Wednesday, March 30, 2011

car fixin's

I know nothing about car repair.

So when my mechanic said I had some rust holes in my car, I gamely said, no problem, I'll fix them myself... with the help of a friend. Trouble was, neither one of us could figure out where the problems were listed on the work order, and the real gaping hole that was plainly visible was apparently not a problem [?!]. Well, we put a patch over the obvious hole, scraped off the rust we could find, laid down some rust inhibitor, and I was on my way - except that, backing out of the remarkably narrow driveway, my passenger mirror got caught on a chain link fence and snapped into 3 pieces. Yeah, I have one of those cars - specifically, a 98 Ford Taurus. No hatchback, and no breakaway mirrors :'( . Now what do I do?! The inspection being up... uhm, today... I still haven't found the holes the mechanic was talking about, and my mirror is dangling limply off the side of my car. Christe Eleison...

I don't like pulling the Damsel In Distress card. I can fix this because I can fix [almost] anything. Let's put a plug in for the friendly folk at the chain auto parts store that I frequent, a packet of adhesive Bondo patches, two different kinds of marine grade adhesive and a spackling tool. [I forgot the rust inhibiting primer and a wire brush... oops]. All this for about $16. Thanks guys, you rock. Now to go home and fix this thing!

Oh, did we mention it's barely 40 degrees Fahrenheit outside? I have no garage? Not ideal conditions to try to fix a problem like this, but the weather isn't going to get any warmer any time soon. In fact, they're calling for snow this afternoon. >:(

I do my best to mix the epoxy to it's proper uniform light blue consistence, watching as my hands turn a similar color.  Since I'm in no position to take the door of my car apart at all, and certainly not outdoors in temperatures around 38 degrees, the best approach to this problem seemed to involve gluing the three pieces of the mirror casing back together first, and then see what could be done about adhering it back to the car, if necessary. The biggest challenge in this is that the casing containing the mirror unit separated completely from the two other casing pieces. How then to keep that very heavy object stabilized - still attatched to the car - while the glue sets up on it's fracture, and the fracture between the other casing parts? Our good friend, Duct tape. I ended up ripping off a long piece of tape and adhered it to the passenger window and a less conspicuous place on the windshield, forming a fairly effective sling as it were to cradle the mirror unit in place, as well as adding strips of tape to the other pieces to keep them in place. I don't know how well this is going to work, and I also don't know where to find a junk yard in pittsburgh to buy a second hand mirror, since I'd rather not buy a new one. It's been half an hour since I mixed the glue and applied it to the car. The package said it would set up in an hour at temperatures in the low seventies... yes, thank you for laughing with me, since it's late March in Southwestern Pennsylvania, currently a balmy 38 degrees Fahrenheit. So I've got another hour and a half to go waiting for the glue to set. Hopefully, I'll have regained feeling in my hands by then.

Friday, March 25, 2011

continental drift

The beautiful thing about living in a Queen Anne is that the foyer has a grand staircase, and if you clear off the foyer floor, lay out the work, and climb to the second landing, you can stick a camera over the banister and get a pretty nice full on shot. The image is a little skewed because of the angle, but the top of the duvet really does have a slight dimple. I laid out the duvet, ripped out the stitches, recut the back and the top to fit the comforter, and that's how it turned out. A slight dimple in the side. The top right and bottom right look flared - that's because I put holes at the 'bottom' to aid in fitting the comforter into the cover, and I put facing along the seams.

Just facing, the duvet itself isn't lined. Maybe at some point, I will line it. Or remake it. Or whatever. In any case, a full lining seemed ridiculous where a two inch facing would do well. The end nearest my hand is sewn into the seam for the side, and tucked under. The opposite end of the hole I left the tails free of one another so that they can be tucked to cover the comforter. They should have been wider than two inches to effectively accomplish this, but that was the left over bit. It is a pretty sizable hand hole; I wanted to be sure I could get my arm in with out pulling the seams apart.  
I dealt with the large open end by putting in a button placket. They aren't the nicest looking button holes in the world, but considering they won't be seen, I'm not concerned about appearances. Something to watch out for on the sewing machine in the future though. I tried to center the placket as best as I could with out actually measuring, the button holes were marked out at six inches apart. I'm not looking at it right now, I think I sewed in seven button holes. I won't be adding buttons for a while as my button stash has been packed... like everything else. I'm still not satisfied with how the piece looks over all. It could have been the stripe orientation on the bed, or the giant, void, yellow space. Also unsatisfying is that somehow the three grouped stripes drifted on one end. I have no other word for it, they square evenly on one side and on the other side, the seam comes together at the piecing on an angle. It doesn't happen anywhere else, and it's just along the edge that it is obvious. As duvet covers go, it is serviceable, and the comforter does fit, as long as the stitching of the comforter is parallel with the long stripe pieces. Design flaw that comes with not taking one's time. I also noticed that the Target brand sheet billed as "ultra soft" is only ultra soft on one side. The fabric has retained some of the perfume from the laundry detergent it was washed in yesterday, now every once in a while I get a whiff of fresh scent.

