Saturday, May 31, 2014

Weekly Round Up

This week...

..... we auditioned tree branches to replace the mother-in-law's tongue that appeared to give up the ghost when we started watering it with rainwater instead of water softener water.  (Contrary plant!  Don't you know what is good for you?)  Actually it was probably dying because I unwittingly gave it way too much light.

We're going to do something fun with it, of course...
 ... I did some work on Alex's book.  Here is a newt eating a mango:
 I finished this purse, modeled here by my lovely niece.  Tutorial to come!

Strawberry Jam

This morning I'm off to learn to make strawberry jam.   Apparently it has three ingredients -- now THAT is my kind of simple recipe!

Friday, May 30, 2014

Living Without Air Conditioning

We finally turned the AC on this week.  The savings have been significant, but the weather has finally reached the point where it is unbearably hot.  (I'll try to remember to post the approximate amount that we saved after we do the May budget retrospect.) We had been opening the windows and enjoying the breeze.  At night it cooled off enough to sleep.  Sleeping with the windows open was hard due to street noise, but much to my surprise I eventually got used to it.  (Normally I have trouble sleeping unless conditions are perfect—absolute silence, cool temp, usual routine.) 

One perk of keeping the windows open is that your body adapts and after a while you can feel comfortable in a much wider range of temperatures.  I also felt more connected to the outside world, such as the rhythms of the neighborhood, the weather, and the wake-up call of the birds.  If we had a more flexible routine where we could go to bed later and sleep in, we might have been able to go AC-less longer.  Even now, with the curtains drawn and the thermostat set at 78, the AC rarely kicks on.

It's one of my favorite parts of being human: We're incredibly adaptable. 

One of my other favorite parts of being human: Creativity!  Gotta get in some more time in my studio...

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Arwen's Blank Canvas Dress

No, the dress isn't made of canvas.

It's what we made yesterday so she can take fabric paint and add "hearts and stars and rainbows with glitter" everywhere. 

This project worked great as an introduction to sewing.  No hemming!  (Just use the hem from one of the T-shirts.)  If you try it with a sewing machine instead of a serger, you'll want to reinforce the stitching.  My niece is nine, and it moved quickly enough to keep her interested.

Here's the process.

We were originally going to make it longer, so I had three men's T-shirts to add to the bottom of one girl's T-shirt that fit her.  We ended up using two T-shirts, one child-sized and one large adult.

Note that the shirt is pinned to keep both sides where we want them when cutting.

 Hmmm.... how to make these two fit together?  Cutting the 'skirt' is much easier than gathering it.   Just be sure to be symmetrical if you want it to drape right.  Cut EXACTLY the same amount on both sides, and include your seam allowances in your calculations.

A stain? No problem-- Make the outside of the T-shirt the inside of the dress. 
(Plus we're going to cover everything in glitter paint, remember?)
She cut the hem off before pinning the two halves together.
 I did most of the serging, although she did do a couple of inches.  (That is, after I explained very clearly that the little blade would slice her fingernail in two if she didn't pay attention.  She paid attention.)
Ta Da!   
Next up: Embellishing.....

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

First Garden Harvest!

On May 25, we harvested and ate the first fresh food from our garden.

It wasn't a lot, but we grew it all ourselves.  And it's only May!

I'm going to keep track of how much we harvest in each category.  The scale is one from my in-laws, so it is in grams.

Decision: Should we use bird netting to protect our strawberries (like we did two years ago, so we still have some)?  Or should we just share, and consider the loss of produce to be the price we pay for not having to mess with the bird netting?

LEFT Side: Our strawberries
RIGHT side: remains of nibbled-on strawberries


Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Why Being Even Somewhat Organized Rocks

BEFORE: All those boxes are filled with random crafting raw material and supplies.

AFTER:  It only took about three hours to get everything put away because I have a place for everything.  (Even a “stash it here ‘cause I don’t want to deal with it place”—but you can’t use that very often!)

Organizing Secret: Have a place for everything.  Make categories.  Put everything in a category in a labeled box.

I vacuumed.  Not sure why.  It’s like shoveling when it is still snowing.  It’s always snowing in my studio!

