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I am a mother, a grandmother, and a teacher. But whatever happens in my life, I keep sewing. I have worked as a political communicator and now as a teacher in my formal life. I have also written extensively on sewing. I have been a frequent contributor and contributing editor of Threads magazine and the Australian magazine Dressmaking with Stitches. My book Sew.. the garment-making book of knowledge was published in May 2018 and is available for pre-order from Amazon



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Saturday, January 30, 2021

Flypaper thoughts: real commitment edition

  • My current working theory
  • Is that universe has used this pandemic
  • To send those of us lucky enough to be healthy
  • A giant time out
  • As in
  • Maybe you need to go home and think about things
  • How else can we explain NYC and London streets deserted?
  • Doing my part 
  • I have more or less retired
  • Only remaining paying gig is radio work talking politics
  • During which I only express the conversations
  • On my street
  • Lot of common sense on my street
  • Back to thinking
  • Since being more or less retired I have been trying to decide what to do next
  • I have a begun manuscript called "How to be an older woman"
  • Based on thoughts I have walking the dogs
  • Also a cozy mystery based on people I have actually known while I sewed 
  • And things that I know actually happened
  • With the only real fiction addition
  • A real someone who was particularly amoral
  • Who I have finally found a safe way to murder
  • Overdue that one
  • But really this is fooling around
  • When considering more serious and worthy options for my time
  • I decided that apart from my family
  • And my animals
  • The only thing I really, really care about
  • Is sewing
  • More or less since I was eight-years-old
  • So as a person qualified to write about how to be an older woman 
  • I am just going to lean into that fact for the duration
  • With everything I've got
  • Why not?
  • I am now keeping track of my steps
  • According to the NY Times this is important
  • So now I am watching my steps
  • To make sure I don't go over the limit
  • And walk so much I am cutting into my sewing time
  • Got to be careful
  • One of the things about being an older woman 
  • Is that no one really is all that concerned about what you are doing
  • So you have a lot of room to move, self-indulgence wise
  • Which is one thing we have in common with the other end of life
  • When lying on the grass looking for shapes in the clouds
  • And laughing with your best, best friend until you almost pee your pants
  • Is a good and useful way to have spent a day
  • Since I made this decision
  • I have ordered a bunch of online fabric while in the bath
  • And started to organize my sewing room like it is mission control
  • And not just a sideline
  • Or a hobby
  • I am outfitting the bedroom that is most sunny
  • And looks out on my street
  • I don't want to miss anything
  • Even though the street is already heavily supervised
  • Drop your keys on the driveway and the phone rings as soon as you get in the house
  • Mrs. Smith
  • "I think you might have dropped something when you got out of the car"
  • Who needs a security system?
  • My personal favourite
  • "Do you know your husband is on the roof again?"
  • "At his age"
  • No did not know
  • And I am not surprised
  • I can sew and see the boy two doors down
  • Hoping to get into medical school
  • Walking the dog for my 89 year-old-neighbour
  • Who her husband bought for a surprise
  • A golden retriever puppy
  • Yes she was surprised
  • Or the rounds of neighbours who take poor old blind and deaf Garth out to pee
  • So his mom who is working from home
  • At some kind of high level law enforcement
  • Can concentrate on her work
  • No real idea what she does but a lot of shredding in the the recycling
  • She's also a good Italian baker
  • You want an invite to her lawn chair in the summer
  • Presently three rounds of women actually have a schedule to keep Garth going
  • I sit and sew 
  • And watch the daughter of a girl who grew up on the street off to visit Yia-yia
  • Yesterday I used to watch her mother walk to the bus to school
  • In the opposite direction
  • To outfit this sewing room
  • My husband come down from on the roof
  • And I had to move everything into other bedrooms so he could install new shelves and tables
  • Can you explain to me why it takes two other rooms and a hall
  • To hold what I had in one room
  • It's like sewing is an add water situation
  • Watch it and it expands
  • Listen I have a question
  • Part of lining up the life compass on sewing
  • I have come to terms with the things I don't much want to spend time a lot of time on
  • I have faced that fact that in the kitchen
  • I only really really enjoy canning and pickling
  • And some baking
  • The day-to-day stuff I leave to my husband
  • That man
  • He is so precise
  • He actually weighs everything
  • Quarter pound hamburgers
  • You guessed it
  • Every single one
  • That's why he likes to supervise the roof
  • Me I eyeball seam allowances
  • Where we converge is in the eating
  • I love to eat what he cooks
  • But sometimes
  • OK this is my question
  • What are your go tos?
  • I am thinking of what does a person who would rather be sewing like to cook
  • Minimum time
  • Maximum taste
  • This is not too much to ask
  • So I am asking you


Anonymous said...

Thanks for this thoughtful and thought-provoking post! Here's one choice I recommend for a lot of flavor while still leaving time for sewing:

Moosiemoose said...

