Monday, June 8, 2009

Moving Right Along

Our deck has been finished for two weeks. This weekend, I got all my planters planted, and got some new cushions for my old patio furniture (which we're keeping for a while anyway, even though we got new fancy stuff last week). But! I had good intentions of pseudo live-blogging our deck building, so you'll have to wait for a little while longer for finished pictures.

Hank was very disturbed when the old deck was taken away:

You guys? Seriously. This is dumb. I am not amused.

This is what the foundations of a deck look like. It's a little hard to see, but there are a bunch of concrete footings in there, then landscaping paper and tons of gravel, to minimize under-deck weed growth. The precision with which they laid out that gravel was sort of impressive.

And here's the framing. Pretty cool, right? I really enjoyed watching this get laid out.

Here we have the decking laid out, and the posts for the rails. We sprang for Trex decking - from the Brasilia line, if you are curious - then the white stuff is just heavy-duty PVC. Trex is a PVC & wood composite material that is virtually maintenance-free. You just have to keep it clean. No staining, ever. Love it. We did treated pine for the railings (though the posts are cedar). The vertical surfaces don't get the same wear and tear from the weather as the horizontal surfaces, so you don't have to retreat them as frequently. Plus, painting some railings every two years or so isn't as daunting as the whole deck.

Coming soon: the finished deck!

Friday, May 1, 2009

Starting the Summer Off Right

When we bought our house, the deck was already beyond saving. Some people, who knew enough to build a deck, but not enough to really do it right, built this one. I don't think they used treated wood, they painted it at least once, but never touched it again. It even made Hank sad.

The previous owners were nice enough to leave us their really sweet picnic table, which Hank claimed as his own.

We used this shot for a Christmas card. It said "From our happy home to yours, Merry F'n Christmas." My mother didn't really approve, but I got some serious raves from others I sent it to. As soon as we moved in, Hank was up on that table, checking things out. He is only allowed on our couch - no bed, and obviously, he isn't allowed up on our kitchen table. I think he knew that the table was too crappy to be considered furniture.
Seriously, Why didn't that tree land on the damn deck? I can't complain too much, though, because the resulting repairs fixed a lot of things inside the house that we might not have ever touched.

But, back to the table. Even though Hank found value, it wasn't really usable. They left it, I think, because there is virtually no way to get rid of it. Even though garbage will pick up one large piece of furniture a week, they will not take a picnic table. We had some other work done in our yard, and we asked them to take the table. They said they would. They didn't. So, here it sat.
See the lovely deck? The quality craftsmanship? I know, I'm crazy for hating it.
I love this. I have no idea why this little square is cut-out and lowered. It just adds to the character of the deck. Yeah. "Character." Lovely stairs. Ugh.

But, now, we have this:Ah. It's like a breath of fresh air. No table. No rotting deck. Of course, we also can't use the door, but whatevs. It isn't exactly clean, but it is better than what was there. Although, I always thought the house looked kind of big from this angle, and now it looks so tiny. Our big, lovely sliding doors now look so small and lonely.

Today, they're pouring concrete and putting in the posts. They told me they'll start framing on Monday. Woo! Soon, it will be AWESOME. Then, I have to start working on Mr to let me get a new kitchen.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Me as Modern Art

Niobe had a link to this cool site that will make a faux-Mondrian image of you, based on your answers to several questions.

While I am far from a fan of modern art or design, I really like my Mondrian. We are getting a new deck soon (demo this week!) and I think I might use this as a bit of a guide in choosing my patio furniture.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Girls' Guide: Icing

In honor of the Blackhawk's win in the first game of the playoffs, I thought I'd republish part of a post from my old blog (though edited a bit, for style and I felt like I left a few things out). Enjoy.

I am a hockey fan, without a doubt, yet am still confused by some of the rules. Can you explain what "icing" is? Not the cake kind, of course.


I Want To Know About Sports So I Can Be Pretty AND Smart

Dear Pretty & Smart,

Icing. The official definition: When both teams have an even number of players on the ice, and one player shoots the puck from behind the center line and it cross the opponent's goal line but does not go into the goal.

The key to this rule is that the puck crosses both the center line and the goal line without being touched and is then received by an opposing player. It is considered a delaying tactic and results in a stop in play and a faceoff in the offending team’s defensive zone.

The interesting this about the icing rule is that it is not based on fair play. It was established to make sure hockey games were fun to watch. If a team was up against a much stronger team, they might resort to pure defense, simply shooting the puck up the ice every chance they got, which would not be fun to watch. If a team was ahead late in a game, they might also try this tactic to waste time, especially if the score was still close. Icing requires that both teams play aggressive offense, which is way more fun to watch.

