Married to the Empire

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

How to Make a Valance When You Really Don't Know What You're Doing

This post is for the new-to-sewing folks out there. If you want super-cute sewing projects that require more talent, there are plenty of other blogs for it. This is for those of you who, like me, are intimidated by sewing and are kind of making it up as you go along.

I posted last week about some updates to my craft room, including making a valance out of a curtain panel. For the most part, it was surprisingly easy, but I could have made things easier for myself if I'd been smart enough to buy my curtain rod before I ever started sewing. So, if you plan to do this project, learn from my mistake and make the first step be to buy your curtain rod!

Lay curtain panel out on cutting board:

Give the cat his moment to "help" by getting right in the middle of things:

Use 2 yardsticks to mark a straight line to cut off the tabs and hem at top of curtain. I used a charcoal pencil for this step, but you can use whatever you want:

Now, I was making this up as I went, so I wound up drawing lines every 18 inches. I marked off enough for 3 panels. I found out later that a typical valance is only 14 inches. In my case, I was fortunate that I originally cut mine bigger. More on that later:

I then cut out all the panels and headed to the ironing board. I used my handy little measuring tool with a sliding thing (it undoubtedly has a name, but I have no idea what it is) to fold down the edges evenly and iron them into place. I did this twice to make sure the edges were hidden, then I pinned it all.

Now, that above step is where I really should have already had a curtain rod so I'd know how big to make the pocket for it. I used the rod that was holding the curtain panel on the closet to figure out my pocket size. That was a major mistake on my part, because the window I was making the valance for is way longer. And when I went out later to buy a curtain rod for it, I discovered that they were all much bigger in diameter than my thin little closet curtain rod.

But because I didn't know all that yet, I went ahead and sewed everything up. Straight lines on the machine are actually super easy, and I had all three valance panels sewn up in about 15 minutes. I felt very proud of myself.

But then I bought a curtain rod, and realized I didn't have a prayer of fitting it in the pockets I'd made for it. I went on a curtain-rod search to try to find a smaller one. It didn't exist. So I started panicking. Then I did a little research, realized that my panels, which wound up being 16 inches after being sewn up, were actually 2 inches longer than average. So, I just folded the tops down 2 inches, which was plenty of room for the curtain rod, and resewed it all. The fact that I just measured for cutting according to what looked good to me, rather than actually researching how big it all should be, was actually a blessing in the end. It covered for my mistake. (And in case you're wondering why I didn't just undo all my stitches, well, I'd used a very tight stitch length that would have been a nightmare to remove. Live and learn.)

All finished and hanging in the window:

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Craft Room Makeover

I mentioned way back in January that I bought a bunch of new stuff at IKEA with my Christmas and birthday money (thanks, Mama and Daddy!) for my craft room. The idea was to put it all together, do a little redecorating, then post pictures. The furniture was put together quickly and moved in, but the decor took a bit longer. Some of it involved sewing, and I have to work up the nerve to do that.

It took 6 months.

You see, I bought a package with 2 curtain panels in it. One curtain replaced the closet door. The other was to be cut up and made into a valance for the window. Not only does sewing intimidate me, but math does, too. All that cutting and sewing also involved precise measuring, ironing, and pinning. Blah. I wasn't looking forward to it, so I put it off. And off. And off.

But I finally did it all this week, and I'm very proud of the end result. So without further ado... My new and improved craft room!

I have to say that I love those drawers pictured above. Not only do they hold a ton of stuff for my papercrafting, but I have an entire drawer just for paper scraps! I can easily dig through it, unlike my former method of paper storage which was cramped and too small. Ah, bliss.

And finally, a little something I made as inspiration for the purpose of the room.

Tutorials to follow.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Avoiding Food Dyes

The summer heat has hit full-force here in Texas, and the headaches are ramping up for me. I deal with this every summer, and admittedly, it's tiresome. But I may have been unwittingly adding to my problems. I strongly suspect that food dye, specifically Red 40, is causing me problems. After drinking IBC Black Cherry soda 2 days in a row, and having migraines that my 3 prescription pain meds could barely touch on both of those days, I noticed that the common denominator was a drink rife with Red 40.