The initial purpose for this project was to cover a comforter to put on a bed for when the house is shown. The comforter, meant for a full size bed, only covers the top of the California King bed, not, obviously the sides. The sheets on the bed are therefore visible, also obviously the wrong size because we kept out the regular king sheets instead of packing them. Also visible is the area under the bed, where most of my things are currently stored. Unacceptable, says the Realtor. So there's a blue and white damask bedspread - also not intended for a bed of this, uhm, stature - that is magically supposed to help take care of the visibility problems. Trouble is, there are about four other different  blue and white color combinations already going on in this room. And they kind of make my head hurt.

insane insanity

Am setting out on an insane quest to creat a duvet cover for a full comforter out of the following materials:

*1 Martha Stewart Everyday yellow pinstripe queen flat sheet (100% cotton) - thrift store, $2
(Matching Martha Stewart pillow cases, $3 at same thriftstore. Go figure, right?)
*1 Room Essentials solid butter yellow queen size ultra soft flat sheet (100% cotton) Target, $13 [about] Came in a doofy little yellow fabric bag.
*1/2 yard Joann Keepsake Calico blue multi-dot
*33" of some grass green polkadot on white fabric I found in the remnant bin (50%)
*1 fat quarter (18"x22" - 1/4 yard cut fat ways instead of selvage to selvage) of pale green plaid
*1 fat quarter of a mostly tomato-y red dense floral.
God I hope I bought enough fabric!!!!! 0_o

I am attempting to do this in a mad wild rush because the house I'm living in is going on the market... and people will be walking through the house... and I can't use one of my plain old quilts because "it will detract from the space". So I'm trying to make a duvet on the cheap, and fast, so that it's also something I can stand living with through this showing process.

Finding the buttery yellow sheets at the thrift store for such a low price is actually a little of a boon. It's still early spring, and the comforter isn't quite enough, even if I'm wearing fleece pajamas. Having put away the rest of the quilts, I left out a twin sized "Rosie Stripe" [it could have been "Rosie's Stripe]quilt made by Arizona Jeans Co. that I bought with Christmas money, way back in early high school (I'm coming up on the 10 year reunion). Now I wish I would have gone for a full, but that's hindsight for you. In any case, the greens and the yellows are the same, so they won't clash terribly. Which is rather what you're going for when selling the house.
I did rip the stitching out of both of the sheets... The MS sheet was sewn with those wonderful seams that pull apart - very satisfying. The RE sheet... hello straight stitching. Ugh. If I hadn't found the MS sheet for $2 at the thrift store-- Okay, yes, you're right, I could have gone with a king size for the back, but I was thinking in terms of useable fabric and not wasting too much. And queens are cheaper than kings. Cheap, cheap, cheap, talk a lot, pick a little more. Ended up having to wash on a full hour cycle all the fabric. Thank you, fancy-schmancy electric display washer. I miss my mother's Maytag, the kind where you could skip the wash and just do rinse and spin... It will all need ironing, especially the sheets, to get the creases out from the fold over seams. Retrospectively, it's probably best that I washed the thrift store sheets. *pause to check the wash, iron all the wrinkles out of the fabric*

night time

I discovered two things about this project. First of all, when I measured my comforter, I forgot that it was slightly longer than wide, so at 12:45 [this would be AM, when clearly I'm not on my A game] when I finally got the bulk of the duvet sewn together and the comforter stuffed inside, it "didn't fit" But I was tired, so I went to bed and dreamed strange dreams and woke up at the far saner hour of 8:45 to tackle the button placket for the closure and figure out how it went wrong. So it's wider than long, I stuffed it in the wrong way. Thing #2 - the colors are slightly off in the sunlight. I thought it looked a little funny in the incandescent light of my room, but brushed it off as exhaustion. Nope, the yellow is too yellow for the rest of the fabrics. Maybe not the tomato. But the stripes aren't wide enough for the scale of the project or they are too far apart or... Or what I don't know, but it needs something. I need to percolate on that one.

Monday, March 21, 2011

satisfying the nom-nom monster

So the season of Lent is upon us Christians. I didn't give much thought to the practice giving up anything, uhm, fasting, either in a food deprivation sense, limiting my technology intake [ie: going "dark" on Facebook], I don't swear, don't really drink alcohol, so when it came to fasting on something, anything, I found myself at a bit of a loss.

