Friday, January 30, 2009

Stretch That Fabric Out

Here's a weird little tip, if you need to write on fabric with an indelible marker, try stretching the fabric using a cross stitch hoop. We stumbled upon this a few days ago when my son was struggling to write on a t-shirt for his book report. I suggested it on a whim and was surprised at how well it worked. Don't forget to put something between the front and back if you're doing something with two sides, like a t-shirt.

He finished off the t-shirt by tie dyeing it, along with the fabric that will become the kids cape for Tasha's salon chair. We got the tie dye kit at the thrift store. I love the whole process, especially the thrill of finally seeing what your pattern looks like. Rob really enjoyed it as well. I used the bathtub as the center of operations for this to keep it reasonably neat.

Book reports certainly have come a long way from the dreaded two page monsters I remember in grade school. Next month Rob is planning on designing a quilt depicting his favorite scenes from the book he chooses. He told me this today as he left for school. I love that he has absolute confidence in my ability to make this come together. It's not that he wants me to do the work for him, he just wants me on as technical advisor. My job is to answer the tough questions like, should I use fabric paint or indelible marker and will the words still show up after we tie dye?

I'm off to shuttle the girls around to job interviews. Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Success with the Ink Refill & Other Random Thoughts

I hereby declare the printer cartridge refilling a success. It seems my cartridge needed time to let the foam soak up the ink. It also needed to sit on a cloth soaked in the cleaning solution that comes with the kit for an extra hour to unclog two of the jets. These two simple steps made the difference. I'm psyched!

Much of today was spent shoveling snow...maybe Ruthie has the right idea living in Texas. We're still using ashes from our woodstove for traction on icy driveways and paths. I still can't believe how well it works.

There's split pea soup already simmering on the stove for dinner so I'm thinking I'll sink down into a chair and unravel a few more sweaters until Jim gets home. These are the same sweaters I bought to unravel last year and never got around to doing. Now that I did so much holiday knitting it seems to be the perfect time to unravel and refresh my yarn stash.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Refilling My Printer Cartridges

After hearing rave reviews from several people, I've just tried refilling the ink cartridges on my HP printer. I've heard it can shorten the life of your printer but I wasn't worried because my old DeskJet is practically an antique.

I followed all the directions and tried printing. I'm not so impressed with the results so far, although it is improving. Here's the main thing I've discovered. Although the instructions say HP cartridges don't need to have the holes you refill in resealed, mine seems to leak profusely if you don't. A few tiny pieces of electrical tape solved this problem.

Apparently it can take some time for the foam inside the cartridge to soak up the ink. The solution to this is just to let it sit. So, I'm going to sit on this project until tomorrow morning and then give my full report.

Will this be a wonderful money saving thing or should I just have gone to

Friday, January 23, 2009

Are Your Freezing? Keeping Warm the FVM Way

I've been marveling at the adaptability of my family lately. We've been heating with a woodburning stove for a few years now. In the past, we always had the heat set to 60 degrees as a back up in case the fire died down overnight. When oil prices went wacky last year, we opted to not turn the heat on at all. So this entire heating season, we've heated exclusively with the woodstove. (We did compromise and move a small space heater that had been in the garage into the bathroom to make that room toasty while showering. We figured we'd wind up showering longer if the room was cold in an attempt to warm up.)

The thing that amazes me is no one complains, everybody takes it in stride. We all have a gazillion blankets on our beds and some have taken to wearing sleeping caps to maintain body heat. (In fact, Leen made sleeping caps put of fleece scraps for her father and sister for Christmas.) On exceptionally cold nights, we'll set an alarm to remind us to add wood to the fire in the middle of the night.

The boys crack me up the most. They really don't remember a time when life wasn't like this so they don't think twice about being asked to refill the log ring that sits outside our back door. They both know that they need to close the curtains to keep the warmth inside at night. Just this morning, Rob asked how much the yarn I was unraveling from a thrift store sweater would cost if I bought it at the store. When I told him what I thought it would cost he said, "That's ridiculous, why would anybody spend that?"

Even the girls have a slightly skewed view of things. Yesterday, Leen announced she was going to cook more often because she liked standing near the warm stove.

So what's the point? I guess if you do anything frugal long enough, it stops seeming odd, even to the family members who may have been your most vocal opponents in the beginning.

BTW, if you're curious about the fleece sleeping caps here's the basic instructions. This is a super simple project, especially if you wind up using fleece since the edges won't fray out.

Leenie's Keep Your Head Warm Sleeping Cap
1.Start by measuring the person's head and adding an inch to this number for seam allowance. Divide this number in half. This is your final measurement

2.Pin together your fleece with the right side facing in. (This will allow you to cut out both sides of your hat at once.) Draw a line across the bottom edge of your fabric the length of the final measurement you came up with in step one.

3.To create the body of the hat, draw a line up from the edges of the line you just drew:
8 1/2 inches for a man's head
6 1/2 inches for a woman's head
5 3/4 inches for a child's head

You should have something that looks like a football goal.

