (although they should follow our regular fabric guidelines, 100% cotton, clean, etc.).  Patterns are fine, wild colors are not a problem, even pieced strips are OKay.  Like the dark strip, they must be anywhere within the 1.5" to 3.5" guideline.  The best thing to do (I have found) is to pull out many potential strips, iron them flat & keep them handy.  Double check the edges are straight (they do not have to be perfectly parallel but they do need to be straight).  Do not discard strips that seem too short, they might come in handy for the corners.

1. Take your solid 10.5" by 10.5" square (also freshly ironed, trust me, it helps) & on the back make a STRAIGHT line from one corner to the other.  If you would like you can do this LIGHTLY, in PENCIL but be careful as this is the stitching line; unless you have a very steady hand some of this might show through which is why I would suggest instead you do what I do:  fold the block in half corner-to-corner & iron in the line along which you will stitch.  The means paying more attention as you first stitch in that ditch (it is easier to stitch the peak actually) but you don't have to worry about any marks showing through & as soon as you press it (step 4), the line is gone forever.

2. Take your freshly ironed dark strip (for the first block lay the strip from one corner to the other to get an idea of the MINIMUM length the strip should be) & place it beneath this center line.  You will be stitching straight up the center line, so you will move the strip to one side or another so that AT LEAST 1/4" is on one side of the line & the rest is on the other.  It makes no difference whether the bulk of the strip is to the left or the right of the line so long as AT LEAST 1/4" is on the other side.  Anyone who knows me or has taken a workshop with me knows I can be cavalier about pins:  if you want them, use them but unless I mostly I do without; this first strip I will use as many pins as I can lay my hands on.

3.  Stitch straight down that line, folded or penciled or whatever..  Remove the block from the machine & measure the seam allowance at the top & bottom to MAKE SURE there is at least 1/4" all the way down.  Take a breathe because that whole working from the back & still aiming for a straight seam is about the hardest part of this particular block.  Some people (I admit I am not one of them) find this whole back-to- front business much too confusing & never do anything in the foundation piecing arena again.  In my picture you can see I used a walking foot for this; this is not necessary nor did I even register I had done it, I was just finishing a binding right before I started these blocks & by the time I realized the walking foot was in the pictures, I had already moved all the blocks to the next step.

4.  Turn the block over & press the dark strip back on itself.  Make sure the seam is pressed completely back.  Do not worry about the over long bits hanging off the sides of the block for now. Pay particular attention to make sure the first seam is not folded anywhere & that there is indeed a good 1/4" seam allowance.

5.  The rest is easier to do than it is to read: take your next strip & with the larger fabric block FACE UP, lay this strip along the UNSTITCHED edge of the strip you just stitched.  Sew right down that side, again keeping the at least 1/4" seam allowance.  Press it back.  Repeat.

As you progress, you will observe that you will use shorter pieces the closer you get to the corner.  Until you get the hang of things, please avoid using not-strip-shaped scraps, even for the corner;  it is very easy to underestimate what you need & not always easy to spot the problem before you make it worse.  My potted plants are full of foundation squares made useless by one too-small piece somewhere in the middle (I use these failures to cover over the drainage hole at the bottom of the pot, they keep the soil in nicely while letting the water through - so handy!).

6.  Let me repeat, when you get to the corner please use a larger-than-you-might-think piece, stitch & press as above.  Then flip the whole block over so the wrong side is up & you can see the square you started with.  USING A RULER cut around the edge of the square 1/4" to 1/2" from the square.  In other words, leave an edge around the original square.  When you get your swap blocks back you will very likely trim this away but for now it is the best way to confirm that each strip does indeed cover the whole area it should (you would be amazed how often a strip you thought was just fine comes up short & you do not notice until right now) as well as giving you some wiggle room just in case something happens to the exposed bias edge.

