Married to the Empire

Monday, November 30, 2009

Craft Week: Stamped Velvet Ribbon Bookmarks

This is an old Martha Stewart project, but it's an easy, yet lovely one. Martha's instructions say to use real velvet made of silk or a silk-rayon blend, but let's be honest: it's expensive and hard to find. Most craft stores carry nylon velvet (or maybe that's "velvet"), which is affordable and easy to find. Just make sure that the back of it looks like ribbon and not plastic-y.

Here are the tools you'll need for this project:

I used alphabet stamps to make ribbons with the initials of friends. You can use whatever rubber stamps you want, as long as they fit the ribbon and will make a clearly-stamped image.

My recommendation is to cut some little test strips to try things out. Because I was working with nylon ribbon, I started out with the nylon setting on my iron. I didn't know if the ribbon would melt or not, so I started low and worked my way up. I eventually wound up using the cotton setting on my iron. Be sure to leave the steam OFF. The hotter iron created a sharper image. Play around with the time. The original instructions say to hold the iron on the stamp for approximately 30 seconds. I found that I needed a full minute.

Once you've figured out the right temperature setting and time for stamping, go ahead and cut the length of ribbon that you want for your bookmark. I used a hardcover book to gauge the length I wanted. I didn't measure, just freehanded it all. Once you have your ribbon cut, choose your stamp, place the ribbon on the stamp where you want it, then press with the tip of the iron (where there aren't any steam holes).

Lift the iron after the proper amount of time, and examine your stamped image.

If you're happy with it, then cut the edges in whatever decorative manner you want, then you're done! Easy peasy.

I used up my entire roll of ribbon making 11 bookmarks. I bought the ribbon on clearance for only $1.70, so each bookmark came to approximately 15 cents. Super cheap, yet pretty.

I enjoyed this project so much that I went out and bought more ribbon. I've only had a chance to play around a bit with some more detailed stamps with bible verses on them, but they turned out nicely. Because the stamps are bigger, the tip of the iron doesn't work for this. Instead, I placed the very center of the iron (again where there are no steam holes) squarely on the stamp and pressed. I intend to make more bookmarks with these, as they'll be great as bible markers.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Next Week Is Craft Week

If you want serious crafting projects, there are a ton of great blogs out there for that. If you want simple projects that aren't hard and take minimal skills, then this is the place to be next week! I plan to have a new project every day with tutorials for simple but nice projects that could even make nice little gifts for people. Christmas is coming, after all!

Hope to see you here next week!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A Few Random Thoughts

My blog entries have been sketchy for a lot of reasons, not least of which is the great computer switchover. Wow, I had no idea this could be such a pain. Photos, programs, documents, iTunes. iTunes and I are having it out right now, and it's winning so far. It's apparently smarter than me, and it's making me come face-to-face with my (bordering on unhealthy) attachment to my iPod.

I have a lot on my mind, but I don't know how much of it I want to share here. I was struck hard a couple of weeks ago with the first real understanding of being aliens and strangers in this world and longing for home (heaven), as I was confronted with the frailty of our bodies and life in general. Nothing that happened to us, just a sick and dying cat, knowing so many people with ailments, knowing our own health issues. It was something that hit me hard, and I've been mulling it over ever since, along with a few other things. It's the sort of deep thinking that leaves me knocked for a loop and unable to truly communicate what's swirling through my head.

I'm also being a True Grown-up this week and hosting Thanksgiving dinner in my home for the first time. It's only Steven, me, and my parents, but still. It's Thanksgiving Dinner and all the obligations that entails. Granted, they're obligations I've placed upon myself, as my parents really wouldn't care one way or the other if I made the big turkey dinner or not, but it matters to me. However, I'm not ashamed to admit that I intend to use boxed stuffing. I'm not in the mood to go totally homemade this week, even if it is what Martha would do.

We have good news regarding Calvin. He visited the vet yet again on Friday, and he was given the all-clear on his bladder infection. This is good news on a couple of fronts. First, it means that his little body doesn't have to work quite so hard, as it's no longer fighting infection. Second, it means he can sleep with us again. He's so skinny now that he has no body fat to keep himself warm anymore. He's always had the habit of sleeping in the crook of Steven's arm (and then later stealing his pillow), and it's been hard on him to be kicked out of the bedroom at night. We want him to be warm at night, as well as happy. His last days (weeks? hopefully months?) should be good ones. To ensure this, we're keeping him on a low-dose antibiotic from here on out to try to keep these nagging infections at bay. With cooler temperatures this past week, Calvin has been taking full advantage of being allowed back in the bedroom with us. I should probably buy him a heating pad.