4.Now you need to decide how long you want your cap to be. Find the center of the first line you drew and draw another line straight up from that. This is the line that determines the length of your cap. There are no right answers on this one, it's purely aesthetic.

5.Draw a line from the center line you just drew down to each of the lines that create the body of the cap. Pin along the lines to hold your pattern together. You are now ready to cut your cap out.

6.Sew along all edges EXCEPT the bottom edge, that's where your head fits in.

7.Now turn the bottom edge under and sew all around to give you a nice finished edge. You're all done except for any embellishing you choose to do. Leen added a flannel edge to the one she made for her dad. She did a plain egde for her sister but used two different colors of fleece. Get creative!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Business of Moving Forward

It's been a week and a half since my gym closed. In that time, we've dealt with bounced paychecks, two teenagers searching for jobs and finding a place for my swim team members to practice swimming. I drove way too far for one swim practice, kept my sons up far too late to attend a meeting on the future of the swim team and then kept them up way too late the next night for a practice on dryland with the older swimmers. It's clearly imperfect but at least its beginning to fall into place.

Personally, I've struggled with what my next move should be career wise. I think it's easy to go overboard when you start something, especially when it's something you love. In the end, that can make frugal living damn near impossible. I don't want to get so busy that I can't keep making meals from scratch. I like unraveling sweaters and using the recycled yarn in new projects. I want to make more clothing by hand. Actually, I'm just getting ready to make two capes for Natasha to use when she's cutting hair, a solid one that matches her chair for adults and a smaller tie dye one for kids. I like being able to take the time to do these kinds of things. Aside from saving money, often I can make a higher quality, longer lasting version (and so can you!!)

With that in mind, I've begun taking baby steps to really develop my yoga business. I've started to set up a website (yahoo is really user friendly), ordered business cards(Vista Print came highly recommended even though they are the spam king in my opinion) and started getting the word out. I'm even considering setting up a DBA, it's only $25 in my county.

In an odd twist of fate, I've already got three kids registered to start a brand new yoga class with me next Monday in my home studio. I even got offered a job at another local gym (they came looking for me, go figure!) I have my eye on the fall as the time to really dive into things. Hopefully, by then both girls will be driving and I will be able to turn in my chauffeur's hat, at least for part of the week.

I'm hopeful. I'm grateful. I'm pleased. But I'm still angry. I'm hoping the anger subsides soon. At least it's not all bubbling up at the surface like it was last week.

In other postive, moving forward type news, we ordered some fruit trees and fruit bushes from a fairly local (within NY) grower.

Friday, January 16, 2009

It's Sprouts & Oatmeal!

It's bitter cold but I just enjoyed a little taste of spring. I combined the alfalfa sprouts(homegrown) with some shredded carrots and topped it with some salad dressing. The result was a crunchy little salad that really hit the spot. Sometimes its the simplest things that are the best.

Check out these past posts which talk about sprouting

If you're trying to keep it local, this time of year its all about what you've got stored away or what you can produce on your own with the occasional winter farmer's market thrown in for good measure.

We find ourselves with an abundance of apples, applesauce and apple pie filling. I've taken to making Amish baked oatmeal leaving out the raisins and instead topping it with apple pie filling (homemade in the freezer). I also add a teaspoon of cinnamon stirred into the oatmeal.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Let's Ponder Spring in the Garden

It's cold in NY! So naturally this means I have to make a Calorimetry. It seems lots of people have been bitten by the calorimetry bug. This nifty little creation keeps your head warm and is a fine use of scrap yarn that you haven't already set aside for your log cabin blanket.

It seems the more you knit the more the people around you want you to knit. Just this past weekend my sons asked if I could knit them some thick socks for sledding. I'm slowly becoming a knitting machine, knitting for the warmth of her family. Oddly enough, despite all the knitting I've done, my yarn stash is remarkably intact.

Since I'm so cold, I feel compelled to look ahead to spring. So if you look for me you'll frequently find my nose buried in a seed catalog. I want to know what I can grow that is going to give me the most food with the least amount of space and minimal hassle.

So what are you thinking about planting?

Monday, January 12, 2009

A Kick In the Rear to Get Me In Gear

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Sometimes we all need a kick in the rear to get us moving in the right direction. It looks like I just got one this morning. It seems a coworker of mine went to work this morning and was greeted by a sign saying, "We will be closed today". While returning to her car, she encountered several electric workers who was there to shut off power to the building due to the financial crisis. It seems I'm out of a job.

Okay it's not the incredible financial crisis others are experiencing. I teach several places, most of which pay better than this one. (At this location, I only taught one class and my take home pay was only $7.06/week.) Even though this place has become a pit, I'm sad. Maybe its the just the fact that this is where I started my fitness career.

So I've spent the morning making calls, sending emails and trying to figure out my next move. There are 5 regulars who take my class there. I want to offer them an alternative venue so this class can continue. Maybe this kick in the rear means it's time to expand my home yoga studio class offerings?

