Saturday, September 30, 2006


Ok. The guys who built this house used relatively inexpensive windows in them (ie. not a brand name like Pella or Hurd). The double-hung window panes had a plastic piece that locked them into the frames or allowed them to drop into the room to clean them. Plastic. On south-facing windows in a strongly sunny environment. With a "pin" to catch the pieces that was about 1/8" thick and 1/4" long.

They broke the second year we lived here. And nobody can find the company or a similar part so they can be appropriately fixed. We jerry-rigged a fix that usually holds pretty well.

When we returned from Illinois, however, one window had dropped into the room (fortunately not damaging the wooden blinds in front of it). It's a really easy fix to simply screw another hook in, but the hook was missing.


The blinds are up there because we need to get a hook out of the garage to fix the window.

So who, besides the shpouser, could not correctly interrept the

Before you head upstairs to play more Ages of Empire on your computer, go out to the garage, get the piece needed and fix the window.


Whatcha Doing Today?
What's on TV Tonight?

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

"Look Them In the Eye And Smile"

For me, it started sometime in the mid 90s. A woman had been abducted from Parmatown Mall, raped and brutalized then murdered. Our local Karate studio.. the one right next door to my gym.. offered an all-day Saturday class for women of self-defense.

The biggest tip I learned: when you are walking anywhere, look each person you pass or see in the eye and smile. It's a way to remember their faces, and it can discourage a small-time thug from choosing you as a victim.

I've made this tip part of myself. When I am out and about, I look people in the eye and smile. Last year I wrote "The Culture of the Path" on my other blog. Again, it demonstrated the importance to a society of looking each person in the eye and smiling. How else can you know that you've passed the fellow walker before and therefore must change your greeting?

These past three weeks I've spent time in a nursing home and time in assisted living. Many folks, to stave off boredom and loneliness, sit out in the hallways or in the lobby. Their affect is quite passive. So I again made it a point to look each one in the eye and smile as I passed them by. And like the culture of the path, I said "good morning/afternoon" to each.

Suddenly folks would sit up a little straighter; their was life in their eyes and looked once again like members of the human society. At the MILs hotel, they are beginning to recognize me; we have small interactions when I pass through.

So my suggestion for everyone along whatever path you find yourself travelling: make eye contact and smile.

Whatcha Doing Today?
What's on TV Tonight?

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Banned Book Week

I'm feisty enough that somebody wants to ban a book from the library because it might have "evil language" or an alternative viewpoint.. that's the book I'm going to read.

This week is Banned Book Week. I'm copying the ALA list of the ten most challenged (requested to be banned) books of the 21st Century. I'd love to find a list of the top 100 banned books, but haven't been successful at that so far.

Most Challenged Books of 21st Century (2000-2005)

In anticipation of the 25th anniversary of Banned Books Week (September 23-30, 2006), the American Library Association (ALA) compiled the top 10 most challenged books from 2000-2005, with the Harry Potter series of books leading the pack. The 10 most challenged books of the 21st Century (2000-2005) are:

1. Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling

2. "The Chocolate War" by Robert Cormier

3. Alice series by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

4. "Of Mice and Men" by John Steinbeck

5. "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" by Maya Angelou

6. "Fallen Angels" by Walter Dean Myers

7. "It's Perfectly Normal" by Robie Harris

8. Scary Stories series by Alvin Schwartz

9. Captain Underpants series by Dav Pilkey

10. "Forever" by Judy Blume
You can explore about banned books at the Google Book Search. How many of these books have you already read? I've read 25 of the books on this list. Which one will you read this week? All The Kings Men is moving up my list...

Whatcha Doing Today? The Zoo!!
What's on TV Tonight? College Football

Monday, September 18, 2006

If it's Monday, it must be Moline...

If it's Monday, it must be Moline.. and yet...

You Belong in San Francisco

You crave an eclectic, urban environment. You're half California, half NYC.
You're open minded, tolerant, and secretly think you're the best.
People may dismiss you as a hippie, but you're also progressive, interesting, and rich!

Whatcha Doing Today? Trip to Goodwill, lunch out, then an meeting.

What's on TV Tonight? Studio 60 is beginning tonight. Don't know if I'll watch it or not. I think I'm tivo'ing it.

Steps? Yesterday was a bad step day... only 5786. But I'm averaging over 12,000 for the week.

Friday, September 15, 2006

How To Sew, Part Two.

You've made it to a fabric store, petted the fabrics and found your favorites. Maybe you've gone through a friend's or your own fabric stash and sewing box, reconnecting with memories. Now how about trying to make a stitch!

