Sunday, November 27, 2011

Handmade Holidays (and links to projects)

Ah Thanksgiving!  I've had a wonderful week off.  Time to spend with the kids.  Time to spend with my folks.  

As we were packing and heading over the mountain to my parents I worried about my crafts -- did I pack what I needed?  Embroidery - check, felt - check, latch hook - check, wool - check.  'Tis the season for making and doing.  As it turns out I had what I needed -- mostly.  Of course, when we get home, I will be pouring through my fabric stash looking for just the right material for this project and I ordered felt online for this project and this project.  

Yesterday the girls, my mom and I went to the movies.  We saw Hugo -- it was very good.  I'm especially fond of old time Paris in the snow.  The movie theater was in the main shopping mall.  I've not been to a mall in quite some time; its a place I typically avoid.  And I was reminded why.  I can say with complete honesty -- there was nothing there I wanted to buy (with, perhaps, the exception of the Apple store).  Even there I'm on the fence.  Is an iphone really worth the monthly fee?  

The mall reinforced my desire to have a homemade holiday.  Now, of course, we will buy some things.  Things that are needed and/or will be well used.  Things I am not capable of manufacturing.  

And I will buy some things handmade; handmade but not by me.  Take for instance my friend Robin.  I know a certain young lady who will adore her crocheted tote.  I'll be making a small make up bag to go with it.  And when I spend my money this way - helping a military family who could use the extra income - it feels good.  Truly.  I've never gotten a warm fuzzy feeling buying from large corporations.  Thus its win-win.  

Now its time to pack up and head back home.  Time to go back to work.  This was my holiday off.  I'll be working Christmas and New Years.  Thankfully I'm on nights.  The kids will have to wait for me to get home on Christmas morning to open presents.  Oh the agony.  Somehow I think they'll survive.  And I, too, will survive.  One way or another.  


Monday, November 21, 2011

A Bee Story and Other Tales

I may have mentioned I am easily distracted.  Today was no exception. My day started at 1:00 pm; I'd worked the night shift and took a necessary nap. My hope was to get up while there was still daylight so I could snap some photos for the shop (I have many typewriters and cameras that need a new home).

Around 2:00 pm, after coffee and some puttering,  I got around to said photos.  Of course, in the middle, I was interrupted by my daughter who wanted me to walk her to a friend's house.  While taking the my break I noticed it was quite warm outside (quite warm meaning above freezing i.e. mid forties).  It occurred to me this might be my one and only opportunity to open up the bee hive and give the girls their new insulated top/candy board.

As this was a last minute decision and I was still groggy from the night shift I didn't think the whole thing through.  I simply threw on my bee suit and my cowboy boots and marched outside to change tops.  My plan was to have the project done snippity snap and get back to my photos.  What I hadn't factored in was the propolis -- that lovely bee glue that sticks everything together.

Plus I hadn't been into the hive for a while and once the top was open I realized they'd built their lives in the middle of two ten frame boxes (rather than fill the bottom box and then the top).  I decided to remove the top box and place the full frames into the bottom box.  This way there would be less hive for the bees to keep warm and they'd be closer to the candy source.

Given this I also decided I'd better get my smoker and do things properly.  So I ran to the garage grabbing the smoker and fuel.  Then I booked it to the kitchen to get a lighter.  Now, of course, the lighter was not in the drawer where it belonged.  So I went to the cupboard and stood precariously on my tip toes shuffling through the liquor bottles on the top shelf.  For some reason this is where we keep our spare matches.  Just as I found the matches a bottle of kahlua leapt off the shelf.  The cap wasn't screwed on which resulted in complete drenching; alcohol on my suit, in my hair and soaked through my clothes.

As I'd left the top cover off the bees and didn't want them to freeze I ignored this alcoholic transgression and continued on my merry way.  I smoked the bees, replaced the frames and tucked the girls in for the winter.

At this point my left ear was ringing and I was feeling moderately stressed.  Subsequently I was swaying a touch, as I have been all week, oh Menieres you lovely gal you.

What my neighbors likely saw was a woman in an alien suit, accessorized with cowboy boots, smelling of liquor and swerving as she walked.  I'm expecting the men with the nice white jacket to arrive at my doorstep any moment now.

I did have one frame with some capped honey that would not fit into the bee box.  I brought it inside and harvested the honey -- wax and all.  It's surprisingly sweet with a slight floral hint.  The reward for a job well done.

Then I discovered I'd also brought a bee in with me.  She was less than pleased and trying desperately to escape out the window.  I trapped her in a mason jar and returned her to her brood.

Now I have photos to develop and items to list.  I've not yet come up with a plan for dinner. As I type I am freshly showered and no longer smell like alcohol.  This may have to be remedied with a margarita and some mexican food.  It just seems like that kind of day.


