365 Days Handmade

Making life a better place, one day at a time


Day 20/365: Dismissed!


I returned to the courtroom this morning for jury duty, just as the judge ordered last week Friday.  He informed us that both parties had decided to settle out of court.  So he was dismissing the case, and we were free to go.  Hooray!

On the way home, I stopped at Picking Daisies to check out their fabric sale.  I saw this pre-cut fabric and immediately thought of this fabulous placemat I recently made.  Of course I had to bring these bad boys home with me.  They’re the perfect size for napkins and will make for the most badass dining companions.


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Day 19/365: Toe-Up Self-Striping Sock


On the drive back down to Ventura today, Sean and I stopped at the best independent bookstore in Santa Barbara.  He went straight to the fiction section, and I remained at the front of the store.  I was browsing through the blank journals and telling myself not to buy another one when the phone at the front desk rang.  It was only several feet away from me.  The cashier answered the phone and even though I didn’t catch his exact words, I could tell from his response that he was talking to a customer who had a question.  Then I clearly heard him say, “Are you in the store right now?”

To my right, not ten steps down from me, a woman stood in the aisle with a cell phone to her ear.  “Yes,” she said.  “I’m standing here in the Health section.”

I looked above her head and sure enough, she was standing underneath the sign that read Health.

To my left, the cashier said into the telephone, “Okay, I’ll send someone over there to help you.”

He hung up and said something to a second store employee standing nearby.  Moments later, that guy walked past me and headed toward the woman standing in the Health section.  I took a good long stare at her, because I had to see exactly what sort of person would make a phone call to the front desk of a bookstore when she was within both walking and shouting distance of said front desk.

“Oh, good,” she said to the employee when he reached her.  “I can’t seem to find the bibles.”

“We moved them over here,” he said, leading her to the section of bookshelves right at my back, which was also in the direct line of vision of the cashier who had just answered the phone.  “We needed to move them closer to where we could see them.”

“You don’t mean…?”  The woman’s voice trailed off.

“Yes,” the store employee said.  “People have been taking them.”




Day 18/365: What Happiness Tastes Like


Last year, I quit drinking soda.  Even though I love me some cold Coca-Cola, I made a conscious decision to stop drinking all carbonated beverages.  People have said to me, “Just drink diet Coke!”  But it’s not the same.  First of all, diet Coke doesn’t taste half as good as the real stuff.  It is a poor substitute.  And second, we all know that soda is bad for you.  So if I am going to consume something that will rot my teeth, make me fat, and leach out the calcium in my bones, then I might as well go all the way.  If I’m gonna have a soda, it’s gonna be Coca-Cola, and if I’m gonna eat bacon, it ain’t gonna be soy or turkey.  None of that low-fat, non-fat, lite, sugar-free, calorie-free nonsense for me.

So anyway, yes, I made a conscious decision to quit drinking soda.  It was a smart decision, because I can’t drink a Coca-Cola without wanting some Cheetos or kettle cooked potato chips or a hamburger and fries to go with it.  Coca-Cola is my gateway drug.

I switched to iced tea, which wasn’t so hard because Sean grew up in the South and he makes the best pitchers of fresh-brewed tea.  We drank gallons of the stuff, cold and unsweetened, and so much of it that I started buying different brands and flavors of tea bags for variety.  Then I discovered Lupicia.  If you have never tried fresh-brewed Lupicia loose leaf tea on ice, you are missing out.  Come over to my house, and I will pour you a glass.  Seriously.  This stuff is so good that it is worth the significant portion of my grocery budget that I pay for it.

Since I am such a regular customer, Lupicia sends me their newsletter every month with a Fresh Tea Sample.  Our pantry shelf of assorted teas includes several of these tea samples.  Sean was washing dishes this morning as I surveyed the shelf, trying to decide what flavor tea to drink next.  There were a lot of choices.  Then the tea sample packets caught my eye.  Among them were Muscat Decaf, Matcha Kirara Rice Tea, and January’s Tea of the Month, Happiness.

