Monday, December 27, 2021

Obligations done...time for the clean-up.

Thankfully, with the kids growing out of playing with a lot of toys, there's...a lot less clean-up involved than there has been in previous years.  Four boxes wrapped, each, and one for each adult in the family. 

There's one bag of Christmas trash, and there'll be at least one bag of trash coming out of the imp's room.  He's gotten a new CD player for Christmas.  It's supposed to be mounted on the wall.  And we need a clear path across the room (a major trick in and of itself) to a wall above an outlet. (Actually, since I don't plan on even looking at cleaning up the Hot Wheels half of his room, it may be only one bag of trash out of there). 

The cool thing about that particular CD player?  It also takes a mini-memory card.  I can take kid-appropriate music off my laptop and copy it onto that for him.   I don't have to let him take any CDs into that pig sty, or burn copies for him.  

Pixie and I have both been sick.  That makes at least one big bag of mostly-kleenex trash, as well.   

And, with having been sick for a bit over a week, and having a lot of extra obligations* and crap to worry about** making sure I got done and didn't forget about, I've fallen behind on a lot of things I'd previously managed to keep up on.  Including (but not limited to) getting some of the trash out.  

That's a start, but nowhere near all I need to do to clean up from the holiday season.  I've got about a week to go of the kids being out of school, too, so I won't be ferrying them back and forth until next week.  On the other hand, I will be planning and making an extra meal every day, so energy expenditure is kind of a wash. 

Doesn't help that I think I need to be stepped back up a little on my thyroid meds.  I have been having increasing levels of "thyroid hormones too low" symptoms.  More than just the lack of energy.  I'll be due for blood work for her sometime in February, though, so it may not be worth bothering with until after that. 

I think I may wait on my living room cleanup until after Saturday, when the tree comes down and gets packed away, and just focus on the rest of the house.  Starting with the bathrooms and working my way forward, ten minutes at a time.  

*I hate Christmas.  There's so much extra we're obliged to do for family that doesn't care to come here and insists we don't care because we never go to them...I miss being a stupid kid that didn't realize just how self-centered and uncaring my family actually was.  

 **Crap to worry about: Christmas shopping this year was hard.  Not because I didn't have ideas, but because either what I'd thought of wasn't on the shelf, or had jumped in price to put it outside the budget imposed by a new set of tires for the Subaru Forester being $200 more than I'd accounted for in my planning.   

Saturday, December 25, 2021

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Doll quilt...made from tee shirt scraps.


I learned a few things yesterday, while making this little project.  

1. The sewing machine very handily deals with pretty much any fabric I want to use--it's only picky about thread.  That little red and blue quilt is made from scraps cut from worn-out tee-shirt sleeves, with a back cut from a worn out undershirt.

2. What it doesn't like is feeding multiple layers of sorta stretchy fabric through.  It'll deal with two, or even three...but not four or more.  So, this little project, instead of being quilted, will have to be hand-tied.  Unless and until I get a walking foot, any stretchy fabric I turn into a quilt will be.  I have yet to see how denim does when quilted.  

3. I still need more practice, but I'm getting better at sewing straight lines, turning the project, and going back over them.  I suppose the next project will get me back in shape for that.  

4.  I need a better method for applying oil where it needs to go.  The syringes I was recommended to use are...messy, imprecise, and a pain in the ass.  

5.  I still can't cut straight lines worth a damn.  

6. When oiling the machine, I forgot to oil the treadle and pulley wheel underneath.  It decided to start squeaking yesterday.  

7.  A very vital bit of the treadle mechanism (the pitman rod that goes from the back of the treadle to the crank on the pulley wheel) is made not from cast iron like the rest of the treadle, but dark varnished wood.  Which I learned when I crawled underneath the machine with a light to oil the moving bits a little.  

8. I put the little trash can on the wrong side of the sewing machine.  I need to dig it out of kid crap and move it around to the other side.  

Last, but not least...I learned that I don't suck at this.  I just have a lot still to learn. 