Like the two different types of fabrics, there are two types of stitching: hand and machine. Each has it's own advantage and disadvantage. Both are useful.

Hand stitching:
With hand stitching, you thread one thread through the eye of a needle, knot both ends together, and stitch. You can seam two fabrics with a running stitch or back stitch; hem with a blind stitch or catch stitch; make a button hole or apply a patch using buttonhole stitch.

The Home Sewing Association has a wonderful page with illustrations on the different main hand sewing stitches, as does Alternative Windows. Visit these pages to learn the hows of each.

Why would anyone want to sew by hand? First it's easily affordable. All you need is a needle, thread, sharp scissors, and maybe a thimble. If you, like me, cannot stand to wear something on your fingers, they make adhesive leather dots that work quite well.

The second reason to sew by hand: it's portable. You can't carry a machine and fabric with you while you sit at your child's game or class. But you can carry a small project and use those hours for something productive and fun. (In the future, I'll write about English Paper Piecing.. the ultimate carry-along hand sewing project).

And third, it's quiet and relaxing yet lets you join in discussions. There is something about just sitting down and stitching a while that can quiet your mind and calm your soul. Hand sewing can be done (and has been done by me) while attending meetings, watching the tv, waiting to see a doctor and at sporting events. Let's not forget last summer's "stitch and pitch" baseball games.

References sources for hand stitching:
eHow explains How To Thread a Needle
Stitcher's Needle has her hint for easier threading.
Sew cheap ('s frugal living) guide to sewing by hand.

Machine Stitching:

I can hear you now: Hand sewing might be calming; it's definately portable; but it's soooooo slooooow!! I agree. Sewing machines make stronger, faster stitches which is why most people think first of a machine when they contemplate sewing something.

While machines that join two items together with a chain stitch still exist, most standard sewing machines use a lock stitch and two threads. Sergers, popular for knits and fast-finishing edges, use multiple threads and needles to lock stitches in multiple steps.

The sewing bug bit you, but you're on a budget. So you thrifted a sewing machine that seems to run really well. Except. You aren't sure where to go to from here. How to thread it, what/if to oil; how to care for it. Debbie Colgrove of has done what I think is the best job of sourcing out those links to help you in her Sewing 101-Resources For Learning To Sew. including Locating a Sewing Machine Manual for almost any machine!

Additionally, Craft and Fabric has an entire e-book on Beginning Sewing.

Other reference links for machine sewing:
How Stuff Works explains how the machine works.
Wikipedia Sewing Pages
How to Machine stitch a Blind Hem.
Making Machine Stitches Work For You's How to Sew Knits.
Sew-What' has a variety of articles available, including The Care and Feeding of your Sewing Machine and Rediscovering Your Machine for those of use who strayed and are returning. Their forums are set up to answer all your questions.

Let's get some practice stitching in, so you can get a feel for hand and machine stitching.

Take that piece of muslin (calico) I suggested you pick up. It should be about 9"x36 maybe a bit longer. Cut it in half to make two pieces 9"x18-22". Put one piece aside for your machine practice.

On the hand sewing practice piece, use a pencil or permanent marker and a straight edge to make a series of straight lines near one end of the fabric. These should be about 8" long , running parallel to the short side of the fabric, and spaced about a half inch apart. Leave about an inch of room near the edges of the fabric.

Take your needle and thread it with about a 24" length of thread. Consulting the links above if you need to, try to do a running stitch along all the lines you've drawn. Stitch back and forth along the lines, making even stitches up to the next line.

At first your stitches might be uneven, and the technique feel awkward. By the time you've worked to the end of the lines, the stitching will feel more comfortable. If it doesn't, turn the work 90 degrees, draw more lines and continue stitching. (the pattern at this point should look like a grid.)

Continue on the practice fabric, learning backstitch (a stronger variation of running stitch), On any remaining blank fabric, draw gentle and tight curving lines and play with stitching along these lines also. Curves will train you to think ahead and adjust the length of your stitch depending on where your needle needs to be next.

When the body of this fabric is filled with practice running stitch and backstitch, fold it in half making a piece about 9"x11". Gently fold the edges of the fabrics in a little and use these folded edges to learn and practice hemming.

For machine stitching, begin with the same exercises, but start by marking on paper (plain white is easiest to see), and stitching with no thread in the machine top or bottom. Just get comfortable with watching the needle move, letting the feed dogs move the paper, and learning how to "drive" your machine. When that's become comfortable, take your second piece of muslin and play with making stitches on that.