& your block is done.  When you have a pile of blocks you might notice that while you started with squares of absolutely the same size, they are not longer quite-so-much the same.  This is not unusual; foundation piecing often gathers the foundation fabric in unusual ways.  When you get your swap blocks back, you will likely want to press them again, find the smallest block & cut everything down to that one. 

This is an very forgiving introduction to foundation piecing block & unlike most foundation pieced blocks, it can be adapted for chain piecing.  Even so, it is unlikely your blocks will all be the same; some of them might not even be alike.  It will all depend on what comes out of your scrap bag.

Make one set of six blocks, five to send (we always swap in sets of FIVE) & one to keep.  You have the option of sending a 6th block with your five swap blocks; you will get five back & the 6th will go to whichever member of the group asked for them to make a quilt to donate to in her community.  Please let me know by March 15th if you want to be the 6th block person this go round (& you might want to take a look at the guidelines in the Facebook group about the 6th block as there are some restrictions).

My plan is to put the June & August 2012 blocks up in a couple of weeks, still giving extra time (because blocks get more complex through the months) but hopefully eliminating any confusion about which block is due when.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Dear Abby & the Academy

I don't get much into the Academy Awards.  If we are invited to a party, we watch them.  If we are home, I might flip through but mostly I don't care.  & I don't care because I don't understand.  & I don't understand because I cannot be bothered to understand.

This is not unique to the Oscars, I don't really understand awards shows in general.  I don't even understand most athletic awards.  Take the Stanley Cup: doesn't EVERY TEAM make the playoffs?  As for the Super Bowl, isn't it unusual for the game itself to be worth watching?  How are either of these things meaningful?  What do they measure?

So.  I think we can all agree I just don't get it. This is not to say I don't like movies, I DO like movies.  I am sorry to see most movie theaters in the state they are in (then again, I don't much want to pay to sit in a darkened room with people who don't know how to turn their cell phones off, either).  Which brings me to another thing I don't understand & I don't know what it means:  Dear Abby.

I agree with Abby maybe 1/2 the time.  & 1/2 the time I agree with her, I don't agree with how she got there.  Abby recommends therapy A LOT.  I don't think most people need therapy, I think most people need to grow the f*ck up & get off their lazy slacker asses.  This applies to me too, by the way:  when my in-laws make me crazy I need to grow the f*ck-up & not take it so personally, after all they treat everyone like crap, & get off my lazy slacker ass & make other plans when I spot a potential last-minute invitation on the horizon.  See how that works? 

//little side bar here: in the past 18 months or so I have adopted a policy of showing the same interest in their interests as they show in mine.  I especially enjoy how much they don't care for it.  Last time they were here we had to sit through a slideshow of the resort they went to in December, pictures of the hotel's pools from every angle, the restaurant staff whose names they could not remember (if they ever knew them), etc.  For next time, I am planning a catalog of my quilt fabric & how I like to sort it first by theme (floral, stripe) or subject (I have a lot of novelty fabrics) & then by color scale, ignoring actual color all together.  Even if this does not get my message across it will occupy 30+ minutes of our time together which is 30 fewer minutes wondering how to fake a sudden injury.

All this is fine you say, but what does Dear Abby have to do with the Academy Awards?  Well, here is the connection & I admit it is tenuous.  For months I have been whiling away the minutes between my getting up in the night to pee & actually falling back to sleep pondering one particular letter to Dear Abby.  The gist of the letter is how a mother cannot afford to take her children to the movies & pay those out-of-control rates for snacks & so she smuggles food in.  Naturally Abby had a reply & then there was some follow-up & so on & so forth.  Being Abby, she published responses that agree with her & that don't.  She is so even handed, giving equal space to every point of view; personally I think that's how crackpots get to thinking they are in the majority, or at least not a small small minority but whatever.

One letter in particular sticks with me.  One sentence from one letter actually:

My children want the whole theater experience, which includes a snack. 
Kim in California goes on to say that the snacks are overpriced, etc. & the whole tone is she is just not going to foot the bill for those high-living theater-owner lifestyles.   Well, that is her opinion & Abby would say she is entitled to it.  But I am stuck at the "whole theater experience" line.  Apparently, in her world paying the bill is not part of the experience.

