Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Monday Meanderings a Day Late and A Plug for MDA

I was making a collage for my P365 post, when I had the bright idea to throw together a "Through the Year" collage. I decided to do one of me with friends and family, but it turns out I'm usually behind the camera, not in front of it, so there weren't very many of me, period. I was sad to realize I missed getting my photo taken with a lot of my buddies :(  But I was able to do the following:
I'd like to be a little more purposeful about getting photos with, and not just of, my family and friends. Might make putting together a collage like this more challenging but I'd really like to look back and remember times together with the special people in my life.

Speaking of special people, my daughter is currently raising money for MDA (Muscular Dystrophy Association) and she came up with a really cute poster:
I guess that degree in communications is paying off in more ways than one. Her husband has been a volunteer at an MDA camp for years, and a strong supporter in other ways as well. It's wonderful to see the two of them competing working together for this worthy cause. If you want to read more about what they're doing, click on the photo.

Last night Julio and Magdalena stopped by. We'd paid them a short visit on Sunday and I'd mentioned I had made a top using a pattern bought in the U.S. and it didn't fit quite right. Magdalena said she'd make me a pattern that would fit me perfectly. So last night she came prepared with her tape measure and she not only made me a pattern, but also helped me make diagrams with formulas so I understand how to do exact measurements myself. In the future she's going to show me how to do patterns for other items of clothing as well. I'm so psyched!

When I made the first little girl's dress not long ago, I'd shown it to her and she explained how I could do a ruffle without having to do gathers. Such a simple technique (which I haven't tried yet but plan to!) and I'm sure she has lots of other tips and tricks up her sleeve.

Yesterday the man stopped by the lot with a list of materials needed to do the foundation. Ivan took the list to a store that sells that kind of stuff, to get a quote. UGH. I'm trying not to freak out, but WOW! The foundation alone is going to take over 30% of our original budget. Makes me even MORE grateful that the bulk of the construction will be done by friends volunteering their labor!!! We have to pay a crew to do the foundation and later the cement floor, but I think everything else we + friends will be handling.

The rain has been wonderful for cooling things down a bit. It was in the mid-to-high 80s yesterday which felt quite nice after so many days of 100+ temps. But the rain also brought high humidity which we are just not used to. Reminds us of being back in Michigan in July or August!

I've been trying to sort out health insurance stuff. It would be easier if we had a functioning printer, but both of ours are on the fritz. Ivan's been trying to get one working and it did for a bit, then quit again. It has issues with the toner cartridges and the head or something. Ivan doesn't even try to explain it to me because he knows I still wouldn't understand. Mechanical and me don't mix. Anyway, he's had to put the things I need on a pin drive and take them to a place that can then print them for us. So far he's had to make two trips just on the insurance stuff. But I think I have all I need now and can finish it up. I do believe most forms are written to confuse on purpose. Maybe they think we'll get so frustrated we'll just give up and then they won't have to pay anything. As it is, I fully expect to get an e-mail back saying I left something out, or put something in the wrong place... 

And then there's the tax questionnaire. *sigh* Not hard to understand at all, but tallying up all the info is time consuming. BUT you have NO IDEA how THANKFUL I am that I don't have to do our taxes any more! The mission we are with handles that for us. Hallelujah! I just have to finish filling out this questionnaire.

And that's what I need to go do now...

Friday, February 17, 2012

Some like it hot...

Not sure why that old Marilyn Monroe movie popped into my head. Maybe it has something to do with this:
[My notations in red.] Yes, our low last night wasn't very low :(  Contrary to weather.com's prediction of thunder storms yesterday afternoon/evening and steady rain all night, we got less than a five-minute sprinkle around 8 p.m. and then NADA. So the heat wave continues...

It meant when we served ice cream to our company after dinner, between the time I dished it up and quickly took the bowls to the living room, it was more like a vanilla shake. Not sure I've ever seen ice cream melt so fast indoors.

A large white washcloth, wet down periodically with cold water and kept around my neck, has become part of my fashion statement. Even during dinner with company. They understood. 

We've been told this is a record-breaking summer and there's no reason to doubt that. The week before Christmas we had temps in the 104-108 range, and those have been repeated again and again all summer. And if it's not in the 100s, it's in the 90s. I think we may have had 3-4 days that it dropped below 90.