Monday, December 20, 2021


Back before I had Home Ec, when I still played with Barbie dolls a mom had this nifty set of patterns for Barbie clothes.  And a lot of worn-out kids' clothes.  And a sewing machine.  And not a lot of money.  So, she made doll clothes for my sister and me.  She used all sorts of fabrics...except for old tee shirts.  I asked why, once, and she showed me.  

Her sewing machine did not play nicely with jersey knit.  Not even a little.  Where it didn't stretch the material, it puckered.  The only stitch that kinda worked a bit was the zig-zag.  

Want to hazard a guess what a lot of the material I have on hand is?  Yup.  Old tee shirts.  The other fabric I have a lot of is worn-out jeans, or the legs from cut-off jeans.  

I already knew that my sewing machine works really well and without complaint with denim.  Multiple layers thereof, even.  I wasn't so sure how it would do with tee-shirt material, since it lacks a zigzag stich, and I lack a zigzag attachment.  

On a whim, I pulled down a few old tee shirts out of my stash.  And I tested out how badly the machine would stretch and/or pucker the tee-shirt material.  

The answer was: not at all.  I had no problems with it whatsoever.  I've got so many old tee shirts in so many pretty colors... and a lot of boring colors, too. 

(And maybe I can get the pixie to stop using socks as Barbie mattresses if I make her some from old tee shirts.  Practicing.)

That has reduced the new meditation form's financial burden considerably.

Friday, December 10, 2021

*What* the *actual*...

 Okay.  I was doing some half-hearted research, today, looking into tools that would make sewing easier (got one--but not just for sewing: I got a travel iron that I'm more likely to use than the huge, heavy full-sized one that I can barely manage on a good day).  Ran across a woman who blogged and ran an Etsy store, making little things on a vintage (not like mine, but still) sewing machine.  By preference.  She had modern sewing machines, but preferred to use her older ones (she had several, some treadle, some hand crank, some hand crank adapted to run on electricity with an external motor).  She was ranting about being called a "non-working spouse" on her other half's work paperwork.  

On the one hand...yeah, her hobbies aren't paying for themselves.  Not the least because of fees and how much shipping costs.  

On the other hand...I get where she's coming from.  I don't work outside the home, but I (and other housewives) work my (our) ass(es) off, for the benefit of our families, if not for income.*

Let me give you an example.  

On a standard day, the first alarm goes off around 5:50.  I take my thyroid pill, and go back to bed.  The alarm goes off again, and I get up around 6:30.  I drag my 13 year old imp out of bed and put on the scratched record of "get the dog out.  get the dog out.  get the dog let out.  She needs to pee, imp, and she's hungry; let her out and feed her.  Thank you.  Okay.  Take your breakfast.  Get your bowl and your glass and go sit down.  Take your breakfast and sit down at the table.  Thank you.  Eat.  Put a bite in your mouth.  Chew the bite you just put in your mouth.  Chew.  Chew.  Stop talking and eat.  Take your focus pill and..."  You get the picture.  I spend half an hour chivvying one child through eating breakfast (the other does for herself, and yes, I've let her know exactly how much I appreciate her initiative).  And then reminding him every two minutes of his check list...while I fix lunches, unload the dishwasher, clean the cats' box, and look into what I need to do for the day.  

Then I sit down for about ten to twenty minutes with coffee.  At which point my computer alarm lets me know it's time to get my offspring loaded into the car and shuffled off to school...which can take anywhere from two to ten minutes, depending.  

Most mornings, I come home and make myself a second cup of coffee.  I need that before I can face the rest of the day.  I've been up for an hour and a half, by that point, but it feels (at the same time) like much longer, and not nearly that long.  

Ten minutes and internet fuckery (I had no idea quilting was so involved, people!), and then I get up.  I go clean up from breakfast, look at my daily checklist and Flylady zones, and start a load of laundry.  I straighten up and do light cleaning in my daily room and weekly zone, then I go sit down...and stare at the computer screen.  Some days I write, other days, I try.  On days I can't write new stuff, I try to edit older, nearly finished stuff.  Or I just do administrative paperwork for the household (what, you thought households lacked such?  Oh, no, my friend.  Not at all).  

