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November 10, 2010

When we bought the Monster Bed, there were a few issues we encountered.

Issue 1:  Height.  It comes up to my waist.  I had problems getting in it, and was reluctant to step on the side rail for fear of weakening it.  Solved by tracking down bedsteps.  Most annoying part?  The influx of bedsteps available in stores/catalogs AFTER I stopped looking.  It's like they were just waiting for us to give up.

Issue 2:  Bedspread.  It seems that almost all bedspreads these days are designed for beds without bedposts or footboards. Our Monster Bed, of course, is a four poster.  This problem was pretty much ignored, and so the corners stick out kind of funny.  However, purchase of bedspread led to

Issue 3:  Bedskirt.  The bedspread came as a set and included two pillow shams and a bedskirt, which was naturally too short for the bed.  I liked it.  I wanted to keep it.  It matched.  So I sat and pondered how to make it work.

Buying a second one was apparently out of the question, as it only came in a set.  I couldn't put it underneath the box springs.

Eventually, staring at the way it currently hung on the bed, I realized that the side rail would block the view of the top of the skirt if it were at its proper location on the floor.  All's I had to do was add fabric to the TOP of the bedskirt rather than the bottom!

I took a sham with me to the fabric store and ended up buying a basic brown cotton fabric.  I had to cut off the bedskirt from the white cotton that goes between the mattress and the box springs, as it had been overlocked, and I didn't want the fabric to come ungathered.  Then, I took the white cotton and added about 10 inches of brown cotton to three sides.  This fabric covers the box spring entirely so you don't get any glimpses of white between the wooden side rail and the edge of the bedspread. 

I ran into one problem at this point.  The side rails are attached to each other by means of three metal bars which run crosswise under the bed - the box springs and mattress sit on top of these.  They interfered with the bedskirt hanging down.  To get around this, I decided to use velcro.  I cut three slits in the bedskirt where they would meet the bars, and attached velcro to the bedskirt and the brown cotton.  Then I attached the bedskirt by bringing it up under the side rail and the metal bars, while the white cotton and the brown cotton cover the box springs.  I am explaining this very carefully because of the blank looks/huh? comments I am getting when I try to explain it in person.  I may have to resort to drawings.

It took a while to figure out how to do this and then get the nerve to actually carry it out.  A side problem I ran into is that a king sized mattress is REALLY HEAVY.  I needed to check my measurements every once in a while, and of course I had to take it off to sew.   I had decided to sew the bedskirt to the brown cotton along the foot of the bed, and today I ended up doing that by hand because I wanted to check and be sure that everything fit properly before I attempted to permanently attach it.  I didn't feel like wrestling it on and off the bed again and really wanted to get the whole project done.  (I think it's been a year!) It's just as well, because I cannot sew in a straight line by machine. 

I think this might be my first full scale decorating project.  (I don't count hanging things.)  It's a little strange to walk in the bedroom and not be able to see under the bed.  I'm imagining all the stuff I can store under there now. There's so much space I could even rent it out.

Oh yes.  I found a site only two days ago that sold extended length bedskirts.  I had a backup plan.
October 30, 2010

So far, I'm grateful to say, my kitchen experiments have been edible.  I've even managed several cakes and cookies.  Brian and I have been sharing meals back and forth.  He's more interested in heavier meals with it getting colder out, and I'm not very good with big hunks of meat.  I did help to make beef stew in a preparatory sort of way, although the little shallot onions thought it would be funny to attack my eyeballs.  I had tears streaming down my face, and couldn't see a thing through the burning sensation on my eyeballs.  It was totally unexpected, as I'd never had this problem with regular onions!  

I had mastered chicken in a skillet, but wasn't too certain about other types of meats.  Brian had bought a pork tenderloin in anticipation of making it with spaetzle, bread and a veggie, but his rough work schedule this past week made him ask me to do it instead.  I admit to balking and whining.  I know nothing about pork or how it should look, and have never done more than wash a roasting pan, and had almost no time to research.  I squeezed it in after class and an unpleasant shopping trip at Wegmans (oh how I hate that store!  I could rant for quite a few paragraphs about it)  and then Giant to find bread without a peanut allergy warning on it. 

Brian's instructions had been 'throw it in the oven and cook it til it's done.'  This, as my mother well knows, is not a good thing to tell me.  Years ago, when I was a teen, she needed to run out around the time she wanted to put a casserole in the oven.  She had it all made up, left it on the counter and told me the same thing.  'All's you need to do is throw it in the oven, I'll be back before it's done.'  I obediently did so.

I'd like to point out that no mention had been made about removing the saran wrap covering the dish. 

