Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Under pressure

This Saturday!
Unfortunately, not a post about my new adventures in canning.  (My new baby is still resting comfortably in her box, and probably will be for a while yet).

I have almost three weeks left at my summer temp job.  It extended far beyond what I planned, but it's hard to say no to regular money being put aside against the heating bill in January, especially when I intend to be happily in the house, enjoying said heat.

But it's hard, as we all know, to do something 9-5 and then come home, deal with the house, eat something resembling a meal, spend time with the people and animals that you love, and still -- still -- find time to make things.

Case in point.  I have sixteen shows (so far) between now and the week before Christmas.  Sixteen.

And I think I have enough inventory for three or four shows.  And that's saying everyone doesn't want to buy the same thing, in which case I probably have inventory for two.

Today is my day off, so I'm taking a break here now and then going back to the assembly line.  That's what it is at the moment -- I have 30+ mini bears with freshly embroidered faces, 8 newly cut out dresses, and a stack of cotton prints and batting that need to be cut into squares for microwave bowls.  (Those are good because I can take the pieces into the office and pin them together at lunch, and sometimes even on my desk when no one's around).

I'm also going to need more sweater animals, and I haven't yet taken inventory of the mittens, but either way, that means my machine is going to go back on her weekly cleaning schedule so I can avert the wool-fuzzy-catastrophe that happens when I don't pay enough attention to her during sweater season.

So pressure, yes, but it's still fun.  I'd still rather be doing this than sitting in a small box in an over-air-conditioned big box, mostly waiting around for someone to give me something to do.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

A new toy

My "summer job" is ending the Friday after Labor Day, and not before time.

I figured out the other night that I have 14 events between now and Christmas, and that's assuming none get added to the schedule.  And something always gets added to the schedule.

Add to that the fact that I have enough merchandise for about 3 shows, and that the holidays (and therefore, custom order season) are almost upon us, and I'm really getting antsy to get the job over with.

But while it's still going on, and while I have this steady money coming in, I've treated the house (and occasionally  myself) to a few not-quite-luxuries, this being one of them.

Hopefully this weekend it'll get taken out of the box.  I don't have a show, and so long as the kitchen isn't 90 degrees, I think I'll pick up something at the farmers market and fire this baby up and see what it can do.  I really want to expand beyond tomatoes and pickles, and a pressure canner will allow me to can soups, low-acid vegetables, even meats.

Now I just need to work up the nerve to try it out.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Coming Up

Tomorrow, actually.

After a week at the office, with a break on Thursday to teach an embroidery class to a kids' history camp (fun but exhausting), it'll  be nice to spend the day down at Penn's Landing, working on my sunburn.

Forecast says 90 degrees and sunny.  There'll be a good breeze off the river, and I've got a gallon jug of water and a tube of sunblock.

I'm ready.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

The only adult in the room

Barcelona beach.  I'd like to be there right now.
I've been thinking the past few days about how our personalities as adults are really formed by the kinds of adults our parents were.  Or weren't.

There are things going on right now that I'm not going to get into on the blog, other than to say that they're more inconvenient and annoying than serious; no one's health is involved; Mario and I are still happily married; and the cats are all fine.

Anyone who knows me knows that while I'm pretty laid back, I also generally have my environment under tight control.  I know what's going on, because I'm the one who set it up and who keeps it that way.  Everything is my responsibility.  All the time.  It always has been.

This is bad for several reasons.  First off, because it's freaking exhausting to be in charge 24/7, especially when you admit it to yourself.  Second, because the people around you who love you and who actually could take some of the burden from your shoulders either don't ask (because they think you've got it covered) or ask and you blow them off because, hey, you've got this.

I had to admit the other day that I'm not Superwoman, that I can't do everything on my own, that I'm not physically or emotionally strong enough to do everything by myself, every day, all the time, for everyone in my orbit.  And I don't need to.

Explaining myself to Mario the other night -- amid the meltdown that I finally allowed myself, and which he handled beautifully (it's only the second one he's seen in 10 years) -- was weirdly enlightening.  The more I talked, the more I thought to tell him.  I try to do everything because I'm used to it, because I've always been surrounded by people whom I couldn't trust to do their part.  I explained that my behavior isn't a reflection of him, but of me, because I'm so accustomed to the other situation that it's still difficult to believe that I do now have someone I can trust to do their fair share, and occasionally more.

A lot of this stems from my childhood.  My dad died when I was 9, and while he was a grownup, my mom . . . not so much.  She always made sure there was a roof over our head and food on the table, but I never felt secure -- it always felt like she might get distracted and forget to pay the bills, which she did, in fact, do.  So I took over writing out the bills when I was 10, and handled most of our finances.  I "borrowed" money from her wallet while she slept so that when she overspent by the end of the month, there was cash on hand.  I made her grown up existence as easy as possible so that it wouldn't be too difficult for her to do the few adult responsibilities I had left for her.