Now I’ve just GOT to get some stuff moved out of there.  Too much raw material coming in and not enough finished product going out!

Monday, May 26, 2014

Bug Repair

Here's how the Magician spent his Memorial Day:

The little motors inside the doors (both of them!) on our 2000 VW bug broke.  Parts to replace the motor = $60 apiece. Time spent watching multiple YouTube vidoes = don't even want to talk about it! 

This does save a us big repair bill.  It's another classic frugal time vs. money dilemma, where we fall in in the "rather spend the time than the money" category.  I personally think the Magician enjoys the challenge of it.  Plus he has a lot of mechanical aptitude.  Otherwise--I'd just spend the money.

But it's pretty cool that my husband is such a stud that he can get out tools and get it done....


Happy Memorial Day!

Many thanks to all of our brave vets, especially the many from our family, who have served our country.


Pulled-puff clouds.

                    Green, greenish, green hills.

                                                        Breezy, warm sway.


Sunday, May 25, 2014

Tea Party for Arwen and Friends

The tea party was yesterday, and I decided to go ahead and post these today instead of waiting for the Weekly Round-Up.  Enjoy!

Ready for the party!

Enjoying tea and cookies
 Posing pretty with hats...

 Afterward we played games.  Here we are showing off our massive crossword puzzle that we made from Bananagram letters.
A good time was had by all!
But of course, Arwen and tea parties go waaaay back....

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Weekly Round-Up

A busy week!

Chrissy, Rachel and I surprised Mom with a tea party.  She had mentioned a few months ago that it was too bad she had all these teapots and they never got used.  Chrissy got the idea to surprise her after work, which was a good idea, especially because it meant we didn't have to relocate all of those tea pots.  (She is working OT on Sundays in May--so not cool, but it made it easier to all of us to be there on a day she worked.)  So she came home, expecting to spend the rest of the afternoon picking bags of cutworm larvae off of trees and found us all there instead.

We leaped out and shouted "Surprise!"  She was surprised....

Yesterday I started my voice acting career with a little volunteer work.  It was a lot of fun, and I got great direction and helpful career tips from Matt at Spirit Catholic Radio.  Anybody need some voice acting done?

The microphone belongs really, really close to your mouth when speaking into it,
and it looks like I left it there for the photo.  I’m really not getting some kind of weird facial!
While in Omaha, I visited Amy and Steve which is always a pleasure. I am so grateful to have them in my life! 

Plus I got to meet little Zaida (first child of my cousin Andy and his sweet wife Rachel) for the first time.  Here she is in the always-loving arms of my sister Rachel.

I also started a new batch of gratitude jars.
Up Next Week: A tea party with nine year olds...

Thursday, May 22, 2014

A Necessarily Quiet Day

Today I am home sick.  (I was supposed to be watching baseball in Omaha with a friend.)  Tomorrow I’d planned to sew with my niece Arwen, but since her mother and I are throwing her a tea party for her and some friends on Saturday, I decided I’d better rest up Friday as well.  It’s time to make some liquid vitamin C and find the couch.  The only remaining decision: Out of Africa by Izak Dinesen or finish Les Miserables?  Or perhaps more from Historical Whodunits, a collection edited by Mike Ashley.

The Garden is IN!

We managed to get everything planted on .... let me get my calendar.... Sunday, May 18.   We planted the remaining seeds and then transplanted the little seedlings we'd been growing indoors.

Two things I've learned recently:
1. My beloved said I was watering the seedlings too much.  I scoffed.  The books said to fill the trays the little planters were in and the plants would suck up what they needed.  Whenever the trays were low, I added another inch or so of water. Well, it was the SOIL that was sucking up all the moisture.  Some of the plants were in mud below the surface of the soil and nobody had impressive roots. (The other half of the time he was complaining that I was letting them dry out.  We may have His and Hers seedlings next year.....!)

The problem, aside from wussy roots, which I assume is from over-watering (?), is that the soil fell apart when we went to transplant, exposing the roots and generally making a mess.  Transplant shock is going to be worse than it needed to be.