I had been planning on attending the Lenten dinner series that my church hosts every year, until a packet arrived in the mail about a study I was participating in. A study on weight loss. How convenient that the first so-called intervention began on the same evening as the Lenten Dinner series. As I sat there last week, listening to the dietary guidelines I was about to undertake, the thought occured to me that this year, my Lenten fast, admittedly thrust upon me, was more about depriving myself of gluttony than total elimination of one thing or another. This lifestyle change requires diligence - did I mention there's an exercise portion? - and thoughtfulness. Am I thoughtful about baking? You betcha. Just not so thoughtful on how many calories and grams of fat are in that piece of carrot cake. And I love, love, love Mexican food. And CHEESE. Especially on my Mexican food. Parmesean, Jarlsberg, Brie, Muenster, Gorgonzola, extra-sharp Cheddar, Mozzarella... I <3 cheese. And chocolate. The darker the better.

So they want me to count my calories and watch my fat gram intake... this is not something I'm obviously inherently good at, or I wouldn't be in this study. In my family, especially my mom's side, food was love. And you shared abundant amounts of food with the people you loved because [coming from an immigrant Italian background] we'd made it in this country. We could be so deliriously foolish as to offer three main dishes, have upwards of 10 sides, three kinds of bread [plus pasta] and, to cap it off, four kinds of cookies and/or pastries, two pies and three separate cartons of different flavored ice cream, so everyone was happy. We took feasts very seriously... and the standard Sunday brunch as well.

I'm pretty sure there isn't a low calorie, low fat method of making a tirimisu that's worth spending the time to make. But chocolate cookies? I found a recipe that might just be a lifesaver from EatingWell - chewy chocolate cookies. Just chocolate, no whistles and bells. Mmm... And a healthy alternative to getting my Mexican fix while trimming the excess pounds.

Beginning the second week of Lent, I don't know if I've lost any weight... I don't actually own my own scale. But I'm sure willing to take a stab at the deadly sin of Gluttony. Christe Eleison.

Monday, March 14, 2011

new bunkie

I thought this got posted, but it's a figment of my imagination, aparently. A couple of Saturdays ago I spent the better part of the morning driving around the Greater Pittsburgh Area in pursuit of some orange star fabric. No luck. Standing in the Joann's in the South Hills, I thought to self, "You could drive to the North Hills... yeah, right, that's thirty miles away... or you could just call TOD on the first project, shelve it for the next baby, and start over again." I decided, very grumpily, to start over again, and shuffle through the stacks of material that I had just spent fifteen minutes combing for orange star material. Which, aparently, has ceased to exist, according to the Joann website. I found myself standing in front of an end cap with some convenient coordinating fat quarters, bolts of fabric, jelly rolls, and charm squares... which triggered a memory.

I can has interwebz? Plz?

Yes, yes and yes. Thank you iPod, for being charged, and whoever left an unsecured wireless network wandering around the Joann's. I could kiss you. My web surfing in the weeks before this outing brought me to Oh, Fransson!, which I had left open in my iPod's Safari browser, which in turn brought me to this charm squares baby blanket. And what was I standing in front of? An end cap with charm squares, so I reached out and grabbed Fabric Central's Sea Glass charm packet. The instructions said 38 squares, there were only 30 to a packet... Hmm.

 I had a bolt of fabric in my line of sight with humming birds and mod graphic flowers - Legacy Studio Fresh Fusion Large Spring Floral Cream # 2292415 [this picture really doesn't do it justice] with all the Sea Glass colors, plus a red and peachy orange. Red and Orange fat quarters! Done and Done! That'll be nice contrast to all the light blues and greens. Ooh! And a lovely middle range green with a subtle paisley so as not to look quite so stark! Sashing and binding! Done! YAY!

I was out of the store faster than you could say "modern baby blanket", the final cost of the project slashed by at least a third because - unbeknownst to me - some of the fabric was on sale, and the kind ladies in front of me in the check out line had a fist full of excess cupons they were kind enough to share. if only I could get the quilt sandwich to not shift while I sew it together on my very obviously not meant for quilting Singer.


We have these owl canisters at work... well, we did. They're so darn cute, they've been flying off the shelves, uhm, no pun intended. See? Even you said, "Aww, hey that's--" Even if you stopped yourself. It's cute.

They come in two sizes, small (4" tall) and cute, and about large (~9" tall) and cute.  It's a canister because the head comes off... which sounds a little disgusting, but it's cute when left alone. Sitting on your counter top. Guarding your caffienated coffee beans....

You know what else is cute? This guy:

It's a Northern (as opposed to Southern) Saw-whet owl. They live in Pennsylvania... and most of the rest of North America. And yes, they are really tiny enough to fit in the palm of your hand. Screech owls are about this big. SO CUTE!!! You have to have special licences from the state and federal governments, and the bird has to be incapable of being reintroduced into the wild, and it's not like a dog you can just put on a leash and take for a walk... rambling, sorry. If I ever was in a place in life where I could do wild life rehab, and the opportunity arose that I could care long term for an owl such as thus, I would. Or something similarly small.

And if you haven't figured out where I'm going with this... well, anyway. My other Brilliant Idea goes something along this order: