Monday, July 29, 2013

Winding Down and Gearing Up

As summers go, this one was pretty spectacular.  Usually I'm ready to go back to school within just a week or two of vacation, but this year the kids were easy to entertain and the weather was rainy, but fantastic for gardening and for keeping the heat away. 

Usually the summer gets so long and drawn out that I have to look for something to keep me occupied and it usually presents itself as a craft project of sorts.  Keychains for a Cause came out of one summer's boredom and a neighbor's request for one keychain.  It's still going strong and we've raised thousands of dollars for Relay for Life since then.  Granny, I actually think you were the first customer!  I really need to send you some new ones.  So much nicer than what I started with.

Anyway, when I bought my card catalogs mid summer, one of them needed a top, so I cut up a bunch of my favorite classic novels and made this and the necklaces below it.  One of my friends is a very popular independent and self published author.  She saw them and asked that I make some for her to use as giveaways for her newest novel - which BTW, now has over 300 positive reviews on Amazon.  Woohoo!  I started off with the small glass, but then moved to a larger size which I like better.

When I posted them for her, another woman emailed and asked if I'd make her one from the poem she wrote on the passing of her husband, so I did:
 Another woman contacted me and asked me to do one from the cover art of one of her novels.....
And a project was born - The Captured Word.  Anyone write poetry or short stores or the like and would like for me to make you a necklace?  You can email it to me in the font and margins you want and I'll hook you up.  I need more examples for my page so it's an excellent trade off and a great way to celebrate your accomplishments.  If you know anyone who may be interested, send them my way as well.  I've got five that I'd like to make and give away.

The morning comes early - and it really will come tomorrow as we all go back to school for pre planning.  Sweet gardening and necklace making dreams.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Sinful Acts in the Guise of Repurposing

Last time I posted about purchasing an awesome card catalog.  I've been wanting one for some time.  It had four distinct sections and I stacked them in two places, two on top of each other.  Problem was, there is only one top, so I had to come up with an idea for the other.  It was a team effort.  The man went out and bought me a sheet of MDF and my neighbor came over with his router to cut the grooves to fit the cabinet.  We paid him in beer and dinner.  It was a good trade.  The next day I went up to school and found a bunch of duplicate copies of novels and plays I had sitting around the classroom and created this decoupage of my favorite passages.
It was wet in the picture above.  The bubbles evened out as it dried.  Here is what it looks like on the catalog.
 I just love it.  However, I started to feel very guilty about the books that I defaced to make the lid.  I asked forgiveness of each book, but the rest of the pages mocked me in their agony, so I decided to make additional pieces of them pendants for necklaces. 

Ok, sports fans.  It's time to play:  Name That Novel!  No cheating.  

How many did you get?  Thinking I'm going to make some hair lollies and bracelets next.  I can't wait.
The morning comes early.  Sweet repurposing dreams.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Cataloging Wishes

We've been working on our basement for awhile now.  We've finished all of the rooms and now we're working on furnishing it.  Months ago, I bought a huge bar on Craig's List for $150, which is pretty darn amazing for the piece.  Two days ago, we also found a beautiful poker table/table with four nice chairs for the bar room as well.  Couple this with the repurposing I did with the armoire to my sewing hutch - this is a thrift shop/Craig's List basement, and it's looking great!
It was missing one thing.  I've searched and searched and drooled buckets over the years, trying to find the one I wanted.  However, they're obsolete and because of this, they've become collectable and people don't get rid of them.  Finishing the basement became the perfect opportunity to finally buy one and after weeks of searching Craig's List, I found one.  Four, exactly.
It's a thing of absolute beauty.  The two lower cases are the exact style.  The top part belonged to the base and top and the second section, although made by the same company as the top, is obviously more recently constructed because it has plastic drawers behind the wood front.
Here are the top two sections and lid.  You can see the plastic drawers on one of them.  They had a patent number on them that traces to 1972, so they're newer than that.  These are the two that are meant to go with the base and top which is sad because they have not top and bottom for themselves.
 Here are the bottom two sections. They have wooden, yet unfinished, tops and bottoms. I love the graffiti on them.  Proof that kids will always be kids. They are SOOOO well made.  The drawers glide effortlessly in and out. and the wood is certainly a better quality.
 Compare the drawers of the lighter section (not the plastic one, the all wood one) and the darker cabinets.
 You can tell how much smoother the darker one is. 