At night, for a moment, I get quite hung up on this.  Is this the problem with our country, our culture, our species?  We forget that paying the bill IS part of the total picture?  Or am I wrong here & the parameters of any experience are what you say they are?  Am I paying more for popcorn because she doesn't pay at all?  Will I ever voluntarily go to the theater with a family with multiple children who all bring extra food?  What if they bring sauerkraut? 

As for the Academy Awards, I have a vague idea who was nominated.  I did see The Girl Who Whatever Whatever at an actual theater (A wanted to see it & then S**** called & so we all three went & I sat in the middle, sheltered from the rabble) & I thought was actually better than the book; in fairness, I would think having my teeth cleaned was better than the book, but that is because after my teeth are cleaned I do have nice clean teeth, whereas after reading those books all I had was a much reduced opinion of virtually everyone who said they were good.  I have The Invention of Hugo Cabret on hold at the library.  I will certainly read the red-carpet follow-up with the Fug Girls, if only because last year Amanda Palmer was the only thing worth watching & no one else showed it...that I know of...because I didn't watch it.  & because I don't really keep track of these things, it turns out APalmer pulled her stunt at the Golden Globes.

I guess that sums it up nicely. Now I think I just might pop some popcorn & go watch Oasis, it's been a while since I have done that.  Happy Academy Awards Show Day for anyone who cares.  May your theaters be full of people who do not bring their own sauerkraut.

Friday, February 24, 2012

What would Joanne & Abdulfattah do?

On this day in 1955, Joanne gave birth to a son.  As much as she wanted to marry the baby's father, Abdulfattah, Joanne's own father opposed his daughter marrying a muslim & the baby boy was surrendered for adoption.

But all the opposition in the world was not enough to keep these two crazy kids apart.  By the time their next child was born, they were married (the death of Joanne's father in the interim was probably made it a bit easier to pull off).  Flash forward another five years & Joanne & Abdulfattah were divorced.  Their daughter lived with her mother, eventually taking her step-father's surname as her own.

Abdulfattah would later tell people that while he was aware his girlfriend was pregnant & that he even wanted to marry her (& as I said, eventually did marry her), he was not aware when she traveled to San Francisco late in her pregnancy it was with the intention of having the baby adopted.  I haven't been able to find any person who asked him what he thought had happened when she returned, childless & they got married less than a year later.  Baby Boy would later claim he never met Abdulfattah, barely knew Joanne, met his biological sister as an adult, but considered the couple that adopted him to be his true parents.

So...that baby boy.  He was adopted, like I said, & a few years later they adopted a baby girl (no, not Joanne & Abdulfattah's although that is a good guess).  They were not a particularly affluent couple, but they had promised his biological mother that Baby Boy would go to college & so they made a number of sacrifices & away he went.  & did not stay; despite it all he dropped out in his first year.   Baby Boy's life is fairly well documented from here.  A lot of things happened, he founded a company, he got booted out (after his own unsuccessful attempt to boot others) & then staged a mighty mighty comeback.  He did all of this & more & still managed to die fairly young.

Last year, the week that news of Baby Boy's death was announced, I was standing in line at the supermarket & I remember the headlines on the tabloids were all about the most recent arrest of a "16 & Pregnant"-type baby-mommy who had been arrested.  There have been other baby-mommies & baby-daddies arrested before this & there have been at least two since.  It isn't an uncommon occurrence; I am confident there will be another before the one year anniversary of Baby Boy's death rolls around.

Now when I see those headlines, I cannot help but wonder, what if that baby that got them the reality show gig in the first place....what if that baby had gone to live with a stable couple.  Maybe someone with the maturity to be a parent & the desire to be a parent, someone not completely hopped up on pregnancy hormones who understands that being a parent is 24/7 forever&ever&ever.

