Thursday, April 29, 2010

Ruffled Ribbon Rings (say it 10 times fast)

I’ve discovered a quick and easy project - much like the hair accessories I like to make!  And, also like the hair accessories, there’s an excess of ribbon involved.  I never knew how much I liked ribbon until I had a baby girl.  Ribbon’s really cool!  I may need to buy stock in some kind of ribbon manufacturer.  
(this would be when mr points out that stock doesn’t ACTUALLY work that way, and I would say, well, good, because I didn’t ACTUALLY mean it.)  
Anyway, I’ve been working with ribbon for mini’s (and other’s) hair accessories when it dawned on me.  Ribbon is so much more than a pretty flower for your hair.  You can use it for lots of things.  One of those things is the focus of this post.
I give you
That’s right.  The Ruffled Ribbon Rings.  Currently there are four main kinds of ruffled ribbon rings.  #1 the prefab band with ruffled ribbon flower.  #2 the wound wire band with ruffled ribbon flower.  And (my personal favorite) #3 the ruffled ribbon band with many different kinds of embellishments!  Oh, and number 4 - Ruffled Ribbon (Ear)rings.  
Here are a few of my favorites so far.  

(My FAVORITE favorite is that cameo one on the end.  I’ve been wearing it all week).  
I intended to give you three how to’s in one post, but with all the cat excitement, I’ve only finished two, so you’ll have to wait for #3.  I don't know if #4 really needs an explanation, it's soooo easy, but I'll probably do it anyway.

I forgot to mention that you’ll need a sewing machine as well (it IS possible to make #1 and #2 without a sewing machine.  You need to buy ribbon that has thread woven through it on both edges - this way you won’t need to sew a gathering stitch, you can just gather the thread that’s already there.)  Also, this is a comprehensive list for all three kinds.  There are some things you’ll only need for one kind or another.  Oh, and also, obviously I didn’t list every single little embellishment that you might need.  There are lots of ways you can vary this project.  Furthermore, you can mix and match, too - take a little of #1 and a little of #3, for example.  I think that’s all of my over-explanations for now.
Here’s a run-down of #1.
First, you need to have a prefab band of some sort.  You know those jelly rings you get in the vending machine?  Perfect.  Or those little “friendship rings” you can buy with tickets at the arcade?  Also a good choice.  The one I’m using in my sample pictures down there came from a sale at Claire’s - you know, the red dot sales they had where you could buy 10 things for 5 dollars? I don’t know if they still do that... Anyway... you’ll also need “skinny ribbon.”
  1. Dab some hot glue on the ring band and place the end of your skinny ribbon there. Now, wrap around the ring band (you can decide how much to wrap - I wanted some of the white band to show through so I didn’t wrap as much as if you wanted it to appear made out of ribbon.)  Don’t cut the end off and glue it down to the band - leave a little ribbon tail free.
  2. Now make your ruffled ribbon flower buy gathering a length of ribbon.  You’ll want to measure how big you want your flower to end up and cut the ribbon accordingly.  Either sew a basting stitch and pull the top thread to gather, or (if it is “prethreaded”) just pull one of those threads.  Add a button in the center of the flower for embellishment.  
  3. Now sit back and wonder how the heck you’re going to attach your ruffled ribbon flower to the band.
  4. Cut a very small piece of matching rikrak and glue JUST THE ENDS down to the back of the flower, leaving the middle of the rikrak free (creating a loop).
  5. Thread the tail of the ribbon through the rikrak loop and around the ring band.  Repeat this three or four time, securing it to the band with the ribbon tail.  Then dab some hot glue on for extra security.  Cut the tail off and tuck it under the rikrak loop.
DONE!  I call this one the Ruffled Rosebud Ring.  Aren’t you pretty and dainty?
OK.  Here’s a run-down of #2.
Here’s where you will use the floral ribbon, wire cutters and small pliers.  
  1. Measure out the wire to fit the desired finger and double it.  Cut it with the wire cutters.  Fold it in half, leaving a little loop where it is folded, and wrap one of the wires around the other. At the desired length, tuck the end of one wire through the loop and twist the two free wires together, forming a full circle.
  2. Trim the wire.  Trim some more.  Wonder how you’ll be able to trim the wire enough so that the end isn’t constantly poking you.
  3. Cut your ribbon to the desired length depending on the flower size you want. Use the directions above regarding gathering ribbon.  Roll it into the size of flower you'd like, layering it like a spiral.  Use dabs of hot glue to keep it in place.
  4. Embellish.  You can use green rikrak for leaves - cut two small pieces (however big you want the leaves + double) then fold them in half and dab with hot glue.  Glue them to the back of the flower.  Glue a little button in a contrasting or complimentary color to the middle of the flower on the front.
  5. Glue the ruffled ribbon to the wire band with hot glue, covering the back of the flower across the wire with a small bit of matching ribbon to hide the glue spots.  If you glue the flower over the area where the two ends of wire meet, this will be a much cleaner look - unlike what you see in the picture!  It’ll also take care of that annoying issue as stated in step 2 because the ends of the wire will be covered with ribbon - no stabbing yourself with wire!
I call this one Wrapped Wire Ruffle. Slip it on your finger and marvel at how cute and ruffly you look!
Here’re some of my rings modeled, just for you.  I wish I could hire a hand model.  You will have to make do with my big ole hand.  It needs some serious TLC after that whole winter thing.

