May 30, 2018

Whatever Happened to Fountain Pens?

I saw the end of a tv show yesterday that ended with someone writing a letter with a fountain pen. When I was in grade school, or maybe it was junior high, we had to use a fountain pen. They say it makes it easier to learn cursive writing, which wasn't even taught in school when my girls were in grade school. What they didn't say is that using a fountain pen isn't as easy as using a ballpoint pen.

I remember a girl named Susan who used to doodle on her book covers with her fountain pen. It was graffiti before graffiti had a name. Usually her name was in big puffy letters with zentangle-like designs spiraling around it. I thought that was pretty cool, so tried it on my book cover. Here's where the part about knowing how to use a fountain pen comes into play. If you turn the nib at a slight angle, and hold the pen lightly, ink glides across the page as you write. But if you hold the nib parallel to the direction you are writing, the nib separates and a big blog of ink covers your page. Same thing if you press too hard. And that's what happened to my book cover when I crossed my t. That didn't look cool at all. So I tried to disguise the blob by making it look like a sun on the end of my t. I drew a circle around the blob and made little rays all around the circle. Then it liked more like an eye than the sun, and not a pretty eye either. It was kind of creepy looking. I tried making it more eyelike by making it bigger and bigger, and finally I had a giant creappy eye covering my book cover.

Since book covers weren't sold in stores then, and we were only issued one book cover per book by our teachers, I had to carry that book around with me for months. It became known as the cyclops book and my friends would turn it over, eye down, whenever I forgot to hide it against another book. One day when I had the book open, reading along while the teacher talked, she stopped mid-sentence and asked what that was on my book cover. Everyone turned to look at me, which was embarrassing, but later one of the boys asked if he could trade covers with me. I did. I'd rather have a book cover that said John Phillips than have a big eye on it. I didn't try to embellish my book covers after that.

Getting back to fountain pens though. The kind we used had ink cartridges. The cartridges were clear plastic cylinders about two inches long, filled with ink. To put in a new cartridge, the pen was unscrewed in the center, and then the old cartridge was pulled out. There was sharp point inside the pen that pierced the end of the cartridge and let ink flow down the nib. If the cartridge wasn't put in with a quick, hard push, ink would spill out of the cartridge inside the pen and then leak out around the nib. We always knew when someone tried to ease the cartridge in because the hand that was holding the nib end of the pen was covered with ink.

Most of us carried the pens (we had a blue one and a red one) in a zipper bag in our notebook. Sometimes the pens leaked, but the zipper bag contained it. But sometimes, a boy (I say boys because girls had to wear dresses then) would put one in his pocket, and the pen would leak, especially if they put it in a back pocket of their pants and sat on it. Then, they had an ink spot on their pocket, and it it was a full cartridge, the leak would go halfway down their leg. Ink did not wash out either. Once on a dress or pair of pants, it was there forever.

On this tv show I watched yesterday, the woman writing the letter had beautiful penmenship. Her pen floated across the page. It almost made me want to write with a fountain pen again. Until I remembered the cyclops.

May 28, 2018

Blogger Problem with Comment Notifications

I check my email several times a day, and I had just about decided that having a separate blog for stitching was not a good idea because I haven't had a comment since May 24 on either blog. Then I thought to look in my dashboard at the comments, and there WERE comments! I know I didn't change my notifications but I thought I must have done something when I backed up my main blog to move it here and to wordpress.

But then I checked my barndominium blog, and did a test comment, and didn't get a notification. To check further, I checked another blog I set up when I was trying out a new idea, and it has a yahoo email while this block has microsoft. Nope, no notifications from it either.

If you are having a problem with notifications, would you comment here? And if you are having a problem AND find a solution, would you definitely post that here? I've posted the problem on a blogger support forum but so far no response.

Several bloggers have posted that they can't post on blogs with embedded comments.  However, with embedded comments, you can check the box to have comments emailed to you.  With a popup comment box, you don't have that option.   I hope Blogger and Wordpress get this figured out soon.

May 25, 2018

Gifts for Buddy

Yesterday's mail brought a package to Buddy. He would like to write today's post.

I want to thank Dianne for the wonderful gifts. Mom tried to take a video, but she touched the record button when she set the phone down to open the box. I was busy grooming myself and not looking at all respectable when I noticed the phone pointed at me. I froze, one leg in the air, staring at the camera. No, I thought, she wouldn't do that. But yes, she did. I immediately demanded that she delete the video. So all we have now are photos.

