Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Influenza Interruptus

More than 15 people throughout my family, including me, have contracted a nasty flu bug just in time for the holidays! I will be back to regular blogging as soon as I can. In the meantime, STAY HEALTHY!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas

Wishing you all the best this joyous holiday! I'll be back some time next week. Hope Santa was good to you! :)

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas Finery

Early last week I got a bug in my craw that I needed to sew a skirt to wear on Christmas day. I don't know why I impose seemingly impossible deadlines on myself when it comes to crafting. John gets leery of the ambition in my eye as I explain my newest and greatest crafting feat. Again, I was inspired by Disney over at Ruffles and Stuff. I wish she would blog all day everyday; she's got the best ideas. This is my take on her Murphy ruffled layer skirt. This is the tutorial I followed. In addition to crafting my own Christmas outfit, I thought I could also certainly up-cycle a skirt and then it wouldn't cost me a red cent. (John liked this part)

Here is the skirt I started with. I got it for Christmas many years ago. It's an ankle length, a-line, red and black wool plaid skirt.....that was about 2 sizes too big for me. While I liked it, it was no longer flattering and destined for the Goodwill pile, from whence I rescued it. How is it that Sadie always finds herself in my pictures? She's so cute.

This was not an easy project. Number one, despite the length of the skirt, I didn't really have as much fabric as I needed. Ruffles need LOTS of fabric, yo! Number two, my normal tight tension-long stitch ruffling technique did not work at all for me. I don't know if it was the material or the crappy thread I was using but I had to gather every layer by hand, multiple times. And thirdly, said crappy thread was CRAP! I am not sure what was going on there. My bobbin thread broke every single time I started sewing. It was a big test on my patience. There were times when it was touch and go and I wasn't sure I'd finish. But.....

Ta-daaaaa!!! Unfortunately, the ruffles don't photograph very well. I'll try to take a better picture on Christmas when everyone is marveling at my handiwork. I have another full body shot but the sweater makes me look lumpy and my hair is crazy. I have since decided to just wear a thin shirt on top instead of this bulky nonsense. Black leggings, check. Handmade super cute ruffly skirt, check. Awesome Christmas day outfit...CHECK CHECK CHECK!

Anyway, I'm pleased as punch with the results. Well, I'm pleased as punch now. When I first finished it, I was a little disappointed. I thought it would flare out a lot more. The straightness made me think totally 80's. But, after a few outside opinions and trying it on a week later, NOW I'm pleased as punch. Even though I have to put it on over my head. Oops. It's way comfortable though. Success!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Best Laid Plans

This past summer, I had a fantastic idea. I was going to knit everyone on my gift list a pair of socks. And I was going to start well in advance. Brilliant. Never mind the fact that I had never knit any socks before and knowing full well that they can be quite tricky, especially turning the heel. Also knowing that I have a lot of trouble knitting in the round. No matter. Piece of cake. I found some great variegated yarn and a relatively easy to follow pattern and then I got busy. I worked night after night, cursing my double pointed needles that I thought might help me knit in the round. I was wrong. Dropping stitches, losing count, pulling out my hair. How did I do?

Yep, that's my first....and last sock. I didn't even get one inch of the cuff finished. It was so hard! I needed a knitting coach. I needed more gumption. Despite my June start date, I needed more time. So, maybe I ought to revisit this endeavor in January. That means I have just over a week to steel my reserve and bolster my knitting spirits. We shall see........

Monday, December 20, 2010

Early Christmas Chez G

I can't believe I forgot to tell you about this. There has been so much going on since we got back from our Texas Thanksgiving trip that I plum forgot! This one is a doozy. I have wanted a treadmill of my own, honest injun, all my life. Even before I was really a runner, I knew that having a treadmill mere steps away from being lazy on the couch would make a huge difference in my fitness life. Well, guess what......?

Santa (AKA: my parents) came early! I love this thing so much. I know that it's totally going to revolutionize my winter workouts. John and I could not stop smiling on our first runs on this baby. He's on it right now as I type this. My turn is next. This also means no more sharing a 2 lane track at the rec center with old people walking side by side in dress shoes. Huzzah!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

I'm in love

Isn't this the cutest headband you've ever seen? Sorry for the weird angle. John said I looked like a present. How appropriate! Guess what. I MADE IT! I followed this tutorial at Ruffles & Stuff. I skipped the gluing and just stitched all the pieces by hand. This was okay except it's pretty difficult to sew through 6 layers of vinyl but, I didn't have the heavy duty glue she recommended. I bought the vinyl at JoAnn's for, get this. 83 cents!! And I bet I could easily get 8 more headbands out of that one cut of fabric. I had the elastic at home already. 10 cents for a headband. Who could beat that?!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Ape House

Ape House is the latest offering from Sara Gruen. If you're unfamiliar with her name, you might be familiar with the title, Water for Elephants, which she also wrote, was wildly popular, and is being made into a movie. Ape House, obviously, also deals with animals. It is the story of bonobo apes in a facility on a university campus in Kansas. Isabel Duncan is the scientist charged with teaching her family of bonobos to communicate through sign language and getting them to understand spoken language. John Thigpen, a journalist, is sent to do a story on the apes' amazing accomplishments.

