Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Home updates

So, here's an update on some of the things I accomplished last week.

Cat Bathroom Painted Blue

I finished painting the walls blue in the half bath. We still need to fix the ceiling and touch up the edges in some of the places where the masking tape didn't behave.

Living Room Curtains

We also installed curtains in the living room in lieu of the vertical blinds that I hate so much. This was the best photo I could get at the moment with the sun shining in so brightly. I bought these curtains at IKEA, but they were tab-top, and I wanted to create a clean line from the cove ceiling to make the toom look taller, rather than showing a band of green at the top. On the other hand, I liked the regular folds that the tabs created, rather than the random bunching you get with a channel. So I just folded the interfaced top portion down to the back side, pressed and sewed along the former top edge, sewed the tabs down, then threaded the curtain rod through the tabs. VoilĂ !

Creating this IKEA hack and hemming the curtains was the first thing I have sewn since I mentioned completing sewing projects this month in order to join in the Crepe Sew-Along. My sewing machine was being frustrating, as usual, in failing to maintain its tension and going crazy on the back side of the seam. I ended up using Scott's machine instead, and I like it a lot better. It is a tiny travel machine, but it isn't finicky, and it sews reliably. I also like its case, which includes special places to store thread, bobbins, and other accessories, plus half of the case can be attached to the machine as an extension table. Still, it really is small. I had trouble lifting the foot over the curtain hems at the edges, because there wasn't enough vertical play. The 6" hem was already rising up the vertical because the arm wasn't long enough to lay it flat. Plus, the stitch-type selector dial is not functioning, so it is limited to being a straight-stitch machine, though it is supposed to have a variety of useful stitches available. At any rate, it is still preferable to my mis-behaving machine, and I will be using it for all of the projects I will be tackling this week.

I did go into my stash and decided that it was silly for me to keep some of the projects that I had tried to rescue due to fit issues, etc. Others should be on their way soon, with proper use of muslins.

Things Worth Noting

This is just a collection of things that have caught my eye over the last week or so.

Mata Hari, posted by For the Visionaries. I just love the lines of her hairdo and the headpeace. There is something so striking about her.

This necklace was made by Just Expressive I think that it is a really creative way to put a necklace together. I love the color combination and the contrast in textures.

I also feel a need to share the eggcorn database. Eggcorn is a word coined (and now included in the Oxford English Dictionary, I believe) to describe words that people miswrite due to the way that they sound, especially in idioms. These are the kind of things that I encounter on the internet that make me cringe. I have occasionally even seen them in e-mails from people I have worked with. It usually bothers me and I don't know whether to correct them or let it lie, especially in a professional setting when you don't want to see a person making that kind of mistake in something sent to a client. After all, I don't want to be that irritating person who tells you that, for example, penultimate means next-to-last, not some somehow greater or more important way of saying last. Plus, I know I am not a perfect speller, and I do make typos. It's just that eggcorns aren't just typos, or not really knowing how to spell a word. They are generally misunderstandings of what a word or phrase means, like using "all intensive purposes" in lieu of "all intents and purposes," or using "isle" in lieu of "aisle." Certainly, I am guilty of not knowing some of them; for example, the idiom I thought was "tow the line" is in fact originally "toe the line," meaning something more like "step up to the plate" rather than to just go along with it. At least I can feel better that it is one of the most commonly used eggcorns, and it is actually starting to become acceptable. At any rate, this database is fabulously interesting, and it kind of helps with that "stupid people on the internet" feeling.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Interior Design

Cat bathroom primed

As I wait for the primer in the half bathroom to dry, I am going to take a moment to share some of the things that I have been enjoying in the design realm recently.  Unless noted otherwise, I have pulled these from Apartment Therapy.

I really like the way that the pictures are grouped in the background, with the letters. I also like that green pillow.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Joining In

This week included several big firsts for me, as I finally joined in some of the groups that I have been planning to join since before I moved.

First, on Monday night, I went to my first dance class in Michigan. For those few of you who do not know me personally, I will explain. I really love Scottish Country Dance. This is the traditional social dance of Scotland. You dance with a partner, interacting with a larger group, called a set. You don't have to bring a partner, though, as etiquette dictates that you dance with a new partner for every dance, so there is a lot of mingling and meeting new people. It is a lot of fun, and the people are very welcoming. There is a broad age range of dancers, and there are groups all over the world. I have been dancing since 1999, and I roped both my best friend and my mother into joining me. I had even taught class occasionally in Atlanta, so you can see how strange it was for me not to be dancing, even though there is class four nights a week within about 45 minutes of my house. I just kept putting off calling the contact people. I was so glad I went on Monday, though. The class and the room are both fairly small, but there is a wood floor and live music. The thing that was the most exciting, however, was that one of the dancers is an old college dance friend of mine. She was a freshman when I was a senior, but she had been dancing since she was a kid, and she attended two of the classes I attended each week. She and her sister and best friend all attend the class.

On Sunday, I went to the monthly meeting of the Spinner's Flock, which is a handspinners' group that meets west of Ann Arbor. There were about 100 spinners in attendance, and nine or ten vendors, mostly of fiber, but one sold handmade soaps. There was a program on Estonian lace knitting, and a special area where people were giving assistance to beginners. While the group is large and convivial, I did not feel like they were as welcoming as the Peachtree Handspinners Guild because the group was fragmented. Everyone was clustered around tables scattered throughout the room, whereas at PHG they form a big circle. Also, there was no way to go around the room and share introductions, news and knitting, though there were announcements made. Once I just picked a spot and introduced myself, everyone was very nice. I just found it relatively difficult to break the ice. Still, it seems like a good group with a whole lot of resources, and I met one girl that I may be joining for other knit nights and LYS excursions.