I'm not sure if this event led to my OCD need for detailed instructions or if it was something that I've always required, but I have a need to do lots of research before I attempt to do something.  So upon coming home I rushed straight to google.  It turned out to be a bad idea.  There are lots of pork recipes out there, although a lot of them kept getting mixed up with pork loin recipes, which is a different thing.  Many of the recipes called for a marinade, which I didn't have time to do.  It also took me some time to find a web site that properly explained what a roasting pan was and how it worked.  With pictures, because I wasn't sure how it went together, or if what I had WAS a roasting pan and not something else. 

Eventually, hands still shaking from my Wegman's anxiety attack, I crept down to the kitchen to narrow my search options to cookbooks.  The only consensus I could reach was the oven temperature and the time, and worked myself up to a mental stage where I could, in fact, throw the pig in the oven and cook it til it was done.  Determined to make some sort of effort, I sprinkled it with minced onion & garlic and some thyme and stuck it in the V shaped rack in the roasting pan.  There was other metal bits of the pan that I couldn't figure out where they belonged, so I decided I was going to ignore them.  In went the tenderloin and I started the spaetzle on the stove, with easier directions.

Then, I ran into the thermometer dilemma.  I had forgotten to research how to use it.  Cookbook instructions just said stick it in the fattest part with no bone.  They neglected to say if I should remove the meat from the oven first.  So, again, I winged it.  Other instructions said to give it a slice and if juices ran clear it was ok.  It did, so eventually I stopped fussing.

In the end, Brian got home an hour later than normal so everything got reheated.  It turned out very tender, although a little heavy on the spices, but since I like garlic and onions, I wasn't too concerned.  He ate the rest, even taking some to work for lunch, and neither of us got sick, so I figure the meal was a success.

I hate doing things if I don't know if I can do a good job, and don't feel fully prepared.  I'm very detail oriented, even down to physically measuring out margins on custom stationery and labels.  I get very frustrated at recipes because they don't have the amount of detail that I require.  What kind of oil/butter/salt?  Can I substitute this?  How can I eyeball it, if I don't know what it's supposed to look like in the first place?  What does 'done' look/smell/feel like, anyway?  What kind of cooking utensil should I use?  A baking pan? a glass pan?  What's the difference between a baking pan and a cookie sheet?  Can I switch them?  I won't even get into nutrition here. 

In the end I suspect none of it actually matters and I'm some sort of paranoid control freak.  Maybe I should write a recipe book.  "Cooking Basics for the Confused and Suspicious."
October 15, 2010

I had a wild, crazy inspiration that won't go away. Isaiah Mustafa . . . on a pumpkin.  Sadly, I don't think I have the talent for it, but I did have fun doing this, at least. Following the very useful instructions on The Okuda Family website I was able to create a visual for my madness. 

While I enjoy carving pumpkins, I have never been brave enough to attempt the three level layering effect.  I know from my Hobbes pumpkin that stripes are difficult to do.  And yet . . .and yet . . . it seems so perfect.  It will take some time to find a pumpkin manly enough, but it must be done.

If someone is able to create this or something like this, please, please, please send me a picture of your carved pumpkin and I will expound upon your greatness for an entire blog post.
October 6, 2010

A growing problem with my website is that it has been growing. For every new project page I add, I also have to add a link to a number of pages. On the plus side it means less clicking for my three visitors, but it's a lot of work on my part, trying to make sure that I've added the proper link to every page, particularly in the Miniatures section.

After conducting some research, I came to the conclusion that the ideal solution would be to have all of my links on one page, and have that page added, called, or whatever the term might be, to each web page. This way I could update in one place but have it show up everywhere. At first glance this seemed to not be doable in CSS, and I was afraid that I'd have to change the whole site over to PHP. Fortunately I found out about SSI, Server Side Includes. The only changes I had to make were to switch the .html files that would display the menu to .shtml files.

About halfway through the redesign it dawned on me that EVERY page in my website had a link to minis.html. I had a few seconds of horror and then decided that my quickest fix would be to do a redirect to minis.shtml. It seems to work. I'm very uncomfortable doing it that way, though. When I originally designed the site I thought for sure that those links at the top of the page would never change. Now I'm debating changing all of the files to .shtml and just having all the menus imported. Most likely I will just go through and edit the entire file list in my free time.

After figuring out that this was possible, I wanted to make one more change. One of the features I do like about this new blog is the menu on the right hand side, and being able to minimize portions. I thought it would be perfect for the miniatures menu. I wanted to split up the dolls by material, and of course I had the sections for links, houses, and random projects. Eventually I figured out the best way to do that - through javascript - and found myself a nice little pre-written script.