Now, the reason I like #3 (the Ruffled Ribbon band) the best is because you don’t have to make it to fit a specific sized finger.  The band is made out of elastic sewn onto ribbon, to you just make it small, medium or big and it will fit a whole range of fingers!  This is great, because if I used my fingers as measurements for how big to make all my rings, they would probably only fit me.  Seriously, my fingers aren’t super dainty.  My wedding band is like a 7 and 1/2.  (My best friend wears a 4).  But these cutie patootie rings make any fingers look good!  Right?

These are really versatile accessories.  You can make them big or small, with a wide band or skinny band, you can embellish them a lot, or not at all, you can bling them out or leave them more casual.  It's up to you!

Most of these are going to an auction "fun"raiser we are having for the youth in our church tomorrow night.  (not the cameo though, I'm keeping that!) They are trying to raise money for our boys to go to scout camp and are having a silent auction of handmade goods, baked goods and services.  (I'm actually a little nervous about having some of my "work" out there in front of the discerning eye where it can be critiqued, but I've been making them like crazy so if I don't give them away, I'll have to wear a different ring on each finger every day to use them all!)  I'm also taking in some of my flowered hair accessories and bows.  Perfect for a Boy Scout Camp fundraiser, right?

So, go ruffle yourself up some rings and give your fingers some much deserved attention! 

The Prodigal Son Returns

I know.  Delilah looks thoroughly thrilled to be home!  He was obviously traumatized on his adventure and is clearly scared for his life.  I think he will overcome his abandonment issues and learn to feel secure again if given enough time, and plenty of hugs and kisses.  Thank you for your concern!


This may sound ridiculous, but I’m having trouble concentrating because I miss the cat.  The thing is, he’s kind of a needy little feline, and I haven’t always been so understanding about that - especially since mini was born.  Well, ok.  Especially since bug was born.  I just didn’t have time for that many needy things at once!  
I have lost my keys.  I have lost my phone.  I’ve lost my engagement ring and wedding band.  I’ve even lost my car on occasion when I can’t find it in the parking lot.  From time to time, I’m convinced I’m losing my mind.
But I’ve never lost a cat.
I was putting the kids in the car which was in the garage.  I left the door to the house open so I could run back inside for the bag.  I only have so many arms!  And in that brief moment, he was gone. 
He likes to cautiously sneak outside and sniff at the grass and bask in the sun.  I let him sometimes, because he’s so good about staying by the house.  I didn’t see him leave the other day.  I didn’t even know he was gone until mr asked if I’d seen him at all last night.  But I can imagine it went something like this:
(gasp) She left the door open!  Oh, joy of joys - the outside world!  And it’s Spring!  I’ll just slip outside... slowly, ever so slowly... maybe she won’t notice.  I can hardly contain myself!  I made it!  I really made it!  Freedom!!  (What followed was probably approximately 1/2 hour to an hour of pure unadulterated pleasure. Until...)  Hmmm.  I wonder where she went?  It’s getting a little chilly out here.  And a little windy.  And a little dark.  I’ll just mosey around to the door... It’s closed.  Well, maybe if I scratch at it.  Nothing.  Maybe if I cry a little.  (What followed was probably about 1/2 hour to an hour of pure unadulterated PITIFULNESS as he cried his eyes out in that hoarse little mew...)  I can’t stand!  I just can’t stand it!!  They’re gone!  They left me!  I’ve been left!!!  What do I do???  (Panic.  Remember, this is a pampered house cat we’re talking about here)  I am going to STARVE!!  It’s already starting, I can feel it!  I better go find somewhere to eat, and sleep, and something to cuddle up to... 
And then he left.  To find other hands to soothe him.  
He turns 6 in May.  That’s 6 full years I’ve had this cat - for all intents and purposes he was my first baby.  And it’s my fault he’s gone.  
(I was pregnant with bug and practicing swaddling.  You can tell by D's face he loves it!)

So, I am working on a tutorial for a neat little accessory I came up with.  I think you’ll like it.  It’s just taking longer than I thought as I call the humane society, post flyers, talk to neighbors and put ads in the paper.  Bear with me. 

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

was working on a stellar post, but....

I was all excited to show you that I really HAVE been doing some crafting lately, but it all came to a standstill.  Instead I got to make this:

:(  So if you happen to be in the immediate area (I know, you're not...) keep an eye out, ok?  Promise I'll post crafty things tomorrow... 