I'm now off of anything containing Red 40 for a while to see if it makes a difference. Interestingly, I noted that when I was off of candy during Lent, my migraines decreased. They picked up after I started eating candy again. I figured all this time that it was just the excessive sugar, but now I think it may have been food dye.

If you Google Red 40 dye, you'll find that headache is pretty common. Hmmmm.

Here's the thing: I like Jello in summer. It's a great way to use up fruit that's getting a little too ripe, and it's a cool and sweet treat. But it's filled with dye. I couldn't find any at the grocery store without it. Blah. Not even Sprouts, which is known for all its organic and healthy stuff, had any brand without it. Well, they just didn't have any, other than the unflavored stuff.

I finally picked up a box of Knox (the unflavored brand), and I saw on the back that you can make fruity jello with fruit juice. So, instead of adding water to a billion chemicals, as with Jello, you add fruit juice to the gelatin powder. Definitely healthier, but also more expensive.

I tried it last night. I can always buy Juicy Juice pretty cheap. It's frequently on sale, and the paper has coupons for it pretty often. Steven isn't crazy about it, though. So, a great use for this cheap juice is gelatin. Win-win. And you know what? It's really good. Definitely different from Jello brand, but good.

I cut up some peaches and some cherries that were starting to go south to add to it. I truly prefer gelatin of any sort with fruit in it. Add some real whipped cream. (I'm starting to detest Cool Whip--what really freaked me out was going to Sonic for a shake, then leaving the cup on the counter overnight. The "whipped cream" not only did not melt, it completely retained its shape. *shudder*) Sweet summer treat!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Two Poems by Doogie

Doogie isn't crazy about summer. He has long-ish fur, and he gets hot. We often find him "dead" under the ceiling fan in the living room. But tonight, he found a new way to cool off.

*Please note that the ugly orange towel has an ice pack inside it. I use it for migraine, which I had earlier, then left the ice pack on the couch.

I once was hot
But now I'm not
Because my butt
Is on Mom's ice pack.

My brother's mean
He stole my spot
And once again
I find I'm hot.


We've been busy attending high school graduations lately. Weekend before last, it was the graduation of Steven's niece, Samantha. She was the flower girl in our wedding. Oh, how quickly time passes.

Last weekend we attended the graduation of 5 of our youth group students. It's hard to spend years with them, then have them grow up, graduate, and leave for college.

I know it's a natural and good part of life, but that doesn't make it any easier. We had a good time celebrating them, though. We attended a big party for them at church on Sunday afternoon.

And we still have the summer.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Dumping Cable--An Update

Four months ago I wrote about dumping cable and using Netflix and an HD antenna for our TV watching. We shaved $40 off our monthly Verizon bill. It would have been even more, except that Steven had them upgrade our Internet. He needs it for work, and I'm certainly not going to complain about having even better Internet access!

But how are we doing in terms of TV, seeing as cable seems to be considered a necessity by most people?

Netflix, where have you been all my life?

We're honestly enjoying Netflix so much more than we ever did cable. Shows on our own time without having to remember to program the DVR. Tons of movies and documentaries, many of which I never ran across on cable or at the library. And more than $30 less per month.

Netflix even sweetened the deal by making it available through the Wii. Just order the free disc and voila! Netflix in another room! Steven hooked up the Wii, which we really hadn't been using, as he prefers the games available on X-Box, and I'm just not a gamer, in our bedroom. Now I can watch shows while I fold clothes or iron. We can even watch different shows on Netflix at the same time in different rooms. And when Steven has some of the youth group boys over to play some boring zombie game that they love, I can hole up in the bedroom and catch up on episodes of Roswell. (I loved this series when it was on originally, but I never saw the final season. I'm now going through the whole thing again, and I'm loving it as much now as I did then.)

