Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Talking Books

Talking book playerLet all my gen Z and millennial friends gather ‘round while I tell a riveting tale of life before hand held computers.  Way back when I was a kid in the 1900s, I had a record player in my room and lots of records to keep me entertained.  It’s hard to believe that a little kid could handle placing the needle on the record (and I know it’s hard for some of you to even visualize “placing a needle on a record” but we did and it worked) and not destroying it but my sisters and I seemed to manage it and spent years listening to songs and books.  
But before that, I had the latest and greatest in technology: the talking book.  Do you remember this this?  Fisher Price had their act together around 1980 when they made this foolproof device.  
You bought books that had a magic little circle on each page and when you put this thing on it, and
Talking book
pressed one of the brown buttons, it read aloud.  This was no robotic voice, it was a pre recorded audio book that was somehow impressed into the little circles and this thing would let it play!  Just the words for that page were on the circle on each page.  Anyone could do it.  Chubby toddler hands, arthritic grandparent hands.  You just put the player in that green circle and it would somehow play it.  I think it was somehow like a record.  
This came up recently because I mentioned Gertrude Mcfuzz, a Dr. Seuss character.  I vividly remember the book and the page where she had too many feathers and couldn’t fly.
This page traumatized me.  I hated how the other birds had to carry her and everyone was miserable.  

When I mentioned it to my sister, she said she never heard of her and the more I described it, the more we wondered why.  It was a very strong memory of a book that I didn’t like to read because I’d get a stomach ache just thinking about it.

I googled Gertrude McFuzz and one thing led to another and when I saw this page with the little green circle,  4  decades of a memory crashing through to 2021.  I almost remember what I was wearing the day I heard this book, the memory is that strong.

Gertrude McFuzz isn’t her own book.  She appears in Yertle the Turtle, which I know I’ve never read.  And, she’s a main character in Seussical, the musical, which I’ve never seen.  So how do I know Gertrude and why did she upset me?  

I hadn’t read the book and no one had read it to me.  I had played it with my magical device and it was the woman’s voice reading it that I remember.  I was bothered by Gertrude eating the berries to get more feathers and I didn’t like how the birds were like slaves carrying her home.

Oddly, Fisher  Price created a book that is her story, as a stand alone book, and narrated it for the Talk to Me line of books.  If you google, you’ll find a whole collection of books and I bet some of you will suddenly remember!  I didn’t recognize any of the other images that came up but I do remember having several of these books.  How ahead of the game was Fisher Price back then ?  Before audiobooks on cassettes or CDs.  Before expensive cassette and DVD players.  

I’ve never asked anyone if they had one because it was something I’d forgotten about but now I wonder who else had this? 

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Frozen in Stainless Mode

My refrigerator died
When my 25+ year old refrigerator gave up the ghost this week, I had to buy a new refrigerator.  I’m a big fan of if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, so I haven’t even considered replacing any of these appliances that are all 2 decades old or more.  Living in an old house, size is a serious issue and with all of the perks and newfangled gadgetry these days, trying to choose an appliance is like cramming for a final.

Saturday morning, the old refrigerator had let the butter get soft (that sounds like a new way to say someone is near death, doesn’t it) and something in the freezer melted, but not everything.  We took that as a hint to get started on the idea of buying a new one.  I trekked off just to look at what’s out there, seriously doubtful  that I would find what I want, in a size that fits the doorways of this old house.  The new standard refrigerator is 36 inches wide and there’s no way that would fit the current space, nevermind trying to find a door to get it through.

My requirements are simple: a) not stainless b) bottom freezer c) single refrigerator door.

A)I just don’t like the look of stainless.  It’s an old house and while my decor may not be consistent and is mostly questionable, stainless just screams “I don’t belong here!”  I wanted beige.  Almond.  Cream.  Bisque. Apparently I’m the last soul on earth looking for almond and no one wants black or white so they aren’t stocking them.

B)  I like a bottom freezer so the top has more space for refrigerated goods.  We have a stand alone freezer so freezer space in my refrigerator isn’t a big deal to me.  I freeze a lot of glass jars and bowls so having the bottom freezer reduces the likelihood of them slipping out of the freezer and breaking themselves, my foot or the tile floor.

C) I am capable of getting my hand caught in double refrigerator doors, no matter how they are made.  I can’t explain how it happens but it’s happened enough that I hate double doors.

At my first stop, I discovered that appliances are still not in stock and hard to come by, so when I found a few models that would fit and had at least one of requirements, I sat in my car and googled the model numbers until I found a place that would deliver within 3 days.

Good thing because by Tuesday, the old refrigerator had written its final will and testament and had become nothing but a giant cooler, stocked with ice packs.

Behold, my entry to the 21st century.

Stainless refrigerator
Ok, maybe I’m only halfway there because of my almond dishwasher right next to it.  That will be my next replacement because it’s also doing strange antics signifying it’s just about done.  And the stove is getting close to 20 years old so I’m sure there’s room in the grave for that one too.

And now I’m locked into the stainless mode for the next 2 decades. 

