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I don’t think Hubs and I would make it on The Amazing Race.

Which is sad, because out of all the reality TV dreck, I kinda like The Amazing Race. I love the premise that you go around the world, doing challenges that are… sorta… related to the area’s cultures/traditions/what seems to freak the mundanes. You have to get by on your wits and whatever resources you may have, whether given or brought to the game by you and your partner. And while I’m sure there’s a fair amount of editing to make people seem more likable/douchecanoe-y, it doesn’t feel as piled on as some others. We have talked about how it would be fun to try to be on. How this might be a helluva way to see the world.

But today. Oy, today. One of the things that really work with us is when there’s an emergancy, we both get into a zen-like calm, and work together to solve whatever crisis is going on. Time to fall apart and freak can be later, we deal. But if it’s not a life and death thing?

Our house is an older home, built in the postwar holy-crap-we-got-to-house-all-the-soldiers-and-their-families 40s. The home was renovated slightly– the original homeowner thought himself quite the handyman, and before my mom and dad bought the house it was worked on. We’ve done some remodeling (one awesome experience and one that should have been featured on Holmes on Homes). The kitchen wasn’t really touched aside from having to replacing bits and bobs. The majority of it is still from the 40s, and we are constantly running into problems in a world where not many things are made for a house that is either too old for the modern crap, or too new for the restoration/vintage crap. We constantly are having to make do. One of the things we did was use some shelves that my dad had put up lo these many years ago as a sort of dry pantry/storage area for my baking ingredients.

A couple of days ago, Mom and I were talking, and she discovers that the shelves were in a slow state of collapse. We were able to rescue the goods (yay team us!) but the braces were toast; as a stopgap measure until we can really afford to get a remodel (or… somehow have one gifted to us!) we deicided to get the heavy-duty shelves to put up on the wall. HOW HARD CAN IT BE, REALLY???

Through this Project That Won’t Die, we discovered a few things, like…We knew the walls aren’t really drywall but a sort of plaster-esque substance. What we didn’t know was how brittle it was getting. Oh, and our fancy-dancy stud finder? Couldn’t find a damn beam even if it was right on top of the blasted thing; my drill, on the other hand, was able to find the stud JUST FINE… while we were using the drill bit sized for the anchor, which was too large for the screw that came with the plastic bits of crap that we needed to use as anchors. Our hammers, an essential tool so we could pound the anchors into the wall, apparently have all grown legs and walked off to parts unknown, leaving a small worthless PoS hammer that couldn’t pound sand, and a mallet that ended up bouncing from the impact and nearly banging Hubs in the head several times.

We started this with Preschool Rockstar asleep and my mom rocking Toddler Terrorist, praying that we could get this done. Nope, Rockstar woke up and was in Weepy Clingy mode. I tried to distract her with a show but then she kept screaming questions about what was going on, which was distracting, which also resulted in Hubs putting his thumb through the brittle plaster. He was snapping at me, I was snapping right back, and Rockstar was asking more questions about Disneyland Resorts which we couldn’t answer because we were a little busy not trying to kill each other. I got her in her room with crayons and a princess coloring book, so that was better (even though she would come out every other minute wanting me to color Sleeping Beauty pink, wanting me to rip the page out of the book, wantingwantingwanting).

The wall braces are on, and they mostly cover the holes (yes, plural) that were put in while trying to get the damndable anchors in. We start with the shelves; My idea was that, since you have to screw the shelf onto the shelf supports, we would hook the supports on the braces, screw the shelf on, and then move it where we need it to go. That’s when we found out… one of the braces was installed 1/16″ lower then the other two. Technically they were level… but spaced in such a way that the shelf, once screwed on, would pretty much be locked in place. Kinda the opposite of the problem we had with the previous set. More RAWRing ensued, with bonus stomping around by us!

Hubs: “well, I hope you like where that shelf is… BECAUSE I CAN’T MOVE IT.”

Me: “let me see what’s going on.”

Hubs: “IT’S NOT MOVING. You are WELCOME TO TRY, but it’s locked in place.”

Me: (pissed off after about five minutes of futzing, I removed the shelf): “IT’S OFF!”

