Wednesday, November 15, 2017

A pregnancy project: Making things stay put

Making room for a new baby mostly means making time for a new baby...with an emptier schedule, fewer commitments, and simpler housekeeping.   I did some work on the last point, to fix some things that seemed to never stay where I had put them.

One rocker had a seat cushion that ended up on the floor at least six times a day.  I used scrap pieces of denim to make ties for it, which I sewed onto the cushion by hand.  That was several months ago, and I haven't had to put it back even once.

Our bath towels were frequently sliding off their pegs. So I crocheted a loop onto a corner of each towel, using sturdy cotton yarn. The yarn has been in our stash for years, but the colors coordinated well with the bathroom colors. Now the towels stay put. I should note, though, that the pegs for the towels used by the younger children are horizontal, and they can easily get their towels down without ripping the loops off; in other situations, that might be a problem.

I have a crate that we are using for a piano bench, with a seat pad made of several layers of fabric, tied together quilt-fashion. This seat pad was also frequently found on the floor.  I used linen yarn to tie it directly to the crate, through the hand-hole. Now it sometimes is flipped down, but it is easy to flip back.

One of the children's winter coats did not have a loop inside the collar for hanging it up; I made one out of a scrap of bias tape, and sewed it in.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Sabbatical 3: Lessons learned

Having just completed my third one-year sabbatical, there were a couple of things about it that surprised me.

The first is how much of this sabbatical I spent just catching up on maintenance and unfinished projects. When you take a break from "getting ahead", there is time to do those sorts of things.

The second is that even though our income was the same as the previous year, we had a number of financial challenges over the year that left us needing to make do and do without, much more than usual. Last sabbatical, I put some money toward a special crafting project--a homemade fiddle from a kit.  This time, I did another special sabbatical project (which I will post about later), but for the most part I crafted and created using only materials that I already had, or ones that showed up unbidden on my doorstep.  I made lots and lots and lots of things, but I never ran out of supplies.

For part of the year, I set my never-ending to-do list aside, and just did what needed to be done, or what I wanted to do.  Other times, I went back to making lists, and went full speed ahead on Getting Things Done. I have a new baby coming very soon, and there was a lot that needed to be done beforehand.

Spiritually, I have spent a lot of time reading George MacDonald novels, and I have been learning a lot from him. (He has been a significant influence on C. S. Lewis and other Christian writers).

I also put some effort into making wish lists this time...sometimes I get so used to using what I have and doing without, that I forget to think about what I would actually like to get. What is remarkable, looking back, is how many of those things that I listed actually showed up, one way or another.  Some things I was able to buy, some things I was able to make or improvise, other things I realized that I didn't really want after all, and a number of things were handed down to me, unasked-for. It sounds like The Secret's "law of attraction" at work, but I don't believe in that; I believe in a God who loving and gracious. George said, in one of his books, that no desire is too small to set before God, who will purify it.


The book I wrote after my second sabbatical year, The Serendipitous Sabbatical:  Rest in Unexpected Places, can still be found here.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Midsummer update

I had a slow winter, with one cold after another hitting our family, and then I had morning sickness and early pregnancy fatigue on top of it. With the coming of spring, I've been healthier and have had a lot more energy, so I have spent the past several months doing tons of little projects around the house, many of which I will write about in the fall after my sabbatical year ends.

My indoor seed starting this year was a total failure. I didn't find the right amount of moisture for the seeds I was trying to start, and then a marauding toddler came through and made hash of it all. But my heirloom petunia and calendula plants (that I grew from Seed Savers seeds last year) reseeded themselves, and are doing well. Both of them produced lots of flowers last year, and kept on flowering after the first snow or two. The petunias also have a nice odor.

I planted some of my sorghum seeds from last year's plants, in front of the bedroom windows, in case they grow to be nine feet tall again.  But I sowed them densely and haven't thinned them much, in an experiment to see how much that will limit their growth.

One very quick project was to rearrange some of the items in our basement storage space (which is partially visible from the family room) so that the prettiest items are in the most prominent places, and the ugliest items more out of sight, instead of the other way around.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Quick lampshade

I picked up a lamp from a pile of free stuff by the side of the road.  It needed a shade; while I thought about it, I put on a spare lampshade of entirely the wrong shape, and put it in its new home in our family room.

