My Vinyl Wasn’t Final

My Vinyl Wasn’t Final

You may have remembered when I had a couple vinyl chair that looked like this:

 

These were rather dirty vinyl chairs from the 1960’s. They were airport terminal chairs that came from France. Together they cost me 70 euros at an antique store in Germany. Also, the board which the cushion was sitting on was particle board that was crumbling apart, as pictured below.

My father cut me a couple new boards for the cushions to rest on. Instead of particle board that was 60 years old and disintegrating, he used ply wood like this:

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I changed the vinyl to look like this (my first upholstery attempt). My first attempt at sewing with vinyl too. You may remember when I blogged about it here: Vinyl Chairs My First Try

 

But I realized that I actually really liked the original white look of the chairs so I went and bought white vinyl and started the process again.

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And I did both chairs this time in white vinyl. Slightly different pattern.

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And I did the other chair in the same original style but with a seam down the middle to effectively use my vinyl without having to purchase more, if you know what I mean. I button tufted the seat cushion (first attempt at button tufting too!). I can’t wait to do more button tufting!

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And here they are together with some semi-cute pillows I sewed.

 

I sewed 2 GREEN Dresses for under $6.00! HAPPY GREEN MONTH!

I sewed 2 GREEN Dresses for under $6.00! HAPPY GREEN MONTH!

Blogging is difficult for most of us because you have to come up with different things to post, REGULARLY. Blogging favors people who are constantly inspired and effortlessly creative. Those are the blogs that more frequently pop up on Google’s first page. These are the ones that we return to again and again to see “what’s new”. I’ve been too infrequent lately.

Lately I’ve hit a low point in my sewing ambitions. In my attempt to sew leggings/yoga pants/gym pants (whatever you call them), there was a big fail. I didn’t use a pattern. I tried to use an old pair of pants as a template and that didn’t quite work. Let’s just say that a bunch of black knit fabric (which tends to be expensive) ended up being wasted due to my ineptitude. I know.  I’ll find a way to incorporate it into something else.

On the bright side, it’s green month. I’ve found some green things that I’ve made and sewn and I’d like to share them with you here on my blog.

One of the things I’ve been doing lately is scouring thrift stores for old sewing patterns. Most of the time I can find them half off of .49 cents, which means I can find old sewing patterns for .25 cents each! 

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With the pattern above, I was able to make something I’m calling “Renee’s Lime Dress”, for less than $5.00 (this includes the fabric I bought at Walmart and the zipper that I got on sale at Joann’s.) Yes, I thought up the color scheme and added the limes. Below you’ll find a picture without the limes (it might be too loud for some of you). I thought the belt and necklace were nice additions.

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And here is the “less loud” version of the dress, sans limes. I like both of them and very pleased with the CHEAP, EASY pattern I found!

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What does the back of my green dress look like? I’m still working on zipper installation techniques.

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But what to do with the leftover pieces of green and lime green fabric?????? I sewed it all together almost like a quilt sheet. I used every single scrap of leftover green material from my dress above and sewed it into one big, random block. Now I will use this material to make a little girl’s dress.

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And here goes:

And the finished result with pink sleeves and a pink peter pan collar? Well it can’t be perfect when you’re using a block of randomly sewn leftover fabric together. But hey, it’s fun! And here is a “setting sleeves in the round” tutorial, if you’re a visual learner and would like to see how I made and “set in” the sleeves. (Note, this tutorial is actually for me to refer to).

 

CABBAGE STEW RECIPE

And how about some Liberian Cabbage stew, since it’s green month?

We used this recipe but omitted the maggi bouillon cubes (used our own seasoning combo as seen below) and only used chicken instead of the 3 forms of meat typically required for this African recipe.

Liberian Cabbage Stew Recipe

Always cook a pot of rice to go with your stew. And for the love of god, don’t use a rice cooker!! This isn’t rocket science, all you need is a pot.

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When the stew is all cooked it will look red because of the tomato paste. It tastes really delicious and is fairly healthy, all things considered.

 

HAPPY GREEN MONTH! HAPPY ST. PATRICKS DAY!

SIMPLE MINI CHOCOLATE GANACHE CAKE FOR VALENTINE’S DAY!!!

SIMPLE MINI CHOCOLATE GANACHE CAKE FOR VALENTINE’S DAY!!!

I’ve found myself so busy with everyday life that I decided to stop doing Facebook. What do I mean? I mean, I decided I needed a break. No. I wouldn’t use it that much, just when breastfeeding. I would stop scrolling through all the posts and reading comments and getting agitated or curious.