The rule was modified prior to the start of the 2005–2006 NHL season to further discourage the offending team from "icing the puck." A team which has iced the puck is not allowed to substitute any players before the next faceoff. Teams often would ice the puck to stop the game when they needed to swap out tired players for fresh ones. The NHL made the change in an attempt to speed up game play, hoping the added consequence would reduce icing.

I hope that helps clear things up a little bit.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Ellie the Sock Elephant

I finished my very first sock elephant and I'm happy to say, she no longer looks like an imperial walker. Well, not much anyway. I'm fairly confident in saying that my first elephant is a bigger success than my first monkey. She can even stand up all by herself:

She's got a good face, too.

It took a bit of wrangling to get her trunk to look less like a penis. Seriously. At first, I was sort of afraid to work on it on the train. I mean, the last thing the morning commuters want to see is a weird sock-penis.

She's got a funny little butt, too. What do you think of her tail? I'm not sure what elephant tails really look like. The pattern's helpful suggestion was "make a short roll of material and sew in place." I did sort of a short tube from a scrap, and I tried to sew it on so that it would hang down, not straight out. It ended up sort of halfway in between.

She sits, too. For some reason, I couldn't flip this picture around. It's cute sideways, too.

This weekend I sewed three more rockford red heel animal bodies: a monkey, another elephant and a dachshund. I'm very excited about the dachshund.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Sock Elephant in Progress

I started working on a sock elephant. Thus far, it is going remarkably well, though it currently resembles something from Star Wars.

Imperial Walker:

Imperial Sock Walker:

Part of it is that the legs are a little too long for the body, and part of it is the weird shape of the head. I think i put the mouth on a little too close to the front. I think it might look better totally on the bottom of the head.

At the moment, the trunk is looking like a penis. If I can't figure out a way to fix that, this guy will stay an Imperial Walker. Do you think there is a market for Star Wars memorabilia made from socks? Will George Lucas sue me? I'm following Rockford Red Heel Socks' pattern. It's not like I set out to infringe on someone's copyright.

The pattern is possibly the most poorly-written pattern EVER. It is the original Rockford Red Heel Sock Elephant pattern that comes with every pair of socks (along with their equally difficult to understand monkey pattern).

It seems the Rockford company now exists solely to sell socks for monkeys. This amazon link also shows BLUE socks, which would obviously make awesome elephants. I'd never seen those before. The instructions that are included are, I think, intentionally folksy and poorly written. If I hadn't found a better pattern, I would never have understood how to follow this pattern.

If you want to learn about making sock animals, Stupid Sock Creatures has a myriad of awesome techniques. He claims you can do it without a sewing machine, but I doubt it. It would take a LOT of very careful stitching to make the body pieces tight enough so that stuffing didn't leak out. I love his creations. They are ugly but adorable and really creative.

This is the pattern I followed for my first monkey. It has a lot of pictures, and very clear instructions. You can check out my first attempt here. My second try was vastly improved.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

I Want It

Someone should buy this for me. It is awesome. It is a mini filing cabinet for business cards. If you wanted, you could get me just about anything from, and I would love it.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Birthday Monkey

Before Paddy, there was this little guy. A good friend was turning 30 and I felt like she needed something more than our normal birthday tradition of sushi and a pedicure (pedicure first, and then sushi. Not at the same time). Baby socks are tough to use, because they're so small. The arms and legs are so little, they're difficult to stuff, and it is a careful balance of getting enough stuffing in there without overfilling and making them rock-hard.

Baby socks make the sweetest monkeys, however, as you can tell from this little dude's sweet face. He looks ready for a night of drinking, right? Because I finished it the day of (hey, I'm not a planner, ok? I'm not good at getting things done ahead of time.), we didn't have a lot of time for an extensive photo shoot. We did get a chance to take a shot with Hank, though.

Hank is thinking, "why are you putting this guy in my face if I can't tear him apart? Why do you torture me!?!"

I like the little tip of his tail is gray - part of a new technique I'm using that gives the monkeys a little bit longer tails. I also like how he's got a little crook in his leg. Almost like those Captain commercials. I didn't think monkeys like rum...

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Paddy McPolish

When I first started making monkeys, McPolish instantly said "I want one!" I figured her 30th birthday was as good excuse as any. When I saw these beer socks, I knew I had found a good match. Meet Paddy:

Paddy, like many of my monkeys, has an endearingly crooked smile. His arms also seem to hook at a jaunty angle. This guy is ready to bust out a jig at a moment's notice.

