Tuesday, July 27, 2010

40 before 40- cushions for the sofa

So, I made some cushions for my sofa. To be fair, I had the fronts of the cushions done a long time ago, but they were sitting in my red chest for months, unfinished, waiting for me to get it together and sew them up. The white, aqua and yellow one was inspired by one I saw done by Emma Lamb, only I didn't have the same colors of yarn she used. I used leftovers from my stash. Oh, and I didn't save a picture of my inspiration, so I was working from my memory of the cushion. It's basically just a ginormous granny square. It was fast and fun to work up. The back I sewed using a thrifted velveteen big shirt in orange. I was able to save the button holes so that I can unbutton the cover, in case I ever want to wash it or replace the insert.

The multi colored one with the small grannies, I pretty much copied directly from Lucy, one of my favorite bloggers and crocheters, from her blog Attic 24. The back is just rounds of half-double crochet in leftover yarn from the front. The front did seem to take forever, but I think that's mainly because with so many colors, there were so many ends to bury. I wasn't able to think of a clever way to make this cushion removable, but each side was sewn separately, so if I ever need to get the insert out, it'll be an easy matter to just undo one side and sew it back up again. I thought about putting a zipper in, but that would have meant a trip to the fabric store. I'd had a certain momentum, working on these and I didn't want to lose that by taking a hour or two (or three- you never know with me and the fabric store) to go to the store.

Monday, July 19, 2010

40 before 40- the Starbucks Challenge

One of my forty goals is to kick the Starbucks habit. At four bucks a time, I've been known to spend thirty dollars a week just on my morning coffee. Not to mention the temptation of muffins or scones, which are both not vegan and very hard for me to resist.

What you see here may not look like much, but it's the key weapon in my struggle to stay out of the Starbucks. It's a Coffee Toddy, the easiest, most convenient way I've ever found to make cold brew coffee concentrate. It's lower in acid than most other ways to brew coffee, so it's also easier on my stomach. I didn't run out and buy this. It's one of those things I've had floating around the house for a while, not getting used much. I've committed to making my own coffee and so I dragged it out of the high cupboard where it used to live. It's really easy to use and surprisingly quick, with a little planning. I buy the coffee pre-ground, rather than having to grind it each morning. It takes about five minutes of effort to set it up to brew, then it sits over night. In the morning, pull the plug in the bottom and ten minutes later, its all drained into the carafe. Throw the used grounds out and then it goes into the dishwasher for cleanup. Yup. Brilliant.

The other thing you see is the best cup for iced coffee ever. Seriously awesome. BPA free. Double walled so it doesn't sweat. With the straw included.

What I do in the morning is pour a couple of ounces of the coffee concentrate into my tumbler, add a four or five ounces of chocolate almond milk, then top everything off with ice. It's not exactly an iced mocha, but it's almost better in my mind. It's got just enough happy inducing chocolate without being so numbingly sweet like the Starbuck's iced mochas. Also, it takes like one tenth the time it does to stop at the Starbucks, wait in line, order, have them make my drink, and pay up.

Best of all, it fits into water bottle cage of my bike and I'm off to work with no fuss.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

time for a new bike bag

I'm probably harder on panniers than the average cyclist. I use them every day, rain or shine. I jam them full of gym clothes, groceries, books from the library, finds from the thrift store. Basically anything and everything I want to haul. A bike is to be used and panniers or some kind of bag and a rack really contribute to their utility. So much so that I can't imagine having a bike without at least some kind of rack even if I intend to use it for nothing but sport riding.

Anyway, my current bag, which is a Detours Toocan in green, a slightly different shade of green than this, is getting really shabby looking. During my dooring adventure a few weeks back, it also acquired a hole in the side. Not a big one, but it's growing. I've had it for maybe three years and it's served me well. It's super convenient because the hard rubber bottom makes it stand up on the floor, table, etc and the mouth opens wide for filling it up with my various junk.

This time though I want something pretty. Something cheerful. Most bike panniers are unrelentingly utilitarian, coming in any color you want, so long as it's black. Or black and safety orange. Or alternatively, you can find something pretty but that only carries five pounds of stuff

I've done a little digging and I've come up with a few bags that nicely skirt the grounds between utilitarian and pretty. Bags for people like myself who want to carry more than a loaf of French bread and a bundle of flowers home from the farmers' market, but that still want that kind of romance and cheer in their life. I'm not sure what to get. Why don't you help me pick one out?

First we have the Detours Toocan Juicy Weave. Made by the same people who made my current bag, it's very much exactly like it, only made out of woven, recycled juice boxes. How cool is that?