Hubs stomped back in, still frustrated, and tried to put the shelf up again. He ended up having to take the screws out, reposition the supports, and put the screws in.

After the second shelf, we’ve ruined the screw bit on my drill, Hubs’ drill battery isn’t charging, and the wee auto-screwdriver he was resorting to use fell behind the cabinets under where the shelves are put up. We were tired, both drenched in sweat, and my husband kept asking where the hell Bear Sheva was. That’s when I realized that within three episodes of The Amazing Race, we would end up like one of those teams that would be screaming at each other, possibly me saying screw it, quit the contest and find a decent hotel with a jacuzzi and room service that brings the booze in cases instead of by the glass.

I still need to put the last two shelves on. And maybe figure out a way to get that kitchen remodel sooner then planned… Happy Labor Day!

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Sorry that there’s no tutorial for this Friday. This week has been Medical week, with running about making and going to appointments for all three kids, with the added fun of tracking medical records for schools and the like.

On the bright side, a persistent ear infection that Preschool Rockstar’s been battling seems to be gone for the time being. We were worried as the doctor was pushing for tubes (and she wouldn’t be able to swim with tubes inserted. My girls LOVE the water. This would be A Big Problem). We also found out she has an array of allergies, but they are something we are working on getting down. Some of them, like animal dander, are semi-easy to avoid altogether or be able to circumvent. Others, like the native plants she can’t tolerate… we try to deal with as best we can. Hopefully she’s also been able to build a good Herd Immunity on her first year of Preschool, and this year won’t be rife with illness (and I’ve probably had Murphy laugh hard on that one, didn’t I?).

On the bummer side, Toddler Terrorist has a slight case of anemia, so I have to up her iron levels and take her in for another blood draw around my birthday this month. I’m hoping my present will be that her red blood cell count will be normal. I’m good with that.

So instead of a half-baked tutorial, I’ll throw a few things up that I’m working/will be working on. Especially when the older two girls go to school. Not that I don’t love having them around but… well, there you go.

Birthday Banner— yes, it’s another tutorial. I did something similar for the girls, but I want to make one that’s reversible, with HAPPY HARVEST! on one side and HAPPY BIRTHDAY on the other to celebrate the fall birthdays. And maybe a few for other holidays. I already made one for the girls; that one I’ll have to put up for a picture.

Another Housecoat— I finished my first one last week and I love it. I need to get a DECENT picture (hated the ones I tried to take) so I can showcase the squirrel material I used. The pattern was pretty straightforward, and good instructions were included.

We are in the home stretch for turning Eldest Daughter’s room into her Moroccan Mecca (or some facsimile) as the primer’s getting on the walls. It might not get done by the time she goes to school, but it’s nearly there. I also have wall decals to put up for the younger set’s room as well as a bi-fold door to set into their closet instead of the regular door that came with the house.

That’s about it. There’s a holiday weekend, so Hubs is off work. Enjoy your day, your weekend, your holiday if you are celebrating. I’ll hopefully have an actual tutorial next week.

As we know, a lot of the schools are hot hard by budget cuts, by having to allocate time and attention to the subjects that need to be taught for the state test standards, and… well, some teachers are strong in some areas and weak in others.

But many times, it’s easy to have “teachable” moments, whether it’s a matter of reading a book, taking a walk, or gently directing play into a specific action or toy. Here’s a few ways to get the wee ones interested in science, and see the awesome that is in the everyday:

*Take a walk through the neighborhood. If you are lucky enough to live in an area that has noticable seasons, talk to your budding scientist about the differences around you (and if you are like me where there’s no real difference, talk about how the seasons change), and see if they can notice what’s different; the sun is setting earlier, the leaves are falling, et cetra. This gives you bonding time as well as help your kids build their observation skills. Another awesome activity on our to-do list is to go to our local nature center; there they have a great one mile hiking trail that’s pretty level, and it will give both Preschool Rockstar and Toddler Terrorist a chance to check out the plants, and animals if they are quiet enough.

