Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Recycling on Steroids Inspires A Very Confused Rant

On occasion, I have shared some of my sewing and craft projects on this blog.  This is usually because I've neglected blogging for some period of time, and want to demonstrate that I haven't been doing nothing.  I don't mind being thought of as tacky or untalented, but it would torture my soul if anyone thought I was lazy.

Who can forget my adorable/dreaded decorated wire hanger project?   (Who, indeed.) Certainly no one who received a set of these in your favorite team colors, right? This was just one of my ideas for "upcycling" stuff around the house that made me question my penchant for saving junk (Here is a link to that blog about hoarding.)
My idea of sharing a project or a recipe has always been to present the finished product.  If I remember to take a picture of something I've made, it's generally terribly staged, poorly lighted and shows off the amateurishness of my photography skills as well as my crafting or cooking abilities.  I thought the online tutorial was pretty much the province of Martha Stewart and Better Homes & Gardens.  Little did I know that tutorials by DIYers and bloggers are HUGE. There are beautifully photographed, easy step-by-step how-tos on every subject under the sun, a few keystrokes and mouse-clicks away. I can personally vouch for the fact that it is possible to go without food, drink or sleep for 9 hours, while only viewing how-to pages on the Interwebs.

At one time I must have "liked" something on Facebook (or is it facebook?) that resulted in me getting frequent updates from some DIY site.  I rarely look at the links, because I don't need anymore unstarted/unfinished projects at this point in time, and it is questionable whether I ever will need more projects since I have about 10 lifetimes of crap in my "project corner" of the basement.  So the question is: why did I click on this one?

Yes, I have spent most of the last 48 hours reading nearly all of the 101 Green Handmade Gift Tutorials.  All I can say is...why aren't this bright, creative, frugal, resourceful people running our country? You won't believe the ideas people come up with to save money, prevent waste and encourage re-use. My feelings bounced back and forth between "why didn't I think of that?" to "I'm starting Christmas presents today" to "time to put the kids to work," but never once did I think "why bother?"  Everything I looked at seemed to have some value, even it if was for cats, and I don't even have cats.

You will have to look at the list yourself to see which of the 101 ideas you care to explore, but I'm going to list, from memory, some of the materials that I currently have in bumper-crop quantities, that brilliant people created easily-doable projects for:

wine corks, wine bottles, glass jars, old sheets and pillowcases, t-shirts, buttons, candle stubs, vinyl record albums, lace, nice scrap paper and key rings.

Now besides the fact that the previous paragraph is poorly worded and structured, I'm not going to bother editing it, because I have to rush off and do some projects soon.

But back to my main point:  why aren't these resourceful people, with their collective understanding of budgeting, cost control and material management, snatched up from the obscurity of their DIY blogs and websites and elevated to some post where they can do some good, like the Treasury Department or Chair(wo)man of the Federal Reserve? 

Because the other thing I've been doing instead of blogging is reading.  I've been reading political articles and studies and books until my head wants to explode. I've watched debates and studied transcripts of speeches.  I've researched bills and statutes.  I've nearly driven myself insane with information.

And I've composed blog entries so crazed with frustration and vehemence that I can't even bring myself to share them.  The controversies arising from the presidential primaries both fascinate me and enrage me.  I want to discuss issues like the Affordable Care Act, troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, the paradox of concurrent epidemics in obesity and hunger, the true meaning of separation between church and state, and energy independence.

But, Lord have mercy, has anyone looked at what passes for budgeting and monetary policy in Washington? You can see the actual budget and an explanation of what it is supposed to accomplish here.  What a bleeping joke! Our country is bleeding out like someone whose jugular has been slashed, and the best we can hope for is a cap on spending growth?  Economic recovery is underway because of GDP growth, but inflation figures don't factor in the cost of food or energy...what kind of measure is that?

  The unemployment rate is being cited as going down, which is accomplished in part by not counting a chunk of non-working folks who simply stopped looking for work. And unemployment measures what happened, not what is happening; hence, it's a 
"lagging indicator," not of good predictive value. 