I really do like any post that makes me think or inspires some sort of thoughtful cognitive application. I love being involved in clarifying discourse.  I like the smart people on Facebook who fight battles with their intellect and knowledge. I like being the spectator. I enjoy posts that prick at me, or bother me, and I like ones that inspire me too. I really love them all–(except memes with cute animals or any uncreative “reshare” post.)

BUT….this was taking WAY too much time and removing me from things that I wanted to accomplish, like blog, write, sew, bake, paint… work on my online course–anything more productive that Facebook.

The list of things I want to try grows by the day and I find myself overwhelmed with ideas and unable to tackle any of them. Having two children is great because it really gets you thinking of all the things you could be doing or learning–meanwhile, I’ve got a bucking bronco and I’m trying to change his diaper as he runs off screaming mid-diaper change EVERY SINGLE TIME.

On this blog I like to post what I’m doing; what I just whipped up–even if it’s a bit boring or “imperfect”. What else are you going to blog about if you can’t fit it into your “everyday happenings”, right?

With Valentine’s Day coming up very soon, I thought I’d share a pic of a cake I recently made.

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This is a simple little Valentine’s Day Cake. I thought this one up but I’m sure there are a million similar versions out there.

Instead of using a big cake pan (like the big one pictured below) I used the two little ones.

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I used the recipe off the back of this Hershey’s Cocoa powder box:

Very easy.

Once the chocolate cake was baked and cooled in the fridge, I whipped up a chocolate ganache (there are a million recipes on the internet). I just used the ones with heavy whipping cream, chocolate chips and light corn syrup.

I made a raspberry filling. I cooked up red raspberries in a little pot with a squeeze of lemon juice and some sugar and corn starch.

Then I made a little raspberry heart shape on the top of the ganache (once the ganache had hardened).

 

Let your imagination take you away this Valentine’s Day!

 

 

FELT IS SO FUN!!!! HOW TO USE IT?

FELT IS SO FUN!!!! HOW TO USE IT?

For a while now I have been experimenting with felt and its sundry uses. You know, that plush, soft, fuzzy stuff that is made from PLASTIC BAGS??!! YES! RECYCLED PLASTIC BAGS! You can get it in sheets at your local fabric store or even places like Michaels, Walmart or Hobby Lobby–usually $1-$1.50 per sheet. I buy a ton when it goes down to 50 cents a sheet at Joann Fabrics.

It looks kind of like this. Always keep a bag of cut-up scraps. Also, have your glue gun handy. This is how I attach cut felt pieces together.

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Felt is bright and colorful. It’s durable and fun to cut up and use! You can sew it on things. (I cut up my husband’s old shirts and turn them into boy shirts). I finish them off with felt appliques that I design, cut out and sew on. Here are 3 (toddler) boy shirts I made from scratch this week.  2 of them have felt applications. You can see my felt elephant and palm tree.

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You can also make a FELT BOARD as I like to call it. It reminds me of the flannel graph board that was used by missionaries and in Sunday schools in the 70’s and 80’s. I took an old canvas and covered it with the non-slip stuff that you put under rugs. This non-slip material was being stored in a closet and not being used….so why not?

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Then you staple it on a canvas or board and put a bunch of velcro pieces on it. Children who haven’t watched a ton of television like to stick the felt pieces on the board and make up stories.

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Like this:

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You can also make your own fun felt books as I have here:

Felt is so much fun! Cutting it out and making your own creations with a glue gun is one of my favorite things to do. Bonus: the kids get a new thing to play with!

 

 

 

What to do with OLD LEFTOVER RICE/QUINOA?

What to do with OLD LEFTOVER RICE/QUINOA?

Alright, so just a quickie here. Nothing too exciting.

Do you ever have 1,2…3 day old rice or quinoa in your fridge and you’re not sure what to do with it? You feel bad about wasting it so you just let it sit there, but then you eventually toss it out. Or…you make unhealthy fried rice.

That’s what I’ve always done. It gets kind of stale and sometimes the birds will eat it if I season it correctly.

What if I could just eat it? I’m always a sucker for trying things that save money.

Maybe, one day when you’re good and brave like me, you can revive it…transform it into Jambalaya or West African Jolof Rice.

My family *DOES NOT* like this kind of food, but I happen to LOVE it;
so here goes..just for my taste buds.

So grab some of the ingredients pictured below. These are what I had on hand…(oh, and maybe a slice of bacon or two and some extra diced tomatoes sitting in your fridge if they happen to be there..). It’s really not a big deal.