After John goes home, a bomb goes off in the ape facility. The apes are kidnapped (ape-napped?) and Isabel is left clinging to life. John returns to continue following the story, helping to figure out who is behind these horrible events and who is forcing the apes to take part in a reality TV show, Ape House.

I enjoyed this one. It was an interesting story and Gruen did a great job with the ape parts of it and humanizing their characteristics. It was brief, just about 300 pages, and a very fast read. But, it kept my attention. I did remember liking Water for Elephants better but this one is worth reading too.

Here's the good news. This was, in my rough calculations, my 48th read. YEA! But, I still have close to 900 pages left in my current book and then one more to read after that to hit 50 in just about 2 1/2 weeks. I hope I didn't miscount.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

We have lights!

Did you know it's very difficult to photograph Christmas lights? We even have a special setting on our camera for just such an occasion. Apparently, it's not a very exact setting. The day after our lighting debacle, John took the bull by the horns. I asked if he wanted help and he waved me off. In case you can't tell, that's a little tree on the left. The lights on its trunk were my main contribution but John said he re-wrapped them. :( The 4 shrubs have some garland lights across the front. It looks okay in the picture and when the bushes have snow on them but when they're bare, it looks a little strange. (Shhh, don't tell). I wrapped the lighted garland around our light post. That's the best part, in my opinion.

I'm glad they're up but even John said, as soon as he finished them, "Well, next year we're going to......" And then he rambled on about all of his grand plans for our 2011 lights display. We'll see.

Speaking of outside decor, John discovered that some birds are using my gorgeous front door wreath as a home/toilet. I am disgusted and dismayed. There is poo perched on the poinsettias! As well as all over our welcome mat. I don't want to take the wreath down now because the damage is already done but next year, I'll have to find something else to hang. This wreath will hit the trash can on December 26th. Blasted birds.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Massage Mess up

This past Saturday, I got a massage. I love massages but hadn't had one in more than 2 years. Back in September, there was a Groupon for a $20 60 minute massage. I snapped that baby right up! Then, I called to try to schedule an appointment. I never reached an actual person any time I tried. Finally, I e-mailed instead. She responded, but it took awhile. Oh, and one time she returned a voicemail to me on a Saturday night at 8:30pm. I didn't answer.

Finally. FINALLY, I was able to schedule a Saturday appointment.......3 months away. She was so busy from the Groupons that there were no other openings. But, I took the appointment thinking that even though it wasn't until December, I would probably really need a massage in the middle of all the Christmas stress. Certainly my back would need some relief after spending hours carrying shopping bags around the mall.

I drive to the building, which is next to a creepy bar called The Phone Booth. The building, equally as creepy, only has 1 car in the parking lot. I go inside and find the office on the directory, up 4 stairs and try to open the door. Locked. I knock. Nothing. Okay, I'm early. I'll just wait. And wait, and wait. And find a strange bathroom downstairs. And hear masseurs greet each other in another office. And wait. 4 minutes after my appointment should have already begun, I call her. "I'm just around the corner. I couldn't get out of my house this morning." Well....okay, I'll just keep waiting.

This woman looks like a homeless person. Her hair is all over the place. Her sweatpants are 3 sizes to big for her, and she's wearing a Superman t-shirt. And I'm about to let her rub me down. She tells me she uses a pretty deep technique and to tell her if anything hurts. In the course of an hour, I wanted to scream out in pain a good 25 times. She caused pain in areas I never knew could hurt so badly. Not once did I ask her to lighten up. A massage is supposed to be relaxaing, that's true. But, I feel if she's causing me great discomfort by digging knife-like fingers into a specific knot, well, that knot needed to be reckoned with. It wasn't all bad. I'd say about 50-50 between pain and relief.

She was very nice. Just a little off. For $20, I guess you get what you pay for. If I had paid her full amount, I would not have been a happy camper.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Dead as a Doornail

Dead as a Doornail is the fifth book in Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse series. The problem with working my way through this series now, albeit slowly, is that True Blood really only bases one season off a single book. I’m already way ahead of myself and what will happen on the show since it doesn’t come back until next summer. I’ll never remember what happened in the book and what they changed for the series. Anyway………

In this adventure, Sookie is still single, having dumped Bill in a previous book. She is asked by her werewolf friend Alcide Herveaux to attend the funeral of his pack master mainly because his father is nominating himself for replacement pack master and needs the support. Additionally, someone is shooting random weres and shifters, including Sam. Needing help at bar at Merlotte’s due to Sam’s injury, Sookie enlists Eric’s assistance who provides vampire Charles Twining, a pirate of sorts, to fill in. In the meantime, Sookie’s brother Jason, having been bitten by a were in the last book, has just recently undergone his first “change” with the new moon. Oh, and Sookie’s friend Tara has taken up with a new creepy vamp named, Mickey. Got all of that?