A digression: or "the reason I'm having nightmares"

I have the perfect idea for a horror flick.  It will be called Close Encounters of the Insect Kind or maybe Invasion of the Water Bugs.  Or possibly Nightmare on Lake Winnebago.
It begins with a party at a lake house, kind of a small ballroom/bar venue, let’s say a wedding.  The guests are inspired by the words of the officiant.  They laugh, they cry... they are impressed with the beauty of the bride and enraptured at the simple elegance of the occasion.  They eat wonderful food, have wonderful conversation, and dance up a storm on the dance floor.  There’s music and fun and laughter, and they stay up late, dancing the night away.  
Finally, a young woman and her friend - both good friends of the bride from long ago - decide to retire, and after congratulating the bride and making their exit, they talk about what fun they had as they get their coats and proceed to the door.
They leave, laughing, and are immediately swept from the frivolity and gaiety of the reception into a terrible nightmare that seems never-ending.  
A simple step from the doorway, and lake flies swarm the two women, making them choke off mid-laugh, covering their faces with their hands and rushing as quickly as possible in three inch heels for the car.  They spot the vehicle ahead and relief washes over them - the end is near! - but as they near it, they realize the horror is far from over.  
Lake flies cover every surface, leaving nothing untouched.  They are latched onto the roof, the windows, the doors, and what’s worse, the HANDLES.  As the women near the car, the clouds of insects grow ever more dense and their steps kick up frenzies of the flies, which surround them and cling to their clothing, and their hair, making spasmodic  attempts to enter them at every opening - mouth, ears, eyes, nose...  The girl wants to scream, but can’t, for she knows it will only be an invitation for a family of bugs to launch themselves down her throat.  As she runs on tip toes, she hears the crunching of small lake fly carcasses beneath her feet and cringes, trying to open the door without smushing any lake flies with her fingers.  She takes a small leap to the car, hoping to avoid any more lake fly murders on her conscience, only to slide on their slippery little bug bodies, crushing all in her path, before falling into her seat.  The two women slam their doors and breathe deep sighs of relief.  The lean their heads back, chuckling a little at the horror of it all, and that’s when they see it.
The lake flies want revenge for their savaged brothers.  They’ve breeched the doorways and are swarming the dome light.  It’s only a matter of time before they gather their numbers and attack...
You guessed it.  It’s a true story.  It happened to me and my best friend, El while we were attending the (very beautiful, classy but not uppity) wedding of a long-time friend of ours.  
Here is where I take a little tangent.  We’ve been friends for a long time.  We were friends long ago, when we all looked like this:
(El's wedding)

And then a little later when we looked like this:
(my wedding)

And we were still friends when we hadn’t seen each other for a while and looked like this:
(Veronika's wedding)

And here we are last Saturday:
(Kristin's wedding)

I think the set is complete now!
mr was out of town attending his grandfather’s funeral and El’s mr was back at their home base being paid to act.  We had no one to protect us from the evils of the lake fly mob.  We tried to be courageous.  We ran to my car as best as we could.  But I they got the best of us.  
I would like to add that I had mini with me at the time.  She joined us at the dance part of the reception, because I knew she’d love to dance!  And she needed an excuse to wear her silver tutu again.  So there I was, covering her head with her little sweater and my hands, while leaving myself completely vulnerable (the things we do for the love of our children...)  And, yes, the lake flies really were THAT BAD.  Ask El.  
What’s that?  You don’t know what a lake fly is?  You’ve never had the chance to meet one?  Well, they look like this:

Yes, a lot like mosquitos without the mouth.  Doesn’t look that bad, you say?  Well, this is what they actually look like on a spring night right on the lake:  

I’m not kidding.  This picture was not altered in any fashion.  These are quite possibly the very same lake flies that attacked us.  If you could get in close enough to see, they are probably flashing their little gang signs and scowling at me.  I think I killed millions of their throng as I stampeded them on my way to respite in my car.  If you don’t believe me, look up this little local article about how these are the worst bugs in 25 years.  The worst because they now harbor grudges. 
When El and I were safely inside, we did breathe a sigh of relief.  And we did chuckle just a teeny bit - but I think it was mostly out of nervousness.  Those bugs looked like trouble.  For all I knew, there were enough of them on my car to pick it up and deposit us squarely in the water.  And when we saw the lake flies that had made it inside we were thrown back into the nightmare... We swatted a few, flicked a few out the window, and decided to make a beeline home.  As I was driving, I tried to salvage my car from beneath the clutches of the gang of flies by washing my windshield.  And as I watched the remains of lake fly after creepy lake fly tumble from my windshield, I decided I needed a car wash before I went home.
TWO (yes two) power washes later, 