Whatever you think about that, there is no doubt our world would be a very different place if Joanne & Abdulfattah had not done what they did.  You can read more about their Baby Boy here & tell me again that every baby's best parents are his birth parents.  On the flipside, his biological baby sister is no slacker either.  She has a string of awards for her writing, & her first novel really did take the world by storm.  It is about a young girl trying to escape her mother, who drags her from pillar to post after the girl's Egyptian father leaves them.

Thursday, February 23, 2012


So when it seems like winter just might never end (not this winter, but others, maybe or winter someplace else), runny nose & hat-head & earaches it is time for the patron saint of....well, earaches.   I am not sure there is a patron of runny noses actually, & I am quite sure there is no one in the pantheon ministering specifically to sufferers of hat-head*.

I am speaking of course of Polycarp.  Polycarp of Smyrna, not to be confused with Polycarp of Antioch.  Don't you just love that there is more than one Polycarp? It gets better actually, there is also more than one Smyrna.  For our Polycarp, though we are not all that interested in Smyrna, Georgia ; it is kind of strange that he is not patron saint of any Smyrna, though isn't it?  Not Georgia, not Tennessee, not Delaware....& not the Smyrna he actually died in.

Polycarp wrote a lot about what he was doing while traveling...did I mention he traveled?  Well he did.  Thither & yon.  At least one letter he wrote has survived (there seems to be some confusion, at least I was confused.  There might be more than one letter, but maybe that was the other Polycarp), but letters about him can also be found.  In his travels he observed that the church was interpreted in different ways in different parts of the world.  It is Polycarp who said yes those eastern-types DO celebrate Easter on a different day & I think we can all live with that or something close enough that everyone DID live with it for quite some time.

He had lots of celebrity friends, John the Apostle among them.  Oh, & Pope Anicetus of course.  Pope Anicetus was the one who made the priests cut their hair, which is frankly the only reason I have ever heard of him.  I am OBSESSED with the historical politics of hair, Cromwell & Samson & all that.  Whenever I can work Leviticus 19:27 into conversation, I do it. 

Where was I,? Oh right, Polycarp of Smyrna.   In the end, he refused to burn incense or make an offering of any kind for the emperor (that whole Thou Shalt Have No G*d Before me thing) & so they burned him.  But he would not burn.  So they stabbed him to death & then burned the body.  Where earaches (or dysentery, the only other patronage under his jurisdiction) come into this, I cannot quite figure.

//* in keeping with my usual attention to detail, I have since learned there kind of IS a patroness of hat-head:  Catherine of Alexandria is in charge of milliners.  Yes, I made a note & will get to her some year on her day, November 25th.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

When life gives you cowpies

I do not know what was up with Punxsutawney Phil, but six more weeks of winter starting two weeks ago would have made this the second week of winter.  That's a round-a-bout way of saying we had not had winter.  There was a hard freeze & then right back into the 80s day in, day out.

This is also the first winter I have had my greenhouse, all set up & ready to start seeds early, grow really long season tomatoes....& it is usually well over 100F in that space for at least part of the day.  Even after winter arrived, this past weekend just like Phil predicted (the groundhog was RIGHT!), the greenhouse could get too toasty unless the door was open.  All it takes is sun.

Finally this is the first winter we have had our very own cow.  Most cows are not happy in the heat but ours seems to be different.  When we burned the big pile of fallen branches etc she was very interested.  During the night, it looked to me like she was standing in the coals, but I knew that was ridiculous.  Then the next morning I found cow pies steaming over the last embers.  Multiple piles. She is a Dexter, an irish cow, so we are thinking she was making her own peat.

So what would you do?  Overheated greenhouse, empty heavy duty paper bags (there is some debate as to whether or not they constitute household recycling, lazy ass garbage pick-up bastards) & lots & lots of cowpies. 