On the stove, heat your olive oil on medium-low. Add your diced up Anaheim chili pepper, diced onion and grated carrot. Saute a bit.

Toss in some diced up sausage and/or bacon. Sprinkle seasoning. Throw in your refrigerated leftover rice and/or quinoa (I used both). Sprinkle olive oil into the mixture as it Cooks on the stove top.

Super easy and done!

A plate full of Jambalaya from OLD rice and Quinoa. Hey, it actually tasted fine. But even better? It was healthier than some other options and I used everything that I already had on hand.

Don’t eat the rice past a few days.

If you want to transform older rice into a Jolof-style, you can add a tablespoon or two of tomato paste into the olive oil as it’s cooking/almost beginning to fry/just getting hot.

Once you cook the tomato paste in the oil for a minute or two, add the leftover rice or quinoa and add a sprinkling of water. (You have to experiment as it depends on how much leftover rice you have–so go easy on the water– and you don’t want it to turn soggy, just slightly moist and revived.) You can add veggies that you have cooked in another pot or sauce pan to the red/Jolof rice. You can add fried meats or fish too.

No. It’s not gonna taste like the authentic Ghanaian Jolof rice, or the Thieboudienne (red rice and fish) from Senegal. But it works if you’re in a pinch for dinner.

You’re a Blogger? Just Who do you think you are?

I think every blogger or online creator has thought these thoughts. Who am I to think that I could be somebody? Who am I to think so highly of myself to think that I should be heard? Compared to everyone else, I’m nobody. I’m not some expert, published writer/author, or someone who is part of the elite or celebrity class of online creators.

And you know exactly what I’m going to say next: Anyone who became a prominent online Creator or blogger started somewhere–usually at the bottom. Some people have long paths ahead of them to get where they want to go. Some have to work at it much harder than others just to amass a small following. Life isn’t fair. Some people have naturally superior writing ability and creative prowess than others. They will have an advantage.

When we glance around online, we typically only see the “big ones”; those who have accumulated huge followings. So we are immediately shown a distorted view of things and how success and “progress” actually work.

Anyone who has become successful at anything has given it lots of awkward efforts. There have been tons of bumps and slumps along the way. If you’re lucky, you’ll get one or two people coming back to “check up on your blog”. Most of your spectators will simply move on, finding nothing valuable or intriguing with your content. No snow ball effect just yet. But it can happen. It just takes a certain threshold. 

Really though. You know why you’re blogging and that’s all that matters. You just LOVE it. Some people build stock portfolios and study the markets, some build sand castles and you build blog posts. You enjoy the creative process. All those feeble attempts to find just the right word. You like the integration of writing and pictures. You like the fact that even if you’re often dull and bland at least you’re “working on your writing ability”. Maybe when you’re 50 you can publish a book.

Recently the Mega Millions Jackpot was at 1.5 billion. Do you know what that means? It means that despite people constantly ‘hatin’ on the rich–all those “Wall Street Traders”–all those evil one-percenters–people actually don’t hate the idea of becoming rich themselves.  It’s not fair when other people have significantly more money that I do. Buuuut, when I win the lottery? All bets are off.

The numbers in lottery ticket sales are undeniable. People may hate rich people and think that it’s terribly unfair but they certainly don’t hate the idea that they might get rich. The evidence is in our behavior. Buying lottery tickets is a behavior. Let’s be honest. The majority of humans would have a surprised, pleasant feeling if they suddenly awoke and were in control of over 1.5 billion dollars–even if it was just to give away.

On a different note, I would love to make lots of money on my blog. So would you. Anyone would! But you know what? Unlike the random, “free” nature of the lottery (i.e. you only invest a few bucks to get a chance to win tons), it’s the market that will ultimately determine whether I EVER MAKE ANY MONEY ON MY BLOG. It’s also the effort, time and consistency that I put into it.  It’s the customer–the reader (or skimmer)–who determines whether they are interested in my (your) content. That said…

My goal isn’t to amass an enormous following and then suddenly be “restricted by my readers/followers as to what I can write”. I want to be able to write and post my creations for me.

I don’t want to feel like I have to censor myself for fear I’ll lose followers along the way. This is a struggle that many bloggers experience. If you’re not big yet, you may start to become big because of one blog post.  You’ll find that you have to reduce your blogging because your future blog posts may not all appeal to your current subscribers/followers. You’ll have lots of ideas slamming themselves into your consciousness, but then you’ll have to weigh them against your audience. Will they approve? Probably not.