While I prefer hot over cold, I'm ready for this summer to be OVER.

Poor Ivan has continued to work out at the lot in this heat. Thankfully this week he has a helper, which was a HUGE answer to prayer! And thankfully much of the work thus far has been in a shady area, where they've been putting in the septic system. Charlie can help Ivan full-time this week and next, and then school starts, after which he can help a few hours a week. So while he has help, Ivan's really pushing to get done as much as he can.

Charlie's help came just at the right time, since Ivan put his back out last week digging the drain field by himself. He actually did okay until Saturday evening when he was doing yard work around the house and pushed himself a little too hard after all the other manual labor, and POP!, out went his back. We belong to a local health cooperative and they have an on-call team of EMTs and Sunday we had to call them. They came to the house, gave Ivan an injection and soon he was able to get out of bed.

His back has continued "talking" to him, but he's being careful (most of the time) and wearing his back support brace. I think his body is also getting used to the hard physical labor. We knew that the only way we'd be able to have a place of our own was to invest a lot of sweat equity. Most of that sweat will be Ivan's. I'll help where I can, but we all know that's only going to represent a small fraction of the work that gets done. My main job now is keeping Ivan (and any other workers) fed and supplied with plenty of cold beverages.

I haven't updated progress on the lot in a while, so here it is:
~ septic system pretty much in (so few words for so much work!)
When the man comes with the heavy machinery to level things out, and move dirt from the high spot to the low area (which is where the septic is located), Ivan will go ahead and install the pipes and so on, but he doesn't want to do that before then because those things would just get stolen.
~ the casita has been cleaned out
It had been full of debris from the two times the wall had been busted by would-be thieves, and some other junk left there by a previous owner.
~ the yard has been mowed and tidied up

Up next:
~ install the fence
As soon as the lot has been leveled, Ivan and Charlie can begin installing the fence. 
~ re-roof the casita
~ work on the floor of the casita
Right now the floor is a very rough, uneven slab of cement. Not sure if we're going to just do a smooth layer of cement and call it good, or put down a thin layer of cement to level things and then tile it.

Ivan met with a man last Friday about doing the foundation. This is a bigger project than he can handle, and it has to be finished before a construction team from the U.S. comes at the end of April. On Wednesday the man called with a quote, which we thought wasn't TOO bad (higher than anticipated but not ridiculous) until we found out it was for labor only :(  He's supposed to call back today with a quote on materials. *sigh* But it's one of those things you just have to bite the bullet and get'erdone. He told Ivan they could begin work on the 27th.

We're pretty pumped about the construction team coming at the end of April!!! So far there are four men definitely interested in being part of the team, and we think a few more might join them. We were thinking a group of 6-8 would be just right but, quite honestly, if only those four come, that will be an awesome team! These are men who are paying their own way, and taking two weeks to help us build. How cool is that?! We're so grateful for their willingness to help in such a HUGE way.

I'm already thinking ahead and starting to plan the menu. I thought I'd ask those of you who stop by and read this, to give me your favorite recipe to use when cooking for a big group. I already have quite a few tried-and-true recipes, but I'm always on the lookout for more.

Added some recipes

Just a note to let anyone interested know that I've been posting over at Just A Southern Girl Cooks. Up for your enjoyment: rosti potatoes, homemade tomato soup, brownies, chicken tortilla soup, banana cake, cranberry orange scones and vanilla ice cream.
Hungry yet?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

What I'm Creating

While I don't consider myself particularly creative, I do enjoy creating. Whether that's in the kitchen, at the sewing machine, or with the decor of my house, I find it necessary to allow myself time to create. For me it's a stress-relieving activity (most of the time) and if I go too long without it, well, you just don't even want to be around me.

Last year was a bit stressful with all the traveling, with very little time to sew or cook or do much of anything creative. I wish I was one of those people who could sew or knit or whatever in the car, but I'm not. So you can imagine what state I was in by the end of the year. As we were getting ready to go on vacation right before Christmas, I decided that it was high time to remedy the barren landscape of creativity and take SOMETHING to do while we were away. For a whole week we'd be in one spot and that afforded the luxury of both time and space to create.