Ever since the end of summer, people have been asking me about this and I keep putting them off. I think the time has come. But first I'll close my eyes and take a few deeps breathes in and out through my nose...

Friday, January 09, 2009

Genius or Madwoman, You Decide - A Tutorial on Making a Variegated Yarn Project When You've Run Out of Variegated Yarn

You might remember that I made a blue and white hat for Leenie for Christmas.

A close friend of hers saw it and fell in love with it. She wanted one of her own, in blue, just like Leen's. Alas, there was no more than a tiny gumball sized ball of the variegated yarn I had used. I offered different color combinations but wouldn't you know it, her coat is blue.

I perused my yarn stash and came up with 5 shades of blue which really got the wheels turning. Could I create a variegated look using pieces of these blue yarns? Could I cope with the seven gazillion ends I would have to weave in as a result? Would it just look weird?

Because I'm a madwoman (or a genius, as I said it's for you to decide) I dove into the project. Here's the result so far.

The brim is done in one solid color. I knew I wanted the color changes to come at fairly regular intervals around the hat, not always in the same spot of the hat. I accomplished this by using each color for one complete row plus 20 stitches. I chose 20 because there were 80 stitches around the hat and since I was using five colors it would take a little more than one go around to change all the colors, ensuring nothing would line up on one area of the hat.

This worked like a charm until the time came to decrease. Since 20 went into 80 four times, I tried to keep my decreased rows looking the same as the rest of the hat by dividing the new number of stitches in the row by 4. Then I would knit 1 complete row plus this new amount. If it divided unevenly I would round up rather than rounding down to figure out the new amount. I should mention that this was probably an unnecessary bit of insanity since actual variegated yarn wouldn't change to accommodate decreases.

Here they are side by side

So the lesson here is you can create a variegated yarn project without variegated yarn. Whether or not you should is totally up to you. So what do you think, genius or madwoman?

Wednesday, January 07, 2009


Save Handmade Toys
It's another snow day here in the Hudson Valley, although ice day would be more appropriate. No school for them, no work for me, so it's 10:27 and we're all still sitting around in our pj's, even though I've been up since 5:00am.

I'm hoping to get everyone to help me take down the Christmas tree later this afternoon. I want to reclaim the lost space in my living room.

I've spent a fair amount of time this morning reading up on the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act and the effects it will have on home crafters. Here's etsy's piece on the legislation.

From what I'm reading, even the resale of children's clothes at thrift stores would be affected and d-day is February 10th, just a few weeks away. Here's Simple Dollars piece on this debacle. I'm beyond bugged.

It's time to get active and send some emails, make some phone calls, do whatever you do best but let your voice be heard!

Here's an update from 1/8/2009 on the legislation direct from the CPSC specifically dealing with thrift stores and other resellers.
The new law requires that domestic manufacturers and importers certify that children’s products made after February 10 meet all the new safety standards and the lead ban. Sellers of used children’s products, such as thrift stores and consignment stores, are not required to certify that those products meet the new lead limits, phthalates standard or new toy standards.

Monday, January 05, 2009

The Gameboy Story

In theory school starts today but we woke up to a two hour delay compliments of icy pavement. Will this vacation never end?

Acutally, it's been a very productive two weeks even with the kids home. I cleaned every inch of my bedroom this weekend, except the closets which I'll tackle later today. I vacuumed, dusted, donated, recycled and tossed that clutter away. I just keep walking in there to look at my handiwork.

I did make Dim Sum for New Year's Eve. What a labor intensive but thoroughly yummy experience that was. I brought some to share with family on New Year's Day and the unanimous opinion was that it was very good. (Even my very unvegan brother agreed!) Definitely something to do for special occassions only, with lots of help if at all possible.

Friday both girls got their learners permits so now we've added the joy of driving to my parenting activities. All you parents with little ones, watch them when they learn to ride a bike. I'm discovering their technique and learning curve for driving a car largely mimics the learning to ride a bike one. The difference is, in this case, I wish we were all wearing helmets!

Before diving into the new year with complete gusto, I want to revisit Christmas one last time. Here's a little lesson on what makes kids happy at the holidays as taught to me by my sons. They were given cash by several family members which left them gleeful but with the buy something you'd like dilemma. Walk into a big toy store and their brains just turn to jelly. They don't know what they want, they just know they want something.

The solution to this dilemma presented itself quite by accident. Jim had discovered a local comic book/video game store that bought and sold used video games and systems. We had bought the boys a comic book collection and video game each there for Christmas. They were thrilled and asked to visit this wonderous store with him sometime. Enter the Christmas cash, now they had a reason for their store visit.

They opted to get another gameboy game each and to trade in their gameboy advances for refurbished gameboy advance sp's. (The difference for all you no video game players like me, is that the sp's have better graphics and can be played in the dark. This makes them much more useful on a long car ride.) They each got a $10 credit for their old gameboys. They walked out of the store like proud little entrepreneurs new gameboys in hand. I don't think any present has ever thrilled them as much as this transaction did.