Eventually you will find a rhythm all your own. Remember to breathe.

Still to come:
How to Sew, Part Three: Let's Sew a Pillowcase!!
How to Sew, Part Four: Where to go from here.

Debra Roby blogs her art at A Stitch in Time, and writes about all things hobbies, crafty and DIY at where this is cross-posted.

Whatcha Doing Today? Packing up the kitchen, checking out an assisted living facility, and going out to supper.

Whatcha Watching Tonight? The Avengers? Not as good as I remembered. Tonight a movie.. maybe Paint Your Wagon.

Steps? Thursday:10,842. Today already nearly 4000.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

I hate my cellphone

I hate my cellphone. Well, truth be told I am not fond of phones much at all. I've recognized them as a necessity of modern life.. but can't everything just be done by email? No. I know.

Anyway, we are in Illinois packing up my MILs house. The phone and cable have been moved to her room at the nursing home, so there isn't a land line here. Before we left I put some time on a Tracfone so we would have some phone access. But we've had problems since day one. I go to set or check voicemail, and I keep getting the box of a guy named Tom.

Seems the number that tracfone assigned my phone? Tom has had it for the past 5 months.


I spent an hour yesterday with a customer service lady from tracfone sitting in an office at the nursing home while professionals consulted with the spouser about her abilities and care. The CS lady never understood that I've got someone else's number. She had me progam this and that.. but never gave me a new number.


I hate this phone. And I hate the company more.

I'd switch to T-Mobil or someone else (giving up the hours already purchased for this friggin thing), but I don't think T-Mobil gives us cell coverage in the Quad Cities. I do not use a phone enough to willingly pay a monthly fee to not use the thing. Insurance this ain't. But I can't get this fixed without a lot of time on someone else's landline.. so it's a moot point now.

My "stolen" wifi is fairly reliable (though oddly the spouser, sitting right across the table from me can't find a signal at all). So if anyone wants to gets in touch with me.. please use the email.

Thank you in advance.

Whatcha Doing Today? Seeing about the MILs financial accounts, packing up the front bedroom.

What's on TV Tonight? Oh. I didn't mention. The only tv here is a 14" with no remote that's dying. I get CBS. Kinda. Tonight I think I'll put The Avengers tv series in the computer and relive some 60s camp.

Steps? Yesterday: 9763, though I am averaging 12,000/day.

14.5 days until I'm home.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

How to Sew, Part One.

September is International Sewing Month, which got me thinking about writing a series of posts on learning to sew for BlogHer.

It started when Maria emailed me about a post where Frugal for Life wrote 10 tips for the frugal fashionista. Bizzeemom wondered why one of the hints wasn't LEARN TO SEW. A discussion followed in the comments with most commentors disaggreeing that sewing could be frugal.

Dawn considered the situation and examined her own feelings:

I believe sewing is becoming a lost art, besides sewing up a hole or replacing a button on a shirt. Too many people seem to think that any sewing beyond tears and buttons isn’t worth the time or the money.
So Dawn asked Bisseemom to guest post The Sewing Culture. Go read it and think about your reaction to what she wrote.

A moment of honesty here: I disagree with much of what Bizzeemom says. Yes, sewing clothing can be economical. Yes, learning to sew is rewarding. Yes, once you find basic patterns and adjust them to fit you, you can make lots of quality garments. And proudly wear what you have made yourself.

But to advocate the $1/yard stuff at WalMart and to shy away from easily sewn trousers in favor of elastic waists? This is a move from frugal-wise to fashion-foolish unless fabric quality and fashion styles are quite different in Bizzeemom's hometown. It might be. But I doubt it.

Sewing is becoming "HOT" among the twenty-somethings and thirty-somethings. It might be because sewing in Home Ec classes was phased out before this age group had to deal with sewing useless aprons and ugly corderoy A-line skirts and wear them in school for a whole day! (ooops.. sorry. personal teenaged nightmare leaking out here).


So you think you'd like to start sewing, but you don't have a clue. You might have a cast-off/ inherited sewing machine or one you found while out thrifting. Maybe you don't have one at all.

Where to begin??

I say, First learn about The Fabric.

Fabric can separated into two main kinds:

1. Woven. The easiest to sew with. When you can see threads running perpendicular to each other that's a woven fabric. One set of threads are strung onto a loom.. these are the warp; the threads woven through from side to side are the weft.