As I would rather be doing most anything but cooking, I buy a fair amount of pre-made items. As always, thank you for the laughs. Your street sounds delightful. And I can't wait to see your new sewing room. Jean

SilverMom said...

OMG, I love, love, love your flypaper thoughts. And you are SO lucky to live in a "well-supervised" neighborhood.

Batch cooking is my secret for lots of sewing time. Right now, I have my 8 qt pot filled with my go-to bean soup. It makes enough for tonight and to freeze for at least 8 more dinners. Luckily DH is good with a bowl of soup for dinner.

Minimal clean-up, and back into the sewing room!


STAshworth said...

For quick meals, search for one-pot pastas. They’re just what they sound like. The recipes are developed to use the starch that cooks off when you cook pasta as part of the sauce. Unless you use something like andouille sausage, you’ll need to cook the meat first, but then they cook no longer than the pasta needs to be done. In one pot.

May I suggest that you do a post featuring your new fabric?

I love your flypaper thoughts posts.

bbarna said...

Excellent as usual. I have recently invested in a pressure cooker style pot, you know the one I mean. I was late to the party, but I am enjoying it. Tonight was taco stack casserole, 45 min total. Always leftovers for lunch or another dinner. My husband only bbqs so I need to be time thrifty with cooking. I have had it for two weeks and done soups and stews, rice and black beans, rice pudding. I am having so much fun with it. Having worked full time for so many years, I can usually get dinner on the table in well under an hour, pasta, chili and soups are my favourites. We have a longarm business and I try hard to make all my gifts and clothing, so time is precious. Previously I had a corporate job for over 35 years. Pictures of the sewing room please.
Barb from Prince George.

Lyndle said...

I love this post. Can’t decide if it’s a poem in itself or a book in the making. I think a poem.
I eat a lot of salad. Halloumi and salad, smoked chicken and salad. If by any chance lamb is cheap where you live, a slow cooked leg of lamb requires being at home all day but about 15 min prep and two oven interventions (turn over, take lid off). Then you can eatit fir a couple of days, with a few roast spuds and frozen peas, if you must.

BarbaraShowell said...

Instant pot. It doesn’t burn stuff, you don’t have to stir, you can even throw frozen meat in and walk away.

Annemarie said...

Hi Barbara, love your flypaper thoughts, as always. Maybe the first time commenting though as someone who loves cooking and eating in general, but does not always have time/energy for the former :D
This is an excellent recipe to prepare (or have your husband prepare) in a big batch, freeze and enjoy later:
I use way less chicken compared to the veggies and feel that this is closer to real thai cuisine. The general idea can surely be adapted to other stews (just do not use milk products as liquid - ask me how I know).

While I think that the above is a great recipe, I think what you were really asking for is something like this: argula gnocchi pesto salad - a warm salad that comes together in 5 minutes and still has fresh produce in it and a great taste.
Boil salted water and add store-bought gnocchis to cook till they are done (swimming on top + maybe a minute). In the meantime: wash a big bunch of argula, some handfuls of cocktail tomatoes. Chop the argula to be 5-10 cm long and half the tomatoes. Cut up a mozarella or use baby mozarella balls. Drain the gnocchi and add them back to the pot. Add pesto, stir till its warm and then add the remaining ingredients. Top with parmesan. Done. It is fine to eyeball all the ingredients!

(I usually use ~150-200g gnocchi + 50-100g argula, 250 g tomatoes, 90g pesto, 125 g mozarella.)
If you want to incorporate a bigger amount of argula, add that after the pesto, but before the other ingredients and let it collapse (but reserve a little to stir in later, it looks pretty and its nice to have that crunsh).

Summer Flies said...

Ok, turn oven onto 180 degrees. Clean or peel potatoes, chop (more on that later), place on bottom of pan, put on top either chicken pieces or lamb forequarter chops (basically the cheap ones), squeeze lots of lemon juice and olive oil over it, rub oregano over the lot and salt and pepper. Bake till potatoes are crispy and the meat is cooked. (Note on potatoes; cut to the size that will meet the time of the meat cooking so they cook at the same time). A few minutes to put together about 40 min or so in the oven and it's so yum!
Agreed also, no one cares what old ladies do... how liberating it is!

KathrynT said...

I like things you can put in the oven that will still be fine with extra time. Like marinated roasts that the butcher does for you. Or even regular roasts. I peel sweet potato and pumpkin, but not carrots or potatoes. Chuck in cauliflower, mushrooms and tomatoes half an hour before the end. Use a timer to remind you. Nothing else to do.

Alison G said...

Brilliant, thank you! As one of the supervised in our small street, it's a mixed blessing sometimes: the only response is to join in. Talking of recipes I'm reminded of the UK quilter Dorothy Stapleton who has a robust attitude to priorities. A visitor to a quilt exhibition said to her husband 'You poor thing, I expect you never get a square meal with all this quilting'. Her book has some great recipes but her tips are what I remember. 'If your husband is on his way home for dinner and you haven't started, set the table and give him a drink.' And her suggestion to listen to music rather than the news when cooking is particularly useful just now. I'm fortunate that my husband is a keen cook but my main strategy is to make lots of anything so we can have it ready to heat another day.