the bugs were quite a bit less prominent on the outside, but thriving in the car.  We were still finding them attached to our clothing and of course, could feel our skin crawling with bugs - imaginary and real.  I now know what the term “heebie-jeebies” means.  I had it on Saturday, and I had it bad.  I was heebie-jeebie-ing all the way home.  El and I were silent as I drove the darkened streets.  If you know either of us, you know this is unusual.  (And if you know both of us, you know this is highly improbable.  And yet, it happened.)  All we could think about were lake flies.  The way the flew at your eyes and mouth in a zig-zag, hoping to confuse you so they could gain entrance.  The way their beady little eyes seem to glisten in the moonlight.  The way their wings buzz in hyperactivity.  That annoying crunch and slide as you walk over them because they refuse to get out of your way.  The way flock to the warmth of your body and cling to you with their little suction cup feet.  Just writing about it makes me feel them on me again - climbing in my hair and alighting on my arms... I’ve been violated and will never fully recover.
We couldn’t talk about it then.  And we probably won’t talk about it ever again.  The thought of “lake fly incident” causes me to gag a little.  
Well, when I got home, I thought I shooed most of them out of the car, but I can now attest to just how sneaky these little nematoceras are.  When bug and I got in the car the next day, they lurked in the shadows, biding their time.  While bug and I were busy in church, they began to creep.  When bug and I got into our car to go home, I didn’t notice them.  And neither did bug.  Until suddenly:
“It’s the itsy bitsy spider!”  
“What? Where?”  I thought maybe he was just being silly.  Anytime he sees a web or anything he thinks he’s seeing a spider.
There then followed a very boisterous rendition of “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” which was cut short by terrified screams and panicky sobs.
“bug!  What is it?  What’s wrong?”
More sobs.
Trying to keep my eyes on the road so as not to cause an accident, I said, “Can you use your words to tell me what’s wrong?”
“I scared!  I scared of the spider!”
I turn slightly, and see them.
They are flocking to his window, alternately throwing themselves against the glass and buzzing about his head.  Anytime one starts to move, he howls in petrified terror.
I try to explain that they won’t hurt him, but I can’t really blame him.  I don’t like them either.
So I pull over to the side of the road, get out of the car, shoo the bugs away (unfortunately smashing a few of them into my car upholstery) hug bug (who clings to me so tightly I'm not sure he’ll let go) and then begin to drive again.
I really thought the trouble was over at that point, but over the next few days I kept finding more in my car, as if the one night they were alive in there was all it took for them to multiply and replenish their entire species, which has now taken up residence within my cup holders.  Yesterday I saw them scuttering around my garage light.
I read that they only live something like 72 hours.  The “event” happened on Saturday.
Today I found one on my kitchen counter.  
And I don’t live anywhere NEAR a lake.  Talk about horror flick.
Can’t you just see it?  The girl keeps finding lake flies where they shouldn’t be... in her bed, in her shoe, on the counter... and every morning she gets in her car there are more of them twisting and buzzing around her dome light...
It’s just too creepy.  

Monday, April 26, 2010

broken hearts.

I really hate to say it, but this is the second time I’ve been pretty unimpressed with Martha.  (I mean, don’t take it personally, or anything, Martha.  You win some, you lose some, right?)  When I expressed my disappointment to my family during dinner, my dad was quick to point out that Martha is not the end all and be all of food.  I implied that I may have to switch my allegiance to Julia after all (but if any of you have some ideas, let me know)!  My family was also very quick to disagree with me.  They all really liked Monday food fest tonight - which consisted of Chicken with Artichokes and Angel Hair, Eggplant, Tomato and Mozzarella salad, garlic breadsticks, and Jam Cupcakes with Chocolate Frosting, all from Martha’s Everyday Food.  Oh, except the breadsticks, which were of the canned pilsbury variety.
I’ll bet you can guess which part was my favorite.  I don’t think I really need to keep saying it, as I’m sure you’re all expecting it, but yes.  Just to reiterate, I am a dessert girl.  The cupcakes are definitely something I’ll make again.  I started them first, and surprisingly, had no issues with them at all!  (So this should show you how easy they are to make!  And they aren't even from a cake mix!)  The only problem occurred when I realized the recipe called for whole milk, which I don’t generally keep on hand.  I did, however, have some cream I was saving to make some kuchen this past weekend but my ambition wore off before I could.  So I substituted the milk for cream.  I could probably just have used bug’s 2%, but I couldn’t let the cream go bad, could I?  So, crisis averted.  Oh, and I don’t own a paring knife.  I don’t even really know what that is.  So when my mom helped me out with the cupcakes she just used a steak knife and it worked just as well.  I really love the chocolate frosting on these.  It was very easy to make, very creamy and just chocolatey enough.  (as if there is such a thing as too chocolatey - please.)  I will use this frosting on future cake-type items.  I think what I like most about them, though is how versatile they seem to be.  You could probably put just about any kind of jam inside and they would be phenomenal.  Think of how you could change them up with the season!  Lemon or strawberry for summer, black cherry for fall, plum for winter, apricot for spring... well, you get the idea.  One sad part was that my grocery store had no raspberries right now, so I couldn’t “garnish with a raspberry” as suggested.  I know, right?  What grocery store doesn’t have raspberries?  And how cute, the inside looks like a little heart!