The first things out of the box were balls with bells inside. Mom placed them all around me but I feigned disinterest. I remember having balls like this once before. They are so much fun to play with in the middle of the night. Mom and Dad will never hear them now that that they sleep in the trailer. Then there were a couple of little fish filled with catnip. I love catnip and I snuggled against my little fishies.

Next was a little wand with streamers on it.  Mom or Dad has to play with it too and that makes it more fun.

 The last was the best.  It is a big feathered toy on a string. I love, love, love feathered toys!

Oh boy!  What is this feathered thing?

It's a pink and blue bird and I am the mighty hunter.

Got it!

Game over.  I won!

Thank you Dianne!

(By the way, I didn't delete the video.)

May 23, 2018

Cat Training

Anyone who has shared their home with a cat knows exactly how concrete is made: three parts cat litter to one part cat urine!

I don't know about you, but I dread cleaning the litter box. This is how it goes. Grab the plastic scooper, take a deep breath, and slide the scooper across the bottom of the litter box until it come to an abrupt halt when it collides with the cat concrete. Exhale as I step away to take another deep breath and ram the scooper against the mound until it either gives way or the scooper handle breaks. It's only lately that I started using the metal garden hoe to break things loose before starting the ordeal.

Not two minutes after I have cleaned the litter box, Buddy feels the need to make more concrete. Every. Single. Time. And if I have just filled the litter box with new litter, he won't get into the box. Instead, he straddles the edges of the box while he does his business. When he thinks the litter box needs to be cleaned, he gets my attention by pooping outside the box. If I catch him in the act, he feigns contrition and pretends to rake litter over the offending matter.

I thought about getting a self-cleaning litter box and mentioned that to a friend who has a cat. She gave me a dubious look and said she has one if I want it, but that her cat didn't like it. Her cat didn't just dislike it, she was terrified of it.  After using it once, she tore out of the litter box in a frenzy, climbed Sheila's brand new curtains, and left a trail of liquid fear behind her. Apparently, those litter boxes are activated by the cat leaving the litter box. Leaving, but not quite out. That litter box cost her $1500, which was the cost of the litter box and replacing her curtains. I decided to pass. Buddy freaks out when we roll the trash can near him, and it doesn't have a motor.

So I've been thinking, why can't I train Buddy to use a toilet? Not just any toilet, certainly not a toilet that we use, but a specially made cat toilet. It could even be a composting toilet. Best of all, it wouldn't require scooping, just dumping, and without clumping cat litter, it wouldn't form mounds cemented to the bottom. But first, Buddy has to be trained.

There comes a time in every cat person's life when they realize that it's not so much us training the cat as it is the cat training us. Then we have to work that to our advantage. Take Buddy for instance. When he first came to us, it was obvious from the beginning that he craved human affection. At first he would only let us scratch the top of his head, and when we quit petting him, he slashed out in a cat mini-tantrum. I stopped that behavior by growling an ANKH sound at him. When he was behaving, or at least not misbehaving, I would tell him what a good boy he was in my most soothing voice. Soon he came running any time we were outside and raised his neck for some scratching. Then he would become limp as a noodle and fall to the ground. Literally, he would topple over like a fainting goat, yet he still wanted us to scratch his neck as he lay there.

Bending to the ground got old fast, so I started snapping my fingers over a chair or something and then picked him up and placed him in the chair. Eventually, he started jumping up when I snapped my fingers. That made petting him so much easier, and eventually, he quit falling over from the sheer joy of being petted. He also began training us. When we quit petting him, he squeaked out a little meow, and it was so pathetic that we began petting again. When we figured out that trick, he reached his head up to our hand and began petting himself against the hand, or he lifted his paw, wrapped it around a hand (without claws) and pulled it to him. Now he walks up to one of us, usually Hubby, stands on his hind legs and pats the arm with hand on the keyboard. That's his signal to stop typing and start petting. He is totally in control of petting time now. The only time it is useful for us is when we need to take him somewhere. We know that as soon as we sit in a chair, he will run to us so we don't have to look for him.