Warp threads, because they have tension on them in the weaving process, are less prone to stretching. Weft threads will stretch a bit. Because of this difference in "stretchiness" and because of the 90 degree angle in the weave, woven fabrics have what is called "grain".. the characteristic of behaving differently depending upon how a cut piece is align along the fabric.

You are probably most familiar with even weave fabrics (think jeans), but there are variations in the weaving and a variety of patterns can be developed in the fabric from this simple change.

2. Knit.

The second major kind of fabric is the knit. This is created by looping a thread or yarn through itself. With yarn, this might be knitting, crochet or tatting. In commercially produced fabrics, this is accomplished on large machines that make hundreds of loops in one pass. The fabric created by machines or my hand knitters make appear different, but that difference is merely in scale. The fabric is the same.

Knit fabrics do not have warp/weft threads but they still have grain. The stitched are made in one direction and will behave different when cut at different angles and in different directions. The major difference between a woven and knit is that a knit will stretch in both directions, although it will stretch more across the fabric (from side to side) than from top to bottom.

This stretchiness, however, can be controlled by the manufacturer when they set up their machines by adjusting tension and choosing threads with different properties. So knits can be fairly stable or quite stretchy.

Knits will not ravel like woven threads do, but they will unravel and they will run, so care must be taken while constructing anything with these fabrics to prevent too much damage. Most knits are "overstitched" or serged to finish the edges and prevent unravelling/running.

You can learn more about fabric at:
Fabric University
Jessica's Pre-Costuming Page.
Wikipedia Fabric Info pages

I suggest you find and visit a local fabric shop. Spend some time walking around the store. Touch the different fabrics, read the labels. Test it on the bolt to see how it stretches. If the store is not too busy, ask a clerk a question or two about their fabrics.

And, if you wish to continue this journey, purchase a quarter yard of muslin (any width), a package of hand sewing needles (sharps, the 3-9 variety pack is good), and a spool of thread in a color you like. If you have a sewing machine, maybe pick up some needles that will fit your machine too (universals are good here).

Interested in this whole topic? In the next three weeks I will be writing additional articles:
How to Sew, Part Two: All about the stitching (both hand and machine).

How to Sew, Part Three: Let's Sew Something Easy.

How to Sew, Part Four: Where to go from here.

And in the future: How I dye fabric (and clothing). How I bleach/dye/paint/stamp and otherwise disguise stains on my clothes.

Hat tip to fellow CE Maria Niles for a heads-up on the Frugal sewing discussion.

Whatcha Doing Today? Uhm... writing these four articles while the spouser paints.

What's for dinner? Broiled chicken, coleslaw, fresh tomatoes and some green veggie.

Why I Love Pajiba's reviews...

Why I Love Pajiba reviews.. the short answer:

Where else are you going to read/hear a review like this:

But Crank actually offers an appropriate ending to the 2006 summer season: It comes in with no expectations, no pretensions, no star wattage, zero character development, not an iota of intelligence, absolutely no fucking plot, and an originality quotient in the negative numbers. Yet, for a lack of better phraseology, Cranks kicks some sweet, sweet ass. No kidding. Just when you think you’re taking one for the movie-critic team, Jason Statham seemingly walks straight out of an amphetamine brothel and provides a cinematic high no less gratifying than Michael Hutchence’s final autoerotic seconds, squeezing every last bit of energy out of its premise and leaving you limp and gasping for air.

Damn! If I'm lucky I crank out a paragraph like this once a month... after pots of coffee, a couple beers. Usually, though, that combination just leaves me twitchy and sleepy at the same time.. unable to type a correctly spelled monosyllabic word.

Whatcha Doing Today?
What's on TV Tonight?

Friday, September 01, 2006

Weekend chores

Where last weekend the spouser painted ceilings, this weekend he will be painting the walls in our family room. Almost everything was moved out of the room, and he will be starting by 7:30 am. The 7 of the 9 windows in the room face south-westish.. so when the sun is high and the fog is burned off, it's bright and hot. Painting must be done before this happens.

When the painting is complete, the building of IKEA furniture can begin. Stay tuned for mid-design photos by early in the week.

Whatcha Doing Today? Staying out of the way.
What's on TV Tonight? Nothing worthwhile
Steps? Friday: 13,168

Not That There's Anything Wrong with That...

You Are the Very Gay Peppermint Patty!

Softball is the huge tipoff here...
As well as a "best friend" who loves to call her "sir"

Whatcha Doing Today? Sewing, stretching, shopping

What's on TV Tonight? A StarGate marathon!!

Steps? 7784. Really tight hamstrings kept me from a long walk.