To that end I loaded a bag with colorful felt, some quickly downloaded patterns, embroidery thread and assorted sewing notions. In the end I spent more time sleeping than creating, but I did make several felt ornaments for next Christmas. And that time spent carefully cutting and then sewing those simple shapes made me intensely happy and content.

I wouldn't exactly call it a New Year's resolution but I did purpose to find more time this year to do creative things. So far, so good. I was surprised when I stopped and realized how much I've actually gotten done in just seven short weeks. I've been doing a lot more baking (thanks to my KitchenAid stand mixer!) and trying new recipes.

But the real progress has been in the sewing room. Or on the couch, as I've done a lot more hand sewing too. More for my own benefit, I decided to post on a semi-regular basis this year what I've accomplished. I'm not sure how often this will happen (hence, the emphasis on "semi-regular") but I want to be able to look back at the end of the year and see proof of what my hands have made.

When I have enough, these will be assembled and mounted on a painted canvas and hung in our new home. Inspired by Pinterest, but then I couldn't find it any more. I thought I'd pinned it, but apparently not. Silly me. A google search found that it's a project featured over at Better Homes & Gardens and now it's safely pinned to my art board.

Parasol Girls:
While most of my sewing is done at the machine, hand sewing is an even more relaxing activity so I started digging through my UFO pile (unfinished objects) and found a batch of Parasol Girls. If memory serves correctly, I began working on this project back in 1993-94.

One block was completely finished, two were appliqued but not embroidered and the pattern pieces were cut for four more but that was as far as I'd gone. The pattern is from a club I belonged to many years ago, called Spinning Spools by Georgia Bonesteel*. Each month or so I'd get another packet of pages to add to the ginormous binder I'd received at the beginning of my membership. The binder is long gone, and I think this is the only project I kept -- probably because it was in the bag with the unfinished blocks, instead of in the binder. The page has a purple corner that says "Toybox Treasures #4". Anyway, the seven blocks are now finished but I'm going to have to wait for until I find a nice soft gray to serve as sashing before I can finish the quilt top. I'm thinking about doing a lot of embellishing on these, and turning it into a wall quilt.

Diaper Bag:
We hadn't been home too long when we found out a young friend had just had her second son. I decided a pretty diaper bag would make a nice gift, so relying on my go-to bag pattern which I modified, I created a 12"x18" tote with pockets on the inside and outside.

Various Star Blocks:
Then it was back to another UFO; this time a zip lock with a few completed blocks and a bunch of envelopes with pattern pieces cut out for additional star blocks. I got a bit carried away and ended up cutting out and making up even more blocks, in order to have enough for a lap quilt. I'm thinking ahead to cold weather when it would be nice to have a comfy quilt to throw over the couch, ready to snuggle under while hand sewing in the evenings.

While in the U.S. I picked up a few clothing patterns, including Simplicity 2063, size A, for little girls. I thought dress B with it's ruffles would be perfect for a patchwork of different fabrics. I copied the pattern for size 4 onto tracing paper and then went through my stash of fabric remnants looking for coordinating pieces that were big enough.
With the first dress I had enough of a lovely pink and green floral (wish I'd bought more of it back in the early 90s!!!) to serve as the front bodice, but had to use something else for the back. Fortunately I'd picked up a bunch of solids at a garage sale a number of years ago, and one of the greens was a perfect match. I used more of the solid as the base of the dress and one of the ruffles, and then rounded it out with a gorgeous stripe that I'd bought along with the floral (lo! those many years ago), and a pretty pink print purchased much later. I'm just a wee bit sad that the pretty little pink shoulder buttons fade into the floral print, but not enough to make me change them.
With the next dress I used a lot of a floral print picked up on sale, along with coordinating pink and blue solids.  I like both dresses, but the pink and green is my favorite, simply because I like the fabrics soooo much.

This is a fun pattern, not too hard, and I like that it doesn't have a collar (collars confound me every time, no matter the style). Will definitely be making more of these, in other sizes, as well as the other dress included in the pattern envelope.

Last week I made an apron based on a retro pattern from Sew4Home, to give as a birthday gift. This pattern is not hard but it is time-consuming so I've figured out how to do it differently next time so it doesn't require so much bias tape. Sew4Home is a wonderful site for all kinds of tutorials.

Over the weekend I cut out the pieces for a baby quilt but haven't done much on it yet, so those photos will have to wait until the next What I'm Creating post.