My only complaint is on the corner of his face - I couldn't get that little corner of felt to lie flat, so matter what I did. You can only sew felt so many times before it starts falling apart, so I had to let it go. But it bugs me a tad.

A close up, from his good side:

Happy Birthday, Molly!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Sleepy Guy

This guy was a request from a lady at work. He's got a night-themed sock. The lighting at work really washes out the color. He's a muted blue-gray, but not quite this muted.

I like his little pink nose. For some reason, he ended up with a really stiff body. I think he'll soften in time. The sock was a little odd. I couldn't get it to fill completely. I had to open him up and add more stuffing three times, just to get his tail to look right. I never did get the little corners out of his head.

Stuffing is tricky, because too much gives you a hard doll. Too little and they sag and fall apart. He isn't hard - just very upright.

I meant to crop the tacky silver Christmas tree out of the shot. It added a lot of cheer to my drab little cube, though. :) As do my cacti and picture of Hank as a pup.

This monkey is one of the first to go unnamed. Maybe because I didn't know the person getting him, he ended up a little generic in my head.

I like this shot - their tails are functional, and help them sit upright.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Weird Little Monkey

I started this guy for my nephew, and stopped because there was something not right about him. I still can't quite put my finger on it. It's like he's been around the block a few times. He's tired and I knew he couldn't handle a two-year old.

When I found out that one of my aunts was sick, I didn't really know what to do. There's not much I could do to help, and I realized that, if I were in her shoes, I would just want to know people were thinking of me. So, this guy went to live with my aunt and help her recuperate. He likes to just hang out and chill. She seemed more his pace. I added a little heart to his chest, because he's got a lot of love to give, and sent him on his way.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Martha & Eddie

Gene (scroll down a bit) was my first and, obviously, best monkey. I loved the pattern of those socks so much that, when a colleague was pregnant with twins, I made twin monkeys in the same pattern. Meet Martha & Eddie:

Though I grew to love Gene's embroidered eyes, at this point, I still felt buttons were best. I make all my monkeys with embroidered eyes now because I do think they have more personality than buttons. But, I think Martha & Eddie somehow work better with buttons. I love them.

There's just something special about them, especially Martha. For some reason, she looks like a five year old kid to me.

Eddie is more of a doll than a kid, but a doll a girl could go climb a tree with. Which is what I would do with him, were I not on the brink of 30 and without a good climbing tree.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Poetry in Real Life

When I was working on my master's degree, I took a class in teaching poetry. Though I personally dislike poetry, I really loved this class. I think I liked it because I have never really gotten poetry. Little limericks are funny, but unless it rhymes and is clever, what's the point? Wouldn't it be easier to just say what you mean?

Forcing myself to figure out what it means, and finding a way to explain that to others made me appreciate poetry a little more.

One of the wonderful forms of poetry that I didn't know about before I took this class was the villanelle. From Wikipedia:

A villanelle is a poetic form which entered English-language poetry in the 1800s from the imitation of French models.[1] A villanelle has only two rhyme sounds. The first and third lines of the first stanza are rhyming refrains that alternate as the third line in each successive stanza and form a couplet at the close. A villanelle is nineteen lines long, consisting of five tercets and one concluding quatrain. [2]
That sounds complex and doesn't make any sense, right? Well, one of the very clever people in my class found this comic strip, which explains it in a lovely entertaining way. (It's by Cat and Girl, which is lovely and entertaining. Sometimes the link seems to go to a random page. So, I'm trying to put the strip in here. If you can't read it, go to Cat & Girl's archives and search for "sandwich" I believe it is called "sandwich are cheap.")

This is all a long way of saying that it warmed the cockles of my English Lit heart to hear that someone at Planet Money wrote a villanelle about the economy. Awesome.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Moncow & Silverbutt

Sadly, these are the only shots I have of these guys. I made both of them with the intention of selling them on Etsy. Before I could get pictures, a friend wanted to buy one. I brought her both, and she ended up buying both (not little Pete, of course).

This guy was dubbed Moncow, because he is a monkey sock, but she thought he looked like a cow. He was so popular, I ended up making a replica for a friend.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Burt the Busy Bee Monkey

I made this guy for my boss, who's baby is now about eight weeks. I'm a little slow in posting. She's named him Burt. He's got the sweetest little fat belly. I love it.

I thought the yellow and black might be obnoxious on his face, but nothing else seemed right. I think he turned out pretty sweet.

The blanket stitch around his face is more consistent than some of my past work, which I love. My smiles seem to be getting more crooked as I go. So far, the results are endearing. I'm hoping they shape up, though, before it starts looking like I have a drinking problem.

