Sunday, September 25, 2016

An idea from a friend

I have a friend—M—who’s imaginary only in the sense that I have not yet met her face to face. We’re part of a small group of friends, eight in all, and we’ve been mailing cards and postcards to each other for going on five or six years.

A couple of weeks ago, M sent me a card and when I got it, I thought it was perfect for a friend at work. That friend, Jane, has accepted a job with another company and is leaving her current job this week. While I’m sad for me (Jane and I have the best conversations about everything under the sun), I am ecstatic for her. The new position is a promotion and will let her move her career in a direction more in keeping with her interests and her abilities.

I told my imaginary friend, M, that the card was perfect for Jane. She said well you should figure out a way to give it to her. Here’s what I did.


This photo makes the card look much bigger than it is, it's actually fairly small. 

Friday, September 23, 2016

Dining room is back to normal (at last)

This is one of those projects that took a long time. It started with the foundation work we did in April, 2015; the house had nearly a three inch drop toward the street side and before we could make any other changes, that had to be fixed.

Getting started
Then we had to wait . . . and wait . . . until everything settled into the new position and any cracking that was going to happen did happen. So then we needed to find someone to repair the cracks, which we did in July. The guy we used suggested that rather than getting rid of those built in cabinets, we reuse them in the garage.

So we did.

Bye bye built in cabinets.

Repurposed cabinets in their new home.

Then we asked him to come back because we knew we were going to use the Billy bookcases from Ikea and wanted them to look as built in as possible. So he did.


Kent assembled the bookcases. 

You can see the framing John added around the bookcases.

Kent stained the framing
and put a coat of poly on too.
In a way, this project reminded me of the kitchen renovation we did when we lived in Crush House. That kitchen had a peninsula that just made no sense at all. We were stymied about what to do until one night (while on strong pain medication after major surgery), I told Kent he should just get out his circular saw and take that sucker out. He warned me we might have to live with the hole in the floor for a while, and we did; it was nearly a year later before we were positive we didn't miss the storage and had a good idea of what we wanted to do.

Ugly peninsula (and counter top).

Hole in the floor tile.

An after picture; I'm really proud of this project.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

We figured it out

Well—Kent did, actually.

Wally’s got a wound on his upper lip on the right side of his face. That’s the same side as where he had the upper canine removed. Since the wound appeared after the tooth removal, we knew they were related but weren’t sure why. We’d seen his upper lip catch on his upper gum in that spot but that didn’t seem like enough contact to create the wound.

Kent's been watching him off and on during the day and realized Wally is catching his upper lip on the point of his lower canine. He’s basically stabbing himself in his lip a little every time that happens.

Since it’s not infected, and it doesn’t appear to be inflamed or particularly bothering him (although it sure bothers me), we haven’t called the vet. We’re continuing to watch it, though. I don’t want anything else to go wrong with our kitties’ health so if it doesn’t show signs of healing in a week or so, we’ll have to decide which of the vet recommendations we’ll use and then endure the pain of taking him to another vet.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

This instead of that

As we’ve run the numbers and scrutinized our budget on just my income, we’ve figured out that we’ll need to tighten up by about $300 a month when unemployment runs out.

Here’s an interesting side note: in Kansas, the length of time you can be on unemployment is tied to the state unemployment rate. Right now, the unemployment rate is 4.3% and that means you can get 16 weeks. If it rises to 4.5% over a rolling three-month average, then that time would increase to a total of 20 weeks. We probably won’t get there in time for Kent to have the longer amount of time and honestly I don’t actually want unemployment to rise (not to mention that unemployment pays very little).

Going back to our budget, we don’t actually do a lot of discretionary spending, Crazy Trips notwithstanding and also we haven’t gone on one in well over a year. Where we did spend like that, we stopped: we dropped my contribution to my 401K down to 10% and may drop it more after the first of the year, and we stopped paying extra on the principle for our mortgage and now just pay the mortgage.

I have one professional membership I’d already decided not to renew so that’s confirmed as money I won’t spend (I will keep my membership to SIOP, however, as that’s important to my career). But the rest of that shortfall will need to be made up in tiny savings, not big obvious ones.

We compare prices between Amazon, Walmart and whatever store we’d normally have gone to for the item. Walmart almost always has the lowest price (not in cat food because they don’t carry what we use), followed by Amazon. I know some folks who won’t shop at Walmart and to them, I would say that’s a choice you can make. Right now, we can’t (and honestly where do you think the employees of Walmart would work if all the stores shut down?), and I made no apology for that. 

Here are some of the choices we’re making:


I’m sure there are other, similar choices we’ll be making—but those are the ones we’ve identified already. Got any suggestions? 

Saturday, September 17, 2016

September's cat

Yes, I waited until today—happy birthday, Mom! Also, I've always had a soft spot in my heart for black and white kitties. They seem to have such large, friendly personalities. 


