Tuesday, August 25, 2015

It's In the Bag

My fascination with sewing bags and totes continues.  I completed two bags this week - one is adorable and one not so much.

The adorable is the Origami Bag from The Crafty Mummy.  It's about as simple as a bag can get:

  • Sew 2 18" squares together - turn, press and top stitch
  • Fold all four corners toward the center of the square, pin and stitch 1/2" from the folded edge to form the casing.   (The amount you fold determines the size of the "ears" and the depth of the bag.  Mine are 5", measuring from point to top of the casing.)
  • Thread ribbon or cord through the casing and voila! - an adorable drawstring bag.  

The not-so-adorable bag is this "teacher's bag", the first of two I'm making for my nieces. The bag is designed to hold a Rubbermaid file holder, which functions both as an organizational aid and as a framework to give the bag shape.   As my luck usually runs, Rubbermaid has discontinued them.  I found an office supply site that offered the rack below as a replacement with a promise that the measurements are the same.  The width is adjustable and the sides fold in. 

 With careful arrangement, the completed bag doesn't look too bad.

But what woman is going to take the time to pose her bag every time she sets it down??  Under normal use, the bag looks more like this:

The sides of the plastic file holder are not high enough to give structure as it appears on the pattern, and the sides of the holder do not lock in place, so they have a tendency to fold inward. It's inconvenient and makes it harder to load papers, etc.  Although it's a usable bag, it's not what I want to give my nieces.  Fortunately I have enough fabric to begin again with another pattern.   This time the bag gets it's shape from heavy-duty interfacing.

So, it's "back to the drawing board" or, in this case, the cutting table.

This post is linked to Needlework Tuesday, hosted by Heather and Quilts & Books.  

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Retirment Fantasy: Bout of Books Day 3

Today's challenge is hosted by Sarah @ Rocky Top Real Talk.  As a child of the 90's, she remembers playing the MASH game.  Although it wasn't called MASH, we had something similar in my childhood.  Girls will always find a way to fantasize about their future.  Sarah's challenge was to put our own twist on the game.  She suggested using fictional characters from our favorite novels as the leading men, fictional locations as our possible hometown, etc.   Since I've been married for better than thirty years, and the number of children I will have has long since been decided, my sister and I decided to take our own twist.  So here is my Retirement MASH:

I will retire in a   [type of dwelling]    in _[place]____, with my husband, Dave.  We will have __[#}_____ grandchildren, who visit frequently.  I will drive a ___[type of vehicle]______, to my __[hobby]_.  I will have free time to read _____[#]     book(s) per week.

M-A-S-H (MASH stands for Mansion, Apartment, Shack, House.) 

Place                            #Grandkids             Car                     Hobby                #books
Hutchinson Is, Florida           7                  VW Bug          Greeter @ Wal-Mart          2
Outer Banks, NC                   5                  Mercedes        Bowling                            1
Bar Harbor, ME                    10                 HoveRound     Photography                     4
Manhattan, KS                      6                 Range Rover    Shopping                           3
So, there you have it - my retirement plan according to the MASH game.  MASH normally stands for Mansion, Apartment, Shack, House. 

Dave and I retire to our split-level home in Manhattan, KS (home of Kansas State University.  Go Cats!).  Our 10 grandchildren will  visit frequently to attend games with us.  I drive my VW Bug to take my award-winning photographs of the tall-grass prairie and flint hills surrounding Manhattan.  All this keeps me so busy I only have time to read 1 book/week.

Wait just a dog gone minute, Tami - S is supposed to stand for Shack.  

I know, but I chose to reject that plan and substitute my own - which is to live in a lovely 4 bedroom, split-level home with in-ground swimming pool.  

But that's cheating!  You can't just make up whatever future you want.

That's true.  Even the best laid plans sometimes get hit with unforseen circumstances, but this is my retirement fantasy and, to paraphrase Evelyn from Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg, "Face it girls, I'm older.  I have more 401K" 

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Bout of Books - Day 2

Forces have conspired to keep me from getting much reading done - work, a sewing project on deadline, a car that needed to go to the shop . . . wasting time with games on my phone.  I promise to do better the rest of the week.

I have managed to find time to enter today's Book Scavenger Hunt hosted by The Book Monsters.  Here are my finds:

Books beginning with the letter B

Blue Books

A book I hope to read during the readathon:

Books from my favorite genre - Mystery
     - I included the entire series that tops my fav list.  

My TBR shelf -  At least 5 of those are Dave's, so it's not just me.

Needlework Tuesday

The next step in my plan to update my living room is recovering Dave's recliner.  I started out to purchase a new one, but after multiple stores, styles and colors I realized that the best compromise between our widely varied tastes was the La-Z-Boy chair we already have.  And why buy a new one when this one is structurally and functionally sound.   So I spent hours one afternoon at the upholstery shop looking at at least 50 books of potential chair coverings.  The options are overwhelming.  Fortunately, a designer friend helped me understand not only color, but pattern, texture, durability and "hand" - how the fabric feels to touch - and I was finally able to make a decision. 