It takes Sookie and all her friends to figure out who is shooting everyone, who set fire to Sookie’s house, what Mickey and Charles’ deals are, and all the while avoid the private investigators hired to figure out who shot Debbie (Alcide’s ex) in the last book. (Psst….it was Sookie).

This one was just okay for me as far as this series goes. I like when Sookie is with someone and not single, preferably Eric or Alcide. Bill is not my favorite. And I don’t really care for the shifter community in Hot Shot (a nearby town) that was the focus of a decent part of the book. But, it had been awhile since I’d read the last one so it was nice to revisit the characters. Plus, I needed a fast read to break up the giant one I’m slogging through for going on 3 weeks now.

Obviously, don’t start with this one if you’ve never read the others. That would be silly. But, if you’ve come this far in the series, why stop now? There are plenty more to read and who knows what predicament Sookie will find herself in next!

Monday, December 6, 2010

In which the lights are still not on

Picture this:

A couple in their late 20's awake on a Saturday morning, the Saturday in which they promised each other the outside Christmas lights would go up, to snow. One family member suffering in the midst of a sinus infection has no gloves. The other chastises like a child who needs idiot mittens. (Note to self: Make John idiot mittens) They begin at 7:45 am before the snow becomes to heavy to put up said lights.

The woman wraps the small tree's trunk in a strand of white lights. The man comes out and says the wrong end is at the top. The male end of the plug needs to go at the bottom. The woman has to think about which end is male and which is female every.single.time the man mentions this. Every.Time. And often still gets it wrong. The man finds it impossibly difficult to unravel the net lights for the four small bushes. The woman fixes this, as usual.

Man: Did you mean to buy green?
Woman: Well the net itself is green so it blends in.....oh, the lights are green! No, I most certainly did not mean to buy green.
Man: The box says green on it.
Woman: I thought that meant green like earth-friendly. (Not my finest moment)
Man: Well, it'll just be an OU house.
Woman: OK, we'll go with that.

Net untangled. The dimensions on the box that stated 72" by 48" do not seem true. The net barely covers one bush. The woman, determined not to cry, nixes the net. We'll just have the white lights on the tree and the lighted garland on the lamp post, she says, that'll still look nice. The man complains that his hands are cold. The woman bites her tongue so as not to mention the idiot mittens again. The man starts winding the last strand of lights on the tree branches. It doesn't even go around once. Defeat admitted, the net is returned to the store that has, in 12 hours, sold out of all remaining lights.

At the end of this 30 minutes debacle, lighted garland needs an extension cord and is completely snow covered as it snowed ALL DAY. Only the tree trunk is wrapped in lights.

Stay tuned......

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Sew sad

Guys, I am missing my sewing machine something fierce these days. I always see all these great projects online to make and I have nary an extra minute to make them! When we moved to the house, I knew we'd be busy but now, we're just busy with Christmas stuff and all things house-related have been put on hold. Thankfully, I had a very productive shopping weekend so onto the baking and wrapping I go. Anyway, I want to sew something sew badly (ha!) but I don't have time. Sad face.

One of the things John ceded to me when house hunting was the inclusion of a craft room. Well, with a finished basement that's not yet being used for its video gaming/exercising purposes, you can imagine the amount of crafting that could be happening, if I only had the time. Le sigh. I have so much fabric in my stash right now too. My sister keeps sending me links of projects with a less inquisitive and more demanding, "You can make this, right?" Yes, I CAN make it but I also have 4 pillow covers and miles of sewing to go before I sleep.

I don't mean this to be a complaint-riddled post. I'm thrilled with the holiday progress we made this weekend and I've got an exciting week and upcoming weekend to look forward to. I just miss sewing. One of these Sundays, I'm just going to hole up in the basement and create until my heart is content.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Really, calendar?

Is it honestly December already? I know that I just had a big turkey dinner which usually means December is right around the corner but what happened to January through November? By December 1st, my holiday panic mode typically sets in. This year, I've decided to attempt a thwarting of said panic. I took stock of where I stand holiday-wise and I'm actually feeling pretty good.

-Christmas cards: all written, need to buy stamps and mail
-Decorating: about half done.....except outside. And there will be lights on the new house, oh yes, there will be lights
-Shopping: more than half done. Pretty proud of this. And the remaining purchases are mostly easy. I think there are only a couple people I'm stumped on.
-Outfit for Christmas day: check!
-Baking: this is where I fall short. Well, sort of. While it's still 25 days from Christmas, I will be freezing a lot of cookies so they don't go stale and I'm not doing all my baking last minute. However, I wanted to try a few new recipes this year and haven't had a chance to look for them.
-Wrapping: this is where I'm also falling short. Nothing is wrapped yet. But, I'm not worried. I'm a pretty fast wrapper.

Is that everything? That doesn't seem like much except I only have 2 weekends in which to accomplish it all. I think I can do it. What's not going so well is my 50 book count. More on that another day.