And sticking with the heart theme... the pasta of the night called for canned artichoke hearts.  Are you as shocked as I am that Martha would use canned artichoke hearts?  The idea made me gag a little, even though I’ve never had canned artichoke hearts.  It made me think of canned asparagus, which we all know is the most vile thing on earth.  But fresh asparagus?  Yum!  I figured the same was true for artichokes, too, although I have only ever eaten artichokes in spinach artichoke dip and have never cooked with them in any form.  I bought three artichokes (I mean, they look huge, right?) and I steamed them in a steamer bag in the microwave.  I had called my mom to ask what an artichoke heart was and how to get to it.  She had to look it up too, so I didn’t feel quite so inadequate.  The answer?  Peel all the leaves off, cut off the stem, scrape off the fuzziness, and anything left after that is the heart.  Pretty easy.  I had no idea that the artichoke would go from huge: 

to miniscule:  

I just figured the heart would be bigger.  So I probably should have bought about 10 of these to equal the amount that would have come in a can.  And here’s the brilliant move of the night:  I threw away everything inedible.  Or, more correctly, everything I THOUGHT was inedible.  I mean, every recipe you see calls for hearts, right?  So I thought that’s all people ate... anyway, I was pretty dismayed that when my dad asked for the leaves and found out I threw them all away he proceeded to enlighten me as to how to properly eat an artichoke.  Who knew you could eat all the leaves... my first clue should have been the simple fact that no one in their right mind would go to all the trouble to purchase a vegetable that large only to take out a minute portion of it and chuck the rest in the garbage after cooking it all.  Live and learn, right?  You all probably knew that already and are shaking your head at me.
The chicken and pasta cooked up well.  It was a very light sauce, which I think is good for summer.  I didn’t use capers because mr hates them with a passion.  I did, however, add a bit of lemon and garlic salt.  The pasta was a bit dry, but I think if I had ended up with more artichoke hearts, the sauce would have extended farther.  It was pretty yummy, though.
The eggplant and tomato salad was disgusting.  There’s no two ways around it.  Gross, with a capital G.  Which is super disappointing because I love all the parts of this salad individually, and probably together, too, but not in this particular execution.  The eggplants came out of the oven all mushy.  And, yes, I know this is my fault, but I accidentally knocked over the balsamic vinaigrette, spilling much more than two tablespoons into the salad.  So, that may have played a part in the uckiness.  Also, I grabbed the wrong mozzarella, it came in a sheet instead of in little balls and I thought it was much too tough... but no one else seemed to know what I was talking about.  Even in sheet form, the mozzarella was the best part of the salad.  (Mmmmm, mozzarella.  Even if you don’t know me personally, you can probably tell what state I’m from...)  Anyway, IF I make this again I will peel the eggplant first, use less olive oil to brush on and put it under the broiler instead of baking it.  So, maybe try that, if you’re so inclined.  And the good thing is that it looks gorgeous.  Delectable, right?  Good enough to eat?  I didn't even save the leftovers.  It's better as a decoration.

And the breadsticks, well, they’re pilsbury.  You pull them apart at the perforation, twist them up and bake them.  Even I can’t do that wrong.  
So, the dinner wasn’t my best ever.  I think I may be breaking up with Martha.  It’s not me, Martha, it’s you.  I just don’t think your heart’s in it anymore.

(bug called it a fuffin, AKA muffin, until he bit into it.  Then he thought it was a donut.)

Friday, April 23, 2010

Operation: Organization, Take 1

You would never guess it to look at me, my kids or my house, but I really do thrive on organization.  Life gets hectic.  The kids take up most of my 24 hours on any given day (as they rightly should!) and so, organization often goes right down the drain.  It’s unfortunate, but true.  I’ve decided recently to turn over a new leaf.  A “very pretty, well-organized, make my life much more smooth and lovely” leaf.  My hope?  That this new leaf will give me more time to enjoy the things I love, namely my children, my husband, my family, my church and lastly my craftiness.  My expectation?  Well, I’m trying to be realistic here.  What I don’t expect is for this to happen overnight.  What I do expect, however, is for this to be an ongoing process of organizational discovery that will hopefully bleed over into all aspects of my life and thus create a well-balanced and much healthier - emotionally, mentally and physically! - me.  We can all dream, can’t we?? 
I’m determined to do at least ONE major organizational project per week - I’m just adding on to the 50 mile long list of projects I really want to tackle - I am aware of that - but my sanity needs it (even if that means I put off THIS PROJECT I found on Craftoholics Anonymous by Linda a while ago that I really, really, really want to make.  A suit jacket turned purse?  What's not to love??  And blazers are only $1.50 at St. Vinny’s.  Do you know what that equals on 1/2 price Monday??  Well, I’m sure you can do the math).  And by major, I don’t necessarily mean a whole overhaul/redesign of every closet in the house or anything like that.  I mean major in the sense that it will be life-changing.  And the simplest things can be life changing.  Like making schedules and keeping calendars (something I’ve dabbled in before, but have generally allowed to fall by the wayside.)
I mentioned just in passing in a previous post that mr and I spent 12 hours last Saturday sprucing up the basement a bit.  (Well, I spent 12 hours.  mr spent more like 8 or 9, but to be fair, I have a lot more stuff down there.)  This project has been on my mind a lot lately, and it’s something I really wanted to tackle, mostly because it is the only space in which I can put my crafty hobbies into practice.  I’d love an actual craft room.  If mr and I had all the money in the world and no budget, our basement would look this this: 