You don’t want this to happen. Blogging is free. It’s a fun hobby where you get to polish up on your writing and communication, a skill that is considered invaluable in today’s attention economy. You get to weave your creativity and pictures into your posts.

I want my blog to be a grassroots process. That is, interested patrons coming back regularly because they are legitimately intrigued by my content…or how far I’ve gone (or not). It’s only just recently that readers are finding my blog via search engines–Bing and Google. This is completely new for me. I consider this progress! Now, if I can just retain those readers. 🙂

I POSTED AN AD FOR A BABYSITTER ON CRAIGSLIST for $10 an hour

I POSTED AN AD FOR A BABYSITTER ON CRAIGSLIST for $10 an hour

When you have children, lots of things change. The biggest thing, for me, has been my thinking. You start to value certain things more—like your time and your freedom. But this has a ripple effect; you start to value your money, your food and all your resources even more.

I think it’s because, as a mother, you’re working much, much harder than ever before. You’re doing ALL the clean-up, housework, diapers, baths, laundry, grocery shopping (maybe with a couple exceptions), bedtimes, meals and meal clean-up (don’t even get me started) and middle-of-the night feedings.

If you are lucky and privileged enough to get a babysitter or childcare worker to watch your children a couple times a month, it’s just heavenly. You can take a break from all the constant chaos that assaults your reasoning faculties—even if it’s just for a few hours.

Additionally, you’re probably looking for more educational opportunities. You know how detrimental– how disadvantageous it is to have gaps on your resume! And there’s lots of proof to back this up.

As a SAHM, you want to find ways to stay afloat in the career world once your children are in all-day school. Boring, repetitive labor makes you want to do less of it. Once you get the opportunity to do ANYTHING ELSE, you really can sink into it, value it and fully appreciate it.

You realize that your precious life is being replaced by labor. It dawns on you how valuable time is—how valuable your time is. Children are important treasures; no one ever said otherwise. Until robot children make their grand entrance, children really are our future, so I agree, we all should be investing in them!

But…it’s all the drudgery and clean-up that makes the situation different. Sure, there are some people who are quite fine with ignoring all the messes and letting them build-up for years in their homes while they instill Shakespearian prose and Euclidian geometry into their young one’s minds, but I’m not one of them. I can’t think when everything is in disarray.

We have moved a few times in the past couple years—from Washington state, To Europe, back to Oregon and now Alaska. I haven’t been able to make friends or establish a social community. I’m not part of a church. And, let me repeat, I don’t have friends in my city.

My Mother, a fervent Fundamentalist Christian whom I love dearly suggested that I “Join a church and I would meet nice ladies who would offer to help out with the childcare.”
But then I imagined having to explain myself: “So, what drew you to our church?” Me: “Oh, I’m not at all religious or a church-goer—I just joined for the free childcare”. You know how that would go–they would all embrace me non-judgmentally and welcome me into the fold without trying to convert me, or not.

The only solution I could summon was to look for a babysitter online. I needed someone for 3-8 hours each week–max and I couldn’t guarantee a set schedule. And what did I do? I first looked on Facebook but couldn’t find much there. In fact, what I did find on Facebook were TONS OF MOTHERS IN MY COMMUNITY LOOKING FOR CHILDCARE AND BABYSITTERS. Not exactly helpful.

I absolutely didn’t want to start an account like Care.com. You have to pay a monthly fee just to get in touch with possible caregivers/babysitters. And, I’ve heard they make it difficult to terminate your account. Not only that, but you’re going to pay a ton for the average sitter that you find. Some of them are asking for $15 to $20 an hour.

I’ve become a bit of a free market capitalist over the past few years. The free market is a better place to go even when finding something like a babysitter. You are probably just as competent to check references and “get a reliable candidate” as anyone else—you might even be pickier in the selection process. After all, they’re your children, you won’t be taking any chances.

WHAT DID I DO?

I posted an ad on Craigslist. Craigslist is free and super easy to use. At this point, you’re probably thinking I’m insane. “What? You posted an ad on Craigslist for a babysitter?” Yes. Yes I did.

But this didn’t happen without spending some time to think about what I was doing. Do people do this? Has anyone else thought about doing this before? I started by perusing Craigslist ads. I wanted to get acquainted with the market.

I only found one Mom who had thought of my idea to post an ad on craigslist. She was looking for someone to babysit her 3 young children. In her ad she said that she was a Christian mother willing to pay $10 an hour and expected all 3 of her little children all in diapers (because she had a set of baby twins and a 2 year old) to be taken care of as well as the bathrooms cleaned once a week and the house kept clean. She wanted a resume, 3 professional references and (obviously) to meet up first in a public venue for an interview.