*When out and about, have the kids collect neat leaves they might like. Talk about what trees they came from, why the leaves might have turned colors and fall off the branches. After you have collected a neat portion, press them between two pieces of paper and under some heavy books for three to four days. Then take a section of wax paper, lay it down on your ironing surface and have your little one arrange their leaves on it (leave at least an inch around the edge empty– and best to have each leaf have a little space). When the kids are happy with the leaves, take another section of wax paper, put that on top of the leaves, and quickly press the two sheets together with the iron (I would probably also put a towel under just in case, but I’m paranoid). Now you have an awesome collection to hang on the wall, or in the window, and the kids have a great way to display their knowledge of their local area.

*Tell the story of Johnny Appleseed (since apples will start to come into season). There are also some neat Native American legends. Many cultures also have their explanations and stories; see if you can work a few for your kids.

*Since it’s still pretty hot right now (and for us, we won’t begin any real cool-down till at LEAST mid-October, if that), I was going to teach Preschool Rockstar about evaporation and the different properties of water by making a saltwater still.

*Toddler Terrorist is almost old enough for play-dough, which makes me a little excited. There’s a TON of recipes on the web for home-made varieties (some a little more edible then others, some a little more shelf-stable then others). With play dough you can explore textures, shapes, even squish primary colors together and show how they can make the secondary colors. There’s lots of imaginary play that can also happen, so as you can tell I’m super-happy. When they are a little older (and a little less apt to put the stuff in their mouths), we can play with Gloop.

*Also look in the area for cultural events that are free or not so much money. This coming weekend the Greek Orthodox church in our area is having a festival. There’s also a Hawaiian Hula and Chant contest if we aren’t feeling up for the Greek thing. Later on there will be harvest festivals and the like.

Hopefully this will help you have a few ideas on what to do with kidlets in your life, and hopefully you can experience the world through their eyes– which is humbling, and wonderful, and incredible.

“Jeans” made out of stretchy material? A microwavable bowl with a lid that can drain? A plush animal my kids can sleep on (isn’t that most stuffed animals?)? A chopping tool that I can use to chop herbs or nuts without having to learn knife skills?

Psh. That is useless crap. Here’s a few things I need.

*A device I can attach to my remotes/cell phones/iPods/random bits that can emit a signal when I need to locate it. Especially when the cell phone is dead and I can’t call to find out my Dunderbolt’s in the bottom of my purse.

*A Cone of Silence for when Preschool Rockstar and Toddler Terrorist are in their screech modes.

* A silencer for my sewing machine so I can sew in the same room that the family’s in, while they are watching a show.

* A nail polish that can last more then five minutes before getting chipped, smudged, or otherwise screwed up.

* A camera/video recorder that’s always ready so I can catch the kids being cute, instead of having JUST ENOUGH LAG that by the time the picture’s taken or the video starts, the cute has ended and I end up with another fuzzy picture of An Eye. Or the top of the kids’ head. Or someone crying.

*A bra that is actually supportive in front, eases the strain on the back, and does not have underwire. Because underwire is of the devil.

* A call screener to be able to tell the bazillionth telemarketer that no, we do NOT need home improvement at this time.

*More time in the day, more days in the week.

A few things really…

Otherwise known as the Totes Awesome Tutorial, 2.0

Last week we had the most excellent tutorial on making a totebag using the fabric panels. “But!” You may have remarked, “I don’t know how sturdy this will be and I have a lot of crap to tote around. I would have many sad moments if my bag was to rip apart like JLo’s marriage…” or perhaps you thought, “Wow! The outside of my tote is amazing to look at! But the inside is a worse mess then those Desperate Housewives series…”

Fret not! For this is my method on how to make a liner, set a flat bottom, put a pocket in, and make smaller side handles. There might be easier ways but this is what works for me.

When I made my first bag, I was left with two lonely panels. I cut those apart as well and renamed them Fashion Fabric (or FF). Using them as my template, I cut two panels out along  two strips 5″ by 20″ (I used both patterned strips in the first tutorial) and a 5×7″ rectangle for the pocket. For this bag, I’m using a linen-cotton blend as my lining. You can use denim or canvas for strength or another cotton or some other lightweight fabric to make the inside pretty and reversible. Whatever fabric you do end up using, do take the time to prewash it in the warmest water it can stand, as different weights of fabric can shrink in different ways. And it would be a shame to put the time and attention to a project… And have it get ruined because the fabrics shrunk into two different sizes from being washed.

