Instagram Saved Our Cheese

"Mom! I LOVE that red thread! And the little face smiling sideways. Good job."

The Internet was so good to me last week. As you know, we are in the midst of spring cleaning at our house. We've got until Easter to get it done, and to be honest, the verve we initially brought to this project is basically gone. Don't get me wrong—we haven't given up on the plan, but we also don't make progress every day anymore. This scenario is obviously not ideal, but why be dogmatic about the "every day" part of it if we're still moving forward? Rationalizations aside, we actually made huge progress this weekend when we bundled and donated six big bags of items.

The process of clearing out closets brings me face to face with items we love but haven't worn because they need help in some way. I found a favorite jacket of mine (with a stuck zipper), a couple of sweaters (that have been worn thin in spots), a skirt (that's still about six inches too long for me), and a few of Wyatt's pants that have holes in the knees. My stack of mending is pretty tall right now, and my skills are not yet equal to the task. Imagine my delight to find that in 2014, The Guardian published some incredibly helpful "How-To's" in a series called "How to Mend." I've pinned them all so I can consult them as needed.

As you can see from the photo at the top of this post, my "visible mending" techniques can use some improvement, but I'm happy to be figuring it out as I go along. You can see my first attempt at knee patches on the left. The jeans were hand-me-downs to Wyatt, and there was nothing to lose by practicing on them with my sewing machine. He wears the jeans all the time now. On the right, you can see the intentionally crooked smiley face I embroidered by hand this weekend to mend two holes (one of which is now an eye, and the other of which is the nose). My next job is to find a replacement zipper and figure out how to use the zipper foot on my sewing machine. Thank goodness for YouTube tutorials.

And oh-my-stars, thank goodness for Instagram. Last Thursday, I posted a photo of the Valençay cheeses that have been aging in our refrigerator. I had noticed that they were developing weird little spots of mold, and I thought I might have to compost them. When I posted the photo, I used a bunch of hashtags and tagged a couple of experts, including Louella Hill, whose cheesemaking book I own, to see what they thought was going on.

Louella Hill responded! My cheeses are fine, she said. I could remove the mold, or not. The wild blue "invaders" weren't really a problem, and the cheeses should just keep aging for another week or maybe three. Louella even answered my follow-up question about where to look for more information about cheese mold (Ben Wolfe and Rachel Dutton, in case you're curious, and haven't yet followed me on Instagram). I removed the mold spots (they slipped right off the ash, interestingly enough) and things now look to be back to normal in the cave.

I keep remembering how much more difficult it used to be, when we weren't so well-connected, to try something new and troubleshoot when things went wrong. It's kind of unbelievable that we can now get practically real-time, helpful feedback from people we don't know in real life. I realize there are huge downsides to social media. And I know that some people write horrible things to others online thanks to the anonymity the Internet affords. But when Instagram saves our cheese, and the Internet rescues my favorite jacket, it's only right to notice the good that's out there.