I thought her ad was a bit over-the-top. What cretin would accept only $10 an hour to babysit 3 children, clean bathrooms and maintain a clean house? That’s like asking for a caregiver and a janitor ALL IN ONE—for only $10 bucks an hour. Would anyone do this? Taking care of young children and keeping things clean is an overwhelming amount of work.

For a week I thought about her ad. What a greedy BIT—um, person. If I post an ad, I won’t be greedy. I’ll say, “I’m giving you $14 an hour to take care of 2 children and you don’t have to do any cleaning.”

But I kept thinking about this woman’s ad. It was a very bold. After a while it began to dawn on me. What if she wasn’t (necessarily) greedy but just understood economics better than I did? I realized that when you post an ad its probably better to start at a LOWER hourly rate than a HIGHER one.

You want to test the market—see if anyone responds. If no one responds to the ad, there’s your answer: you’re low-balling and no one will be interested in the offer. That is, there is no one in the market who will don their services for the price you’re offering. Alternatively, if you offer too much $$ you’ll be slammed with responses. Sorting through them will be a labor in itself.

I decided to start with a very simple ad for a babysitter: “I Will pay $10 an hour for a babysitter. If interested, please contact me and we can plan on meeting at a public location for an interview.”

Once I posted the ad, all hell broke loose

I received an overwhelming number of interested candidates. I had no idea SO many people were looking for work. I received a surprising number of male candidates which I promptly dismissed.

I only respond to female candidate because I tend to trust them more around my children.

I wanted to zero in on the best candidates, so I looked at female candidates with resumes, references and descriptions of what kind of childcare experience they had. I kept these in my inbox and thought about it for a few days.

I had my first interview with a lady whom we’ll call Molly. I met her at Barnes and Nobel. She was there right on time with her resume and references in hand and pressed and polished for our meeting. It felt very odd being the one to “hire” someone.

I thought she was a good fit until I learned that she didn’t have a car and would depend on public transport. The bus stop closest to our house was over 3 miles away. So anytime she babysat, I would have to pick her up from the bus stop. We both decided that she wasn’t a good fit.

I few days later, after being slammed by yet more interested candidates, I met with another young lady at a coffee shop. She was very sweet, professional and ready for the interview. She, too, had references and a resume. After our meeting, I knew she was the one. It’s just one of those gut feelings. I would still go and check up on her references before I decided to have her start.

Would I Recommend Finding A Babysitter on Craigslist?

Absolutely!

All you have to do is:

1. Meet any/all your prospective candidates at a public venue before you decide to exchange phone numbers or even emails.

2. Have your candidate come with a printed resume and a printed list of references. You will also come with your own 6th sense, intuition and brain as you interview your candidate.

3. Always ask your candidate if they have reliable transportation.

4. Ask your candidate about the last place they worked, how long they have been looking for work and if they plan to find other jobs in the meantime (I was only looking for a few hours of sitting each week, so I encourage my candidate to continue to look for work and that “I would work around her schedule”)

5. After you’ve met your candidate and you think you have a possible fit, go home and check references and review the resume with your husband/significant other.

6. Interview at least 2-3 of the best candidates you come across. You want to get an idea of the different kinds of personalities out there and which ones might work best with your children.

7. Have your preferred candidate come over to your house for a test-run. Let them babysit your children for 1 hour, maybe 2 (at most!). You can even be in another room in the house working on another project while she babysits.

8. Ask your children what they thought about the new babysitter.

We found a terrific candidate (FOR FREE) using this process! Craigslist is free. Care.com is not. You’re going to be much more selective for your children than ANYONE ELSE.
We found an amazing babysitter who is real Alaskan—3rd generation—not some recent transplant like ourselves. Her father is a native fisherman and she even brings us FREE seafood—crab, halibut and salmon.

We are so lucky to have found her! She is the ultimate baby whisperer.

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If you use the method I’ve delineated above, you won’t have trouble finding a good, reliable babysitter.

What did I learn from my Craigslist Post?

The major thing I learned from my post was that there are TONS of people willing to work for $10 an hour. LOTS. I can’t emphasize this enough. If I had advertised the position for $14 an hour, my computer would have blown up, truly.

I learned that you trust your intuition when reading through all the (anonymous) craigslist email responses. Only respond to the few that seem to stand out as “good” and “honest” candidates. In addition to a resume, references and a cover letter, my babysitter went to the trouble to send a link to her personal Facebook page so that I could get to know her and see her activities there. She came across as very transparent and honest.