Next Year: Different watering and bigger pots.  No egg cartons!  Ever!  Also, just one plant per pot for stuff started indoors.  My beloved planted both plants, together in the same square, when there were two in a pot.  I thought he was going to just pick the best one.  It was highly annoying because now they are competing against each other, not just the weeds.  (Maybe His and Hers gardens....)

2. A garden calendar is an excellent idea.  I'm really happy we did one.  I dealt with cabin fever by putting in dates for starting indoors, transplanting, and sowing into the ground for everything we were going to grow, including second sowings.  (Having a book specific to Nebraska was extremely helpful, in my case Month-By-Month Gardening in Nebraska.)   I also noted when food should be ready to harvest.

May 1 - start hardening off shallots and tomatos
May 8 - plant chervil and chives
May 10 - Plant beans outdoors
May 15 - Plant arugula, basil, melons..... [and much more]

I wrote all of the above dates in pencil and then wrote in pen the dates we actually got around to doing what we were supposed to.  I also note every time it rains and I plan to note every time I water.

The rabbit fence around the entire perimeter of the yard is finished!  That means these annoying cages around the garden bed can come down:
We harvested our first strawberry on Tuesday, the only one that was ready.  Of course, they aren't supposed to be ready until June.  I'm going to be keeping track of harvests, too.
Since we are mostly learning from our mistakes, I want to write stuff down.  That way we don’t have to learn more than once!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014


“If you have a great ambition, take as big a step as possible in the direction of fulfilling it.  The step may only be a tiny one, but trust that is may be the largest one possible for now.”
- Mildred Mcafee

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Thanks very much ....

... to everyone who purchases items on Amazon starting at our Amazon portal!

Shopping by starting at the portal (see over there to your right?) doesn't change your price, but we get a tiny bit of ad revenue from Amazon.  We appreciate each and every purchase.  (If we get a lot of them, we'll soon be blogging about The Magician's new kayak!)

A "Me" Day

Today I am spending the day exactly as I please. 

I painted, glued, sewed, and read a romance novel, all before lunch.

I'll have some project pics to post soon!

I'm amazed how much I want to apologize for this choice.  I want to write that this day was my husband's idea, or that I've worked steadily on projects and tasks since school got out, or that I'm working in part on items to sell.  This is my first time in my studio since school got out May 11, except to clean.  Can't I admit that a day off is a good thing? 

Monday, May 19, 2014

Font Matters...

More font odd info from an obsessive and curiously engaging book I snagged at the library a while back.  Reading this book makes me wish this blog had more than seven font options!

The Nazis originally legislated that the proper German font was the old Gothic kind, with all the curly cues.  One slogan read: "Feel German, think German, speak German, be German, even in your script."  One type designer, Paul Renner, was arrested, in part for protesting the arrest of a teaching colleague and in part for a lecture he gave on the history of letterforms.  Later, however, the Nazis changed their tune and declared that Gothic script was Jewish because they were unable to get a hold of it in their newly conquered territories and had to use Roman style fonts for their propaganda (pages 190-191).  Paul Renner is still known today for designing the font Futura.  Per Wikipedia, he did survive the war, dying in 1956.

~ From Just My Type: A Book about Fonts by Simon Garfield.

Selling Metal for Scrap

I've added a new kind of recycling to my repertoire.

I sold this:
for $7.02.  Since I bought it for $5, this wasn’t exactly the deal of the century, but I was doing it mostly as a learning experience anyway.

Here’s what I learned:
There is a rate sheet that states how much per pound the dealer will pay for which type of metal.

The rate for (cast?) aluminum with stuff that has to be taken off of it = .06 cents a pound.
The rate for (cast?) aluminum = .55 cents a pound
Moral: Take ten minutes and remove the handles, rubber seal, etc to dramatically increase your profit.

Luckily for me, Steve was passing by and authorized the girl behind the counter to offer me the .55 cent rate because the pressure cooker was good quality metal and as customer service gesture.  It weighed a whopping 13 pounds.  The young lady behind the counter also took it back to weigh it instead of having me drive around to the back.  Everyone at Alter Metal Recycling was friendly and helpful, in fact.  Someone at church had recommended them.  I did have to put my fingerprint on the sales slip, which didn’t bother me.