You guessed it, we are bagging our own fertilizer & cooking it ourselves.  So far things go nicely thanks.  Also now that the cold has come, those full bags sure help retain the heat overnight.

On another note, a friend of mine used to have a t-shirt of an obviously homeless man sitting on a flattened cardboard box on a city sidewalk, with his pack next to him & a lap full of lemons.  The back said: unless life also gives you water, sugar, a pitcher to put it all in & something to mix it with, you are still f*cked.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Knit went wrong

As this is almost my first post of 2012, let me say happy new year & all that.  2011 ended pretty much the way they say the universe will end, things just kept getting faster & faster.  Then as our first act of 2012 we bought a brand new home heating/air conditioning unit; the old unit died  72 hours before the first hard freeze of the season.  If "bullet dodged" is the theme for the upcoming year, I can live with it.

It has taken a bit but we are now more or less where we were in mid-December in the house torn-up, chores to be done arena.  & as an extra the utility closet that housed the old & houses the new air pusher thing-y (& the hot water heater) has now been cleaned & re-organized, new shelves & that was a bear of a job.

Which means I can finally get back to my regularly scheduled time wasters, especially now that the problem of why-the-pictures-won't-upload-anymore appears also to be resolved.  Did I forget to mention that?  I want to say mid-December I suddenly could no longer upload photos from the computer that has the MyBook that has all the photos.  It is just as well I did not start loading photos to my laptop because right around the second week of January the hard drive died & a recovery was unlikely & then lo (or is it hark?) most of her came back to life.  In the end, my laptop had a screw loose (apparently, that is a real thing) & points of contact were not making contact & when the she was opened up (to harvest her organs errrrmmmmmmm hard drive) to bring what I could to the not-yet-purchased replacement, it was clear there was a screw loose.  Like I said 2012 is shaping up to be the Year of the Bullet Dodged.

I thought I would begin my new found & no doubt temporary return to a quiet life by doing a little more clearing...kinda.  Specifically, last year I failed (FAILED) to make a red scarf for the Foster Care to Success gift baskets.  I cannot send the completed scarf off until ?September? but I thought it would be good to get it on & off the needles, ready & waiting.

As it happens I have still failed because the scarf I made was too wide to be a scarf.  Also it is a little mohair-y which they frown on.  That wrong scarf went to C****** as I mentioned in an earlier post...I think.  Anyhow, it went so fast that I cast on another, finished it & shipped it off to my mom.

Cast on as many stitches as you think a scarf should be wide.  This will depend on your gauge using that yarn & whatever needles you find blah-blah-blah; I usually trust the yarn label for gauge/needle size & aim for nine inches or so wide (something went horribly wrong this time & I decided early on I didn't care).

Knit for seven (7) rows -- although I think the one in the picture was more like TEN rows

For the rest of the scarf, up to the last seven (7) rows -& I bet you can guess how those will go- repeat the following three rows:

Row 1:  Knit
Row 2: Knit five (5) , purl to the last 5 stitches, knit five (5) -- & again, the one in the picture was more like first&last SEVEN stitches
Row 3: Knit

Pay some attention at the end if you want the side that begins with an all-knit rib to end with an all knit rib.  If you don't know what I'm talking about, don't worry about it.

I think it would be safe to say with adequate yarn in your carry-on you could start & finish this scarf on a flight to your holiday destination, so long as it included a stop-over &/or was a trans-Atlantic (or Pacific) flight. Or you could work on it during a Sunday marathon of House or Law&Order.  Or a few weekends of early season football.  What is adequate you ask?  I used six skeins of Sensations Angel Hair & made a very wide, plenty long rectangle & had most of the last skein left over.

They say the best scarves are not more than 10 inches shorter than the wearer.  I am 5'2" & I tend to prefer nothing longer than 4'6" & often shorter but you should decide for yourself.  This thing alas while a good length was almost double a workable-scarf width.  When folded over it is quite thick, too thick really to wear comfortably as a scarf.  You can avoid this problem by accurately reading the needle size & gauge printed right there on the yarn label, a skill that was apparently beyond me.