I moved out 3 years after she remarried.  (She remarried when I was 16, specifically because the Social Security she got on my behalf was drastically reduced, and we couldn't make it otherwise).  But at 19, she was someone else's problem, and I already knew I could take care of me.

This behavior continued on, and now, here I am at 51, just beginning to realize that maybe, just maybe, I'm not the only adult in the room.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Mini bears

These little guys are one of the biggest sellers I have at craft shows, which is funny because they're made out of scraps and remnants of larger projects.  They take recycling to a whole new level.

The mini bears came about because two Christmases ago, someone complained that my larger stuffed animals were too expensive to be dog toys.  (They were, and I was appalled that he even wanted to give one to his dog, but it's his money).

So I decided to make these little guys, very simple shapes, basic embroidered faces, yarn bows tied through their necks.

And almost no one buys them for their dogs.  A customer this spring called them "hush bears," because they're the perfect thing -- inexpensive and small -- to quiet a howling toddler.

Recently, I did send a mini bear to my friend, Maria Wulf, for her new dog, who certainly seems to appreciate it.

But the bulk of the bears go to kids, large and small, and the occasional adult.  I display them at shows in this picnic basket I found at the thrift store, one of my favorite finds ever.  And how can you go wrong with storage and display in one?

I finally got around to listing them on Etsy yesterday.  I'd never bothered, since they do well enough at in-person shows, but the scraps keep coming, so I'll keep making them, and it never hurts to have another outlet.


Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The Cat with the Mat


This is Bear a/k/a Louise a/k/a Weeza.  She dislikes me.  Strenuously.

She dislikes Mario.  She dislikes most of the other cats.

She refuses to be touched, or brushed or have her nails clipped.  She refuses to groom herself.  Therefore, she looks like a dustmop a lot of the time.

She doesn't really have mats, she has short, stubby dreadlocks that feel more like cardboard than hair.  She's self-felted.

Lately, I've been bribing her with Lily's leftovers, and in exchange for scraps of wet food, she allows me to run a comb over her back, and occasionally, if I'm lucky, take scissors to the larger mats.

It's going to take months, but I've determined to get her smooth and cat-shaped again.

She'll still dislike me, but at least I'll only feel bad about that, and not how awful she looks.


Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Pictures in an album

One of my many current projects combines my family's packrat problem with my attempts to declutter.

Sometimes you don't want to get rid of things that have sentimental value, but keeping them in a box, buried deep in a closet, serves no purpose.  If things are hidden away, and  you never see them, is there really much point in still having them?  (I know, there are exceptions to every rule, but hear me out).

My family took lots of pictures.  They had them developed, and then they put them in boxes, albums, more boxes, folders, envelopes, and, occasionally, frames.  They did this for decades.  And then they died.  Without ever having gotten rid of one picture, much less the negatives.

And I got the them.  All of them.  Boxes and albums and folders and envelopes and frames worth.  In addition to the ones I'd scavenged myself over the years.

These pictures were a huge part of my childhood.  Whenever I was visiting a relative, I always asked to look through the picture box and made them tell me stories.  Same with my mom -- if I was bored, it was always, "Tell me a story."  At least until I got old enough to dig through them and make up my own stories, which was sometimes even better.

I realized recently, while I was cleaning out the living room closet, that I had almost two full copy paper boxes of old photographs.  WTF?

In addition to all those pictures, I had two vintage photo albums, the kind with the cord ties and black construction paper pages.  Two BRAND NEW vintage photo albums, because apparently they were too good to ever use either.

Does anyone still even make those little paper corners for putting photos into albums?  I'm sure they do, but after wondering for a few minutes, instead I dumped all the pictures on the floor (should have taken a photo of THAT), did a quick sort for duplicates, blurry photos, crap I didn't want and cemetery photos (family liked to take pictures of headstones with flowers for relatives who couldn't attend funerals -- thankfully someone had already culled the photos from the viewings, because I really didn't want to run into any dead relatives), and then I started in with putting the photos in the albums.

I started with my great-grandmom and my great-aunts and grandfather, because that's where the photos started.  I'm working my way through my mom's early childhood at this point, and I've just started the second album.  I think by the time I get through the second one, I'll have dealt with my own childhood.

And I'm doing something unspeakable.  I'm not using little photo corners.  I've taken a glue stick to all these precious hundred year old photographs and you know what?  I'm the only one who's probably ever going to see them -- or value them -- so who cares?  They're a lot more protected in an album than they were getting all creased and torn in boxes, and I'm having a really good time going through them and deciding how to place them, and which ones to keep and which ones to throw away.

I'm also not having a problem throwing photos away.  If there were 10 pictures taken at the same family birthday party, I don't need to keep all 10.  I need to keep one or 2 that have everyone in them, or a particularly good shot of someone I loved, but the rest of them can go in the recycling.

It's actually very freeing.  If I'm going to keep a museum to the past in my house, and we all do, in some form or another, it's going to be a curated museum, with the pieces chosen and displayed just so, in a way that can be enjoyed.

And the rest can go, with my thanks.  Their work here is done.