To make the pocket I first overlocked-stitched around the perimeter of the pocket, mostly because I can use that to anchor the edges and achieve a good narrow hem. Depending on your material, this might be a necessary step to help keep the edges from fraying.

 

 

 

Turn down the top of the fabric rectangle about a half inch, then turn the overlocked edge under that and sew a narrow hem for the top of the pocket.

 

 

 

 

To pin the pocket onto the lining, turn under the overlocked edges, pin to the fabric where you want the pocket to sit. I placed mine about three inches from the top of where the totebag was going to be.

 

 

 

 

Sew a straight stitch close to the edge of the pocket. You now have a mini tote within your tote!

You can also do this with your fashion fabric side if you so wish. I have a design on both sides, So I elected to not put a pocket on the outside.

 

 

 

Now to assemble the bag itself:
Put the right sides of the FF together, sew up the sides and the bottom with a 1/2 inch hem. Do the same with the liner, except for a good 4 to 6 inch gap on the bottom (this is important for later). Trim your seams if you are so inclined.

If you want a flat bottom (on your bag, that is), line up your side seam with your bottom seam, making a point with the corner. Depending on how boxy you want your bottom to be, measure out the distance on each side as shown. I tend to go four or five inches, but it depends on how big a bag I am making. Mark your line with chalk or crayon. The clear rulers you can find in the quilting sections of your fabric store are really good for this kind of thing, since they are transparent you can see where the designs are. I got mine when they were being clearanced out; keep your eyes open for that great sale!

Sew along your mark; you can either tack the points to the bottom or trim it off. I’ve done both, and I tend to trim. Your bag will now have a nice bottom to rest on the ground. Some people will put a hard bottom in (like fabric-covered cardboard or even fabric-covered plastic canvas) but I tend to not bother because it’s one more piece to have to keep track of; and unless you can be positively sure you aren’t going to get anything on your totebag, the cardboard/whatever you use will diminish the washability of your tote. I got kids. Therefore, I need to wash.

At this point we can work on the straps. Simplest way is fold in half with the nice side facing each other, sew the seam, turn right side out, topstitch and call it lovely.

Putting it all together: measure three inches in from the side seams, and pin straps on the right/finished side of the lining. I will set about an inch off the ends of the handles into the bag for extra security.

 

 

 

 

Do the same for all four ends of your handles… and in the long, long parental tradition of Do As I Say, Not As I Do… yes, I pinned the handles on the wrong side of the lining. Yes, I didn’t notice until after I stitched everything together. This is why you keep your seam ripper close by and carefully choose your curse words for little ears.

 

 

 

Turn your FF right side out, fit it into the lining, and pin the top, matching the side seams together (at this point, the handles for the bag should be between your lining and the FF). I usually use a basting stitch– which is setting your straight stitch setting on your sewing machine for the longest-size stitch length. Here is where I fixed my mistake and am showing how it SHOULD look like if you did it right the first time. Ahem.

 

Pull the FF through the hole in the bottom of the lining– see why it was important? Topstitch around the top of the bag. If you so choose, also do a reinforcing stitch around where the ends of your handles  are to give additional strength (I didn’t on this one).

 

 

 

Either handsew the lining closed, or choose to be lazy ike me and quickly sew it up with a straight stitch. Or keep it open and have a secret compartment! Like James Bond… if he were to carry a tote bag with a unicorn on it…

 

 

 

Fluff your bag out, and enjoy! Or at least enjoy the fact that I tormented Eldest Daughter to once again model another bag.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I hope that helps expand your toting capabilities! Again, any questions please don’t hesitate to ask.

Fantasy vs. Reality

Would you like to hear a fantasy of mine?

Finding a small cottage, where there’s a nice huge fireplace that could warm the house as well as provide a place to cook. It’s cozy, easy to clean as it’s so small… far enough away from the hustle and the bustle so you can breathe. Woods the kids can play in, enough of a clearing for a nice vegetable patch and a herb plot, with a nice little area that has ample light for an afternoon of reading. There will be a pony for the girls and me to ride and spoil. A couple of corgis to rub bellies, and a flock of geese for territory protection (don’t laugh. Those birds can be FIERCE). A nice tea set to have afternoon tea while working on some handwork, like my knitting. This is my Peaceful Place, where I like to dwell for a few minutes of wistful pondering.

