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In the Bag

The first week of the 2014-15 school year is a thing of the past, and we are officially off to the races! It’s funny how quickly we slide back into the non-summer routine; after the first day, I almost forgot what it was like to still be in bed at six. On the other hand, it’s surprising how exhausted we all were when the week came to a close. Especially me, considering I should be feeling so rested and accomplished, what with both kids on the same schedule now, right? Well, not so. Maybe after a couple more weeks it’ll be a different story, but so far every day has had something new to keep me hopping. That’s not a complaint so much as an observation — it was a great week!

In gearing up for the big first day, I went to the school and purchased the big pallet of supplies for each kid. Sweet fancy Moses! Once the “spirit day” t-shirts and planner (for Mr. 4th Grade) were added on, we were in over a hundred bucks. Now, I know this isn’t any big shocker, because I know how much I’ve paid just for the boy’s stuff every year, and yet…my brain failed to double that and prepare me for the grand total when I stood at the table three minutes after entering the cafeteria.

I’ll say that for buying the supplies from the school: It’s efficient.

All that to lead up to today’s crafty story. Given the expense of all the other stuff, you can imagine how ridiculously pleased I was with myself for saving Joey’s kindergarten tote these past three years. Waste not, want not! Never mind that the savings is a whopping $7.00. Pay no attention to the tiny holes in the bottom (which I failed to notice in my excitement of having found the tote exactly where it belonged and in “perfectly good” condition.) See, every kindergartener is required to carry said tote; no backpacks are allowed. This allows the teachers to quickly identify them…or somethin’. And they encourage you to doll them up and bling ‘em out! But for all my craftiness, I’m not one much for bling. And I couldn’t wrap my head around any other ideas, and that spells trouble as far as executing something not totally embarrassing. I know when to holster my glue gun, friends. It was bad enough that I jumped right into this task at the spur of the moment, and promptly cut the fabric without adding the proper seam allowances. Doh! This is why taking several seemingly unnecessary days to plan and ruminate are key. Then again, I managed to skimp a little and still get the job done, so maybe there’s a good middle ground. Who’s to say?

Instead, I took thirty minutes today and killed two birds with one stone:

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Note the addition of the fancy, rainbow-hearted lining, completely non-standard issue*. You may also note that the blue heart totally matches the blue bag — love it when a plan comes together! I remembered Betz White upcycling totes this way, so this bag may even have a third life turned inside out after this year. I don’t have that high of hopes for its durability, but it made it this far so who knows.

Even better?

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I found the iron-on name tags from two years ago, right where they belonged!! Done and done.

 

*Here’s another thing non-standard issue: the bag itself. Yes, sometime in the past three years, they stopped adding the black bottom to the bag, so Bridget’s is the only one not like the others. Oops. She likes that hers is easy to find amongst the twenty other bags hanging there — good enough for me!

One Thing Leads to Another

Now, if you had a three hours all to yourself on a Saturday, what would you do?

Read a book?

Watch a movie?

Start a fun new project?

Me? I pulled a Frankie Heck and started taking care of random crazy home improvement projects. If you give a moose a muffin….

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We were doing a family pick-up in the living room before the rest of the crew took off, and came across this fine piece of Joey’s artwork. There’s no way “Pig of Glory” (yes, that is the official name he was tagged with by the artist) was going in the trash, so I stashed it in the closet for later.

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Then I realized that “The Winter’s Night” — from winter — was still sitting on a shelf, waiting for me to come back to it. Hmm. OK! No time like the present. I grabbed a couple of canvases and just wrapped the paper around the edges, tacking the sides down with electrical tape*. Quick and dirty, but thanks to a couple of push pins, they were up on the walls within the hour.

Next up: finally changing the lightbulbs in the chandeliers. The situation in the workroom was particularly bad, because it was hard to see, and kind of depressing. The ugly smoked glass domes were so dusty. Rather than try to dust them, I took them down to clean them. Two and a half hours later, I had to leave, and the globes were only half done. Look, though!

First, fine 70s glass. I really don’t know if they came this way, or if they were just coated in the thirty years of the original owner’s cigarette smoke.

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Either way, kids, don’t smoke. Look at the next stage, after a soak in a vinegar bath and some time with the pot scraper:

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Can you see why I couldn’t stop?! Wait — there’s more:

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TA DA!! And you would not believe what a difference it made. This room is BRIGHT. I had no idea it was so bad!

Funny thing, though, rather than be sad that my peaceful hours were wasted on this kind of madness, I think this was the best Saturday in weeks. Now the only question is how else can I transform this house for zero dollars?

 

The Pop-In

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I think this just about sums up the state of affairs around here. The nice fresh greenery from the beginning of summer is a pitiful, drooping husk. The Grand Ol’ Flag — which was the extent of our 4th of July decorations — is still waving proudly. Trying, but not that hard.

In other words: The wheels have come off. It’s August. Let me say that again: AUGUST! How did we already get here?! I’ll tell you how: one action-packed day at a time. And my definition of action-packed is not really all that packed, but we’ve had somewhere to be just about every day for the entire summer, which has been really great…and really frazzling. You know I can’t maintain that level of activity for long. It makes it hard to keep up with the day to day stuff, you know? But…it’s summer. I can’t be bothered to care all that much.