And in this uncertain economic climate, individual savings is on the rise for the first time in ages.  More people who never saved a dime in their life have begun to tuck away for a possible emergency.  So what does our government advise?  Well, since consumer confidence rose by a fraction (partially measured by the sale of durable goods, like cheap flatscreen TVs the week before the Superbowl), we are being encouraged to start spending again.  

Clearly, Washington needs more stern mommies on the payroll, yelling "Save your allowance!" and giving out demerits for bad budgetary behavior. Better yet, we need some Great Depression survivors to lecture us, the consumers, and the government on our crazy ways.  We need Home Economics and Shop teachers to re-educate us on stretching our budgets and re-using our waste and cast-offs.  And these DIYers, scratch gourmets and upcyclers seem to be the modern equivalent of the inventive, thrifty teachers of bygone days.  They may not be able to fix the country, but they have inspired me to stay out of the stores and go shopping in my own closet, pantry, freezer, junk drawer and basement.

I want to be the anti-waste housewife. I'm retraining myself to use the word "waste" as profanity.  As in, "Son of a waste, I just spilled the juice!" or "This wasting song has too many wasting cuss words." Yeah, I know, it doesn't have the zing or punch of a few other words I might choose, but the first way to change behavior is to change the language of behavior, so I have to start somewhere.

After weeks of studying issues to feel like an informed voter, I know one thing for sure.  Other than voting, there is almost nothing I can do to change the direction of this country.  I can't escape regulations which have the force of law, or stop my elected leaders from voting for budgets and entitlements that are antithetical to my country's founding principles and are sounding the death knell of many freedoms I took for granted.  I can't argue with the correlation between out-of-wedlock births and government program dependence, but I don't believe free contraceptives will fix either problem.

I'm beginning to believe that I can only fix my own immediate problems.  My house payment, gasoline usage, grocery management, family planning - these are the problems I can actually work on.  I must use only what I have and recycle, donate or sell what I don't use; save the money I make instead of spending it and don't borrow to do any of the above. I need to do more with less. And if the person in line next to me at the grocery store has all convenience and junk food and spends 3 times what I do, that is their business, not mine.  I have to focus on doing my job extremely well, instead of worrying about how others are doing theirs. (This picture is reportedly Kourtney Kardashian's baby surrounded by her food choices, but I'm not judging.)

The GOP candidates cannot solve my problems in a debate, and President Obama has only succeeded in adding to my family's challenges the three years he's served.  I'm going to try to ignore the whole process until my voting day (Tuesday, May 8) and focus on getting my own house in better order.

Because all the information I've digested in recent weeks has only left me more disillusioned, suspicious and downright worried about the state of this country. I only wish we had some of the innovators and problem-solvers who create and post on time-sucking websites, like Etsy, Pinterest and Facebook, working on these bigger problems in Washington, D.C.

Who would have thought an article about cheap gift-making would inspire such a rant? 

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Domestic Diva and some Drivel about Drudgery

I'd like to begin today's rant with a lesson in logic and syntax. Read and analyze these two sentences:

I cleaned my house.

My house is clean.

It seems to me that, if you "do" the first sentence, then the second sentence would be a true statement.  In logic, this rule is called "transposition." Doubtless you all remember this from classical logic, but just in case, here's the cheat sheet:

  transposition is the rule of inference that permits one to infer from the truth of "A implies B" the truth of "Not-B implies not-A", and conversely.

Or, to clarify,

(P → Q) ↔ (~Q → ~P)

Got it?

So why, if I just cleaned my house, is my house already a mess?  Logic dictates that, if I clean my house, my house should be clean. And maybe it is, for a minute, but therein lies the problem.  Time passes and the statement becomes false.  It seems illogical to engage in unpleasant behavior (housework) that yields such temporary and illusory results.

I've noticed this fallacy often occurs with organizing projects as well. After several junk explosions and a scary visit from the closet police, I discovered that closets were not supposed to be stuffed to the hinges with stuff, but should be nicely organized into boxes, totes, bags, racks, shelves and baskets of stuff. To achieve this lofty goal, I spent months on an organizational odyssey around my house.  "Sort, categorize, contain" became my mantra. Be an HGTV before and after success story, I told myself.