Dinnertime is another area where we seem to have lost control. When he was an outdoor cat, we fed him a bit of dry food every day. He probably didn't eat a quarter cup every day, and no matter how much or how little we fed him, he always left a bit in the bowl. Looking back, I think he was leaving some so he wouldn't starve later. Now that he has been a house cat for awhile, he seldom leaves an emergency ration. We were keeping his dry food bowl full and giving him a spoonful of canned cat food in the evening. Then I made the mistake of giving him some leftover tuna one day at lunch. From then on, he was at the door at lunchtime and wouldn't leave us alone until he had something to eat that wasn't dry cat food. He knows that if there is a plate in our hand, it means a treat for him. Heaven forbid we carry our lunch across his doman to eat outside. His plaintive meowing gets positively frantic if we pass by his feeding spot without putting down the plate. The good thing about this is that all we have to do is put his food in his carrier and he won't fuss about going in it. Shut the gate and we are off to the vet.  If you've read my previous posts about Buddy, you remember that getting him into a crate used to be a nightmare.

Now he has figured out when we have been out to eat and have brought home leftovers, or as he considers it, a kitty bag. He knows what a can of catfood looks like, and he can tell the difference between a bag of dry catfood and a bag of anything else. He is pretty smart. But is he smart enough to jump up to a toilet and stay there?

A couple of years ago, I thought he could learn to jump through a hoop on command. He already knew to jump at the snap of fingers, how hard could it be? Cats on tv do it. Not having the fancy hoops that motivate tv cats, I used a wire wreath form.  At first, I held it up just off the ground with him in front of it, and snapped my fingers on the other side. He walked around it. I tried again and blocked the sides with boxes. He sat there. I finally pulled him through, and then gushed praises over him and gave him a treat and petted him.

A few hours later, I tried it again, without the boxes. This time he went through the hoop and demanded his treat. The next day, I raised the hoop and he stepped over it to get his treat. But when I raised it high enough that he actually had to jump through it, he tried to go under. I wrapped some strips of cloth around the wreath and tied some so they hung to the ground. After that, he jumped through the hoop. But I must admit he didn't leap through the air the way tv cats do it. Even with a running start, he will slow to a walk, fix an annoyed expression on his face, and hop half-heartedly through the hoop.

Still, it was a start. I tried putting a box in front of the hoop so he had to really jump, but he only climbed the box and walked through the hoop. Then I had the idea to have him jump onto a bar stool. I didn't even need the hoop. The first time I snapped my fingers, he leapt onto the bar stool. But then he jumped right back off. The next time I gave him a treat as soon as he jumped onto the bar stool, but he knocked it off and jumped off to get it. But over the last few days, he is waiting on the bar stool until he gets his treat. Jumping onto small seat? Check. Balance on the seat for thirty seconds? Check!

Wonder how do I get him to poop on command?

May 21, 2018

I Have a New Quilting and Sewing Blog

I thought about doing this a long time ago, but I finally decided the quilting and sewing posts needed to be on their own blog. Eventually, I'll move all the old posts over. If you only visit my blog to see the quilting, you can bookmark my new blog or get to from here.

If you followed a link to a quilting post and can't find it, look at my other blog:

Plain Stitches

May 15, 2018

How to Find the Expiration Date of Dr Pepper and Snapple

My drink of choice is Pepsi, and I used to drink it all the time. I mean ALL the time. Now I'm trying to eliminate caffeine and soda from my diet, but I still have one every few months. Hubby, on the other hand, loves Dr Pepper. In fact, his entire family loves Dr Pepper. Last year, I bought several 2 liter bottles of each that were flat, no fizz at all. From then on, I started reading the expiration dates on bottles before buying them.

The expiration date on Pepsi and most other drinks are easy to read. There's a stamp on the bottle or lid with a common abbreviation for month and then the day and year.

Finding the expiration of Dr Pepper is a little harder. There is a code on the lid, but I couldn't read it. Or at least I couldn't until the I talked to a man stocking Dr Pepper at the grocery store. He whipped out a decoder card and let me snap a picture so I could use it when I needed to read the code, and now you can have it too. It's not a secret code and it wasn't shared with me in confidence. In fact, once you see it, you'll see how easy it is. The black lines didn't photograph well, but you can fill it in easily. The first column is A-M, without an I because it looks too much like J. Second column is January-December. Third column is J-M,A-H, again no I, and so on with the next columns.

For this blog post, I bought the bottle pictured above. And on the lid are a bunch of numbers.

Now here's the code breaker.