So yes, I totally blew the afternoon off, but accomplished a long desired goal. Go check it out. Try to break it. I don't mind. I need to know if things work, or don't work. I will fix the minis link above right after I publish.
September 30, 2010

Now we need to get our area to pass something like this.
September 21, 2010

I hate gyms. I feel like I'm on display, which is a guaranteed 'ok I'm leaving now' situation. I'm glared at by the older women, eye-rolled at by the permanent resident gym bunnies, ogled by the men, and peeping tommed in the showers by three year olds whose mothers don't bother to teach them any sort of locker room etiquette or to even stay by their side in public. I thought maybe going with someone else would help, but no luck. While I just want to turn on my music, shut my eyes and pretend I'm somewhere else, my husband wants to play games. Games that require me to look all around the room to come up with a thing for the other person to guess. Trust me, you don't want to look around a busy gym. Nasty, gross places and people. Ugh.

Having said all that, I readily admit that exercise is important and should be done. I also admit that I need to get back into it, especially since I discovered that all of my gym shorts are too tight. I'm not comfortable walking around the neighborhood (playing human Frogger is really not as fun as it sounds) so my concession is a small stairclimber. I would have preferred a treadmill, but they're really expensive and take up a lot of room. My stairclimber has a roughly 24 inch square footprint and can be shoved under the bed or in the closet if needed. It even came with arm poles for balance and arm exercise, but I could never get them tightened enough for proper resistance. It's a simple machine that even includes a timer, a step counter, and it calculates calories burned and other things. It took me a year to dig it out of the corner in which I first stuck it when I moved and place it upstairs for use, ideally 30 minutes a day, but realistically it hasn't happened yet. 30 minutes is about my limit, I get motion sickness on it and it takes a while to adjust!

Now that I am on it again, I'm back to my old problem - what to do with my brain in that half an hour. I get BORED. I tried television and just got motion sick within 10 minutes. I tried reading, which I could manage, but the books I NEED to read are my textbooks, and it's not a good combination. I finally turned back to my trusty iPod, and spend that half an hour trying to match songs to fit the beat of my feet.

That's right. I spend that half hour self DJing. I have a stairclimber playlist. I critique songs based on the speed of the beat, its consistency, and speed. I get excited when I hear new songs on the radio that I think would work well. And yes, I DO sing along and wave my arms about like a fool, because it's that kind of music.

I have certain requirements that need to be filled. If there's a long, slow intro or a slower interlude halfway through, it messes with the pace. The lyrics need to be upbeat and exciting. The song also needs to be fairly short - I don't have much of an attention span. Also, a few years ago I adjusted the length of the step and discovered that the songs I had been working out to no longer matched the beat! I think I managed to fix it and now I'm afraid to touch anything else on it.

I was rather disappointed that my swing music didn't work, but the beat is wrong. Dance music works well - Kesha in particular has been rocking my afternoons. Techno music sometimes works, but tends to be too long in length. I shouldn't have to touch my ipod during a workout. (I don't WANT to touch my iPod. The stupid shake-to-shuffle feature is a problem if I accidentally knock it.) I'm pondering posting this playlist in the hopes of getting even more suggestions.

The result of all this is that I'm actually enjoying myself. If I stay on the stairclimber just a few more minutes because I like the song, well, all the better! I'm getting more energy, and hopefully soon I'll be able to fit into those gym shorts again. I don't want to buy new ones.
September 19, 2010

I've never been much of a kitchen person. Sure, it was where the food was, but food never interested me all that much. I took a home ec course in middle school, and was generally around to help make desserts, but otherwise I had no interest in being in the kitchen.

Sometimes I wondered if it was just that the kitchen was not a place I felt welcome. Sure, my mom tried to encourage me to use it, but she turned out to be a kitchen tyrant. She hovered. She said, 'here, let me do that.' And eventually took over. I found it very frustrating, but I imagine she did, too. My mother had a system. It worked very well for her, and she didn't stray from her routine. Watching me trying to figure out step 1 when she would have been on steps 6 and 7 simultaneously must have been painful. I didn't end up learning very much.

While Brian was sick I realized just how helpless I was when it came to the kitchen. It was rather humiliating to not be able to cook for him when I came over to help him through chemo days. (not that he wanted to eat, but still!) After we got married, it was HIS kitchen and HIS routine that I had to learn. Yep, another kitchen tyrant, but this one had different food allergies and a primitive style to cooking. ("Measuring cup? I just eyeball it." "I'd be perfectly happy cooking over an open fire.")

The whole first year, I struggled with work, school, a ton of painful commuting, and trying to settle in to a bachelor's house and its subsequent renovations. I avoided the kitchen as much as possible. Brian cooked, or we ate out. I was too exhausted to think about it.

Now it's a year later, and I've left work to concentrate on getting out of school. I have more time and less commuting on my hands, and the insane whirlwind has slowed to a fresh breeze. I have hours alone at home so I can think without having hoverers nearby. I feel mentally ready to take on learning to cook, but it's taken me a long time to get to this point.