I worked so hard.  I wanted spaces to look like this:

But this is my craft desk:

Not a pretty sight, is it?

But back to logic and ipso facto and stuff.

I did pretty well with the kitchen pantry, the linen closet, the medicine cabinet and actually merged three junk drawers into one.  But my issue remains with the fleeting nature of such jobs. Just take a moment to consider the tragic nature of this statement:

                      I organized my pantry My pantry is organized

It only takes one teenager 3 minutes of foraging for an after-school snack to undo hours of organizing.  Thanks to one or more of my "helpers," while trying to pack lunches one recent morning, I discovered I had zero granola bars (helpers usually eat >3/day) but there were four kinds of cookies, all open, none in airtight containers, ready to blithely be eaten by the handful, right where the box of granola bars should be. 

Speaking of the fleeting nature of success, don't even get me started on the joy of mopping or steaming a hardwood floor.  Unless you are one of the highly intelligent people who don't own dogs or children, you already know where I'm going with this.  I love to see a freshly vacuumed and mopped wood floor more than almost any other completed task, but dog hair, crumbs, footprints, sloshed drinks, etc., appear in nanoseconds to kill the moment. It's a documented fact that when scientists need to measure the shortest length of time that a feeling can possibly exist, they watch the face a woman who has just mopped her floor.

It frustrates me that I can finish a job, but it's never "done." It makes laziness and procrastination such attractive and sensible lifestyle choices. I seem to do the same unpleasant jobs over and over, but they always reappear on next week's to-do list. That just seems wrong. Isn't Einstein credited with defining insanity as "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results"? Look at him, the smug genius - I'll bet he never cleaned a toilet in his life.

Yet here I go, off to the grocery store, where I'll read nutrition labels, compare costs per ounce of hundreds of items, juggle coupons and a calculator, try to resist buying junk, crap and non-essential, experience a sphincter spasm when the dollar total flashes on the screen, then come home and try to find a place for all the crap I had to buy. Seems like I just did that last week!

Then I'll tackle some equally repetitive and unsatisfying tasks, like laundry, ironing and scrubbing the kitchen sink.  I hope you enjoyed my whining as much as I enjoyed the time I got to waste looking up Latin phrases and pictures of Einstein.  I guess this blog is my ultimate example of an unfinished task, because no matter what I say, or how redundant my ideas are, I never seem to run out of them.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Help! A Kardashian Stole My Husband!

At least I think she is a Kardashian.

And when I say she stole him, I don't mean it has actually happened yet.  But I'm worried that it will.

You see, infidelity is everywhere.  Broken marriages are the norm.  And celebrities are often a major  cause of these breakups.

Now when I say celebrities, it's not possible for me to be specific, because with only a few exceptions, I cannot tell celebrities apart.  But I know if they have a reality show, a clothing line or a cologne named after them, they are probably a homewrecker.

In case you think I'm being hard on today's celebrities, who probably work as hard at unearned fame as celebrities of previous generations, I'll harken back a few decades for the first celebrity scandal of which I have any memory.  Elizabeth Taylor was a husband-stealer from way back, and I can remember the grown-ups talking about her shameless immorality and homewrecking ways. I suppose even back then you could parlay your notoriety into profit.  It's not a new gimmick, and God only knows how much she made off that stinky "White Diamonds" scent, created after she ballooned up to 225 pounds, and left her 14th husband at rehab.  I know I'm speaking ill of a dead legend, and let me say that when it comes to her movies, I'm a huge fan.  But her morals and comportment left something to be desired, at least in her younger years.  (But I could say the same thing about myself, so...)

Still, for some celebrities, it's not enough that they have 6 million friends on Facebook, and fan clubs and stalkers and magazines with their picture on the cover.  What they really want for their very own is someone else's spouse.  Preferably someone also rich and famous, but so long as they are happily married to someone else, they are a potential love interest/headline grabber for the celebrity.