The top two sections were made by Gaylord Brothers, Inc.  Not so sure about the bottom section, but we found this card in there, which was quite a hoot.  However, it could very well belong to one of the top two sections and just placed in this one.  The cabinets are roughly the same size with the darker one being just a few fractions of an inch longer.
 So far, I've stacked the two darker and one lighter wooden one with the top in my sewing room.  They're great for holding my thread and beads etc.  Even Duke's getting in on the card catalog action.  They're too tall stacked three high...especially since I bought two more four drawer ones that will get delivered next week.  ;)
 What I really need is a second base.  I can make a second top with some particle board with no problems, but even if I stack two on the ground, they're too low to be useful.  This one with the plastic trays would be wonderful for the boy to store his Legos in.  If I put some foam in the bottom of the drawers in the other lighter section, I could put them side to side and put a large piece of board over them or square them and put a board over them for him to use as his building table.  I could then use the real top on the darker color ones in the sewing room.  I don't think the color change will make it look too bad.
Then again, do I want to give them up to him!?!  Oh, the humanity!

There's so much I want to do with them and so many ways to do them that, I can't decide.  I think I'll just go down there and stare at them for a bit. 

The morning comes early.  Sweet cataloging dreams.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Are You Kidding Me?

Jeep: 1
Hyundai: 0
AGAIN while at a dead stop. Third time in under a year because of a driver distracted by their cell phone. No damage to me, only her since she bounced off of my rear tire, but this is getting ridiculous.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Transforming a Television Armoire Into a Sewing Cabinet

Yesterday I posted that I intended to construct a sewing hutch from this old T.V. cabinet I found at a thrift store.  We did it last night and it turned out pretty darn awesome and I'm very, very pleased with it.  When we decided to finish our basement, there was a dead end hallway that then broke off to a bathroom and a storage room on each of the side walls.  I knew I wanted a sewing cabinet that I could just fold up or close away, but the ones I was finding on-line were in the high hundreds to thousands of dollars.  I did find a few smaller ones, but they were just that.  Smaller.  And stark white.  Nope.  Not happening.  I started looking through thrift stores and Craig's List.  I found several on Craig's list for cheaper than the one I bought at the thrift shop ($150), but they were also dog chewed or not as solidly constructed.  This one is solid. 

I took the measurements and went to the store to buy the supplies.  I bought drawer slides, a peg board and pins, and a piece of particle board for the sliding drawer.  My sewing machine is heavy.  22 lbs without the embroidery attachment.  I knew there was no way to make the drawer slide out completely and not snap the rails, so I got the board cut and bought rails to fit the entire length of the platform.  This way I pull it out just so far and the machine itself is technically still inside the hutch and the weight is not on the drawer itself.  My thought was to then use the drawer pulled all of the way out to use as a large cutting surface, but the particle board is MUCH heavier than expected, however simple plywood wouldn't do.  The man at the hardware store was also nice enough to cut the board to my measurements.
 I painted both the drawer slide and the peg board with the same color as the walls in the room.  It's very dark.  I should have likely done a lighter accent color instead - and used an acrylic instead of the latex, but I didn't want to buy more paint.

My neighbor came by to see how we were doing just as I was trying to fit the peg board in the back of the armoire.  I had it cut so that the bottom would rest on the armoire itself and the backing of the cabinet wouldn't have to support the weight.  However....It SO was not cut to the measurements I gave him.  It was 2 inches too long and about 4-5 inches too short.  Oh well.  I cut it down to fit.  The neighbor did make a good point.  If I put it flush to the back, I couldn't get the pegs to poke through.  We took some extra molding from downstairs and attached it to the backing and ran screws into that to give it some space. 
 I'll go back and hit it with blue paint later.  Note to you: if you have an outlet in the hutch like this one, make sure to run the plug out the back BEFORE you put on the peg board.  We had to drill an ugly hole after the fact.  The, we mounted the drawer slides to the stand.  We then had to pull them off, measure out and drill in the drawer and reassemble it.

 Tada!  Again, the drawer is too heavy to pull all of the way out.  It does come all of the way out, but it worries me that it will snap or bend the arms of the drawer if too much pressure is put on it.  I'm sure we could have found heavy duty drawer slides if I looked on-line a bit harder instead of just going with what the hardware store had.