I picked up the packet and looked at the label.  “Sean, what do you think Happiness tastes like?” I asked.

He didn’t bother to look up from the bowl he was rinsing.  In his typical dry, deadpan manner, he replied, “I think there’s your answer right there.”



Day 17/365: Second Completed Pair of Socks for 2015


For Christmas, Sean bought me yards of cute fun fabric (including this wrestling mask print), and I got him a skateboard.  He actually selected the board, trucks, wheels, and bearings, designing it specifically to go fast around the hills in our neighborhood.  The guy at the skate shop assembled it, and then I paid for it.  They packed and boxed it up, and then we took it home where I wrapped the whole shebang in Christmas paper and set it under the tree.

The Monday after Christmas, we were up and about, lazily considering our breakfast options and discussing what we would have that morning.

“I can make eggs and potatoes,” Sean offered.  “But we’re out of eggs.”

“I don’t feel like driving,” I said.  “Do you feel like going to the store?”

“Sure,” he said.  “I’ll go.”

It didn’t occur to me at that point in time that he didn’t put up a fuss, because usually he disliked driving to the store as much as I did.  If I’d thought about it, that would have been a red flag that he was up to something.  But I didn’t, and I kept sewing, or knitting, or scrolling through Facebook, which are usually my top three activities to do when I’m sitting around the house on my day off from work.



(Can you see the sea otters in the background?)


About forty-five minutes passed, and I thought it was pretty strange that he was taking so long to make the one mile down to the supermarket and back.  But I wasn’t too worried.  He’d probably chosen to drive to another local grocery store a few more miles away.  Several more minutes passed, and then he was coming in through the front door with his backpack and baseball cap on, looking sweaty and suspiciously like somebody who did not just drive his car to the store.

“What’d you do?” I said.  “Ride your bike?”

“No.”  He started unzipping his backpack to remove the groceries.  “I took the skateboard.”

That’s when I noticed the side of his pants looked like they’d just been dragged through the street at about twenty-five miles per hour.  “Did you take a spill?”

“Yeah, it’s no big deal…  Look!  The eggs aren’t broken!”



(The ripples in the water really are sea otters. Click for a bigger picture.)


He made us breakfast (a really good meal of over-medium eggs with country-style fried potatoes), and then I went back to doing my thing and he decided to watch one of his Netflix DVDs.  The movie was only halfway through when he got up and said, “I kind of am actually in a little pain.”

I stopped the sewing machine.  “Do you need me to take you to the hospital?”

“No… But maybe to Urgent Care.”

We went to Urgent Care and sure enough… the eggs weren’t broken, but he couldn’t say the same for his elbow.






Day 16/365: Stripes


As I mentioned previously, I was summoned to serve jury duty this Friday.  I spent most of today sitting in a courtroom.  During the morning orientation in the juror assembly room, we were informed that the county was at an all-time high of 184 cases waiting to go to trial.  So of course it was inevitable that my name was selected for a juror pool.  I reported to the courtroom and sat through proceedings, and at the end of the day the judge ordered us to return on Tuesday because Monday is a holiday.

The good news is that I completed the mate to the toe-up purple hand-dyed merino wool sock that you’ve already seen in previous posts.  I also had the above orange and black striped sock that I started in Morro Bay and brought down to Ventura with me.  I got all the way to the heel today, but I wasn’t able to take a good photo because the sun was already setting when I got home.

I was able to take this photo this morning in the juror assembly room, though.  So you can see how my day started:  I got the seat right behind the trash can.

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Day 15/365: Planning

Breakfast of champions.  Recognize the placemat?

The breakfast of champions. Recognize the placemat?

I’m up early this morning because today is going to be a long one.  I probably won’t get back to the computer until maybe fifteen, sixteen hours from now, and I wanted to make sure that I completed Day 15’s post.