Steven noted that we're not buying DVDs anymore. He's right. When we want to watch movies or TV shows that aren't available instantly, we just put it in our queue, and it comes to us via mail.

I realize I sound like a huge ad for Netflix. I'm just really excited about it. Huge money saver for us and way better than cable, IMO. Dumping cable has definitely worked for us.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Food Waste

This makes me mad at myself:

I did some baking today and needed to find a place in the freezer for what I'd made. I started rooting around in there to see what all was hidden and forgotten. The picture shows things I had to toss. Fish with a best-by date of 2008. Shrimp best eaten by 2009. Ham hocks I never got around to using. Veggies that had been in there who knows how long.

It doesn't help to find great sales on food if it gets lost in the freezer and just becomes eventual waste. This especially frustrates me because the only way I can feel decent about eating animals is knowing that I don't waste them. But some poor fish and shrimp died completely in vain without at least having the dignity of nourishing human bodies. *sigh*

I realize that's probably a bit melodramatic, but it's hard to be an animal lover and balance that with eating them. I'll just have to do a better job of keeping track of what's in my freezer in the future.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Graduation Cards

When you work with the youth group, you have a lot of graduation cards and gifts to give. I like to make the grad cards, as it saves us a little money, but I was stumped for ideas until I saw this post. I figured with some black cards and my Martha Stewart number/letter stamps, I could do something similar.

I started with black cards. I bought them on clearance at Joann's last weekend. Ten cards for $1.97. I used a pencil to mark the center point and 2 points on the edges, then drew lines to make a V-shape.

I cut those off and was left with a nice point.

Next I used my Martha stamps to create 2010, which I stamped on the cards. I also ran the edges of the V along my stamp pad. Then I sprinkled on embossing powder and heated it.

Next I needed a tassel. I'm sure they can be bought somewhere inexpensively, but I don't know where that place is. I bought the only tassels I could find at Joann's. They were too short, and they came out to $1 per tassel! Yikes! Then I got the bright idea to go to Half-Price Books and buy some of their cheapy bookmarks. They were only 48 cents each and had the appropriate-length tassels. Even better, they were having a 20%-off everything sale! So, I bought a bunch of bookmarks and just removed the tassels for use on my cards.

I measured to find the center, then poked a hole in the card, stuck a brad through it, and attached the tassel. Then I was left with this ugliness on the inside of the card:

So, I took all those corners I cut off the cards and used them to cut out little rectangles to glue over the ugly backs of the brads.

All done!

I opted not to stamp anything on the inside, as I like to write a nice personal note to each kid. I wanted to make sure I had plenty of room to do that without it being seen from the front. But I think it would be nice to stamp a Congratulations or something inside if you don't want to say much beyond a signature.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Around the House

Who needs a bed when there's an overflowing hamper full of clothes that smell like Dad?

Doesn't he look like a regal little prince? He certainly thinks he's one!

Caught the hubby using some of my craft punches (but there was nothing Martha Stewart-esque about it--he was using the punches for something in a zombie game):

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Good Riddance, May... Again

I'm starting to hate the month of May. I posted a couple of weeks ago about having to replace our air handler. We paid extra for one with a universal coil that could work with the old R-22 in our outdoor unit, but also work with the new R-410 whenever we upgraded.

The upgrade happened sooner rather than later.

Our old unit couldn't hack it. The AC was running non-stop, yet it was still getting up to 86 in the house. Steven suffered through the weekend with me, and he realized for the first time just how miserable I am much of the time in my own home every day as a SAHW. Then again, it's never been that bad before.

The AC company came out again, and I was told that running the system (twice) with a freon leak has severely damaged the condensor. Add in the fact that it's always been too small for our house. (Thanks, previous owners who went cheap on all repairs.) So now we have a new condensor outside that's better sized for our home. It's cool again.

But we've now spent more than twice what we spent in necessary repairs and health costs last May. If this is going to become a pattern, I want to skip May 2011 altogether.