Monday, September 5, 2016

The economics of sewing

One of the maternity dresses I made
Thinking back to how I got into sewing as an adult, well it was mostly to save money and partly due to not finding what I needed when I was pregnant and living in (then West) Germany. Sure, I could have bought maternity clothes from German stores, but they were expensive. I could have also mail ordered from Sears (remember when we did that?), but again, the options were limited and cost more than I wanted to pay, plus shipping to Europe took weeks. So I made my maternity clothes—a couple of dresses, some tops, some pants—nothing elaborate and not a whole lot of them either. I figured I didn’t need a lot of clothes since pregnancy isn’t all that long anyway.

I'm second from the right,
in a dress I made
I kept sewing in my 20s and 30s because it was still cheaper. I remember making dresses for myself that cost between $10 and $25, including the pattern and notions. This was also when you bought patterns by the size, no multi-sizes printed on the same sheets of tissue the way they’re printed today. I was a straightforward size and didn’t need to make any alternations (nor did I learn how).

The first time I bought fabric that cost over $10 a yard, I was very nearly sick with nerves cutting it out. I was horrified by that high price, although today I’d think it was a good bargain.

This is the jacket & skirt I made
from the expensive stuff
I’ve sewed off and on ever since. Kent and I got into sewing in a pretty big way in Boston and now we own two sewing machines and a combo serger/cover stitch machine. And we have a fair amount of fabric. We joined Julie’s Club through Fabric Mart and let me tell you, fabric buying can be pretty impulsive especially when you can touch and see the little swatches they send you every month.

I felt a little guilty about having bought all that fabric and not using it, until the last couple of weeks. The clothes I’ve made this weekend definitely aren’t cheaper than what I could buy at places like H&M or Uniqlo (more about that in a second), but I already had the fabric on hand. Oh and the thread, patterns, zipper and interfacing.

So here’s what I’ve made the last few days.

First up is a dress which is meant to replace the one on my dress form. That dress is a lovely Eileen Fisher dress made of a soft merino wool. You may not be able to tell in this photo, but the Eileen Fisher dress drapes beautifully and absolutely doesn’t look like a sack when worn. My copy is from a sweater knit I got when we were in NYC a couple of years ago, and I used Butterick 6258. I'm pretty pleased with this one, it's got the same body skimming style of the Eileen Fisher one.






This outfit is completely me-made, skirt and top. The skirt is a very simple knit skirt, also from Butterick 6258. The top is another Burda pattern, 7051. I’ve made this one before too, but a different view. This time I made view A and I absolutely love it.


Next up is a sweater I made to replace the one you see in the dress form (another lovely Eileen Fisher sweater). My new one is from a merino wool knit and I used Burda 6990 (view A). I’ve made this pattern before and fortunately I’d traced it and not cut the tissue. That meant I could cut a smaller size and not have to re-purchase the pattern. The skirt is the same knit skirt from the photo above. Also ignore the cheesy expression, I blink super fast when my photo's being taken so I end up concentrating really hard and I look kind of strange but it's better than blinking.





And this skirt is a pattern hack. I want to make a couple of pencil skirts but don’t have a pencil skirt pattern. I do have this New Look pattern (6123, no link because it's out of print but you can see it in the photo), This dress is basically a bodice (top part) attached to a pencil skirt. I’ve got some lovely Italian wool I got when Kent and I were in Rome a few years ago, but I sure didn’t want to experiment with that! So I used this ponte knit. To be honest, I have no idea what I was thinking I’d make with this but pretty clearly I had something in mind because I bought three and a quarter yards of it. As it turns out, I like the fabric a lot and it feels amazing on.


Cheesy expression

Close up of fabric


Dress pattern I hacked


Finally, back to Uniqlo. If you’ve never heard of Uniglo, well they’re a Japanese clothing company and I love their styles and their prices. They tip toe just this side of fast fashion (i.e. cheap fabric), and since we don’t have a brick & mortar store in the area, returns are often more of a pain than they’re worth. But when the clothing works, it’s pretty amazing.

Ignore the scowl on my face, I was in a great mood when Kent took this—but I wanted to show you why it’s not always the cheaper option to sew my clothes. This coat is made of a felted wool knit and cost $69. I can’t buy fabric to make it at that price; I know because I looked.


Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Well this is weird

I’m not entirely sure how Fitbit calculates steps. You put in your height and your weight in the dashboard, and pick the hand you’re wearing the Fitbit on (dominant or non-dominant hand).

The reason I bring this up is I’ve noticed a difference between the results from my old Fitbit and my new one. It might be that they’re just slightly different in how they read steps.

I also wondered if weight is part of the calculation, maybe more than I realized. When I got my first Fitbit, I picked a likely number for my weight (I don’t weigh myself, since knowing the actual pounds I weigh tends to trigger my eating disorder—no thanks on that!).

Last month, right before a medical test that required sedation, the person gathering my health information told me what I weigh (I’ve been doing my best to forget ever since). So I put that weight in the dashboard for my Fitbit when I set it up.

Normally on non-run days, I’ll get between 5 and 6 thousand steps just going about my normal day. Now I get in the high 4 thousands. Runs are clocking in slightly less also, but my running route hasn’t changed.

In a way, I don’t care—I use the Fitbit as a relative scale that I’m staying active (and I rely on the silent alarm every work day, love that gentle buzz). But I do find it kind of strange that weight—if that’s the reason—changes my step count so much.