By this point, my morning meds alarm goes off.  With the thyroid meds I take, I have to take everything else--supplements included--with a four hour separation window between thyroid meds and everything else.  I get up and take stuff, straighten flat surfaces a bit (I really do try to control clutter buildup).  At this point, I go get water (or a third cup of coffee.  Often that), check the dinner plans I have written on the dry-erase calendar in the kitchen, and pull stuff out of the freezer.  I putter around, straightening up a bit more in the kitchen (usually while coffee is brewing), and then go sit down and take a break.  Decide what's next.  That's usually determined by my physical state.  Sometimes I feel up to a little more activity (like moving the wash to the dryer), and sometimes I don't.  

If I don't, I go back to writing and/or planning.  Takes a lot of planning to figure out how to do the most amount of needed stuff with the least amount of wasted energy.  Maybe eat lunch (if I'm hungry...and my nerves let me...and I don't forget).  And then I get back to writing.  Sometimes it's a slog.  Sometimes the "go get the kids" alarm (2:40) startles the utter hell out of me and I've gotten anywhere from 2K to 5K words written (once, I managed a lot more, but I don't type that fast, even if my brain does move that fast).  

After I get the kids, I stuff snacks down them, chivvy them through homework, instrument practice (imp plays trumpet; pixie's taking piano lessons).  Thyroid alarm goes off (4:00), and then it's time to start supper.  I try to do a family meal once a week or so, whether everybody wants it or not (usually, somebody--and who it is varies--would rather read).  And after that, any homework that isn't done gets finished.  I clean up from supper (if I have the energy), and then I remind the kids of their after-supper checklists.  

The kids are abed by 7:30, and I'm...not fucking done, yet.  I may be physically done, but there's the next day's schedule to check, the next day's lunch on the school menu to check (do they take lunch, or eat at school?), the last bits of clean up...

I can usually sit down with a strong drink (and a substantial enough snack that I can take a dose of Aleve) at about 9:00 or so.  

Honestly, I do a lot more as a housewife/stay at home mom than I ever managed while working for money outside the house.  It's at the speed of the mighty sloth, but I really do get more done.  And on a near-daily basis.  

*Funny thing: most two income households?  Unless both are working really well-paid white-collar jobs, Mom's likely to only barely break even when childcare is taken into account.  Working outside the home for an income?  Not necessarily what's best for the family's finances.  Do the math. 

Thursday, December 9, 2021

Huh. *That's* cool.

I've mentioned my great grandma's sewing machine a couple times.  Well, I have successfully used it (the project in the picture was the first thing I'd made since high school).  And I've learned a few more things about it.  

First thing: I need to work with it in short bursts.  It's...well, I jokingly referred to it as great-grandma's elliptical machine.  

It wasn't that much of a joke.  Using the hand wheel to get it started and then getting the treadle going properly?  Yeah, about an hour of that made my forearm, hand, and thighs cramp, and made my legs ache pretty fiercely for a couple of days.  And I managed to not quite kick myself into a CFS/ME attack.*

Second: I need to practice with it without threading it.  It's a lovely machine, but has some serious limitations--it only does one stitch, one length, only in one direction, with no reverse.  And if I don't keep the treadle going right (with the hand wheel turning toward me), the thread snaps, and the bobbin thread snarls up and needs picked loose.  

Third: It's actually pretty easy to use.  I just need practice.  

Fourth: Singer knew their straight stitch machines were limited, and actually came up with work-arounds for house-wives who didn't want to replace their sewing machine (and yes, there would have been a lot--I don't think I will ever give this machine up, not even if/when I get enough better at sewing that I am actually adjusting the fit of my own clothes).  At some point, when a Japanese brand came out with a model that had a zigzag stitch, Singer engineered their own...and made an attachment for their straight-stitch machines that would do the zigzag stitch.  No, the needle doesn't move back and forth like it does on a modern machine--the attachment moves the fabric back and forth.  I've seen videos of it being used, and it's cool as hell.  

Singer also made button-hole attachments that worked the same way for their straight stitch machines.

Yes, the attachments are out there, and yes, I can find them for purchase.  And I will likely go for them, eventually.  