The Universe then laughs and hits me over the head with the clue by four called reality.

Recently we went to IKEA to check out single beds for Eldest Daughter. Every year they have a sort of Theme, where they gear their products on the showroom floor to this idea. This year it’s Small Living Spaces (which has always been one of their themes, but seems to be their current focus), so when you step off the escalator/elevator you are greeted with Small Spaces, wee little areas that are “showing” how one (or a family) can live in a space that is WEE. Like less than 1000 square feet wee. Less than 500 square feet (one of the showroom areas showed their concept of how “six friends can live in 430 sq. ft.” And this is a direct quote from the 2012 catalog Their secret? Bunk beds. bwahahahahaha… guess these friends are going to either be very tolerant of noises or they all have very understanding SOs…sorry to be crude but sometimes I wonder if the concepts went beyond the “how do we stick six adults in this space” into “how do we stick six adults in this space and have them be able to live real lives as well as tolerate each other by the end of the lease”?).

We do what most everyone does at IKEA. Play in the show areas, look at the products, marvel at some of the concepts. Meanwhile, Preschool Rockstar (who’s a little too short for the play area) and Toddler Terrorist are doing their level best to test the durability of Swedish design. I swear, those “special testing” areas that they have to show off how many times a chair can have weight applied, or hinges being opened and closed… put your prototypes in a preschool and see if it lasts the day. Just saying…

The girls are running amok within the space, Hubs and I are trying to check out beds and converse above the dull roar, Eldest Daughter’s playing with her sisters or just hanging about. The cold hard fact hits me. My wee little cottage just won’t do. Besides the epic destash we would all have to do with all the crap we have, we barely fit in the rooms, and this is with two small children– how much room will we need in five years? As it is, we barely fit into this house which is about 1500 square feet with a sizable yard. Our needs are more than what the concept wee spaces, which mirrored my fantasy.

If I had to, I’m sure we can downsize, and I’m sure we could make it work. But honestly, I do love having my own actual bedroom (instead of a loft bed in the living area, which was another concept from the IKEA designers). Some of the concepts were rather fun, but gotta say I was glad to be able to check it out… and leave my fantasy for home. It may be big and messy and insane, but it’s my reality and one I’m glad to have.

Today’ll be interesting, as I got VERY LITTLE SLEEP last night between Preschool Rockstar deciding to turn sideways in the bed and Terrorist waking up at every little noise. Coffee is my friend.

Today starts the last full week of summer vacation out here. Which is both good and bad. Good because all the kids are in that twitchy cabin-fever mode and everything they do seems intended to tick off the other sisters. Even Toddler Terrorist, who hasn’t started school yet, has gotten in on the act. GAH.

The bad part of this being the last full week is that… well, it’s going to be a very busy week. Eldest Daughter has her last week of volunteering at the preschool’s summer camp (I elected to not put Rockstar in because I wanted time with the girls to do stuff, then the teenager up and signs up to do exactly what I didn’t want to happen *sigh* so we ended up not being able to travel or do much since nearly every morning Eldest Daughter was going in to work. I shouldn’t complain, as it does give her an exposure to different situations and helps her accrue hours for a volunteer scholarship to help pay for college. BUT STILL), a doctor’s appointment to get her clearance for participating in swim team, and she has to finish  up her summer assignments that she’s still barely started. She also has to go to the school and get her paperwork in and her class schedule (and I still need to fill out said gazillion forms and whatnot for her). Rockstar’s medical clearance needs to be filled out (I just need to get it into the doc), and find all the bits and bobs for her school. On top of this… Terrorist has her 15 month well baby appointment (OH YAY SHOTS) this week.

I’m feeling even more tired looking this over. Maybe I need more coffee…

This week will be getting back in the routines of School Night bedtimes, getting the kitchen ready for packing lunches (like finding all the lids and containers that match them). Making sure we have the stationery supplies necessary for the girls to do homework/workbook. Making sure we have uniforms/spirit shirts mended and clean and ready to go.

…where’d I put that coffee IV?