The code on my lid is D8119DP3; under that code is 15:54. I'm going to divide that first group of numbers. D-8-119-DP-3. D means it was made in April. 8 is the last number of the year made, which would be 2018. 119 is the day of the year it was made. The 119th day of 2018 was April 29. There are a lot of date converters online. I used Epoch Converter. I think DP3 is the plant and shift number and 15:54 is the time (military time) it was made. He didn't explain that part to me because all I really wanted to know was when it was made and when it expires.

Now for the expiration date you have to know the shelf life of the product.
  • A product with Aspartame or Aspartame/AceK blends, like diet Dr Pepper, has a shelf life of 3 months.
  • Any product in a plastic bottle has a shelf life of 3 months.
  • A product with sugar or high fructose corn syrup in can or glass bottle has shelf life of 9 months.
  • The 6 month and 12 month codes are for Snapple.
For the man stocking new product and removing expired product, this code is easy. If he were stocking in April, he would look at this chart and remove anything diet or in plastic bottles with code M (December) and older.

Knowing this code now, my Dr Pepper will expire July 29, 2018. But I'm sure Hubby will drink it before then.

Check out Part Two specifically for canned Dr. Pepper.

May 09, 2018

Build Your Own Garage Door Screens for Less Than $60

They aren't pretty, they aren't motorized, and they aren't built-in. But they are easy to build, sturdier than fiberglass, they're cheap, and best of all, they keep the bugs out and the cat in.

When we started talking about building a barndominium, my dream garage had garage doors with built-in-screens. Then I looked at the price of those garage doors and quickly marked that off the list. In our last house, we had an air conditioner in the garage. It worked well, but at a high cost. We wanted our barndominium to be efficient and cheaper to live in, so an air conditioner in the garage was out. Besides, with four big garage doors in a drive through garage, we probably wouldn't be able to find one that could make a noticeable difference. Last spring and early summer, we kept the garage doors open most of the time and with the cross breeze, the temperature inside wasn't bad. But the flies were beyond bad. That's what happens when neighbors have livestock, and most of our neighbors have cattle. I tried fly strips, plastic bags filled with water, and bug spray. All were completely worthless. We had to have screens.

I knew from our last house that grasshoppers can eat through fiberglass screens, so I began looking for some kind of metal screen material. There is stainless steel screening but it is pricey and not available locally. At Lowes, I found a roll of aluminum screening. It looked like it had been returned, and didn't have a brand label or price on it. Because no one knew what it was or if it was all there, they told me I could have it for $30. Sold! From the website, it looks like it might be one that normally sells for $120.

The screens pictured above are 76 inches tall and 41-1/2 inches wide.  Most wood window screens are made with a much thinner wood, and if you are going to leave your screens in place, you can use a 1x2 and it will be much lighter.  I used 1-1/2 x 1-1/2 inch wood for two reasons.  It was cheaper, it fit my garage door, and it's sturdy enough to take a lot of abuse.  Moving screens in and out of a garage door opening every day during the summer, having a garage door pulled down on them, leaning them against the wall, and the inevitable falling to the floor is a lot of abuse.

A 2x4 is 1-1/2 inches wide which is exactly the size of the channel between my garage door track and the door frame.  Yours should be the same, but measure it before starting.  My opening on two doors is 124-1/2 inches wide and I made three screens for each door. I first made screens that were 62 inches tall and 41-1/2 inches wide. I wanted to be able to turn two on their sides on windy days when less air was wanted. But Hubby couldn't see out when he was standing up and wanted me to make the next set 72 inches tall. I made one and had to use a cross brace to keep the frame equal in the center. Hubby didn't like the look of that one and the weight was too much for me to handle by myself. So we compromised on the 76 inch frames. I can install them by myself but I can barely reach the top so taking them down is hard for me. So those are some things to consider before you start building.

To make these screens, you will need:
25 feet of screening that is 48 inches wide Nine 2x4x8s 3 inch exterior wood screws Kreg jig (optional) Kreg screws 2-1/2" (also optional, and adjust screw size to the size of your wood) Staple gun and staples (I used a hand held stapler) Stain or paint (optional) I ripped each 2x4 lengthwise into 1-1/2 inch pieces. Making them square wasn't really necessary and I could easily have just ripped the boards in half. If you decide to make your own screens and opt to do that, you'll have to recalculate the next measurements. I then cut those lengths into the following pieces:
six pieces 76 inches (I made the first one 77+ inches and adjusted it down to 76 after I fitted it to the inner frame with screen.
six pieces 73 inches
six pieces 38 inches (Again, I made this a little bigger first and adjusted it down to 38.)
six pieces 35 inches

Assemble by making the inner frame first, long ends outside as pictured.
I put the original rounded edges on the inside to make it easier to attach the screening.
I used a Kreg jig because I was working alone and I think there is less chance of splitting wood with it.