Totally by coincidence, the upholstery shop I chose shares their building with a quilt shop.  (I'm trying to look surprised.)  So of course I browsed through the rows.  Lots of beautiful fabric and lots of beautiful projects on display . . . and one thing I have never seen before.  A large basket held "Scrap Bags".  Each bag was filled to bulging with the leftovers from the beautiful projects the store staff made for display.  These were not remnants, which are normally yardage.  These were the sections left from yardage when blocks or patterns are cut.  The fabrics were packaged according to color/coordinates or theme.  Of course, you can see the outermost fabrics to have a glimpse at what you're getting, but the complete variety and size of pieces remains a mystery until you get home.  For $8, I decided to give it a try.  I'm very happy with what I got:

Most pieces are strips - width of fabric by anywhere from 4' to 15"

These are obviously cut from some sort of panel or border fabric.  They may be more challenging to incorporate, but fun.

My bag also included some random pieces in related colors.  The largest piece I received was 2 strips, each 3 yards x 15".  The smallest were 4" squares.  I'm not sure how I'll use this scrap bag, but I'm sure they'll show up in future projects.

Also part of my living room re-do, the decorator/friend suggested some large, bright floor pillows to counter my tendency for solid color furniture, and because Dave lays on the floor to watch TV.  I found these patterns at the same store:

I'm participating in a reading challenge this week, but maybe I can actually slip in some sewing time.

This post is linked to Needlework Tuesday, hosted by Heather @ Books and Quilts

Monday, August 17, 2015

Bout of Books Readathon: Better Late Than Never

Whew!  I'm sliding in under the wire.  The Bout of Books Readathon starts today.
The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda @ On a Book Bender and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, August 17th and runs through Sunday, August 23rd in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 14 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. 
Theresa at Armchair by the Sea, who is hosting the Re-Readathon beginning September 7, called Bout of Books the push she needed to finish up what she's reading now, so she'll be ready to sink into some old favorites.  It's not to late to join both Readathons.

Fictional World Travel Challenge:  The first challenge of the readathon is brought to you by Leann at Between Library Shelves.  The idea is to choose 3 to 6 books of fiction, set in countries other than the one where you currently reside.  I learned something about myself - I'm not very adventerous in my reading.  It proved difficult to come up with a third book.

Brava, Valentine by Adriana Trigiani is set in Italy.
The collection of English Country House Murders is self explanatory.
The Gunslinger by Stephen King is a bit of a stretch, 
but it takes place in the fictional world called Mid-world.

I'm off to the library to broaden my fictional world. 

Orange Crush

Although I am excited about the start of the NFL season and my favorite team, this post is not about this: 

It's about this:

I found this recipe via Pinterest, from Teresa @ Blooming on Bainbridge, and it's every bit as delicious as she promises.  I made it for our company BBQ over the weekend and it was a hit.  The recipe makes 3 quarts and evidently my ice cream freezer is a bit smaller because I had some of the mix left over.  I mixed up another half-recipe which, combined with the leftover bit, was just short of the fill line.  I made up the difference by adding a pint of heavy whipping cream.  Needless to say, the second batch was even better. 


2 cans sweetened condensed milk
1 c. sugar
6 cans Orange Crush or other orange-flavored soda (Substitute 1 pint of cream for 1 can of soda for a creamier ice cream.)

Pour condensed milk into large bowl, add sugar and whisk together.  Slowly pour in Orange Crush, whisking thoroughly after each can.  Freeze according to instructions for your ice cream freezer of choice.

Enjoy on a hot summer evening with good friends.

This post is linked with Inspiration on Monday, hosted by Trish at Love, Laughter and a Touch of Insanity.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

This book was a mixed review for me.  I gleaned a few helpful hints, but for the most part I think the author has severe OCD.  She actually admits that "tidying up" is an obsession she has pursued since childhood.  But she has taken it to extremes.  I'm going to give her the benefit of the doubt and assume that the "peculiarness" of her methods and ideas are enhanced by translation (from original Japanese) and cultural differences.  The title itself is a perfect example.  Ms. Kondo's system goes way beyond the American idea of "tidying up"
People can not change their habits without first changing their way of thinking. (p. 5)
Whether they call it organizing, de-cluttering, purging or tidying up, most of those who specialize in this area have a common theme - discard excess, then organize what is left.  Ms. Kondo puts her own spin on the idea with two phrases:  1.  "Sparks joy" - her philosophy in a nutshell is to own nothing that does not spark joy in you.  2.  When sorting and tossing, don't focus on what to get rid of.  Rather, focus on what to keep.  Spread out all belongings from a specific category (clothes, bedding, pictures) and choose your favorites to keep; the ones that give you joy. 

My issue with this theory is the number of objects I own that do not spark joy, yet I have to own them - lawn mowers, cookie sheets, cold medicine . . .  While I can be thankful that the new mower cuts the time I spend on that awful chore; or I can enjoy the results of using cookie sheets, neither of these items gets a reaction anywhere near joy.