And I, as the ultimate head-in-the-sand expert on celebrities, have found the whole Kardashian phenomenon inescapable.  I watch news, weather and history on TV, but I still know about the 72 day (or was it 72 hour?) marriage that involved a Kardashian girl.  Without knowing where they came from or what they actually do, I cannot seem to go a full day without some mention of a Kardashian in my hearing.  Therefore they must love publicity.  And one of the best ways to get publicity is to steal someone else's husband.  Which is why I'm worried that one day my children and I will be interviewed by (*insert popular search name here*), sobbing about how whichever socialite/model/businesswoman stole my man, for spite and headlines.

Now that I've given this topic a thorough going over, without one single concrete example or peer-reviewed reference, I can share the real reason for my Kardashian concerns.  This quickly written, poorly edited essay is a test to see if the repeated use of the word "Kardashian" will increase traffic to my blog.  But just to keep things interesting, let me tell you the made-up stuff my husband is doing that makes me think he's a target for an illicit affair with a Kardashian:

1.  He got his hair cut without being told.
2.  He asked me to iron his nicest shirt two weeks in a row.
3.  He keeps saying he needs to get in shape.
4.  He's on the computer "working" at all hours of the night.
5.  He remembered to put the seat down.
6.  I found a plastic comb in the center console of his car.
7.  He looked up at the TV when the 1-800-FLOWERS commercial came on.

If you were me, wouldn't you be in agonies of suspicion?  I feel some detective work is in order.  I need to find out who these Kardashians really are, and figure out how they are messing with my husband.

According to Wikipedia, the final word on such matters, the surname Kardashian is Armenian and means "stone carver."  Only one family with that surname is featured, and in that family, there are three daughters who all seem to have the same jobs: socialite, model and businesswoman.  So it's going to be hard to tell them apart by their profession alone.  Wikipedia also warns that this family, while unusual, should not be confused with the Cardassians, an alien race from Star Trek.  That's helpful

But I'll need Google images to see who I'm really dealing with.  Here they are, the tramps:

From your left to right, that's Kourtney, Kim and Khloe.  Okay, they are cute and they airbrush nicely, but what right does that give any of them to propose a wild affair with my husband?  He's really busy, doesn't like to get dressed up and he's almost always broke.  Why can't this mystery sister chase someone else's husband?  There are plenty of celebrity men who seem to have no problems cheating on their devoted spouses - chase one of them!  I'm thinking Ashton Kutcher, I'm thinking Jesse James, in fact, I need a column to do justice to this list:
Jude Law
Eddie Murphy
Blake Shelton
Ethan Hawke
Kobe Bryant
Jack Nicholson
Randy Travis
Arnold Schwarzzenegger
Tiger Woods
Mel Gibson
Donald Trump
John Edwards

Not that women don't do their share of cheating - celebrities and otherwise.  I'm only focusing on the men because, if the Kardashians are looking for a married man with an demonstrable record of cheating, there is no shortage.  They have no need to come bothering nice husbands like yours and mine - you know, the terrified, conforming, henpecked kind.

 So if anyone sees any of these pathetic bimbos hanging around my town, let me know.  They shouldn't be hard to spot, since their cleavage seems to arrive at their destination a few seconds before the rest of them.  They are clearly not the kind of girls who make you think "Hoosier resident;" more like "hooters investment." Also, if you see a Kardashian of any description at any of Eric's  haunts, like Ace Hardware, Tractor Supply Store, Bass Pro Shop, or at the Pitt Stop in downtown Granger (Wednesday is $1 Bud night), notify me right away.  I'll whup all three of these stilettoed socialites to keep my Prince Charming safe from their immoral, yet exquisitely manicured clutches.  I'll strike out for common decency and family values, helping to keep everyone's Everyman husband safe from Hollywood hussies and their ilk.

And with any luck, maybe I'll get my picture in the paper, which should really help my blog traffic.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Be All That You Can Be - Digitially, That Is

Oh, no.  Not again.  I just spent hours and hours and hours that I can never recapture reading stuff I don't understand.  Why do I search the technology topics?  It's worse than looking at Cosmo before going shopping for a bathing suit.  I feel so hopelessly unfit, unfashionable and uninformed.