Who am I kidding.  Today’s appliances last 10 years.  

Monday, February 15, 2021

My Fabric Garage

Years ago, I bought these hanging sweater holders to organize my fabric.  I call it the Fabric Garage.  .  The  quilting cottons are in rainbow order and in the middle, I have some knits and wovens for clothing.

Fabric organization

Recently, a friend asked me if I’d like some fabrics that she didn’t have time to use.  I never turn down fabric!  I figured it would be a few pieces, maybe a bag full.  It was one bag and one box but I never expected all of this.


Once it was all washed, dried and ironed, I brought it to join the rest in my Fabric Garage.  I organize mostly by the main color in a fabric with one pile of very specific prints that don’t fit anywhere else.  I also have a bookcase with bins for scraps that are too small to bother putting in the bigger holders.  The bins of scraps are in Rainbow order too.  It’s what I do.


I always wash, dry and iron fabric before putting it away because I don’t want to have to wait to do that once I decide on a project.  I wasn’t expecting to have such full bins after this haul but wow, do I have a lot of awesome fabric now!    I’m excited because I have a few scrap quilts percolating in my mind and now I have so much to choose from!

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Being A Responsible Blogger

I’ve learned so much in my decade of blogging: from how to select a theme, to what a widgets, to how to embed code.  I love all of the things I’ve figured out and how easy blogging has become over the years.

Something not a lot of people consider is accessibility.  I’ve learned a lot about the limits of accessibility and how important it is so that everyone can access what you’re putting out there.  In my position in technology, I have to be sure our school websites are accessible.  You’d be surprised how much still in inaccessible to people with disabilities even with all of the amazing technology we have.  Yes, there are screen readers and text to speech, but as far as we’ve come with these technologies, they are not always fabulous and in so many cases, they are laborious and tedious.

As a blogger, one thing you can do is alt text to your pictures.  This allows a screen reader to explain the pictures when hovered over.  It will say whatever you type, so be clear in what you write.  You might have noticed this on Instagram lately.  I see a lot of auto captioning now in videos and it’s because people are choosing to allow it to auto caption so people can read or be read to.  Again, it’s not perfect and mistakes abound but it’s a step in the right direction.  

Explaining how to add alt text
I know this will astound you, but I use plain on Blogger for this amazing blog.  When I add a picture, I get this:
I simply type a brief statement about what is in the picture and when touched or hovered over, the text will appear or be read aloud.  It isnt perfect, but it’s something that takes an extra minute that you can do to help those who don’t have the same access that you might  have.

Sunday, February 7, 2021

The Best Way To Draw On Your Fabric

There are lots of tools out there for marking fabric and I’ve tried most of them: chalk, special clickable pens with disappearing ink, Crayola  washable markers.  For a long time, I thought I could just pin at the marks on a pattern and call it a day.  But, when serging knits, pins become tricky business, especially if you put the pedal to the metal as I’m inclined to do.  They make clips that you can use instead of pins, but particularly on cuffs or neckbands, they are more of a hassle than necessary.

Enter my new favorite way to mark fabric.  That’s right!  Raid your child’s playroom and get all of the washable markers and claim them as yours.  They are bright, rich colors and I have never had them not wash off a fabric.  Instantly. Without even needing soap!  I no longer hesitate to make all kinds of marks, lines, dots and even and R or L on a piece if I know I’m going to confuse them.  These are the regular fat markers but the thin ones would be just as nice.  This set is called ultra clean washable, so maybe that’s why they disappear so quickly.  I love marking fabric now!  Maybe I wouldn’t use these on precious bridal gown fabric just in case, but I’ve used them without hesitation on all of my me makes and I
Haven’t had any trouble yet.

But what to do if the fabric is dark, heavy and just won’t let the colors show?

Chalk pencils
Enter the previously suggested method of using chalk.  You can use chalk for a chalkboard (if you can even find that anymore) or the tailors chalk you can find at sewing supply stores or you can get these chalk pencils which I really like.  They sharpen like a pencil- I use a handheld eyeliner pencil sharpener so I don’t ruin my electric one.  Because they are wooden, with chalk on the inside,  you don’t end up with chalky hands.  Best of all, It’s like they were meant for denim, darks, and heavy weights.  They show up so well! And like the markers, the chalk will wash off.  Or you can just brush it off.

I found that the disappearing ink pens disappear too quickly for me.  Because they are designed to either evaporate on their own after 48 hours or with water, when ironing, they vanish.  The washable markers mentioned above don’t disappear unless I am using a ton of steam or spray water directly on them. 

As every home ec teacher just have bellowed from the rafters (I have no idea because I never have home ec) you really need to mark your fabric for the best precision and there are a ton of options out there.  Washable markers have been a game changer for me.  And I’ll leave you with a hard learned lesson:

Marked underwear pattern
When you’re being really smart and you mark fabric for underwear, choose something other than a red marker  🤯.  And don’t use brown, either.  And always wash them before wearing just to make sure there is no color left at the crotch markings.  And refrain from red thread on your underwear unless your fabric or elastic  is red.  No one needs that trauma.