Deb Glosek said...

I like to make home made soups of all kinds. Satisfying, tasty and lots of left-overs. My New England clam chowder, chicken noodle, and broccoli cheese soups are family favorites. A big pot of bolognese sauce is good too - can use it with any kind of pasta they want.

Yarnfreek said...

Ritz Cracker chicken is delicious and super quick and easy. Dip skinless boneless thighs in melted butter and roll in crushed crumbs. Bake at 375 F in glass dish sprayed with Pam for 45 minutes. If you do a pound of chicken you've got dinner for 2 nights for 2 people.

Love, love, love your flypaper thoughts. Your street sounds lovely.

On your recommendation I bought the walking shoes from BZees you wrote about last week. They are marvelous! I like to knit my own socks but they are bulky so I ordered the shoes 1/2 size larger and they are perfect. Walked the dogs yesterday and was very happy with fit and comfort.

Thank you and keep those flypaper thoughts coming. I look forward to them.
Sue in SoCal

Bobbi said...

Your posts are one of the things that get me through. Please press forward with your book for older women.

Vicki said...

Ah retirement. I’m heading that way with only working 3 days a week and finishing completely at the end of June. Still feel I should be “doing” something. Need to learn to just relax and live in the moment. Enjoys what’s left. I have got back into the sewing room and working my way though the enormous fabric stash. As for cooking, I recently discovered the pressure cooker.

Lucille said...

Anything in a crock pot. 8 to 10 meals for 2 people. We don’t get bored with food. It’s not as important as the things we love to do. I also have my sewing room stuffed Tetris style in the ‘spare’ room currently. Paint, window trim and refinished floors in progress. There seems to be a lot of sewing room makeovers in progress. Another COVID blessing perhaps?

Kim said...

I just bought an instant pot for that very reason. I hate to cook but I do need to eat sooo, I will see how it works out.

Jean Shaw said...

Well, I love to cook, but I agree that sheet-pan suppers are your friend. The NYTimes has published a number of them (hope they're not all behind the pay wall).

Carol in Denver said...

My current favorite lunch is a modification of a Jacques Pepin Facebook recipe. Start preheating oven to 410°. With your fingers spread a light coat of olive oil both sides of a large flour tortilla. Place on a baking sheet
that is lined with parchment. Top with a thin layer of fresh spinach leaves, chopped sweet pepper, chopped white onion and shredded cheese. Sprinkle with salt & pepper, dried oregano and dried basil. Bake for 15 minutes. = a crispy pizza lunch.

Laurinda said...

I really hate cooking, & now that my kids are all adults, my go-to dinner is a bowl of frozen veggies & a half can of beans, microwaved. If I need a change, I'll sprinkle them with everything bagels spices, or maybe cheddar dust with butter & milk

Meg k. said...


bbarna said...

Came back to read the comments and remembered this quick recipe, courtesy of my mother in law. Bacon, noodles and cottage cheese. While cooking a half pound of bacon (cut into 1/2 inch pieces) until crisp, boil salted water and cook a package of large egg noodles. Drain the cooked noodles and dump in bacon bits and a 500ml container of cottage cheese. Stir and serve with a great salad or steamed veggies. There were never any leftovers at our house to save for lunch, haha. Easily doubled for 5 or 6.
Barb from Prince George
PS...Frozen perogies are quick too...Ukrainian fast food.

Sarah Wale said...

A wonderful inspiring and thought provoking blog, as always. Thank you.
On the cooking question, I have a rule for 'everyday' meals that they shouldn't take more than half an hour from go to whoa. That often means mince (ground beef) and can be chilli with rice, spag bol, keema curry with rice, nachos or anything else you can think of except cottage (shepherds) pie - too many pans and needs time in the oven to crisp the top. That one is saved for when the grandsons come to eat with us - it's their favourite and they're worth the extra time and effort. My recipes for any or all of the above on request! Alternatively, as many of your other fans have suggested, a one-pot dish cooked in the slow cooker is perfect, especially as it isn't time sensitive so you can finish that tricky bit of construction before you down tools. Again, my half-hour rule applies, for prepping the meat and veg, less if you don't use too many ingredients ... depends what your making.
Sewing and eating ... a perfect day!

Tobie said...

Hi Barbara-This is not a comment on your blog and you and I have talked about Berkeley and meeting at Stone Mountain (also called The Stoned Girls). I was in Lacis yesterday (and I hope you have been there) and the person there thought St. Mt. may never reopen to the public-it will remain a mail order business. I hope this is not the case as I can practically walk there from my home and I always buy more than I intend when I shop there. Apparently she has reconfigured the whole store to a warehouse. I dislike shopping for fabric by mail.