I love having a computer - specifically a laptop - that I can use to for fairly simple tasks.  I generally only have a few tabs open at any given time:  Facebook, AT&T (email), Accuweather, Ebay, Craigslist, and RealClearPolitics are my most frequently-visited sites.  I know that's boring but I'm just being honest.

When I need to know about something boring, particularly about computers or technology, I search the question or topic, and read until I find my answer.  Then I close the window and go about my business.  I'm rarely curious enough to go surfing around once I've found what I was looking for.  I squander enough time chatting on Facebook and dreaming on Ebay.  God help my children when I look up something about the Norman Conquest or anything else interesting to me on Wikipedia; I start link-hopping and lose track of time.  Last time I did that those poor girls didn't bathe for a week - I got very caught up in the bloodbath at Hastings and the Plantagenet succession.  So I have to keep my "surfing" to a minimum if I ever want to get anything done.

Turns out, this is the wrong way to be on the Web.  Especially if you want to build traffic to your own site, like my blog.  I should be interacting more at the sites where I find interesting stuff.  I am supposed to introduce myself everywhere I go, being sure to drop lots of hints about what I buy, where I live, my areas of expertise, etc., while I visit.

That's exactly the sort of indiscriminate information-sharing I've been trying to steer clear of and teach my children to avoid.  But it is the number one piece of advice for increasing readership.  One of the articles I read suggested registering at 10 new sites per day.  What?  By the time I do that, I've used all my allotted writing time.  Do I really have to flirt openly with 10 websites per day to get noticed?  Really, I'm just not that kind of girl.

But this is the advice I keep getting from Google searches like "get my blog read."  As poorly-crafted as that search term sounds, it netted about 2,760,000,000 results in 0.19 seconds and yielded some amazing articles with tremendous potential.  Problem is, they are over my head.   I enjoyed the initial pleasantries of "21 Tactics to Increase Blog Traffic,"  by Rand Fishkin (click here to leave my whining and read his article), but it quickly became a how-to for the cyber-savvy, which isn't me.  It's not that I can't understand the vocabulary, acronyms, charts, graphs or suggestions.  It's just that the thought of going to all those sites and registering and interacting with lots of strangers kind of scares me.

This article, and the other six I read before I was overcome with temporary pupil vibration and scrambled brain wave syndrome (the dreaded TEPVI/SCRABRAW syndrome - warn you loved ones!) desperately want me to become more connected to the Web via a multitude of helpful social networking sites.  To get maximum exposure, I need to be on Twitter, LinkIn, StumbleUpon, Pinterest and Reddit, in addition to Facebook, which already helps me waste an enormous amount of time daily.  How am I ever supposed to get the laundry done if I have to go 'round to all those places all the time?

And then there's the content.  Well, I write what I want to write, so there's no getting around the fact that my topics may not be from the top-tier buzzwords.  But all the experts say that, if the writing is good, all you have to do it drop in a few keywords so that the SEO (search engine optimization) machine can do all the work to get you found by millions of readers.  Um, sorry...does that mean I need to title all my blogs including the word "Kardashian?"  That could actually be fun, and I may give that a try one of these days.  I'll bet traffic would double if the title also included the word "affair."  How about this one:  "I Think My Husband is Having an Affair with a Kardashian."  I think I'll try it and see what happens.

So I have to join a bunch of online country clubs and special-interest groups, then I have to use subliminal tricks to embed my otherwise-innocent text with search-worthy terms.  I also have to let Google do some analytics and tell me all about you, my readers.  I have only twelve followers and only average around 20 visits per day (need to post more), but somehow Google can extract meaningful data from that traffic.  Google can tell me what other sites my readers visited, suggesting topics that may generate more interest.  Even with my tiny bit of traffic, Google says I should have advertisers.  Those must be some pretty desperate companies, if they want to advertise on the blog equivalent of "Current Trends in Telegraph Communications."

I'm also supposed to offer to guest-blog for some of my favorite bloggers. Unfortunately, the few I read are huge and mega-successful, like Confessions of a Pioneer Woman.   I expect that'll go over big.