I think my signature is starting to look like I enjoy a few too many cocktails.

Oddly enough, Burt is built a lot like me, with long legs and a short torso. Look at him compared to the argyle monkey.

I must have cut the legs funny or something. It's strangely endearing, though. He looks like a little brother, all proud to be with his big sister.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Argyle Monkey

This monkey was made for my friend's niece. Her mom said she liked pink, so I wanted to find a fun pattern. I think the argyle is a little unexpected fun.

I used a light pink embroidery floss for her trimmings, which match the light pink diamonds in the argyle. You can see the blanket stitch around the felt better in person. I like her little crooked smile.

For some reason, the felt on her face reads shiny on camera, but it isn't in person. It looks closer in color to somewhere in between the dark and light pinks.

I always put my initials on the monkey's butt. They're easy enough to remove with a seam ripper if someone didn't like them. Someday, I would like to get little tags that I could sew into the tail seam or something, but I haven't found anything small enough that I could personalize.

The only pitfall with this monkey is that the socks were super stretchy. The elastic in them shines in the flash of the camera, so it is a little exaggerated, but the white areas in the belly are where the sock has stretched so you can sort of see the filling. It doesn't affect the monkey's durability, it just bothers me. I'm on the hunt for the perfect sock.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Canine Coat: Hank is a Frat Boy

I have always wanted to know how to sew. My mom used to make her own clothes in high school, and I always thought that was such a cool idea. She tried to teach me once, and I made a truly horrific red t-shirt. It didn't fit well, it was a woven fabric, not a knit, and it was hard. So, it wasn't until I inherited my aunt's sewing machine that I decided to try and teach myself. Of course, the sewing machine I inherited had not been touched in over 20 years, and the repair shop said it was hopeless. They let me trade it in for some money off another machine, and I got a refurbished Pfaff. It isn't as high-end as the Pfaff I gave them, but it worked, which was a big plus.

I had a book on how to make curtains and I made these little cafe curtains for the kitchen. Then I went out and bought a bolt of fabric to make drapes for the dining room (which is really not a separate room, but it is where the table is). I still have not made those drapes. I have a table now, which will make it easier, but the table isn't as long as the drapes will be, and I'm more than a little worried that it's just too much fabric.

Thinking I needed to know more basics I bought a book: S.E.W: Sew Everything Workshop by Diana Rupp. It's a pretty good basics guide and has a couple of quick projects to get you started. For Christmas this year, I got Sew U: Home Stretch by Wendy Mullin which is about sewing with knits. It is interesting, but not nearly as good. For one thing, she constantly refers to her first book. Instead of explaining something she'll say "for more on X, check out my first book." It's a little annoying.

But! This weekend, I took a project from SEW - a doggie coat - and used some of the advice in the Home Stretch to make a coat for Hank out of one of my husband's old sweatshirts. He was going to throw it away anyway, and I worry about Hank getting too cold on our walks. Generally, I think dogs do not need clothing, especially dogs the size of Hank. However, the high this coming Wednesday is supposed to be around 9, and that is cold.

So, here's the coat.
The coat goes over his shoulders and attaches under his collar with a snap. I added a fake button to the front there, because the back of the snap is kind of ugly. There's another strap that goes under his belly and snaps on the other side. For that, I took a portion of the sleeve. So, for the snap I just sliced open the cuff and attached it so you can't see it on the outside. The sleeve is a little floppy, but the fit seems to be ok.

The pattern in the book actually tells you to make your own pattern. Rupp has a little dog, so she lists what measurements to take and how to make a pattern. I don't have pattern paper, but I did have a big roll of paper from when we were painting the house, and that worked pretty well. I just gave Hank a little piece of cheese whenever I needed a measurement, and he was happy to help. Here he is, modeling:

Hank is not used to flash photography. He blinked. You can see that I over compensated for him moving a little during measurements. The front overlaps a little too much and hangs down a touch. On the sleeve/strap, I left a little too much room and it flops away from his body. Hank doesn't seem to mind. Possibly because he has never worn clothes before.

He did a good job on the next pose.

So sassy. You can't see really well in this picture, but I took the collar off the sweatshirt and reattached it after I cut out the coat shape. That was a little annoying, but it lent a more finished look, I think.

Again, I wanted positive associations with this coat, so as I measured where the strap would be and tested the pattern on him (I made a mock coat out of an old sheet first), I kept giving him little pieces of cheese. I did that as he tried it on for the first time and then let him outside. He loves the backyard.
He does not, however love the snow, which is currently about chest-deep on him. He didn't go far or stay out long, but I think he likes his new coat.