Friday, November 18, 2011

On Snow and Crafting and Meditation and Life

Last night it snowed; the first snow of the year.  Time to pull out the hats and mittens and snow boots.  Time to retire the skateboards and bicycles. Most definitely time to put away the canoe and kayak (ahem).  Time to nest.

I've got quite a number of projects going  -- I've begun my very first quilt (if you don't count this picnic blanket which I do not).  I'm learning as I go.  The internet is tremendously helpful.  I've complete both the quilt top and backing.  I did have to add girth to the backing once I figured out it was supposed to be bigger than the top.  So much for my precise measurements.

Now it's time to actually quilt.  Hopefully my stitches hold as this is a blanket destined for the couch; it will receive lots of snuggling and lots of abuse.

I've made one acorn garland and shipped it off (after Mr. Peculiar helped me to change the drill bit).  Two more garlands are pending.  I meant to snap a photo of the first but never quite got around to it; I'll try to photograph the others before they go.  I also have an order for a set of felted acorns.  Note to self: finish orders and ship on Monday.

Silly me I've not yet finished those slipcovers I started.  Perhaps before Thanksgiving.  Then again -- maybe not.

And then there's the latch hook rug -- little by little it's coming along.

Oh and there are the holidays to consider.  I have some ideas rattling around in my head but will keep those quiet for now.

❅❅❅ ❅❅❅ ❅❅❅

I've been thinking a lot about crafting; about why I do it.  It boils down to meditation.

Crafting catches my focus and clears my mind.  It sucks away my stress and tucks it in a neat little corner where I don't have to look at it or think about it.  And believe you me my life and my "real" job are stressful.  Quite.  And, for a multitude of reasons, the stress has multiplied over the last week.

I've also been thinking about who I want to be.  This thinking often circles around to who I do not want to be.  I do not want to be angry.  I do not to be vindictive.  I do not want to be bitter.

I want to be loving and forgiving, kind, gentle, and understanding.  I want to be grateful and appreciative.  I want to focus on the good in all people and all situations.  This is easier said than done.  But I'm going to put it in to practice as I return to work tonight.

I am reminded of this quote from John Watson; "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle."



Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Oh vertigo!

Meniere's Disease:  a incurable disease of the inner ear that causes spontaneous vertigo along with fluctuating hearing loss, ringing in the ear (tinnitus) and sometimes a feeling of fullness or pressure in the ear.

For the past several months I've had all the above symptoms except the vertigo.  As of Saturday I can add vertigo to the list.  I was sitting in my chair, had a sudden increase in ringing in both ears and felt like I was sinking into my chair.  Then came the dizziness and the nausea.  And let me tell you -- I do not like being nauseous.  Not one bit.  I went to bed, slept for eleven hours and woke up feeling normal.

Mind you normal contains moderate tinnitus and aural fullness in my left ear.  But, thankfully, normal does not yet contain dizziness and balance issues.

Sunday I stayed in my pajamas and laid low.  I was afraid to go out as I'm not one to cause a scene.  And I believe falling over in Costco, vomiting and being carried out would constitute a scene.

Monday morning I rolled over in bed and bam -- another episode.  Thankfully Mr. Peculiar had the day off.  He took the kids to school and, again, I slept.  After another couple of hours back to normal.

Yesterday I managed to take the kids to school.  And I managed a trip to Joann's.  But I was afraid -- afraid of  sudden dizziness, afraid of nausea, afraid of causing a ruckus.  If this continues it will become very  debilitating -- sheerly from the not knowing.

Last night my left ear was roaring.  I felt a little off balance. But I went to book club anyway (we were discussing The Fingersmith by Sarah Waters).  Why did I go?  Because I'm not ready to give up my life.  I'm not ready to submit to this insidious disease.  And it was fine.  I was fine.  In fact today I have less ringing in my ear.

The problem with menieres is there is nothing they can do.  "They" being the medical professionals.  They give you a diuretic and tell you to lay off salt.  Off on a wing and a prayer.  It will get worse before it gets better.  Better is total ablation of the inner ear (i.e. no more vertigo but no hearing either, oh and your balance may never be the same).  Fun, eh?

In an attempt to stave off the inevitable I'm trying a new diet, a low glycemic index diet, that might help.  The key is to keep blood glucose at even levels and therefore prevent spikes in insulin.  Hyperinsulinemia (high blood insulin) may play a role in the tinnitus and vertigo.  Emphasis on the may.

As of Monday I am eating every two hours.  Holy moly -- it's going to be hard to be food creative when eating this often.  Balanced fat, protein and carbs with each meal.  Which reminds me -- time to eat my oatmeal with nuts and berries.

Wish me luck!