Know what else I have trouble caring about right about this time of year? Cooking dinner. Or, evidently, changing lightbulbs. Three out of the five in the chandelier overhead have been burned out for weeks, but have I taken the three minutes to change them? Nah. I’ll just continue to strain my eyes for a little while longer. It’ll get done eventually. (P.S.: We’re talking about the room where I do all of my work. Yeah.)

Oh, but there has been sewing going on. So much sewing! I sneak in stitches every chance I get, and you know why? Because Christmas is coming (yes, I just said that on the first day of August), which means that our annual winter boutique is coming even sooner, and this stuff doesn’t make itself, friends. But since we’re on the subject, I’ll tell you another secret: I’ve finished the bulk of my Christmas gifts. YES!! I think that’s a first! Too exciting. I can’t remember the last time that I actually came across an idea, printed it out, and then made up all that I needed with shorter than a six month lapse.

In a nutshell: Christmas prep in full swing; too hot to cook; house in disrepair. How has your summer been?

The Little Things: Bag Dispenser

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Years ago, I made a bag dispenser from a tutorial which utilized a dishtowel. It didn’t specify the longest of all dishtowels, but the one with the best graphics in my collection made for a dispenser the size of a windsock. It got knocked down constantly, my husband did not like it (which says something, because he rarely makes a comment on these kind of things), and it was just annoying. When the ribbon “hook” snapped, that was that. Sure, it could have been easily repaired, but why?

Well, mostly because the alternative — stuffing the loose plastic bags into any corner of the hanging over-the-door baskets — was doubly annoying. And messy.

The dandy little version you see in the picture was made using a pattern from Stitch magazine, earmarked long ago and finally made after the great magazine clean-out. It only took me an afternoon, and is perfect for the job. Of course, the dimensions veer from the original pattern, because I changed the way I put the patchwork together, which meant math was involved, which of course meant that the dimensions would change. C’est la vie.

Are there bags in it? Why, yes there are, so it all ends well!

Much Better

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As it turns out, there’s a certain amount of getting what you paid for when it comes to those cheap stacks of hand-towels on the end cap in Housewares. Eight years ago, when I was setting up housekeeping here, I grabbed a pack of white ones and figured they’d surely do the trick. Also, since they were white, they could easily be bleached and made good as new whenever I pleased.

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They could become crummy almost immediately, and cause me to want to tell guests to our powder room, “No, really — the towel is clean! I just changed it today!”  For the next eight years.

Then I came across this genius idea, and new I had the answer to my problem. Actually, two problems, the other being what to do with the faded chenille-like Shabby Chic bath towel that was losing its chic and heading straight for shabby.

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One short year later, I got down to it. Since it was a bath towel, rather than a beach towel, I was only able to get two generous hand towels out of it. The borders used up a piece of fabric that has been on my shelf FOREVER, just mocking me. You would laugh at the happiness these towels have brought me. Already, they have been completely streaked with markers [why won't kids rinse their hands properly?!] — seemingly within hours of me hanging the first one — and came out of the wash pristine. They just feel so…fancy…compared to the old thin ones.

We’re nothing if not fancy.

Spring Has Sprung

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How time does fly! March did seem to come in like a lion, and then roared right into April. Now we’re here, in the middle of Sprummer, counting down the weeks until school’s out. Craziness, I tell ya!

The wreath up there is something I whipped up right after Spring Break, when I realized that Easter was going to come and go before I ever finished thinking through all my grand ideas for a Spring wreath. So one day, instead of emptying out yet another box or basket or cupboard [yes, I'm still at it, but at a much slower pace], I sat down and started winding yarn around a wreath form that had been sitting on a shelf. The whole process was pretty improv. I had a couple of the flower petals sewn together, waiting to be glued onto hair barrettes. Since they’ve been waiting over a year, it really didn’t bother me to re-purpose them. And yes, the yellow centers are straight pins — dual purpose! I wanted to put a bird on it, or a bunny, or a little ribbon banner of some sort, but my two hours was up and there was no way I was coming back to tinker with it. Sometimes,  “done” is totally enough.

I’ve been working on several other projects this month, which I look forward to sharing soon. One of them was so exciting, but probably only to me [spoiler alert: it's a bedspread]; I’ll let you be the judge.

 

The Little Things: Canning Jar Sleeve

I have so many little projects on my mental to-do list. Big ones, too, but mostly small ones, which have turned into brain clutter. When I winnowed down my collection of sewing/d.i.y. magazines, I came across the instructions for a few of those, and even found a couple of new ones. These projects are currently taking up residence in my lovely new works-in-progress basket (which is appropriate, seeing as how there haven’t been any actual works around here lately), and I’m going to do my best to burn through them in a quick fashion.

First up, the canning jar sleeve:

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So, I’m driving the kids to school a couple of weeks ago, and I brought along my trusty mason jar of ginger tea. No biggie, right? I pull up to the stop sign, take a sip, and had a sudden flash: what with the jar and all, it sure might look like Mama needs a little “eye-opener” to get popping in the morning. And then when I mentioned this to my husband, he laughed and laughed, and right then I knew it was time to dress my favorite drink vessel with some respect.

That, and it pleased me to no end to use up a couple of pretty remnants.

 

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