(My craft area, complete with closets and sinks)
(mr's man cave, no explanation necessary)

(Courtesy of

(Courtesy of Quatloos!)

with equal parts craft room/man cave.  (I have to be honest, I don’t really know what exactly he’d put in there but I’m 100% positive that it would at least involve a ping-pong table and a video game station where he would hook up all of his wonderful toys.)  Like I said, we can all dream, right?
Anyway, we don’t have that, and it’s ok.  What we do have is perfect for us, and although we would eventually (far far away in the future) like to finish our basement,  it is currently of the "extremely ordinary, run of the mill, typical, unfinished, concrete" variety.  But that doesn’t mean it can’t be a usable space, right?  So when mr told me he thought it was time to take care of the atrocity downstairs, I jumped.
Last Saturday we went from this to this.  

Pretty good, right?  Ok, no, that isn’t really a picture of our “before” basement, but I swear, it might as well be.  I forgot to take a before picture which is disappointing because I know you would all be impressed.  Please take my word for it that the picture above really is very accurate.  The basement was a pile of everything we didn’t want anywhere else with two very small pathways - one leading to the laundry area and one leading to the sewing machine.  And now, the whole basement can be enjoyed!  

No, we are not completely finished.  First off, that one wooden table on the far wall has to go.  It’s just taking up space.  Once we get some shelving up in the garage, it’s outta here.  Also, the area that looks completely empty is mr’s space.  There’s nothing there yet, but my brother IL is letting us use his dart board, so that’s going up ASAP.  And of course we need some kind of carpeting so that we can avoid this nearly constant exchange:
Me: (crawling into bed after mr has turned out the light and snuggling my icy feet right up to his unnaturally warm legs)
Me: Sorry.
Him: Holy cow!
Me: Sorry!  I thought you were asleep and I could sneak my feet in...
Him: Well, even if I had been I wouldn’t be now!  Why don’t you wear socks when you’re down there?!
Me: I DO wear socks.  AND SHOES.  It’s just cold.
Him: Are you sure you're warm blooded?
Me: No.
And then there's the craft area.  I still have some big plans for this space, but that will be later on in Take 3 or 4 maybe.  
**DISCLAIMER:  Please ignore the mounds of laundry in that one picture.  I am happy with how organized the area is now, but the clothes, unfortunately, still do not do themselves.  If anyone knows how this can be remedied, please let me know.  (Half of those clothes are clean, by the way, and just not folded yet, so it’s not THAT bad.)  Oh, and did you notice that stinky frame collage mocking me from the back wall?  Not to mention that horrible desk disaster - uck.  I haven’t forgotten you frame.  You either, desk.  I promise.  Taunt me all you want, I’m coming for you.  
Point is, I can now sit and craft without blinders on, trying to ignore the hideous mountains of jumbled debris and hodgepodged rubbish cluttering the basement and seeping into my mind leaving me feeling restless and chaotic inside.  Phew!
Since we didn’t want to break the bank, we did have to stick to a budget.  I didn’t get the beautiful shelving I would have loved.  We got three utility shelves on clearance for $19.00 each.  Good enough.  On these we stacked anything that can’t be stored in the garage.  Our collection of books that won’t fit anywhere else, old journals and albums, a big cardboard box of photos that we really need to go through (note: ideas for easy storage of old photos that you want to keep well-organized but not necessarily displayed are welcomed, nay, strongly encouraged!) and holiday decorations.  One of them is still empty except for one box and some extra toilet paper - it’s for food storage.  Now that we have a designated shelf, there’s no excuse for us to put off building up a supply for a “rainy day”!  We bought several tubs with lids for baby clothing that is too small for bug (but who knows if we’ll have another boy?) and hand me downs from K that are too big for mini still.  We stuffed them in those vacuum space saver bags, popped them in the bins and stacked them in the garage.  (That alone did wonders for the space.)  We strung up an old shower curtain rod that we aren’t using (in a very temporary fashion, I might add) so that we could hang our winter gear in the off season (which unfortunately only lasts like three months...) and costumes (yep.  Costumes.  That theatre side of me just won’t be squelched.)  We reorganized what furniture we wanted to remain (futon, shelves, big table made out of pressboard that we found in the basement when we moved into the house which I am now using for crafts, stools from the kitchen that we never used up there anyway, craft desk, etc.) into a more useable configuration.  We swept (which, if you do nothing else, is the one thing you should do to “reinvent” a space.  Who knew something could look so good if it was just clean??) and ta-da!  Phase one of our budget basement makeover was complete!  (and it was only 12:23 at night...)  

Now I have a large box overflowing with lots of treasures destined for the shelves of St. Vinny’s.  Since I shop there so much, I need to give back!
It’s a minor change with minor fixes, but I already feel much better.  Just think of the potential now!  Can you imagine the things I’m going to do down there?  Stay tuned.... 