Friday, November 11, 2011

Paper Bag Floors

Okay.  The paper bag floor is finished; in one room at least.  You can see a before picture here. The before picture doesn't look particularly bad.  You had to be here to get the full odiferous effect of our lovely carpet.  I don't miss it in the least.  Thus far we have not damaged the surface (fingers crossed).  That's six coats of polyurethane for you.  And let me tell you -- low odor polyurethane truly is low odor.  Who knew?!!

All in all the project took four days but two of those were long work days for me.  In other words one room could easily be done in a weekend.

You'll notice the broken chest and fish tank is now gone.  They've been replaced by a vintage suitcase vignette.

Now I've yet to tackle the sewing projects on my list.  I have started to latch hook a rug for this room.   I still need to complete my couch slipcover.  And now I have some acorns to felt for a custom garland -- a beautiful combination of red and turquoise that will hang on a fireplace during a wedding.

Oh yes -- and then there are the holidays to think about.  Thankfully I have this week off work.  Believe you me I'll keep busy.

❄❄❄ ❄❄❄ ❄❄❄

Things I'm grateful for today:
  • Acorn caps to gather and garner
  • A week off work
  • A warm and breezy November day
  • A mini-date with the hubbie
  • Coupons and discounts (think Christmas shopping here -- can't say more)
  • New floors
  • The Goodwill and thrifty finds
  • Sales in the shop
  • Powdered graphite


Saturday, November 5, 2011

The circuitous route to home remodeling (aka if you give a crafter a cookie ...)

Several weeks ago I decided to sew a scarf.  A fun ruffled scarf.  And I found the perfect material -- extra large tee shirts on sale at Target.  I cut the material, pinned everything in place and discovered my sewing machine would no longer zig-zag.  FineNo problem.  I got out sewing machine number two -- it wouldn't stitch, period.

I was at a crossroads.  Do I repair one or both of these machines or do I break down and get a new one?  After quite a bit of research and some serious soul-searching I found I wanted a new machine; a real machine - with stitch patterns and multiple feet and capabilities.  In other words I was ready to take my sewing to the next level.

After all I had been sewing consistently now for five years.  And, shockingly, the things I've sewn are a) still intact and b) still in rotation. This is justification enough, right?

Then I found a wonderful financing deal with Bernina -- four years interest free.  Four!  And no prepayment penalty.  Now that I can do.  And I did.

My new machine arrived yesterday.  Only here's the thing. I've yet to get it out of the box.  You see once the machine was ordered sewing projects popped up everywhere -- slipcovers and tree skirts and stockings and quilts ...

And I didn't want to wait.  I was antsy and had no patience.  So, with my old machine and simple straight stitch, I began slipcovers for my couches.  Overall they've turned out well; in a rustic sort of way.  I still have to finish a cushion cover and skirt for the larger of our two couches.

While fully immersed in my slipcover project I also began to realize just how disgusting our carpet is.  I spent quite a bit of time sitting on the carpet pinning and adjusting and was not at all pleased with the experience.  Last week I nearly threw down my sewing and ripped the carpet up.

But I talked myself down convincing myself that I should, minimally, complete one project before starting another.

Well yesterday that went out the window.  I was sitting in my favorite chair and quite frankly the room just didn't smell right.  I lit some candles -- better but still not right.  I sprayed some lavender.  The smell still lingered.  And then I realized the cat had peed in the corner right behind my chair.

That was it.  Right then and there I ripped out the carpet.  Then I went to the hardware store and bought   brown builder's paper and polyurethane*.  Paper bag floor here we come.

Now 1/3 of the room is done.  I plan to finish the remainder next week.

So, you see, I am remodeling my house all because I tried to sew a scarf.  If you give a crafter a cookie ...

* Worried about the effects of inhaling excessive amounts of polyurethane I splurged and bought a water based low odor product.  It cost a bit more but is definitely worth it.  More floor pictures as the project progresses.


Tuesday, November 1, 2011


Phew! The whirlwind of halloween is over.  I never quite finished those slipcovers.  And you know what?  They're not getting done today either.  I have to work tonight and have given myself permission to laze the day away.

This morning there was quite a frost on the car and as I went out (fully clad in pajamas) to warm it up I found myself grateful.  Very grateful for all the simple things in life.

I am grateful for:

  • A heated home
  • Getting the garbage to the curb before the garbage truck came
  • The HUGE load of dishes Mr. Peculiar did last night
  • Precious children who love to snuggle
  • Coffee ready to go at the push of a button
  • Left over pumpkin chocolate chip cookies
  • Left over pumpkin soup for dinner (aka no cooking before work)
  • Pumpkins carved by my children while I was sewing away
  • Funny not so spidery spider webs hung by the boy
  • Creative costumes put together without Mama's help (oi they are getting so big!)
  • Mama as a red head --- funny