Dear Pioneer Woman,

   I really love your blog.  You make me laugh and cry.  I love the pictures of Charlie.  Now that you have a bestselling cookbook and and a bestselling biography, you are probably tired of writing.  Plus you are just so busy being Pioneer Woman, it's probably a drag to have to stop and write about it all the time.  So on that odd day where you are hungover or there's a brush fire that your whole resourceful family spends hours and hours putting out, I'd be glad to step in and throw together a blurb so you can have the day off.  Just let me know.

Michele Arnett

Composing a letter is easy compared to some of the suggestions.  One tip is to add a link to my blog in my email signature.  I've been trying to figure out how to have an email signature since the first time I noticed how my husband's emails always end with the same long jumble of information, like his job title and three phone numbers, which I already know.  I'd like to have one of those cute signatures, because I write and answer a ton of emails (since I don't text and no one else I know talks on the phone).  I could add a nice signature and include my blog link, so that innocent, unsuspecting people would spend hours distractedly reading my wit and wisdom, thus increasing my traffic and making me more attractive to paying advertisers, like the Vienna Sausage people or perhaps a foot fungus treatment.

Naturally, every article suggests using design features that make your blog look professional.  I definitely need help in that department. (I wonder what the experts would say about the picture that used to be my header - me asleep on the chaise, with a book and 3 dogs on my lap - not very professional...)  My daughter keeps asking me to let her redesign my page, and I know I should let her work her magic.   I try adding gadgets (see the survey on the right sidebar) and changing around pictures, but it's really not my thing.  I'd rather be writing and let someone else be my style consultant, you know?

Below is Suggestion #20 from the article I mentioned.  See if this makes any sense to you:

 Many of you likely have profiles on services like YouTube, Slideshare, Yahoo!, DeviantArt and dozens of other social and Web 1.0 sites. You might be uploading content to Flickr, to Facebook, to Picasa or even something more esoteric like Prezi. Whatever you're producing on the web and wherever you're doing it, tie it back to your blog.
I thought most of these sites are for photos, videos and artwork.  Why would a writer have a profile on YouTube?  I thought that was for funny dog tricks and the secret cameras at WalMart.  Anyone who has seen my blog knows I am no photographer.  What on earth am I going to do for YouTube?  Produce a how-to video for making cushioned clothes hangers?  And what is a Web 1.0 site?  Clearly, I'm doomed to be trampled in the frantic race of ever-improving technology, just as surely as the pony express was trampled by the telegraph.  Woe is me.

So I think I'm going to hang up the idea of expansion/improvement/modernization.  I don't think I'm a multi-platform kind of blogger.  I don't think I'll be doing any guest-blogging gigs.  I don't think I'll subscribe to weekly updates of search terms and traffic vector/trajectory reports.  I think what I'll do is keep writing about what strikes me as interesting, without regard to Kardashians, Eli Manning or The Voice (popular search terms - can't hurt).  I'll keep working on my novel, which is going in crazy directions without my permission.  I'll remain a low-tech kind of entity, and allow the potential for advertising revenues and millions of followers to pass me by, because I'm too lazy and/or too scared to jump into the cybersphere with both of my virtual feet.

I'm just here, writing my schtick.  I won't waste any more time reading articles when I have no intention of following the advice.  Either people find me or they don't.  Right now I'm just like any other old. unremarkable hardbound book on the shelf, dusty with few signs of handling.  Hopefully one day I'll get moved to the nightstand.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Get your fake smile ready

I have once again run up against the old brick wall of words, and can't seem to wrap up any of the topics  I've been working on.  I have a long list of drafts, but they can't seem to get out of the gate.  Politically correct speech?  A minefield of potentially offensive observations.  Marriage advice?  I've fallen asleep in my chair 3 nights this week.  The Republican primaries?  What's the rush?...these guys will be blathering in our faces for 9 more months. New banking/mortgage/consumer protection programs?  A rant against asinine new government regulations when I haven't finished ranting about the deranged old government regulations I don't like seems premature.

No, I don't have my head on straight for any heavy topics these days.  Generally speaking, I'm worthless in February anyway.  Even with our unseasonably mild winter weather here in northern Indiana, the doldrums have set in and I'm sort of stuck in a state of yucky blahness.  I need a figurative feather to tickle my creative fancy.  Absent that, I'm prone to babble with no discernible purpose.