I found an absolutely horribly awesome rug to go underneath it.
Mounted some stick lights underneath.  I should have moved them farther back.  Because the peg board paint is so dark, it's hard to see back in there.  I may go purchase another set of lights to put farther back.
This is the stand where my sewing machine used to sit -I had already brought it to the basement when I took this.  It's very, very small, but that's not the problem......
THIS was the problem.  This should look like a desk, but instead it's where all of my sewing stuff gets thrown.  This is actually pretty clean because the kids had already brought four baskets of ribbon downstairs by the time I thought to snap this picture.
 And here is what it looks like now.

I still don't have everything set up inside the cabinet as it will be, but it's getting there, and I just love how the whole thing closes up nicely.
 Over all, I couldn't be more pleased.  What a great way to create a sewing nook AND make use of dead space.


Sunday, July 7, 2013

A New Project

It's been a long time coming, but we're finally done with finishing the basement.  There is much rejoicing.  I was able to talk the man into giving me a hallway down there to turn into a sewing room/closet like thing.  Right now, my tiny sewing table is up here in the bonus room with all of my sewing notions and ribbon for Keychains for a Cause (which is going very, very well, by the way) strewn absolutely everywhere.  It's a holy mess.  Part of the plan was to convert our old TV hutch into a sewing table.  It would work, but it's wide open so even when you'd fold a table up in it, it would still look unsightly.  Then, yesterday, I saw this on the Facebook page for a local antique store.

It sold the day before.  Grrr.  However, it did get me thinking that I could do something like it with an old TV stand that closes up.  I packed the kids in the car with the idea to go to the two antique stores and two thrift shops around here.  On the way home I was going to stop at a Wal-Mart or Target and get the kids two Razor scooters as they've been in love with the ones our neighbor's kids have and then they could all play together instead of waiting in line for turns.

The kids loved the antique stores and thrift shops more than I thought they would and were so good that even though I was sad I didn't find what I wanted, I was still going to take them to get those scooters. Then, at our last stop, I found this baby.

 Being that it's in our garage, you can tell I bought it.  It's perfect and SOLIDLY constructed and for $100, it was perfect.  The thing is absurdly heavy and it took three men to load and unload it.  I have no idea how we'll get it in the basement, but I have to find a rug to go under it first.

I love how the doors not only open, but slide in to give you clearance.  The bottom has shelves that I'm sure I could find baskets to fit. I also like how it has electric plugs on the inside so I don't have to worry about an extension cord for the machine.
 Now, I just have to build it.  Deciding if I should make it fold out like the one above from the width of the whole thing or just the one door, or if I should put in a sliding drawer and just have a smaller table space to work with.  I'm thinking the machine may be too heavy for the support of only a sliding drawer.  If anyone has any ideas, I'd love to hear them.

As I was talking to the woman about loading the armoire, I lost sight of the boy and girl.  I found the girl at the cash register with a blue dress and her little purse.  She had gone through the racks and found a dress in her size and was buying it for $3.00.  The dress was horribly stained, but crinoline and satin lined, so it equaled perfection in her book.  Then I went off to find the boy and found him horsing around on some stupid rocker/runner exercise machine.  As I was fussing at him to quit, I tripped over not one, but TWO scooters and since $5.00 each beats the hell out of $30, those came home with us as well.  Kids were so surprised and happy with the scooters.  We brought them home, put duct tape on the worn out grips and they played outside for hours with repeated hugs and thank yous.  They were shocked and surprised and grateful.  Good kids, that they are.
Here's the girl in her new dress and scooter, as happy as a clam. 

Now, to figure out how to build this durn cabinet. 

The morning comes early, although the boy did sleep until 8:30 today.  We're SO playing outside on those scooters all day today as well.  Sweet gardening, cabinet up-cycling dreams.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

An Unwavering, Steadfast Resolution

In my last post, I lamented the loss of all of my tomato plants.  There was nothing to do except pull the useless plants and their woppy toms, discard the plants, pickle the toms and make better use of the box. 
Then, the man comes in yesterday to see three of the larger green toms sitting on the counter.
"What do you think about making some fried green tomato BLTs?" he asks.
I'd never tasted or even tried to make a fried green tomato anything, but I was game.  I went to the store and found the perfect bread, drizzled it with olive oil and some cracked black pepper, toasted it, slathered it in mayo, and fried up those suckers like a Food Network pro and served them to the man and the two gentlemen helping us finish the basement with roasted garden potatoes and a garden cucumber and cherry tomato (sun gold - my favorite!) salad.   