Bottom line: Selling stuff for scrap might be worth it if the stuff was getting thrown out and if you didn’t pay for it in the first place.  (For example, part of a lot at an auction that you didn’t want, but that got thrown in with something you did want, stuff left over from a garage sale.)   I would accumulate a pile to make it worth your while before heading down there.  I don't think I'd go out of my way to acquire metal just to sell unless you know what you are doing, or are OK with a learning curve.

The pressure cooker was from the 1940s.  It would be hard to risk botulism or an explosion by using something that old.  It was probably fine.  But I didn't feel comfortable using it.

I know when the family was cleaning out my grandparents’ house the scrap metal dealer gave them $600+ for random metal and two iron bathtubs, so obviously more is better!  (My grandfather did welding so there was probably a lot of random metal.)

Has anyone had success with selling scrap?

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Garden Update

This week in the garden....

I put plastic over the garden beds we were supposed to plant today.  I read somewhere that you can do this two weeks before you plant to warm up the soil.  It’s been colder than usual here, so I thought, why not?
Those four different potato plants were all planted at the same time. Go figure.
FINISHED!  We finally completed bunny-proofing the backyard.  (For those who just tuned in, we've been using zip ties to attach chicken wire around the entire chain-link perimeter of our backyard.  We used the indoor/outdoor kind.)  I suspect we are going to find out how much akin to Houdini the artful little fuzzy fiends are, but we’ll see.  The gate needed to be flat against the ground, but movable and so here it is, complete with chicken wire that you can't really see.

Here is the gate from a rabbit’s eye view.  Ha, ha—We are just going to step over it unless we need to get bikes out.
No, the leaf isn't a bunny barrier.  It just happened to be there.
The Magician deliberately chose ironic paper on which to design the gate….

Speaking of the Magician, he had a close encounter with the edger. 
 His remark on the subject: Ouch! 
Her remark on the subject: Do be careful!  (That is for you, dear readers.)

And we didn’t end up planting today after all.  Tomorrow!  There is always tomorrow.

Health Llog Update: A Low Point

I’ve got to laugh.  I’ve been doing it mostly all wrong and …..

Today I was at my lowest weight since I started keeping track in January, and I’ve lost an inch off my waist and half an inch from my hips.  I’ve been doing a little more exercise (mostly walking).   I’ve avoided sweets for a whole two days after almost a month of eating whatever I felt like.  (Hey, you've got to celebrate Easter!)   The only health advice I’ve been following consistently the past month or so has been smaller portions. 

Next experiment:  Avoiding sweets + working out + portion control = ?    I’ll see what happens then.  If I can actually manage to get up early enough to work out.  We’ll see…

Weekly Round-Up

Before you read to the end of the post and see the photos of the wrecked car, be assured that my mom is fine.  Just a bruised knee and a little sore on her lip where the airbag hit her.

I’m almost done with the piano bench!  (The instructor wants me to put one more coat on it.  That’s him, standing there making me look really short.)

The wood was damaged where the screws for the hinges were supposed to go, so this is how we worked around that:

The screws for the hinges were drilled into the new wood.

 The last class is Tuesday, so I will be done for good soon.  It came out really pretty, I think.

This was a week and a half ago, but I’m just getting around to posting it.  We finally got this bush moved.  Once the lilacs get bigger and the roses get planted, it was going to be in the way of the compost pile.  

 Those roots went deep!  It was even more work than we thought it would be.  
I got to hang out with Aunt Monica quite a bit, which is always a pleasure.  Here we are picking colors for a fun project at her house:

Since she actually lives in the 21st century, we were looking at the inspiration on her iSomething.  Don’t worry, I’ll let you  in on more of the project later ;)
 Here are some of the colors we'll be working with.

We also went on the Parade of Homes, along with my sister and her family. 

Finally, someone ran a red light while Mom had a green light.  The guy was sitting next to a State Patrol officer, and then pulled out into traffic. Traffic in this case being my mom going 45 mph, he is lucky that he didn’t seem to be seriously injured.

Here is Mom, pointing at the 2014 park sticker she bought recently.  I helped her get stuff out of the vehicle, and discovered that most of my inheiritance was in small change under the seat.