So that only leaves me one option:  post pictures of stuff.  And I just so happen to have been doing some sewing over the last few months - mostly tacky Christmas presents. So here I go, parading my charming homemade wares; you just plaster on that fake smile, nod at regular intervals, and let your mind wander to more fascinating matters - like the grooming habits of chipmunks, for example.

I love to cross-stitch, especially little novelties like this.  Here is a little plant stake I did for a friend who grows basil and is kind enough to share her bounty with neighbors like me.  (I'm currently working on the "parsley" stake; any takers?)

I've always wanted to make pajamas for Eric.  This year I got up the nerve.  Found a how-to online and bought some Colts fleece and voila`!  Pajama bottoms that fit like the baggy sweatpants I used for my template!  He likes them pretty well, although this year was not a good year to be a Colts fan.  Maybe next year I'll look for a happier print, like skull and crossbones.

 Here is Camille modelling her "letter sweater."  It was an ill-conceived notion, based on the idea that I was tired of keeping track of all the patches she's earned in middle school.  She didn't want a school jacket, so I found this gold sweater and thought I'd make a keepsake for her.  Like most keepsakes, this will end up in a box, but that's what I get for buying a sweater two sizes too big. (I personally think it looks cute, but I have no fashion clout in this house.)

Next up is one of those polar fleece clip-and-tie blankets that almost every Girl Scout has made.  These are quick and fun and Mary says she's much warmer under this than she was under her lightweight quilt.  I also made one for Camille, but (hold your applause) I forgot to take a picture of it.

The girls have been using their child-sized homemade hooded bath towels for way too long, so this year I bought some plush bath sheets and made big-girl sized towels to their color specifications.  In case you didn't know, teenage girls like black, white and gray, and they refer to these as "colors."  Whatever.

Here's a cross-stitch project I started more years ago than I care to admit, and finished in time to give it to Eric for Christmas.  This about sums up his philosophy on life.
 If this loveseat looks familiar, that's because it was featured in a recent blog relating to how to get new furniture and blame it on your dogs (click here if you need a refresher course).

It came with two very large pillows (in a print of ugly green circles that looked like Spanish olives without the pimento) that crowded the loveseat and left very little sitting room.  I bought some small pillow forms made these pillow covers and the table runner there so that all three dogs can fit on the loveseat without a helpful human removing pillows for them.

Now I'll share my secret to making friends:  tacky craft bribery.  Only the cruelest person who doesn't need friends will turn down the offer of a tacky homemade item as a friendship come-on.  One of my dear friends is a voracious reader.  I stitched this easy bookmark for her birthday last month - it says "You Can't Have Too Many Books."  I should design another one that says "You Can't Have Too Many Friends."

This trunk was a garage sale find several years ago.  It's been at the foot of one or more beds in this house, but tended to get covered up with junk.  I cut up a tablecloth and stapled part of it to the top, then used the bound trim to wrap the base where some of the rattan was coming loose, and to make a loop for lifting the lid.  It now sits in my entryway below some coat hooks and our hats, gloves and scarves are stored inside.  It's functional, so it doesn't have to be beautiful.

This is the quilt I made so I could tell myself I could make a quilt.  When all was said and done, I decided to hand-knot it rather than quilt it properly, but I still love how it turned out.  The green back and sashing fabric were left over from the chair skirts I made for the dining room.  The gold print started out as a tablecloth I liked.  It was the wrong size for my dining room table, but I was so taken with it (and it was on clearance) that I bought it to save for some future use.  You saw the matching pillows and table runner a few pictures up the page.  Look below and you'll see its true purpose:

 It was made expressly to protect the back of the new loveseat, which is the doggie lookout perch!

Well, then - okay.  I think I've quenched my desire to undertake any more large projects for awhile.  I've still got several cross-stitch projects going - including a pre-quilted baby blanket for my new great-nephew - but I'm going to try to write a bit more, and sew a bit less, in the upcoming months.  Sticky topics await my next rant.