The house is quiet, other than the sound of Doogie snoring on the floor beside me. It's a sound that makes me happy, and I wonder what he dreams about. Hopefully happy things, as he's my happy cat who seems to be content with life. The rest of the house is also sleeping, and I think it's time that I joined them.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A Crisis of Cats and Dogs

We had a Mail Time crisis the other day involving this little guy:

Doogie lives for Mail Time. He's always waiting in the foyer at approximately 2pm every day, as he knows that's usually when we go out for the mail. He comes outside with me and enjoys sniffing around and gnawing on grass. He's scared of practically everything, so lately, he's taken to going into the bushes where he can't be seen from the street.

The other day I'd already been to the mailbox and deposited Calvin, who was acting up, back inside. I stood on the porch going through the mail to allow Doogie a little more outside time. As usual, he was in the bushes. I heard a rustling behind me and assumed it was Doogie coming out of the bushes. But when I turned around to look, there were 2 strange dogs standing on our sidewalk just feet away from Doogie. I did what any reasonable cat mom would do: I panicked.

I raced into the bushes and grabbed Doogie. As soon as he caught sight of the dogs, he FREAKED. I ran to the front door, but I couldn't get it open. The latch has been sticking lately, and this time, it stuck at the worst possible moment. As I was desperately fiddling with the door, Doogie was fighting to get out of my arms. He doesn't believe in fight or flight; he believes in fight and flight.

Doogie flew out of my arms and back into the bushes. I was so scared for him that I started screaming. Good thing I did because as soon as I screamed, the dogs took off running down the street. I scooped Doogie back up and managed to get the door open and everyone inside. Calvin had been watching from the window, and both boys looked like little bottle brushes from fluffing out in fear.

Everyone was fine, although my shirt did not survive the incident. In Doogie's attempts to get out of my arms and run, he shredded my shirt and a bit of my stomach. I'd much rather have cat scratches and a shirt in the trash than a lost or dog-attacked cat. I think Calvin and Doogie prefer that option, too.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Life Insurance for the Uninsurable

I did something today that goes against my personal financial policy: I accepted an offer over the phone.

My husband has kidney disease. We discovered it years ago when we were applying for life insurance. The insurance company required a urine test, and all tests kept coming back funny on him. A regular doctor, a nephrologist, and a kidney biopsy later, we learned he has IgA Nephropathy, which is a form of kidney disease.

Suddenly, our plans for getting him any life insurance evaporated at the moment of diagnosis. Kidney disease is the big black mark in the insurance industry. No one would cover him. I even went so far as to call the National Kidney Foundation to ask if they knew of any companies that cover kidney patients. They had no answers for me. In fact, they said no one had ever called to ask that question before!

Steven is not completely without insurance, as he does have a policy through his work, which covers one year's salary. It's adequate, but hardly enough, considering I no longer work out of the home. (However, I do keep my teaching credentials updated, just in case.)

So what was today's phone offer? Our mortgate company called to offer accidental life insurance. It's free for the first 30 days while we look over the policy, and after that, there's a small monthly fee tacked onto the bill for our mortgage. (No, this is not merely mortgage insurance meant to pay off the house in case of death, if anyone is wondering; this is a form of life insurance. Period.)

Ordinarily, I would never accept something over the phone that involves money, but I decided to take a chance on this. Steven's health is generally fine right now. I don't fear his dying from kidney failure or anything, but I do worry as he commutes daily to and from Dallas. Car accidents happen, and one day, it could be him. It just makes sense to get the extra coverage, especially as accidental life insurance is the only kind we can get on him.

Why am I sharing this with you? Well, in case anyone else needs to know options. I can't begin to tell you how frustrated I've been reading the blogs of other SAHWs who matter-of-factly state that they'll be A-OK if their husbands die (in spite of no job skills or degrees in many cases--don't get me started on the naivete of that!) because they have large life insurance policies. The implication is always that everyone should do that if the wife is at home. I agree; but reality has played out very differently for us due to kidney disease. It's always good to have contingency plans, and those plans are going to look different for every family due to various circumstances. If you can't get regular life insurance, look for it in other forms.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Noel Swap

I recently participated in a Noel Swap hosted by sisters Carrie and Monica. I was paired with Becky and was pleased to learn that we have a number of things in common, including general location! We both live in the Dallas area.

Becky positively spoiled me with the box of goodies she sent! I adore all things Martha Stewart, and she sent me 2 Martha books. I had a great time going through them and finding new projects I'd like to try.

I'd told her that I adore Christmas movies, so she sent me one, along with some other relaxing items. (The soap smells heavenly!)

For traditional Christmas activities, a fabulous ornament in my favorite color, and some gorgeous notecards.

And finally, 2 beautiful mugs, 2 darling Christmas kitchen towels, some tissues in cute packaging, and tea for a hot drink.

I love it all! As I said, she truly spoiled me!

As for what I sent, I enjoyed putting a package together for her. We learned that in addition to sharing a love of the color pink (hence my choice to send her soft pink gloves for those few days it actually gets cold here in Dallas), we both like the Muppets. Her family has a tradition of watching A Muppet Christmas Carol, and my favorite Christmas movie is It's a Very Merry Muppet Christmas. She said she'd never seen it before, so I sent her a copy.