So what to do, what to do. As it happens, for the red one, C****** liked it that wide but she also liked the idea I came up with, which was to lay the scarf (for at that point it is still a scarf) & then fold one corner to the other edge, making a right triangle.  Then shoot maybe two inches worth of stitches in there to hold it, repeat at the other end & you have sort of kimono-looking shrug/shawl thing.  My mother called it a shroooooog (all 'o's after the 2nd one are mine).

It is really really reversible.  You can wear it inside out & upside down &, while fitting slightly differently (it all depends on how big your shoulders are really), it doesn't look wrong.  I think if you made it long enough, you could even throw a button in the front & maybe with an I-cord loop & have something a bit more formal.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Two yogurt makers: Part III

Not even a year ago I got Gertie my first new yogurt maker, well ever, since my first yogurt maker was in fact a hand-me-down from my Mom.  Last November, Gertie went to live with my Mom.

It is not that I didn't love Gertie, I did, mostly.  But it was one of those relationships that happened so fast.  There was an empty place in my life where a really really old yogurt maker had been & things were fine until one day, a new cow arrived & then I was up to my eyeballs in milk & that is when I realized my old yogurt maker was just too old.

Gertie was a beauty (& still is, I didn't just dump her; she has actually gone on to live with my Mom--yes, all my life's a circle).  She was the first yogurt maker I ever met who could handle a full two quarts.  She was enchanting & we were very happy...at first.

But Gertie had some flaws.  She has a curved lid, making it very hard to find a place for her in a rather full kitchen cabinet.  I have lost track of how many times the top slid off when I was moving here & it was just a matter of time before it cracked.  Also, Gertie came with only one canister for making the yogurt itself.  I tried to get more but it just was not possible.  Finally, that canister was not the best design anyone ever thought up; in order to get it out of the yogurt maker itself, I usually ended up flipped the lid off.  Even with my small strong fingers, I had trouble getting a good enough grip.

Then I saw May (that's right, my new yogurt maker is called May.  Her full name is Yogourmet, but I call her May).  May has a flat top, it is possible to buy extra canisters (I bought three), but more than that, May works on a different heating idea.  Inside May, the canister rests in a water bath, making a nice even heat throughout.  No more much cooked milk at the bottom & runny sludge at the top.  Because of the water it is possible to make yogurt from irregular sized batches of milk (which is how they come out of the cow; I am still stunned by people who think she has a spigot & a scale).

I hope to be happy with May for many many years.  But I am also glad the others have all gone to good homes.  Recycling & all that.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Not even a whimper

So my laptop is still dead, the computer in the tvroom is still sketchy & you would think with all of this not-on-line time I would get so much more done but I think I am actually accomplishing less.  This year did not start with a bang.

I did manage to baste & quilt a quilt top from last year but then it sat & still sits unbound & unfinished.  The binding is stitched but not pressed.  I seem to be stalled an arm's length from the finish line.

I started a scarf for the Red Scarf Project, finished it too even though I had missed the collection deadline by about a week & a half & would of had to keep it safe & clean for another ten months except it turns out it was too wide & too hairy (they frown on mohair-y-ness because people say it ?itches?).  Not having a computer to check & treble check the guidelines was a problem.  In happier news, C****** liked it & took it home last week & the pattern I sort of doodled out is easier enough that I have already made another (not in red, not for the Red Scarf Project, but whatever).

I finished the February book club book Baking Cakes in Kigali by Gaile Parkin.  It went fast, didn't make much of an impression or so I thought until I found myself really wanting cake. Enough to bake one.

I missed another month of Block Lotto, tried again to drop out of the Quilt Block Swap & generally just kept my head above water chore&household-wise.

It seems in the absence of dumping my brain out onto a page I get rather clogged.  This week-end I think it might be laptop buying time.