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Things My Two-Year-Old Taught Me: Part VI

We often drive near the college campus in our town on our way to grocery shopping and parks.  Recently, we were on our way to the grocery store when we passed a girl walking to her college classes.  bug excitedly pointed out the window.
“Girl!”  He announced with enthusiasm.  “That a girl!”  I had noticed her too, and I had also noticed her dreadlocks, tattoos and ripped clothing.  “Yeah,” I responded, “it’s a shaggy girl.”  bug tapped on the glass.  “That a shaggy girl.  Uh-huh.”  He agreed.  
That gave me pause.  Did I just tell my son that someone was shaggy, only to have him repeat my pronouncement with conviction?  Was my judgement all it took to make something infallibly true?
I thought back over the week.  Did this happen often?  Well, there was that one guy lurking around the park.  I’m pretty sure I inadvertently taught bug to call him creepy (I mean, maybe there was a reason he shuffled instead of walked and squinted his eyes like he was glaring at everyone.  How do I know?)  And I think I might have called a kid at the store a “punk”... and I know I’ve called other drivers “stupid heads” only to have bug parrot it back.  What am I teaching my son??
While pondering my influence on my son’s perception of others, I thought back to a similar experience I had with a different two year old many, many years ago (about 12 years ago, to be exact).  (He may have been 2 and 1/2 or slightly older, but definitely NOT 3...) That two year old was my nephew and I was babysitting.  
I decided that the two of us needed to get out of the house, and as it was such a nice day, we went for a walk.  At this time he and his family lived about 10 blocks from me, so I was familiar with the neighborhood and many of the neighbors.  There lived in this neighborhood a man with an unfortunate disfiguration affecting the majority of his body - something like proteus syndrome (much like Joseph Merrick) (most commonly known as The Elephant Man).  As I had grown up in this neighborhood, I had been witness (and - although I don't like to admit it - sometimes participated in) some childish cruelty towards this man - generally “benign” in nature, with a focus on calling him nasty nicknames behind his back.  (I say “benign” in quotes, because as we all know, name-calling isn’t really benign at all.  I use the term really to illustrate that we never did this to his face and thankfully never actually did this man or his property any physical harm)  
While my nephew and I were out walking, our path took us directly in front of this man’s house.  He was sitting outside on his stoop, enjoying the warm day just as we were.  My nephew and I had been engrossed in conversation (most likely a deep philosophical discussion centering around Blue’s Clues and the then host, Steve.)  When I noticed that this man was outside, I gathered my wits about me and silently begged my nephew not to see him.  I knew this man didn’t deserve further scrutiny and probably did not appreciate the attention he generally attracted, especially by children (sometimes mean-spirited, but just as often simply curious due to a lack of understanding or exposure to people with this condition).  I had no idea how I would respond to my nephew's questions about the man (I knew there definitely WOULD be questions, since my nephew was inquisitive AND had quite the vocabulary) And so, I resolved to ignore this man and continue walking normally, as this was the “right thing to do.”
And then my nephew shattered my world.
He stopped, suddenly.  He looked.  He even pointed.  Imagine my mortification when he spoke.
“A man!”  He exclaimed.  I said nothing.  I didn’t stop.  I didn’t turn.  I didn’t acknowledge his comment at all.  I simply grabbed his hand and urged him forward.
He wouldn’t budge.  “Look, look!”  He insisted, continuing to point and raise his voice in excitement.
I think I probably would have died right there, had he not continued his enthusiastic ramblings with hardly a beat:
“It’s a man!  Hi, man!  Hi!”  He waved excitedly.  “How are you?”
I stopped.  I stared at my nephew.  And then I turned to the man, looking at him in a whole new light.  Looking at him through my nephew’s eyes.  Here was a man, just a man, basking in the warm summer day and enjoying the sights and sounds of the neighborhood.  Here was someone to say hi to, quite possibly a new friend.
The man smiled.  He waved back.  Through my shame I managed to smile and say hello as well, and then my nephew and I continued on our way.
I couldn’t help but feel an incredible amount of embarrassment at myself and my actions.  When I saw this man sitting outside, did I really see the man?  Or did I see his condition?  I was so worried about my nephew saying something inappropriate on accident that I acted inappropriately myself.  While I was busy ignoring the unpleasantness, my two year old nephew was busy seeing the real person.  
It made me think of this quote:  “Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God.”  (Doctrine and Covenants section 18, verse 10)
Was I seeing the true worth of this man?
Even if you don’t believe in God as I do, even if you don’t believe in a higher power at all, you probably still believe in - or at least hope for - human decency.  And decency dictates that we treat each other with respect.  Part of that involves seeing people as worthwhile - or in other words, looking past their flaws or imperfections, whatever they may be.
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel that same shame wash over me as I heard my son call the college girl “shaggy.”  So she had some frizzy hair.  So do I first thing in the morning.  So she had a tattoo or two (or ten).  Some people would call that artistic expression.  So she had some ripped clothes.  Doubtless she spent good money for her clothes to look torn just so.  Who am I to judge what is shaggy and what isn’t?  I quickly told my son I shouldn’t have said that, and neither should he.  (Not that that reverses the initial affects.  Anyone with a kid knows they keep right on saying what you’ve said, even when you renege.  This is why bug continues to chirp, “oh my crap!” even though I’ve told him we shouldn’t say it anymore...)
Two year olds know a lot more than we give them credit for.  My nephew and bug were right to point out the people... I was very, very wrong to notice only the outward appearance.   