Next we have the Axiom Town and Country Shopper in navy polka dots. I love navy polka dots! It looks sharp and sporty to me. Sporty in the old sense of "plays tennis and rides horses in the country" kind of sporty.

Basil Mirte Shopper in Rosa/Color mix is maybe my top contender at the moment. It's so bright and it looks like you found it at Cath Kidston only it attaches to your bicycle.

On the other hand, words can hardly convey just how brilliant the Basil Mirte Shopper in Blue/White will look with my light blue bike. And it's just like Delft ware. I love Delft ware.

So, what bag gets your vote?

Friday, July 16, 2010

40 before 40

Last month around my birthday, I wrote about making a list of things I wanted to do before my next birthday. I know this is hardly original, but bear with me, I think it will be valuable to me. One of my bigger faults is that I exist in a state of goalless fuzziness most days. I have things I want to do, to accomplish, but somehow, because I have no real, concrete plans or goals, not a lot gets accomplished most days.

It was harder than I thought, writing this list. Everything had to be concrete, with an actual, measurable result. I didn't want to put vague wishes on the list, like "do more X". The temptation was definitely there to make it all too self-helpish, or alternatively, to make it nothing but a "honey-do" list of things I want to do around the house. I wanted to have fun too. So, after a month of thinking about it (and to be truthful) procrastinating, here is my list of 40 things I want to do before I turn 40. I'll write posts here, detailing my accomplishments, the fun I might have, the improvements I've made.

1. visit Sharon in Milwaukee again

2. get up to the MCA

3. dye my hair- blonde?

4. Finish the quilt

5. Go on a biking camping trip

6. Break my Starbucks habit

7. Do a mini kitchen makeover so I can finally have the kitchen I want

8. Organize my dresser so everything fits, nothing is jammed in

9. See a Shakespeare play

10. Set up a dedicated sewing area in my flat

11. Make one dress a season, four total

12. Have at least one party

13. Finish the tattoo on my arm

14. Read at least one of the “classics I'm catching up with” a month

15. Organize and clean out the red chest

16. Take a painting class

17. Shoot 100 pictures a month

18. Buy my dream bike

19. Make cushions for my sofa

20. See one movie a month in the theater

21. Make a full deal fancy layer cake again

22. Go hiking with my sister

23. Go to bed at the same time as my spouse, pretty much every night

24. Go to the beach, at least once.

25. Make twenty more knitted hats for charity

26. Wallpaper the dining room

27. Wear every item in my closet at least once

28. Kayaking!

29. Have a professional portrait taken of myself and husband

30. Save 50% of what I earn

31. Organize my kitchen cabinets/pantry

32. Put at least 30 more of my books into circulation on “book crossing”

33. Go back to knit club (the first rule about knit club...)

34. Weekly pleasure rides, for as long as weather permits

35. Get involved with the new community garden here

36. Take a glass blowing class

37. Start and keep up a simple, short diary

38. Replace all the boring kitchen stuff with colorful stuff that will make me smile

39. Go to Ravinia for a concert and picnic

40. Go on a picnic, just because.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Public Service Announcement

Seriously folks, if you're on a bike, wear your helmet. I had a little bike accident on Friday night. I was wearing my helmet and I was glad I was. I have no dramatic photos of bruises or skinned knees for you. Most of my aches and pains from the accident are internal (my neck is still out of wack. Chiropractor, here I come!). But I did hit my head and my helmet had a chance to do what they're supposed to.

See, that's the thing about accidents, you can't plan them. You can't decide that you'll always land in such a way that you won't hit your head. They happen so fast, without warning. So, really. Be safe. Wear it. It doesn't matter if it's too hot or if you're just going to be on the bike path. For what it's worth, the worst bike accident I've ever seen was on the bike path, between a cyclist and a pedestrian. Both were taken away in ambulances. Wear a helmet, because you never know when you'll need it.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Why did I never think of this before?

I've worked at the same place for nearly eight years and yet yesterday, I did something I'd never done before. I took my bike out for a ride during my break. I don't know why it never occurred to me in eight years that I could do this. I've been wanting to get more rides into my life. Admittedly, an hour isn't a very long time for a ride, but it's better than not riding at all.

In that precious hour, I got to go for lunch at a place I love but have always considered too far away to go during my break. I did an errand that has been pressing on my mind, but that it seemed like I didn't have time for. And I rode about two or three miles. Awesome. The weather has been fantastic lately, perhaps even a little too cold for my taste, but sunny and fresh, so riding was a pure pleasure. I didn't ride fast, so I arrived back at work just as rested as if I'd sat reading magazines (my usual break time pleasure), not sweaty in the slightest and ready to go back to work. What could have been better?

It makes me think, what other ways have I been unconsciously stuck in my routine, that I could change for the better, just by thinking differently?