I have the feeling that when I'm done, I'll be yet another kitchen tyrant.
July 17, 2010

Yet another photo altering attempt.
June 30, 2010

1. Oh good, it's not as heavy as I expected.
2. So that's what new sewing machine smells like. It's not at all like that new computer smell.
3. Ooh, shiny. Ooh, accessories! Wow. Lots of accessories. Look at all the feet! and needles! and bobbins! And what the heck is this? And that? Oh boy, a seam ripper!
4. Instruction book! Nice instruction book. Impressive. In order, from diagrams to threading to troubleshooting. Well laid out. I am in awe. Someone, somewhere, knows how to write a manual!
5. OMG IT HAS A NEEDLE THREADER! That is so . . . so. . . cheating. But clever! Look how it works! I push this and that moves down and this tiny metal bit actually goes through the eye and then the thread goes this way and you let go . . .*pushes lever over and over*
6. *Tucks accessories neatly away in the storage compartment and tries the cover on for size*
7. OK, must attempt first project. I've got an apron pattern and some fabric for it. Can't get much easier than that, right? It's mostly straight lines!
8. Crap, I need to iron the fabric. *long interlude of dealing with iron, ironing board, and a stubborn crease*
9. Wow, pattern pieces are huge. I'm used to miniature clothing!
10. Whoever folds up patterns and puts them in the envelope is sadistic and twisted.
11. I wonder if you get a special prize for successfully returning a pattern back to its envelope?
12. Uhh. I need one of those cardboard thingies. This piece of foamboard will do for now.
13. Selvage edge. . . selvage edge . . . I KNOW this, I swear I do. But am I right?
14. Fabric Grain. That aligns with the selvage, right?
15. Why am I questioning all this? Go grab your iPod touch and look it up on the internet!
16. Rock on. I was right both times.
17. Wow. pins certainly expand when you open the box.
18. So . . . when it doesn't specify on the layout map which side is up, is it automatically right side up? Considering everything is pretty much symmetrical I don't think it matters in this case. I'll research next time.
19. *pin pin pin* Is it still flat? *smooth smooth smooth*
20. OK. Cutting time! These scissors are awkward.
21. I appear to be unable to cut in a straight line.
22. Yes, I KNOW I intentionally picked fabric with too big a pattern to be useful for miniatures. Stop trying to reuse the scraps for once!
23. OK, step 1! pocket!
24. Wait, must thread machine first.
25. No, must plug machine IN first.
26. Ok, we have power! Right? The light came on, but no other noise? Where's all the . . . oh, maybe it's just Mom's fancy machine that does all the extra self checks. Ok, it works, I'm good!
27. Is the bobbin winder going to stop on its own? Is it? Is it? That's looking pretty full . . . whew!
28. Yes, I cheated and used the needle threader, just for the novelty, I swear!
29. I need sharper thread snips.
30. DO NOT THROW THREAD ON THE FLOOR! That's Mom's bad habit, don't make it yours!
31. Am I channeling my mother? *eyes the floor warily for pins*
32. OK, next step, make the pocket. Edge stitch? Edge stich? *grabs iPod* see topstitching. Oooh. ok.
33. Crap, I have to iron AGAIN? Maybe I'll finish this tomorrow.
34. *goes to bed*
May 21, 2010

This bears investigating.
May 13, 2010

A few years ago, Brian, in a fit of creativity, built a storage ottoman out of plywood. He wanted it padded and covered in navy blue canvas, with a big padded lid. We accomplished both, eventually, but a slight miscalculation led to the bottom of the ottoman slightly wider all around than the lid. (he forgot to allow for padding in the dimensions between the lid and the box.) Another miscalculation in the thickness of the foam padding for the lid meant that it was too tall to comfortably use when sitting on the sofa. We ended up buying a leather ottoman for that spot, and the poor blue ottoman was banished to odd corners of the house.

I felt bad. I WANTED to make it work and look good, so I sat and thought about how I could go about fixing it without taking the thing apart. I finally came up with a cover, somewhat like a tablecloth, out of a heavy enough fabric that it would fall evenly over the lid to the edges of the box. Coming up with a proper look took a little longer, but I decided to make it look like a map, and rim the edges with a ropelike trim. I set about looking for the right kind of fabric. The closest I could find was almost perfect, except for the fact that it was emblazoned with words like "Tommy Bahama" and "Couch Potato Bay" and suchlike. So I turned to the next best thing and bought plain tannish canvas fabric. I'll draw my OWN map on it.

Mom and I got the cover made, and it works! The ottoman looks, well, normal. I just need to decorate it now. Fun new creative project!

- Show quoted text -
April 29, 2010

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January 18, 2010

I'm not sure what to make of this site, but what an awesome resource!