The next thing that I may be joining is the Crepe Sew Along over at Gertie's New Blog for Better Sewing. Gertie's blog started as a project to sew all of the patterns from the 1950's book Vogue's New Book for Better Sewing, but it has turned into much more. She has made it a forum for interesting discussion and a place to find great sewing information and tutorials. She is very inspirational, and she makes difficult things seem totally approachable. After watching her most recent sew along, I think I could tackle a custom fitted, hand tailored, fully interlined coat. Still, it's probably not a good idea for me to start there. Fortunately, her new sew-along is the beginner-friendly Crepe dress from Collette Patterns.

I have been an admirer of indie pattern company Collette Patterns since the first collection, when it was the owner Sarai's side venture, rather than her main employment. I can't quite remember whether I found it through Gertie or if I found Gertie though Sarai, but the designs are lovely, and from everything I have heard, the patterns are exceptionally well put together. The price is steep compared to what you pay for patterns a a chain store, but it sounds like what you get is higher quality, and you are supporting the livelihood of the designer. One main reason that I haven't purchased any of the patterns yet is that I haven't been sewing much, and I haven't used what I already own, so it is hard to justify buying new, especially given my employment situation.

Still, given the discounts available for the sew-along, and the rave reviews I have read recently, I have decided that if I can finish some of my existing sewing projects by the end of the month, then I can justify joining in, even if I'm a little late. I would check out local independent fabric shops first, but I found myself following Gertie's links to online retailers giving discounts, and I am finding the fabrics so inspiring.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Baking and Canning

Green Tomatoes - Pickles and chutney

Today was a day for baking and canning. Yesterday, I dug up the rest of the potatoes, and today I used the green tomatoes that were harvested last week. I made green tomato and apple chutney and green tomato pickles. I haven't tasted the pickles yet, of course, but I like the chutney. I tried it on the bread I baked today.

With the last of the apples we picked, I also made more miniature apple pies for Scott to take to work.

Apple pies

There's a little how-to after the jump.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Fiber and Faucets

Mason, MI Fiber Festival Purchases

Saturday, we went to a little fiber festival in Mason, MI, featuring fiber from four different local farms. I purchased about 12 oz of wool roving for spinning, shown above. The green is hand dyed Romney, and the brown is natural-colored Blue Faced Leicester from a sheep named Snickers. I believe it will match the handspun I made Scott a hat from a few years ago.

Mason is just a few miles south of Lansing, so we spent the rest of the day with a couple of friends who live there. We saw the house Bones bought earlier this year, and then went out for sushi, followed by a trip to the MSU dairy store, where we bought some interesting hard cheeses to try and ate some ice cream.

New kitchen faucet

Sunday, Scott installed a new goose neck faucet in our kitchen. I am very exited about it because I can now get our big soup and canning pots under the faucet to fill them properly, plus it's much more attractive. Unfortunately, getting the old faucet out was a major ordeal. The shut-off valves under the sink were not functional, and once we turned the water off, they were stuck so hard on there that Scott was forced to cut them off with a hacksaw. He also struggled to unbolt the existing faucet from the sink, even with the help of penetrating oil. All of this unforeseen trouble led to several trips to the hardware store. Eventually, the faucet came off, and all of the new fittings and fixtures went in like a breeze. The pretty, new faucet is working great.

Finished handspun - Firefly Fibers

Inspired by our trip to the fiber fair, I spent a lot of Sunday spinning and plying the yarn pictured above. Sadly, my photography skills are a bit lacking, and the skein appears a bit washed out, but on the whole it is much more washed out than the original fiber was. I think I regret my choice to divide it into three sections and ply them together for a marled yarn. The result was a subtly variegated sage green yarn with an overall feel like an elven cloak from Lothlorien. My sections weren't quite even, so once I ran out of the first single, I navajo plied the remaining yarn. You can see the resulting small skein sitting on the table in front of the main skein. The difference is marked between the contrasts in this skein and the blends of the other. In retrospect, navajo plying all of the yarn would have created an effect that would have made the yarn better resemble the roving. I am not entirely sure what made this not as successful as other marled yarns I have made in the past, but I suspect it was a combination of the width of the roving and the length of the color sections. This has certainly been a lesson in controlling color results from my spinning.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Living and Dining Room: Before & After, Plus Inspiration

Here is the progress that we have made on combining Scott and my things into his space. Really, this is just documentation of the way I added and rearranged the art on the walls.

Dining Room Before:

Dining room before


Dining Room After

More after the jump.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Halloween Party

I was pleased the kitchen paint job done before our Halloween party last Friday. Scott always hosts a fairly large party on Halloween Friday, and this year was no exception. We even had a friend dressed as Captain America tending the bar for awhile:

Halloween Party 2010

I brought out my Black Cat costume from Dragon*Con:

Black Cat Costume

Scott also rocked a Dragon*Con costume, because we concentrated our costume-making efforts on turning Thander into an Imperial Walker (AT-AT):

Imperial Walker (AT-AT) Dog Costume

A good time was had by all, and we even had 11 people spend the night and stay for breakfast. We made "superhero breakfast", which is what Scott calls eggs-in-a-basket because of V for Vendetta. We used a star-shaped cookie-cutter to make them even more super hero themed. On Sunday, we used the leftover stars to make little french toasts:

Star French Toast

I promise, they're bread, not murdered starfish.

Kitchen Before and After

While I didn't really take before pictures of the entire kitchen, here is the summary so you can see what we finished last week. Remember the before, peachy-pink with stenciled ivy?

Kitchen before

See the result after the jump.