I got a little crafty with a few other items. As peppermint is a favorite holiday scent of mine, I sent her a bottle of homemade peppermint spray. Also, a jar of French lavender body scrub (a Martha recipe, of course) and a plethora of Christmas tags.

I sent 2 other things that I forgot to take pictures of: a silver photo box for Christmas memories and a bag of cinnamon from Pendery's World of Spices in Fort Worth. Can't do holiday baking without high-quality cinnamon!

You can see what other bloggers swapped here. Thanks to Carrie and Monica for organizing this!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Bad News

Calvin went in Friday for a blood pressure check, and they did blood work while he was there. I spoke with the vet yesterday about his test results. The news isn't good. His kidney levels are up, and we're nearing the end. She seemed to indicate that we're looking at a few weeks or months with him. Our options at this point are to continue treatment as is, or hospitalize him for a week or so to do intense treatment to try to improve this condition, but that would just be a stop-gap measure and temporary. She and I both agreed that Calvin would be miserable with the hospital option. Steven and I are choosing just to keep him at home where he's happy and comfortable and keeping him on his current treatment of pills and special diet.

I held it together on the phone, as I think I've known in my heart that this is where we are. But I cried off and on all morning. I have some small canvasses that I bought a few months ago with the intention of doing collages of the boys. Guess I can't put that off much longer. I want to do paw prints of the boys on their collages. I've also decided to order a copy of the Chicken Soup book that has Calvin's and Doogie's story in it. I'll have my boys "autograph" it for the vet, and I intend to give it to her eventually as a thank you for the great care she's given to our cats, especially Calvin lately.

At this point, we just need prayer. I'm not expecting a miracle in Calvin, as this is how life works due to the curse. Just prayers for his general well-being, as well as mine. Also pray for Doogie. Doogie isn't our smart cat, but he is fully aware that Calvin isn't well, and I think he's hurting a little through all of this. He's become angry with me lately whenever I take Calvin to the vet's, and now instead of smacking Calvin when he comes home smelling funny, he gives him nose bumps and stays by his side the rest of the day. He cries like his heart is breaking when Calvin is away from home. I don't know how he'll do when Calvin is gone for good.

In the meantime, we're just enjoying every day we have with our furry boy. I hope it will be a long while still, but I'm aware that the time may be short. The one thing giving me comfort is that I fully believe that animals go to heaven, and the thought of Calvin standing in heaven meowing his heart out in praise to the Almighty makes me laugh.

Friday, November 6, 2009

The Winner: Star Wars Scrapbook Kit

I put numbers in a cup, then drew the winning number to determine the winner of the Star Wars Scrapbooking Kit.

The winner is Dolphin Girl! Please send me your mailing information, and I'll get the scrapbooking stuff sent out to you!

Thanks to all of you who entered.

A Rather Belated Halloween Party Post

I have a new computer, and I've been trying to transfer stuff from one computer to the other, so I haven't been updating here. Obviously. But now that I have Photoshop downloaded, I'm finally getting around to posting pics of our Halloween party.

My theme for the table was as some of you guessed: Miss Havisham's wedding banquet.

I made the "rotting" wedding cake out of styrofoam and papier mache, and Steven gave it the extra old look with some spray paint. When getting ready for the party, I dealt with the food and put Steven in charge of the decor. I think he did a great job! I did have to mix-and-match the china, as we had 10 people for dinner. I have 2 sets of fine china, but one set has 9 place settings and the other has only 8. Oh well.

The table full of appetizers:

Now for the costumes. Unfortunately, I had to leave my husband in charge of the camera, as I was cooking the main course, so he didn't get everyone as they came in. For example, Sandy and Glenn came dressed as Swine Flu and a bottle of Germ X. No photo of them together or with their costumes all in place. So, anyway, here you go:

I was supposed to be dressed as Miss Havisham, but the costume didn't work out. I pulled out an old dance costume from high school and went as a geisha instead. Yeah, the makeup isn't great, but it served its purpose.

And now for my husband's costume that he worked so hard on. He decided to be a creepy scarecrow this year:

He won Most Disturbing at work this year. Um, yeah... Still not sure if I'm proud or horrified. Really, I think he did a great job on his costume. However, it caused a little issue when it came to answering the door to trick-or-treaters. Steven wanted to greet our party guests at the door looking all creepy, but we didn't know who was actually at the door when the bell rang. So every time the doorbell rang, I'd race to get to the door ahead of him so that there would be a smiling face at the door and not just Mr. Creepy if kids were on the porch. As soon as our last guests arrived, I made him take it off for answering the door. It's amazing what a difference that made! When he was in costume, the kids would just stand and stare in total silence. No chat, no thank yous, just silence. Once he was unmasked and dressed normally, they were talkative and expressed thanks for the candy. Funny how that works.