What I finally ended up doing for a shade was to follow the Japanese principle of building anything that is at high risk of being demolished via disaster from the simplest and most easily replaceable materials.  I used a paper grocery bag, cut off the bottom and remove the handles, put it around a five-gallon bucket (the bag fit loosely around it), and then gave it two drippy coats of some spray-on fabric stiffener that someone had handed down to me.

With the fabric stiffener, the bag could hold its shape, and didn't need much of a lampshade frame to support it.

To hang the shade on the lamp, I did the simplest thing I could think of:  take a dowel, cut it slightly longer than the diameter of the shade, then punch a hole on each side of the shade to run it through and across.  (For this, I used a very beaten-up old dowel that I was about to throw out.)  Then I lashed the center of the dowel to the top of the lamp's harp with wire, and slipped the shade over and onto the dowel.

The final result looks interesting with the lamp on, like very, very old parchment.  The shade is a little short in proportion to the lamp, so I am thinking of adding something to the bottom edge.

UPDATE:  I unravelled one side of a strip of burlap to make a fringe, which I stapled to the inside lower edge of the shade.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Asking the right questions

We are coming up on making a larger financial decision.  Most of the time, I've found that a simple list of pros versus cons will make the right decision clear, but in this case they were about evenly balanced, and we remained confused about what to do.

I realized then that we were trying to answer two questions at once.  The first question was one about general direction, and the other was about taking a specific next step in whichever direction we chose.

Once I had those separated, I could assemble numbers to answer the first question.  The numbers came out clearly in favor of one side, and with that answered, the second question of the next specific step is probably answered as well, with the opportunity at hand.


I've reluctantly started on the year's yard work, working wherever the toddler chooses to play.  Little steps of progress add up over time.  I also got some seeds started indoors, a couple of weeks late.


A family friend was moving, and gave us some furniture, and other things like folding sawhorses and a bicycle.


A while back, I took my dried sorghum tops from last year and tied them into a small broom, for sweeping off the workbench.  I am planning to plant some more of it this year with seed I saved, but not right in front of our main window, as it grows higher than the eaves.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Tax season

This was the year that I really wanted a get-out-of-filing-tax-returns-free card. But I slowly slogged through sorting through the paperwork, gathering the numbers, and working through the forms.

I still use the paper forms. I printed them out at home, which was a bit of work as I ended up moving our old-and-dying printer over to the FreeGeek computer. Otherwise, I would have made copies or printouts at the library. You can also order paper forms online for free from the IRS, in limited quantities, but they take several weeks to arrive.

My slow start turned out not to matter, as we were among the taxpayers affected by the new delay in issuing refunds.

It is always interesting to see how the numbers for the year come out.  In 2016, we were able to increase our giving, but we again failed to outgive God:  our car made it through the year with only a few minor repairs, for example.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

A light fixture and a small blackboard

I spent a few days tinkering and came out the other end with a hanging light fixture for the living room.  Socket and cord salvaged from a floor lamp, cover for the cord made of scrap burlap, a shade of garden fence wire, scrap fabric, and scrap plywood. It is hanging from a chain that I strung between two beams. I also made a conduit of wood through which I am running an extension cord up the wall--that is the part that I am least happy with, as it was tricky to put up with the cord already in it. I also ended up having to take the cord off the socket several times; now I can almost tie wires in an underwriter's knot without consulting my fix-it reference book.

It was a series of technical puzzles to solve, which required persistence. The light looks too small and high for its location, but it needs to be, to keep it out of monkey reach. It would be wise, in most cases, to make a cardboard mock-up first.

The new light makes a huge difference in the room; it was one of the missing pieces.

I also made a small blackboard sign, out of scrap plywood painted black with acrylic paint. With some chalk dust wiped over it to mellow out the surface, it looks nice. I used the scroll saw to cut it; I never did get the hang of using a coping saw without having the blade twist all over the place. Some of the Victorinox Swiss Army knives have a nice saw blade, wickedly sharp.