Monday, June 30, 2008

60 years old?

Today my Dad, the quintessential kid at heart, turned sixty. Because I'm lame, I totally forgot to send him a birthday card. Not even something cute handmade by Jimmy (who is pictured above with Grampy Trout, almost exactly four years ago).

Please don't think I hate you, Dad. I even forgot to get cards for Jim for both Father's Day and our anniversary this year. So I have an equal opportunity short-term memory loss. I haven't called you yet because today is my laundry day and I'm still playing catch-up from being sick, even though I've actually been better for a while. But Dad, if you're reading this, I'll call you. Promise.

Oh, and don't say I didn't get you anything cool, because for about five minutes I seriously considered posting that great shot of you in your groovy flower-power Speedo bathing suit, circa 1971. Until I remembered Jim replaced our scanner last week and I don't know how to work the new one. So happy birthday, embarrassment free. I love you.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Tightwad tuesday: byob

Bring your own bags, that is. Most grocery stores around here offer a discount off your total bill for each reusable cloth or previously used plastic bag you provide to tote your purchases (such as 5 cents per bag). I keep a stash of them in the trunk of my car so I don't forget to take them to the store with me. While it's still a while before this would happen in Ellensburg, I've heard many supermarkets in urban areas are starting to actually charge customers for paper and plastic grocery bags.

If you want to make your own sturdy cloth grocery bags, lots of patterns and how-to's are available online. Oh, and once your disposable bags do start to fall apart, don't forget to recycle them!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Under the weather

I've had a bad head cold for a week now. Along the same lines as last time I was really sick: raw throat, leaky nose and this time the added bonus of a 101-degree temperature. I thought I was on the mend yesterday and did all the laundry but now I'm getting worse, rather than better. Thank goodness for a dear husband who mowed the lawn today and once again got me Taco Del Mar for dinner. I love you honey, and that's not just the Nyquil talking.

I promise to finish up the Sally bib instructions when I'm back in the pink.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Sally bibs: part 1

Anyone who's had a baby learning to eat solid foods or a toddler mastering the finer points of using a fork and spoon will know what I mean when I say a good bib can be the MVP of your child's wardrobe. Good bib coverage means less mess, less clean up, less laundry, less work for mom.

Back when Jimmy was born my friend Sally gave me a set of three marvelous homemade bibs. She was famous among the new moms at our church for her bibs. They were always bright colored terry cloth with complementary seam binding in fun, matching prints. Jimmy's three bibs were in heavy rotation, and within months started to show wear from multiple washings each week. One day I was opining to my friend Michelle (also a recipient of Sally's bibs) how wonderful they were but that I just didn't have enough and she said, sympathetically, "They're really easy to make, you know." After some tips from Michelle, I was off on a few quick errands and within a day, I had expanded our bib wardrobe to one for each day of the week. I happen to be making some new ones for Audrey, so I'm sharing my bib wisdom with all.

You may scoff now, but if you've got a little one who uses bibs, put a Sally bib to the test. If you can't sew, find a friend or grandma who can and bribe her to make you a few. You won't be disappointed. Some people swear by those rubbery silicon bibs with the big pocket in front, but trust me, these are better: they absorb most spills, provide superior protection by completely covering a child's lap, and you don't have to wipe them down. Just throw them in the wash with your usual load of towels and you'll be ready to go for the next meal.

Materials and Preparation
You will need:

* about 2 yards of 1/2" double-fold bias seam binding (if you're new to sewing, I recommend buying it pre-packaged, but if you want to make your own you will need 1/3 of a yard of lightweight cotton fabric; either way, the binding must be cut on the bias so it will contour on the curves)

* thread to match seam binding

* terry cloth hand towel, dish towel, or larger towel or piece of terry cloth cut into a rectangle about 15" x 20" (you can afford to have an inch or two more in either direction but don't go any smaller or you will lose the great coverage Sally bibs are famous for)

* iron, ironing board, shears and sewing machine

If you are planning to make your own seam binding, I highly recommend using a rotary cutter, acrylic ruler and mat to keep your edges square and straight. I've made do with shears, a ruler and a straight edge, and marked lines on my fabric with a pencil, but it was a real pain. Before you get started, wash and dry your towels and seam binding fabric on the hottest cycle so they pre-shrink. Do not pre-wash any pre-packaged seam binding or it will lose its creases and start to unravel!

Step 1: Fold your pre-washed towel into quarters, smooth it out nice and flat, and round off the corners with your shears. Then unfold it by half and cut out a half-circle for the neck hole at the top.

Step 2: If you've purchased pre-packaged seam binding give yourself a pat on the back, eat some chocolate, take the rest of the afternoon off, and skip ahead to part 2, which I'll be posting tomorrow. If you're an overachiever like me and you want to have the cute contrast binding, stay put. Cut the fabric for your seam binding in 2-1/4" strips, on the bias. If you're new to sewing, "cut on the bias" means to cut at a 45-degree angle to the edge (or selvage) of the fabric.

If you're using a mat and rotary cutter, your mat will be marked with diagonal lines to show 45-degree angles for just such a purpose. You can also use a T-square and a straight-edge, and draw lines on the wrong side of your fabric to cut with your shears. Remember to cut on the bias or the binding will lay funny and not work correctly. When you're done you should have several long strips of fabric.