Cut the screen about 4 inches bigger all around than your frame.  The extra length will give you something to hold onto as you attach it to the frame.
Start at one of the long ends and staple the screening to the outside of the frame.
Then do the opposite end. With aluminum screening, we found that you don't have to pull hard, just enough to make it flat. If you pull too hard it will tear where it wraps the frame. Unlike fiberglass, it won't sag. There are some permanent fold marks in ours but they aren't noticeable unless someone stands next to them. Then staple the sides.

Next, assemble the outer frame, rounded sides out.  The shorter pieces should end even with the outside edge of the inner frame and screening.  If you cut your piece long, you can adjust it now.
When you have three sides together, place it around the screened inner frame before attaching the fourth side.  It's much harder to get the finished outer frame around the inner frame if you don't.

Your completed frame should look like this.
With 3 inch screws (longer if you ripped your 2x4 in half instead of ripping into 1-1/2 inch pieces), attach your inner frame to your outer frame.  I put mine where the red arrows are.

To install the screens, I made some turn latches out of scrap wood.  In the above picture, you can see two of them on top.  That is the middle frame and it is different than the outside frames.  Each of the outside frames have two latches one side, front and back, to hold the middle frame in place.  I originally put two latches, front and back, on top of each frame but found that that isn't necessary.  One set of latches on the middle frame is enough to hold it in place in a stiff wind.  I put a washer on each side of the latch to make it turn easier.

The smooth side of the outer frames slips into the channel of the garage door.  See the arrows at top and bottom of that channel in the upper left photo.  The upper right photo shows the frame in the channel.  When all three fames are in place, the garage door is pulled down on top of the frames.

When both outer frames are in their channels, I pull out the side latches on the outside of the frames.  I couldn't get a decent picture from inside the garage, but this is what it would look like from inside.  Then place the middle frame between the outer frames, and pull out the latches on the inside of the frames to lock the middle frame in place.

Pull the garage door down, and pull up a latch on both sides of the garage door.  If the wind isn't blowing more than 10mph, latching to the garage door isn't necessary.

Over the last year, the wood shrank a little.  In the first picture against the light, you can see the gaps.  I have some rubber window seal but haven't used it yet.

If I didn't have a cat, I would have put a magnetic screen in the middle frame. But if Buddy can figure out how to open a hinged screen door, I'm afraid those magnetic ones would be his chance at freedom.

I hope you find this useful, and if you make any screens, please let me know.  I'd love to see yours and know if you have made any improvements.

May 03, 2018

Before The Storm

Driving home today, I saw these clouds but I only had my cell phone. The delima, pull off the road and take a picture with my cell or rush home to get my good camera. I took the picture with my cell phone.

Then I went home to get my camera. But by the time I got back, the clouds had moved on to the next barn.

Linking to:
Skywatch Friday

May 02, 2018

All is Well

It was with a great sigh of relief that I typed words into my laptop this morning. In addition to following the instructions online for what do when you spill something on a laptop, I placed a fan under it for 24 hours. It was really humid yesterday and I thought I might need to give it another day, but with a fan, how could it not be dry? Lesson learned. From now on, my drink will be in a bottle with screw-on lid.

Yesterday, I posted on Hubby's desktop computer and then had to pay a couple of bills and it was doing all sorts of weird things, typing double letters and just randomly not showing letters I typed. That was especially frustrating when typing in passwords that only showed **** instead of the letters and numbers. But I got my bills paid and then called Hubby and told him to go buy himself a new computer. When he got home, he confessed that he had spilled something on his keyboard also, and it was a sweet drink too, so that is probably what caused all the sticking and doubled letters. All he needs is a new keyboard. Bottled water for him from now on too!

We're expecting storms tonight and tomorrow. I hope it breaks the oppressive humidity we've had the last two days. It has made quilting a hot affair. I am on a roll though and ready to find border fabric for my May UFO. But first I have to take MIL to the doctor's office and then stop by Home Depot, the bank, the grocery store, and maybe even Hobby Lobby. A trip to a big town means many stops.

I glanced at my post count the other day and had just published my 996th post.  I have been trying to think of something big to do for my 1000th post. Stay tuned.