Here are the points where Ms. Kondo and I agree:
  • Finding better storage options is not the same as tidying.  "Out of sight, out of mind" doesn't apply well here.
  • You must discard those things which have outlived their purpose.  I have a tendency to keep items I feel sentimental about but, truthfully, most have served their purpose and no longer "spark joy" sitting in a drawer.
  • Don't save old clothes as "lounge wear".  Oops, totally guilty.  I love days when I never get out of my "lounge wear", but I feel so much better when the lounge wear is not frayed, stained, or torn.  It is worth the money to own pretty pajamas or a coordinated jogging suit (even if you don't jog).
  • "My basic principle for sorting papers is to throw them all away." (p. 96)  I love that line!  I have lived by that theory for years.  However, I have learned that keeping a certain amount of paper is both convenient and required by law.  (Ms. Kondo does acknowledge that fact and tempers her own statement.)
  • Don't keep gifts just for sentimental reasons.  The green ceramic vase you got as a wedding gift, the lotion in a scent you don't wear, the blouse that's too small - it is not necessary to keep (much less use) any of these items just because they were gifts. Re-gifting, however, is tacky (my opinion, not from the book).
  • "Mysterious cords will always remain a mystery" Point taken.  The tangled mass of random cords for outdated technology that "I might need someday" is gone!
  • Once boxes of memorabilia are packed, they will never be opened.  This advice is aimed at young people storing items at their parents', presumably, larger home to save space in their own.  They rarely come to retrieve these items.  Same applies to the half-dozen boxes I have hauled through the last half-dozen moves without opening.  I'm not sure I even remember what's in some of them.  How much joy are they sparking?
  • Store all items of the same type in the same place.  Much easier to find what you're looking for if you only have to look in one spot.
  • Clutter is caused by failure to return things to where they belong, therefore storage should reduce the effort required to put things away (not to get them out).  Genius!  Failure to execute a full and complete return is my biggest failing as a homemaker.  "A place for everything and everything in the general vicinity" just doesn't cut it.  Unfortunately, I'm not sure how this well this bit of brilliance translates into reality.  
These are all good points that will make life a little easier.  However, the rest of the book is what caused one Goodreads reviewer to describe Ms. Kondo as "bat-s**t crazy".  If you've got time and need a laugh, I recommend reading the reviews on Goodreads or other sites, just for the laugh! 

In general, Ms. Kondo has a relationship with inanimate objects that the rest of us rank from "a little odd" to "just plain creepy."  She unloads her purse completely every night, and repacks it every morning. She thanks her clothing, as she removes it, for a job well done.  She has rules for laundry:
 "Every item of clothing has it's own "sweet spot" where it feels just right - a folded state that best suits that item...There is nothing more satisfying than finding that "sweet spot"...It's like a sudden revelation - So this is how you always wanted to be folded! - a historical moment in which your mind and the piece of clothing connect."
"Never ever ball up your socks...The socks and stocking in your drawer are essentially on holiday.  They take a brutal beating in their daily work, trapped between your foot and your shoe, enduring pressure and friction to protect your precious feet.  The time they spend in your drawer is their only chance to rest."
But it is her relationship with books that I found most disturbing.  She started well, with the advice to discard books you have read but did not love, because it is unlikely you will reread them.  "Imagine what it would be like to have a bookshelf filled only with books that you really love.  Isn't that image spellbinding?  For someone who love books, what greater happiness could there be?"

But when it comes to the TBR (to be read) pile, she reverts back to crazy.   
"It seems to me that people have far more unread books than they once did, ranging from three to more than forty.  It is not uncommon for people to purchase a book and then buy another one not long after, before they have read the first one."
Buy a second book before you've read the first one?  I am shocked!  So, I should read every book as soon as I purchase it?
"You may have wanted to read it when you bought it, but if you haven't read it by now, the book's purpose was to teach you that you didn't need it. The moment you encounter a particular book is the right time to read it."
All sarcasm aside, personal experience tells me differently.  Many a book has sat on my shelf, sometimes for years, awaiting it's "right time".  My reaction to a book depends almost as much on my current situation as it does on the plot or the author's skill.

Ms. Kondo realized that some of the books she was keeping because she loved them, were really only in that category because of a few phrases or passages that were memorable.  All she really wanted to save were those pieces.   
"My idea was to copy the sentences that inspired me into a notebook.  Over time, I thought, this would become a personal collection of my favorite words of wisdom."  
As a lover of beautiful words, I have a "Quotes" page here on my blog where I save favorites.  I completely understood the logic of keeping only the pieces and making space on the shelf.  She tried copying the quotes by hand into a notebook, but found it too time-consuming.  She also tried using a copy machine, but also found that time-consuming.   So she "decided to rip the relevant pages out of the book".  What? 

I can only assume that she either doesn't own a computer or is computer-illiterate, but since she managed to write a bestselling book, I find that hard to believe.  Point 1: These are books that had survived her rigid criteria for remaining in her house, books she purported to love.  Point 2:  This is the woman who refuses to roll her socks because it might cause them anxiety.  But she feels nothing about ripping pages out of beloved books?  Of denying another reader the chance to love those same words?  I guess it's a good thing I have recorded some of her words here in this post.  Maybe that will keep me from ripping up her book.

On a scale of 5 stars, this book gets 2.  One star for the helpful tidbits to be gleaned amongst the crazy.  And a second star for making me laugh out loud!