Oh my goodness were they good!!!  I'm never letting another tomato ripen on the vine again.  These were outstanding. Why didn't I ever try this before?  I KNEW I contaminated that soil on purpose.  ;)

The morning comes early - even though during summer it does come decidedly later.  Sweet green tomato lovin' dreams.

Thursday, July 4, 2013


Tomatoes.  One of the main reason so many of us garden.  There's nothing at all like a ripe heirloom tomato straight off of the vine.  They're poetry in the round.  We love the colors, the taste, the snap of the skin, the smell of the plants and the variety of uses that one standard veggie is good for.  We as well know that good tomatoes are the result of good care.  Water, sunlight, nutrient rich soil and a good horn worm deterrent system all need to come together in the perfect dance in order to produce those vibrant, luscious tomatoes we all crave. 

Rewind to 'nutrient rich soil.'
Hello.  My name is Alex (no, really, it is), and I've been remiss in tending to my soil for 2 years.

All cynicism aside, I really have been.  For the first few years of the garden, I went to the local mulch place and got a few yards of compost and amended and tilled in like a good girl.  These last two years, I just amended with bagged compost and even then only sparingly.  Not my best of moves.  My laziness came back to bite me in a very, very sad way.

I decided to amend the side yard's soil with your standard cow compost at the start of this year.  I was lazy, missed a good window to go fetch compost with the trailer and was impatient, so I figured a few bags of the cow would hold me over until next year when I would take the trailer (note, I had this same opinion last year i.e.: laziness). 

The plants started off fine.  They grew like weeds.  They grew tall...the leaves were another story.

They were all curled up into themselves and there were no flowers to be seen anywhere, even though the plants were huge.
If you look at an individual leaf, you can see a squiggly vein running down the center and the leaf itself was almost fuzzy looking.  Very strange.

So, I began researching and found that, most likely, the cow compost I used was contaminated.  Contaminated compost = woppy plants = no tomatoes for me.  I like to about have cried.  In my frustration I walked away from the whole thing to see if it would even out.  It never really did, but eventually some of the plants got some flowers, but the tomatoes they were putting out were oddly shaped - not just your crazy cat faced toms, but teardrop like toms on Cherokee purple and brandywine plants. Those that were there were few and far between and the plants still looked quite terrible sitting there in the side yard.  I was crushed, so what did I do?  I took a cue from my daughter, shut down and walked away again for a few more weeks.  If I don't look at them, they and the contaminated soil to not exist.
Fast forward to Tuesday night.  I received a text from the Family and Consumer Sciences (Home EC) teacher at our school which showed a friend of hers - a hoity-toity chef at a local Atlanta restaurant, eating some of the canned green tomatoes I made last fall and asked when I was making more.
Cue epiphany.
We have such a long summer growing season here that it's crazy if I don't give something else a try in that bed.  Maybe all hope isn't lost.  So, yesterday I packed both kids in the car and busted down to fetch some more okra and pepper plants.  I set the girl to picking whatever woppy toms she could find and the boy dragged the plants to the back 40.  I replanted the beds and in addition to the 9 cans of salsa - using stupid store bought toms, I canned seven cans (three still in canner) of dilled green toms.

 I don't remember there being so much dill in the other batch I made, but I'm sure there was since I think it's the same recipe. 

In the end, I think things turned out pretty spectacular.  I never would have pulled green toms just to pull green toms.  It borders on sacrilege. all worked out to my master plan.  I meant to contaminate the soil all along, just so I could do this.  Why, of course I did. 

The morning comes early.  Sweet pickled green tomato dreams.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Ha! whaur ye gaun, ye crowlin ferlie?

Robert Burns called it spot on.  There's nothing like the shock of watching an "ugly, creepin, blastit wonner, / Detested, shunn'd by saunt an' sinner" crawl out of a lady's bonnet at church.  Unless you compare it to finding one on your six year old daughter and that one leads to what can only be hundreds.

Yes, sports fans, the girl has lice.

Beware, this post has the possibility to quickly devolve into the use of juvenile and uninventive language.

The girl has been itching her head a lot.  For weeks actually - Insert Mom of the Year award here, please.  I checked her for lice, I really, really did.  I never saw anything and assumed it was because we had shifted shampoos and/or maybe she wasn't doing a good job of rinsing it out of her hair when she showered. 

