Thursday, February 25, 2010

Yay I won! and also: My fingers! They aren't finging! or, Ways to lower the electric bill

I entered a giveaway contest on a blog I found and started following about a week ago. Consequently, there will be little balls of awesomeness in the mail to me soon. Rob's site is great. I've been going through archives here and there for a few days and the posts cover a wide range of topics from making a travel mug from a mason jar - that's how I actually found the site, via a link from Fake Plastic Fish - to growing food and gardening (in January even!) to turning unwanted items into totally usable and attractive ones like lamps and string caddies. There's also cute dogs involved sometimes. Go should go check it out!

I keep meaning to make my own little balls of awesomeness that sprout greens and flowers and prettiness but never get around to it. I think this year I will make it a priority. There are lots of places around town here that could do with a bit of pretty-ing up. Places that obviously do not get mowed or otherwise kept. Yes, I think 2010 can be the year that I finally make my own seedballs. I think probably I should make myself a list of challenges to myself. In the spirit of another blog I enjoy following, I think I will call it Tiny Challenges: little things Dan can do to live more sustainably and self sufficiently (and cheaper!). I need to get off my semi-hibernating arse and get some gardening and homesteading type stuff done around here anyway. I can't do any actual cultivation here because of wording in the lease, but I think this could be a totally viable option. My parents are also bringing down a bunch of their unused containers so I can grow veggies in them. I want some dang squash this year!

In other news, this month's electricity bill was not much better than last. I know everything in the apartment is run on electricity, but over $250? Yikes! I didn't think we were using that much. Also, I forgot to check on the reservoir on my humidifier before work several days ago and it ran dry. Apparently sonic humidifiers stop doing humidifier type things when this happens and they are not promptly turned off. In hopes of combating the high bill, Duncan got a new thermostat and looked into other ways to use less electricity. He found out little space heaters like the one I got for the birds a couple years ago and have been using in my bedroom here are actually pretty darned efficient - especially when compared to the electricity-hogging circa 1975/1980 furnace - and that humid air feels warmer than dry air. And also, put on more clothes, duh. The last one seemed to be something he hadn't really considered much.

The thermostat had been jacked ever since he moved in. It never registered the right temp and fluctuated wildly in what it would actually heat to. Come to find out it would read that it was 65 when in reality it was heating the place to almost 75. New programmable thermostat is now set at 60. And, yes, you can survive in a house only heated to 60. In the winter. In the US Midwest. Really, your body can adjust to a lot, including being comfortable at 60 and especially so when you have the sense to put on some socks and a dadgum sweater for cryin' out loud. Don't believe me? Turn your thermostat down to 45 or 50 for 2-3 days and then put it back up to 60. (However, if it's currently below freezing where you live, I don't recommend going lower than 55 right now since that could cause issues with freezing pipes.) One day at the lower temp won't do it at all. Not enough time. Two is usually successful, but three makes it even more so. It's all a matter of perspective. And, actually, when Duncan leaves I will be resetting the thermostat to 55 to save even more on energy consumption. We also now have a space heater for the living room, one for the other bedroom, and a working humidifier. I'm feeling rather cold today, but seeing that the house has been sitting at 70-something when we thought it was at 60-something, I'm only just beginning my acclimatization process for the year. A nice mason jar of coffee or tea should ensure my fingers can continue finging until I'm used to the lower temperature.

Both photos in this post were taken at Airport Park earlier this month.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

love you, come home safe

Duncan is leaving on a 1 year deployment next week. They haven't even given one brother back yet before they're sending the other away, too. He had asked me to sew patches onto his new helmet cover a few weeks ago but one thing led to another and they were placed in my desk drawer, forgotten, until tonight when he handed me the cover and asked about them.

We couldn't find my black button thread so dark brown mercerized will have to do. He said if anyone important says anything about it he'll take a marker to them but that it's only barely perceptible even up close. This whole military thing is strange to me. I mean, I had a basic comprehension of things when I was in STL or Maryland. But now it has become much more prominent. Before I would think about it in passing while talking to family members and it always brought me down a bit to think of Derek all the way around the globe. But now it has forced itself to be a more intimate presence.

The patches are thick and not easy to stitch through, leaving me with a decent bit of time tonight to think about some things. And add some little somethings some people may think frivolous and others cute. I think they're necessary. And unless he makes his way to my blog here, he probably won't know about the paper one until it's time to replace the patches. Or maybe once it gets to that point he'll just buy a new helmet cover and patches again and he won't ever know about it. That's ok, I will.

I also had time to think of things like how much of my brothers' growing up I was away at college for. How similar Duncan is to Dad in philosophy and mannerisms. How little I actually know of Derek's hopes, dreams, personality, motivation and feelings. This must be rectified when he comes home this spring. Hopefully I can steal him for at least a week, if not more.

Duncan and Gramma, December 2009.
Hey, guys? I love you both very, very much. Come home safe.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

pretty red dirt and procrastination

I've been putting off posting again until I get that patch finished up and a scarf tutorial made. But I haven't yet finished the patch and haven't had the gumption to edit the tutorial. Instead I have been hanging out with family and birds and walking around outside getting to know the new neighborhood. Above is the first page of a fabric fat book I started last week. I was getting to know my freemotion foot a little better and used it for some cut out applique work. The blue is just torn strips from a moth-eaten silk blouse. I might make hearts the theme for the book. We'll see.

This is the comic book patch I've been working on. "Super Fridge Man and Sinkie vs. Evil Giant Glazed Ham" Corey drew it up for me when we were in MI in December. I've used my textile inks to paint in the block colors and am embroidering the outlines and details.

I was looking for possible dyestuffs while walking around the block. There's a lot of sumac and I like the color, but I don't know much about the plant so I don't know if it's something that everyone's allergic to or just me.

I also found a bunch of these things along the roadside. Not sure what they are exactly but I'd venture to say they're the remains of some type of puff fungus. I bet I could get a nice brown/grey dye out of them. I should probably also do some fungus research to find out if they are edible. If they are, I know where I can get a whole mess of them come summer.

This is the park I went to. I meant to swing on the swings and use the merry-go-round, but got distracted by all the lovely wild plants and dirt. Really, they have lovely dirt here. Look at all the pretty red!
Lots and lots of it. It's actually a lot redder than this photo would lead you to believe. The photo was taken fairly early in the morning and the sun was super bright so the colors are a little washed out. I am totally going to use some of this stuff to dye pieces of cotton or maybe even silk.
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