(My two year old nephew... long ago!  He's about 4 feet 
taller now and wears glasses.  Just as skinny though.)

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Epic, epic fail.

I have to admit, after the whole “sewing practically all night long, crying, swearing, sewing some more, calling my mommy to come help me finish sewing, then crying and sewing again ALL NIGHT LONG” escapade for the Easter outfits I made (only to have mini’s not fit her at all) I kind of swore off the sewing machine for a while.  I just couldn’t bring myself to change the broken needle for the third time in one project, so there it sat.  Broken needle crying out to me, “don’t you love me anymore?”
I couldn’t hack the guilt, so I finally pulled out my replacement needle and set to work on a project I’ve been hatching for a long time now.  See, after I realized how many things can be refashioned into really cute OTHER things I started going around my house saving practically everything.  (I believe I’ve mentioned this before.  It’s one of the top reasons mr and I spent 12 hours last Saturday cleaning out the basement - my salvages were taking over.)  (And no, I’m not exaggerating, I worked on that basement for 12 hours.  mr finked out around 10:30 pm, but I crawled into bed at 12:23.) (And I had the foolish assumption I’d be done by early evening!  Ha!)  Anyway, a friend of mine sent me the link to this tutorial on 30 Handmade Days, from guest blogger Disney over at Ruffles and Stuff, and I knew I had to make one.  What an adorable idea for those too small cardigans multiplying on their own in my “to repurpose” basket!  I present, the cardi-hat!  

Well, I can’t really “present” it, for reasons that will become obvious shortly, but if you want to see a picture of Disney’s cardigan hat - and you do, you really, really do - go here.
My friend sent this link to a few other crafty/sewy moms, and afterwards I saw cardigan hats everywhere!  (No, not really everywhere... but there were some darn cute ones floating around church!)  After seeing their super cute versions, I was even more resolved.
I decided what better project to whip out after the Easter clothes fiasco than this great hat for mini?  I also had big plans to “man it up” a little bit and make it for bug.  I got it all together and dove in.
And this, THIS right here, is the result:
(What the heck is this supposed to be??)
(Um, I thought you were making a hat?)

Now, I actually wasn’t going to post this because, quite frankly, I am embarrassed.  After hearing everyone talk about how easy these are to make, etc, etc, these pictures will let you know just how incredibly incompetent I am feeling right now.  I mean what is that pink thing?  Honestly?  A pancake hat??  And that red monstrosity?  Please.  
But, just to further reiterate what a complete novice I am to this sewing thing: when I told my mom about all of my broken needles during the Easter clothing sew-a-thon and how I had to change my needle yet again, she asked what size needle I’d been using, because that may have been part of the problem.  Size?  Um, the size that fits in my machine.  Imagine my surprise when she informed me that there were many different sizes of needles that fit in my machine, each specializing in different weights of fabric/thread, etc.  Really...  so you mean to tell me that I’ve been using a different size every time I re-needle my machine?  Well, I’ve never pretended to be good at this.  I was honest from the very start.  I am learning as I go.  

 But I digress.  The problem with my cardi-hat is that I don’t really know what the problem is.  The directions were straightforward enough.  
I started with the pink one.  Trouble began on the second step - gathering.  It would not gather.  I know how to gather - I do it a lot.  You can see that here, and here, and here.  But for some reason, this circle cut out of a cardigan would not scrunch up.  Threads were breaking, my machine was jamming, I tried and tried again.  Finally, I got it all together and began sewing the binding on when the gathering thread broke yet again and in cloud of fury and frustration I sewed the binding anyway, grumbling as I did so.  And guess what.  When I was finished - no gather.  I tried to sew elastic to the inside as Disney suggested in her post, but to no avail.  Apparently this pancake hat is beyond help.  
So, with an almost frightening amount of determination I gritted my teeth and whipped out the red cardigan.  I followed the steps yet again, and this time the gathering went very well.  I began to think maybe the problem was in the fabric - the pink fabric was much thicker than the red - and started sewing the binding when suddenly, you guessed it, the gathering thread broke.  I was almost done sewing the binding so I finished up anyway, and the final product is what you see above (and just below).  I floppy “hat” with one side nicely gathered and one side not gathered at all.
After the red one I was tired of ranting and raving and put my sewing things away.  This sabbatical will probably last for about a week, once again.
I think it is safe to say that this project was a fail of epic proportions.  
And so, it is with deep regret, remorse and huge chunk of disappointment that I feel I must put another point for the visitor on the score board.  
Yes, cardi-hat, you’ve won this round.  But the match will be mine, just you wait. 

SYS Thurs
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