Thursday, November 21, 2013

Penny and the Pine Pillows

It seemed like a good idea at the time when Penny thought she'd make pillows stuffed with pine needles for Christmas. The idea came as we were clearing out stuff from our mother's basement: She flashed back to a memory of the little scented pillow that sat on the back of our grandmother's couch, adding a slight aroma of forest to the air as you leaned back while watching television.
"Do you remember that?" Penny asked.
"Of course I do. Grammie gave me a little pillow like that. I had it for years and then one day I thought it needed a wash it so I put it in the washing machine. The pillow exploded. It looked like someone had dumped a box of shredded wheat in there," I said. "I scooped and scooped out all that I could and then had to run the rinse cycle several times to get the machine clean."
"Mum didn't find out, did she?"
"No, I don't think so."

In ode to our grandmother's memory and my lost pillow, Penny went out in search of pine needles. Her Boston terriers were a great help, enthusiastically joining the digging as she collected a big bag of needles. Back home she sorted the needles from the pine cones and the branches and contemplated the pile. These need to be broken up, she thought, the pillows never had any pokey bits sticking out.

Crushing the needles by hand was labour intensive. She looked around the kitchen: The food processor! She managed to pack in a good amount. The blade whirled and the needles began to break. Then they turned into a solid resinous mass. The blade stopped moving, the food processor whined, and a pungent electrical smell filled the kitchen. It took a fair bit of effort to scrape most of the resin out of the bowl of the food processor. After the third run through the dishwasher, the bowl was reasonably clean. The blade, however, remained with resin stuck to its the lower side.

The needles were obviously still too damp so she transferred them into a cloth bag that she put in front of the vent to dry. When the furnace came on in the morning, the aroma that filled the room wasn't quite coniferous forest but more feral. Winnie the dog went over to have a sniff and immediately started to lift her leg against the bag. "Bad dog! Stop that!" Penny said.

The heck with this, Penny thought. I'll just buy the materials and make the pillows. She went online and checked what she needed: ground balsam fir and cedar needles, plus essential oils to liven up the scent.
"Why don't you use some of the cedar shavings from the workshop?" her husband Barry suggested.
"And have pillows that smell like a hamster cage?" Penny replied.

She bought pine and cedar essential oils at a local shop. Not having a sewing machine or any material, she went out to the decorating store to get some little pillows that she could restuff with the scented filling. All she could find were giant bolsters and throw pillows for beds or sofas. Stuffed with needles, they would weigh about 100 lbs.

Arriving back home empty handed and discouraged, she opened the essential oils for a quick whiff to revive her spirits. The pine scent smelled like the cleaner for the rest room at a roadside truck stop. The concentrated cedar scent smelled like what you would do in the rest room at a roadside truck stop.

At this point Penny admitted defeat. There would be no pine needle cushions, as least not this year. But I would just like to say to my wonderful sister Penny that even when things don't quite work out, you still have awesome ideas, although I think that the pillows were balsam fir...

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