Step 3: Press your seam binding. Set your iron on the hottest setting, but turn off the steam so you don't burn your fingers while you're holding the fabric so closely. Fold and press each strip in half lengthwise (wrong sides together).

Then open it, and fold and press the bottom half down toward the center.

Do the same with the top half, folding and pressing it down toward the center.

Now, turn on your iron's steam, fold the binding in half, matching up the edges as exactly as possible, and press it flat and crisp.

When you finish ironing all your strips of fabric, turn off the iron (because sometimes I forget!), set everything aside, give yourself a pat on the back, and eat some chocolate. Check back tomorrow for part 2.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Tightwad tuesday: optimize grocery trips

Want to grocery shop more expeditiously? The most important thing to remember: get in and get out. You spend an extra 50 cents per minute for every minute over half an hour you stay in the supermarket (this goes double or triple for big warehouse places like Costco!) Pick the best time of day for you that will allow you to shop efficiently. To avoid impulse buying, avoid shopping when you are hungry, tired or irritable.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Whirlwind weekend

Last Friday morning Audrey and I headed over the pass, abandoning the boys to a weekend of Wii and fishing. I don't think they missed us. Much. First stop: I dropped Gertie off at the Singer service center in Bellevue for a much-needed tune-up. Five pairs of Jimmy's winter pants had holes in the knees, so (tightwad that I am) I cut them all off and hemmed them into shorts. I've also made some shorts for myself and a gorgeous new Mexican oil cloth tablecloth, so with all those heavy-duty fabrics, I've been wearing Gertie out over the past few weeks and her thread tension was starting to get funky.

Let me just say, if you live in Washington and have a Singer sewing machine, the service center is a great place to go for service and repairs, even if you have to make a trip to get there, like I did. A complete service costs only $89, which includes any mechanical parts that need to be replaced (electrical parts, like my lightbulb that burned out, are a little extra). That's a bargain for Singer factory parts and Mel, the repairman, is a pro and all-around nice guy. He gives great advice, completely free of charge, and had my machine ready for me to pick up in just two hours.

Next stop: Audrey and I had lunch and a visit with Lydia and her girls at their new digs in Kirkland. Far too short of a visit, but it was thoroughly enjoyable. After picking up Gertie from the service center, I went to Redmond to exchange some biking shoes I ordered online that turned out to be too small, then headed back to Bellevue for a visit with Faye (also wonderful, way overdue, and not nearly long enough), before heading to Everett.

Ramona, the youngest of my four original siblings, lives in Everett with her husband Jason and her little girl Aidan, who is a year older than Audrey. Ramona just graduated with her associate degree from ECC and has already been accepted to the UW history program. (I will demonstrate great restraint and refrain from making the obligatory plug for my alma mater and field of study. Uh, too late.) Dory was also there with her youngest, Gavin, and it was a wonderful time for us to support Ramona in her tremendous accomplishment, as well as strengthening our bonds as sisters. The photo above is us hamming it up (Ramona, Dory and me, from left to right). We stayed up way past our bedtime on Friday night (make that Saturday morning; I lost track after 3 a.m.) talking and enjoying the chance to get caught up on each other's lives. The babies had fun playing together, too.

On Saturday afternoon, I headed down to Seattle for a soggy but memorable picnic with Holly, Kim, Dean and their families. I've known Holly and Kim since junior high, and we all worked together with Dean on our high school paper. It was a treat to see them (especially since Holly lives in Munich and rarely makes it to the States). Everyone looked the same and yet older, in a good, dignified way that comes from laugh lines and gray hair: being happier yet sadder and therefore wiser. After the picnic, Audrey and I turned back and headed home, arriving just in time to give Jimmy kisses goodnight before he went to bed. It was nice to have a change of scene, especially to the vivid green of my hometown, but it sure is good to be home...

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Biker babes

My sister-in-law and I took our girls out for a ride earlier this afternoon in the late spring wind and rain. We lasted longer than they did, despite the relative shelter inside the bike trailers.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Tightwad tuesday: save $100 this year

Here are nine painless (and eco-friendly!) ways to save $100 this year. Each one saves $100, so if you do several or all of them...
  • Purchase ten articles of clothing at thrift shops, garage sales or yard sales, instead buying them at retail prices (the photo above is my favorite local thrift store, the Yakima Salvation Army, where most clothes are a dollar an item).
  • Hang four loads of laundry per week instead of using the dryer.
  • Make pizza from scratch once a month instead of having it delivered.
  • Write a good letter instead of making a long distance phone call (or better yet—send an email).
  • Reduce soda pop consumption by four cans per week.
  • Bake one batch (two loaves) of bread per week.
  • Save $50 each on two children’s birthday parties by making homemade decorations, cake, wrapping paper and one present.
  • Reduce whole milk consumption by two gallons per week by substituting dry milk in cooking and mixing it half-and-half with milk in jugs for drinking.
  • Pack four inexpensive school lunches (or work lunches) per week.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Mix and match

The prompt this week at Read Write Poem is to mix and match poetic forms. Ren suggested a great site with a massive list of different forms of poetry. This is a tritina, but written as a series of haiku.

Beneath the Hawthorn

Canopy above
of hawthorn boughs pink laden
on green lawn I lie

it would seem a lie
to say I could rise above
so heavy laden

crushed grass is laden
beside me love's burden lies
azure torn above

a filigree of branch on sky above where I lightly laden lie.

Sunday, June 01, 2008