Today I have to sit through eight hours of a mandatory inservice training.  My colleagues who already attended the training told me that it will be painfully boring and to bring something to keep me awake.  You know I’ll be knitting.  The other thing about these trainings is that everyone always wants to sit in the back, and if you show up late, you end up having to sit in the very front under the instructor’s nose.  I learned my lesson the first time I arrived for a training at ten minutes to eight, and the whole room was already filled.  So these days, every time we’ve got a mandatory inservice, I make sure I’m there at least half an hour early.  (Even then, I’m usually not the first person there.)  Anyway, I don’t know about you, but I have to go to the bathroom about every two minutes, so I like to sit by the door every time I’m in a classroom.

The training should be done at 1600 hours (or 4 PM), but if we’re lucky (and most likely we won’t be), the trainers will let us out a few minutes early.  I’ll get into the car and start the 150-mile drive south to the Ventura homestead, because on Friday I have to report for jury duty.  That will be another eight hours of all-day sitting around, if I don’t get called into a courtroom for jury selection.  Some people think that just because I work in a prison, I’m automatically dismissed from jury duty.  Not true.  I’ve had to go through the selection process before, and it sucked.  I thought about skipping out this time, and I even looked up “What happens if you don’t go to jury duty?” on Google.  The short answer is that you can be fined and even sentenced to jail time for contempt of court.  No, thanks.  I been inside a jail cell and a prison cell, and they ain’t pretty.

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Day 14/365: Sock


I often tell my patients, “If you’re having an emergency, let custody know, and they’ll notify me.”  Once in a while, someone gets bad news or is feeling suicidal, and it’s important that they know they can ask for help and get it.

So today I was in between appointments, and one of the inmate clerks came by my office to tell me that a patient was requesting to see me.  The patient didn’t have an appointment for today.  His tier officer had written him a special pass to Psych Services.  I knew this particular inmate-patient; he’d come by my office for unscheduled appointments before, when he’d had some small crises.  I told the clerk to bring him in.

Mr. D arrived at my door, carrying a manila folder and a business-sized envelope.  He sat down and handed me the envelope.  “Here,” he said.  “I brought this to show you.”

The return address was an attorney’s office.  I pulled out a sheet of paper and quickly scanned the letterhead.  Oh crap, I thought.  Did this guy just get bad news?  Is this letter going to tell me that the court denied his appeal?  Am I about to deal with a shitstorm?  I braced myself and tried not to let my brain get too far ahead with planning the next intervention.

I read the letter.  In a nutshell, the attorney had checked a number of sources and was unable to find past legal documents that would have provided some important information that might be helpful to the inmate’s current appeal.

I handed the letter back to Mr. D.  “I don’t understand.  So what’s the emergency?”

“I have the documents that he needs right here.”  Mr. D held up the manila folder.  “I wanted to see if you would fax them over to his office for me.”


Day 13/365: Toe-Up Hand-Dyed Merino Wool Sock


Since I work four ten-hour days, every Tuesday is my Monday morning.  I’d just turned on the computer when my colleague Dr. L walked into my office.  He said, “Dr. V, you didn’t tell me on Friday that I forgot to turn my keys in.”

“What are you talking about?”  I tried to remember Friday, but it seemed like such a long time ago.

“You and I walked out together after work, remember?  And I forgot to turn my keys in.  I got home and you know by the end of the week, I’m just wiped out.  I went to bed at 8:00.  I guess I just fell into a deep sleep.  Anyway, my cell phone started buzzing around 10:00, 10:30, but I was in such a deep sleep, I didn’t pick up right away.  By the time I was able to answer the phone, whoever was calling hung up.  And then my home phone started ringing.  But like I told you, I was so tired.  I thought I’d just let the machine pick up.  But whoever was calling didn’t leave a message; they hung up.  They must have called like five times, but they didn’t leave a message.  And then, around 12:30 that night, someone was knocking at my door.  They came to my house.”

“Who came to your house?”

“Two officers.”

“Holy shit,” I said.  “I guess they really needed to have those keys.”