So, I finally let her do what she's been asking for months on end.  We cut off her "Rapunzel hair."  I thought for sure she'd have cutter's remorse, but she kept that silly grin on the entire time and said, "Told ya."  She loves it and it's adorable.

Here's K and her new cut and a picture of me around the same age.  Scary, huh?

Anyway, as the woman was cutting it, we both remarked on a rash of some sort on the nape of her neck, but it didn't scream "LICE!" to me, but it surely should have to her, don't you think?  Regardless, home we came to endure another two weeks of scratching.  (God, I'm so stupid.)

Monday we were playing outside and she was scratching again.  I pulled her over and looked at her head some more for dandruff or more rash or SOMETHING, and boy did I find something, that's for sure.  I bet that if I would have looked in sunlight I would have seen them all along.

We went to the dr for a confirmation and the boy and I were scoured as well.  We're shockingly clean.  It's shocking to me since we all share a hair brush and wallow all over each other on the couches and beds and everything.  *insert tirade here*  The more I read about "the facts of lice" the more I realize that no one knows anything.  Each site and pamphlet contradicts each other.  Do this, don't do that, this kills them, this does not, pets can't get them, pets can carry them, put stuffies and pillows in plastic bags, plastic bags don't help.  It's beyond frustrating. 

I know it's not en vogue with the times, but the use of pesticides doesn't bother me.  At this point, I don't care if the treatment kills me, I'm killing you, dammit.  So, I bought what the dr recommended and I spent two hours that night treating her hair only to realize that the chemicals didn't necessarily kill the lice so much as piss them off and make them run for purchase elsewhere.  Seems for every dead louse I combed out, there were three running for glory.  I picked and picked and then reversed it and picked and picked again...only to look down at myself and find them crawling on my arms and clothes.  Cue the Benny Hill run.

So whereas I wasn't infested before, I'm likely infested now.

I got them all.  I was confident.  I sent her to bed, checked her Tuesday morning and found MORE LIVE bugs.  I retreated her and did the process all over again.  Later that afternoon, I couldn't find a single bug.  I did another perusal before bed - FOUR MORE LIVE BUGS.  It's driving me nuts.  I've washed everything twice over in hot, hot, hot and treated the couches etc.  I'm not thinking they're in the couches because then the rest of us would be infested, right? 

Grrr.  Thank goodness for neighbors.  I ran out of detergent and since I washed her car seat covers, I didn't want to put her infested self back in one to go to the store, so my neighbor gave me her bottle and then was kind enough to spend a half hour checking me to make sure I was still clean.  How do you thank your neighbor for grooming you like a chimpanzee?
Veggies and fresh canned salsa.

So, long story longer, I'm headed down to see what the damage is this morning. 

The morning comes early.  Oh, and Mr. Louse?  "Gae somewhere else and seek your dinner /On some poor body."  You're not wanted here.  Sweet gardening dreams.

'Tis Better to Give

Sometimes I wonder why I garden.  I like the fresh veggies, to be sure.  We cook with the bounty of the harvest each day and night, but I only seem to put up a few pounds each year in the freezer.  This year I think I've realized that I don't garden for me.  I garden to give.
I love it when neighbors call up to ask for herbs or veggies.  I love sending the kids down the street to drop off veggie grams and unsuspecting houses.  I  like it when the front office staff, teachers and parents at the school wait patiently for the Monday basket and then the Monday basket becomes the mailroom basket once the school year begins. 
So, I'm still considering myself a selfish gardener.  I horde my fair share and get pure and selfish joy out of seeing other people happy.
This is one of the first baskets I brought to the front office this summer.  Note the three tomatoes in there.  If I knew then what I know now, I would have been more selfish.  A LOT more selfish.


This next is another school basket.  Note the cucumbers.  I didn't get a single viable cucumber last year and this year I've had enough to make two batches of pickles, eat daily, AND give scores away.  Crazy how things work like that, isn't it.
This last basket was supposed to be this week's Monday basket for the school....but they are closed for the holiday week.  The kids clamored to have a veggie sale in the front yard, so I let them have at it.  We put up a sign, wrote in chalk on the mailbox and put it on the neighborhood's Facebook page and...

Thanks to some OVERLY generous neighbors, the kids walked away with about $25 between them.  We get to go to the used book store today.  Maybe....It depends on how things worked out yesterday and how they'll go today regarding that doozie that was dropped on Monday.  Give me one more day and I'll fill you in completely.

The morning comes early.  Sweet gardening dreams.