Fifth: I am not set up to sew.  There are a lot of tools I really need, first.  I've lost track of all of my scissors, and my daughter's claimed the one set I had put aside for fabric for her birthday model.**  And I need to read the chapters in my Good Housekeeping ginormous book of needlework that includes everything from sewing (clothes, quilts, and household "soft furnishings) to crochet to tatting to knitting (which was why I initially snitched it from my mom when she said she never looked at it anymore).    

I am making a list of the tools I need, and of the tools I'd like to have.  Yes, there's a difference--that's why there are two lists.  (I need an iron.  I'd like a sleeve-board, but I have a travel ironing board that will work well enough.  I need a set of pinking shears, a good pair of scissors for paper, and a better set of fabric shears than the ones my daughter took off with.  I'd like a rotary cutter and mat, but I don't need those, since I'm still barely learning.)  

Sixth: I think this is something I need to do.  Using my great-grandmother's treadle machine gets all of the different threads in my brain untangled and working together, rather than at cross-purposes, much like target-shooting with a bolt-action rifle (which I called loud meditation) used to do.  I can't really do the loud meditation as often as I really need to anymore--I don't have the energy budget to be able to with all of the other demands on it.  But I might be able to take up sewing with the treadle machine in short, daily bursts, and have the same, beneficial effects.  

Seventh (and last): It's gonna be funny as hell when my doctor asks (as they always do) what kind of exercise I'm getting, and I tell her that I've started sewing.  And only tell her what I'm using after she's started looking confused. 

*I managed to avoid it, but my kitchen suffered.  

**The pixie is now eleven years old, and was really irritated that all of the models she had ever seen were for boys, and was utterly delighted when I got her a doll house model.  But she needed my fabric scissors for some of the steps. 

Thursday, December 2, 2021

Bit over two weeks left before end of first semester

The kids just came off of Thanksgiving Break.  They had the whole week, this time.  They have two more weeks after this one before Christmas Break.  

Well.  One week, then "semester finals" week for the imp.  They'll review Monday the 13th, then have two tests per day, and get out before lunch for the last week before break starts.  

And then, they've got two weeks (and a day) of break: they're off from 11:00 am on the 17th of this month through the 3rd of January (they go back on the 4th).  They're almost halfway done with the school year, at this point.  

And my year of no new ending.  I don't know, yet, whether or not I will make resolutions for next year.  I'm currently thinking not.  I'm still trying to keep my feet under me.

Last January, I foresaw an utter shit year.  And I was right.  I foresee a lot more of them--at least three more.  It's gonna get a whole lot worse before there's a chance of it getting better.  The FICUS's handlers will see to that.*

I did manage to finish up a few things this year: a few knitted projects, two novel drafts, a few short stories, and I finally got the courage together to try fixing Grandma's sewing machine.  Started trying to figure it out, and figure out the right tension...

And then I discovered that thread rots.  I did not know that.  I did not know that at all...until the thread I had on hand broke between the bobbin shuttle on Grandma's old treadle machine and the needle.  More than once.  I've now got a good-sized package of smaller spools of thread, in multiple colors: black, white, tan, brown, gray, blue (light blue and navy), and red.  And my next big project is learning to use that treadle machine.  I'll have a couple of weeks of kids underfoot (time I can't really spend writing because the little shits will be getting along...until suddenly they don't, or suddenly, they're rambunctious enough that I need to kick them outside...or whatever...which means part of my attention needs to be on them, rather than all of my attention being focused on the story in some way, shape, or form).  That will be ideal for learning, I think. 

I've got some mending projects that I'll be working on, once I've learned to use my treadle machine: first, part of my apron (which I'm starting to need) is letting go--the binding around the edge which also includes the tie behind my back had the stitching break, somehow, and needs sewn back down.  That will be the first mending project.  The second is the pair of work slacks that precipitated the whole "need a functional sewing machine" mess in the first place.    

So, yeah--lots to do, some of it I can even do over Christmas Break...which is speeding in its approach. 

*Okay, does anybody, anybody at all, really think that Biden is running the show?  I'll wait...  No?  Yeah, this is a nasty case of elder abuse, and not even the pedo-in-chief post turtle deserves that.  Just like the rest of us don't deserve this reprise of the worst of the '70s.