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Day 12/365: Toe-Up Hand-Dyed Merino Wool Sock


I gained a lot of weight when I went back to grad school in 2003.  I went to classes and worked six days a week.  I ate poorly (there were days when all of my meals came out of the vending machines), and I never, ever exercised.  I sat on my ass a lot.  Then, a couple of years ago, I got to the point where I could barely button the waist on my largest pair of fat pants.  I knew that I would either have to go shopping for new clothes, or lose the weight.  It seemed a lot easier to go shopping.

I went to the department stores and outlet malls.  I went to Ross, Marshalls, and TJ Maxx.  It was all very depressing.  It seemed like everything that actually fit me was just too ugly to wear.  I knew that I could go to the thrift stores and consignment shops, and that might at least be a little more fun, but I was so tired of shopping.  I was sick of trying on clothes and looking at myself in the mirror.  I knew it was time for the alternative.  I called the gym and made an appointment to talk to someone about signing up for a membership.

Today, I’m a lot healthier and a few pounds lighter.  It’s still hard for me to go out and exercise, though.  I would much rather sit on the couch in front of the TV with a bag of potato chips.  But since today was my regular day off and I didn’t have any good excuses, I went out and exercised for an hour.  Then I came home and sat on the couch in front of the TV with a bag of potato chips.  Er, I mean, with a bag of my knitting.


Day 11/365: Quilted Berry Print and Green Blocks Patchwork Table Runner


I loved Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books.  Reading about Laura and her sister Mary sewing on their quilts is what first got me interested in quilt-making.  Of course I had no clue how to make a quilt, let alone how to start the process.  This was in the early eighties, and I lived in a traditional Filipino household in rural Hawaii.  All I knew was that I wanted to be sewing on a quilt, too.

(It would have to be a nine-patch one, though, like Mary’s.  Because at least I could figure out what nine-patch blocks were.  Laura’s quilt was called Dove in the Window, and what the hell was Dove in the Window?  Google wasn’t around when I was growing up, and even if it had been– our family wouldn’t have owned a computer.  And even if we did have a computer, my brothers would have been hogging it, and then my dad would have come along and he would have yanked out the plug and maybe even broken the whole damn thing, just to shut everyone up.)

Anyway, then I read Lois Lowry’s A Summer to Die.  I must have been about eleven or twelve at the time. (Another aside– when I think about it now, that is really heavy subject matter for a kids’ book.  I mean, a story about your fifteen-year-old sister’s final stages of life– a summer to die— Really?)  So while it was a very stressful time for everyone in the family in the book, the mother of the narrator started a patchwork quilt, using fabric from her daughters’ outgrown childhood clothing.  And the idea of that quilt stayed with me.


I moved on to other books and other interests.  I taught myself how to crochet from a library book when I was in the seventh grade.  I went on to high school, undergrad, and then graduate school.  I got a master’s in creative writing.  I went out into the job market and landed in teaching.  Time passed.  I didn’t even recognize it, but looking back now– I was unhappy and depressed.  I wasn’t doing the things I loved.  It finally took some prodding from Sean and a move across the country for me to admit that I needed to make drastic changes.  Or else I would be dying the slow painful life of a central Florida middle school teacher bitterly counting the years to retirement.

In 2003, I went back to graduate school in a completely different discipline.  To deal with the stress of being a broke, thirty-something-year-old grad student, I learned how to knit.  I knitted and crocheted through years of three-hour-long classes, eight-hour-day seminars, multiple unpaid traineeships, a dissertation,  pre- and post-doc internships, four separate licensing exams, and finally, finally, I got to the point where I was securely established in a full-time permanent state job with benefits and a pension.  I was a long way away from the little girl who liked to read all the time and write stories and daydream about making a patchwork quilt out of old faded gingham dresses.




Then it happened just a little over three months ago.  Back in September, when my colleague and I should have been watching a webinar but were reading the newspaper instead, I noticed a small ad for a local fabric shop, Picking Daisies.  They were offering a beginner’s quilting class, and the featured project was a patchwork quilt made out of blocks.  After all these years, it came at just the right time.  I was in the right place.