Category Archives: General

Digital Break Time

My senses have been assaulted.

Politics has turned the Internet, a fun past-time, into a huge, oppressive black cloud of information suffocating me every day. I’ve gone from “wow,” to “that can’t actually happen,” to “what the fuck,” to now, “what the actual fuck,” to most of the nonstop storm of information and opinions scrolling past me. I care about people, issues and politics very much. I worry about healthcare, immigration, women’s rights, social security, foreign policy, the environment, lost pets, puppies and kittens and the everything else I see. But right now it’s too close, and it’s not healthy. I get information that makes me worry on a very, very basic level — will I have a job and will I be able to pay my bills? I can’t get past that one because there’s absolutely nothing I can do about it except worry.

informed

David Sipress, The New Yorker

I can’t do it anymore. I reached the point where I can’t even watch the evening news. My filters have failed.

The Contents of a Box

I tend to hang on to things that I see as having some value to someone. I like to “fix” things and make them work or be useful again. I’m not to the extreme of being a “hoarder” but I still keep too much stuff with usually good intentions. What generally happens is after a long while the stuff winds up being donated somewhere, which is exactly what I should have done from the start.

This past weekend it was clear, I needed the space in my house that my mom had occupied the last couple of years of her life back, without her or her stuff in it. After she died, I had gotten rid of a lot of things, furniture had been reused elsewhere or stored, but there was still some baggage there, both literally and a little bit emotionally.

So this past weekend I started cleaning. Two do20160513_144113[1]nation loads later of trinkets, her “pretties”, full perfume bottles still in their original boxes, clothing she’d never worn, bed sheets she’d saved for years, blankets, even a fur hat in a beautiful hat box, I found a box I’d forgotten I’d kept. It was all of her makeup. The stuff that she’d touched almost daily for most of her life. She loved her makeup. She loved to put it on and stare at the transformation in the mirror. She bought cream after cream reliving conversations and events of her lost youth and her young, single life. She was always searching for the perfect match to her skin tone, the prettiest blush, or the best lip color, but never really found it. She’d shop for hours at the makeup counters of Macys, or at the drug store. She’d put little smudges of foundation or lipstick on the backs of her hands and look at the colors under the lights all afternoon. She lived for the potential of what the makeup could do for her and the happiness it could potentially bring her. And after she bought it, it took her an hour every day to apply her makeup. She’d sit at her vanity and carefully apply each item, examine how she did, think about what it all meant, and then move to the next thing. She’d smoke a cigarette in between, sip her coffee and have imaginary arguments with the past and people that weren’t there that this makeup would have won over. She didn’t display pictures of me, of family or even her grandson, but she had her makeup, her things and her hopes and dreams.

After dementia had really started to take its toll on her, we moved her to our house. I made a special effort to make sure her pretties came with her, so she would feel connected to something familiar in her new space. We moved her vanity as it was with all her makeup and her things arranged in it, and put them right where she could see them and she could possibly enjoy them. I don’t think she ever did though. She was too far along by then. She rarely bathed in her last few years in her apartment, refused to wash her hair, and couldn’t remember to brush her teeth or when to take her medications. After we moved her, she was bathed by aides, took her medications when we gave them to her, ate when food appeared, and she slept when she was tired. She stopped trying to be pretty on the outside anymore. I don’t think the face in the mirror matched the face she saw in her mind anymore, it was a stranger in the mirror. She mostly sat on her sofa, in a quiet, dark room, by herself, smoking and having her conversations with ghosts.

When she died, I’d just dumped her vanity drawers into a box to get it out of the way. I don’t know why I didn’t throw it away then, but it seemed important to her memory to keep it. It’s who she was. This stuff meant something to her.

There is was, in20160513_122255-1[1] the back of a closet, where it had been for the last five and a half years. I’d already sorted through and donated a lot of her trinkets, her Avon perfume collection, boxes of table cloths, sheets and some of her purse collection that day, and there it was, her makeup. All the things left that she intensely cared about as a younger woman, that defined who she was, that she used ritually for years and years before dementia took over. As I threw all the makeup in a trash bag and stood back and thought about it, I felt sadness and loss. There were hundreds of dollars of things here, money all spent years and years ago, but that wasn’t it. It was the stuff my mother had placed her hopes and dreams of happiness on. I had a realization that she was a really unhappy person who didn’t know how to be anything but unsatisfied with herself or her life.  I also realized how much she was used that unhappiness with others to get the validation and necessities she needed to survive. Her legacy was a box of makeup that couldn’t in death make her any happier or content than she thought it might do for her in life. The feelings I felt looking at that trash bag were completely unexpected.

I don’t regret getting rid of everything, it needed to be done.  Mom’s ashes still occupy a box in the closet. I saved her partial plate, a little black stuffed dog she’d grown attached to in her last years, and a pillow. One day soon, I’m going to gather the family that wants to go, and we’re going to do something with this little bit that’s left. What memories of my mother we have will live on in me, and my son, her brother, nieces and nephews and they are what they are. Sadly, with or without makeup she was unhappy in life, and it’s all she knew how to be, and that’s the memory most of us will have.

Godspeed, mom. I hope you’ve found the happiness there that you could never find here.

Grief

flowersI cried when my son went off to college. I mean CRIED. A lot. I grieved for days.  I still smother him, much to his chagrin, even long distance.

Time moved on.  I got used to him not being home every day.  I talked to him about taking his room for my office and finally moving my work-from-home space out of our finished, but dark, basically windowless basement to upstairs a couple of months ago. He was fine with it.  He knows he’ll always have a place here, a room to himself downstairs when he’s here. I never followed though with the move though. His room, even if he isn’t in it, is still HIS room.  It has been for 21 years.

So as a surprise gift for me today, MartMan spent the whole day taking down the few remaining things our son had left in his room and packing them, taking down his bed and moving it, cleaning everything, and then moving my desk, printer and the things I use to my new office. He set it all up so neatly with a view out the front window, bought me flowers and waited for me to come home.

I love what he did. It’s bright and sunny, there’s not 10 tons of hobby stuff around me, and I’m no longer in the dark basement, where I spent 20+ years when I worked every day from home.  I can open the window and feel a breeze.  I can see outside.

But I sat and cried and cried. CRIED. Again. Then I cried more. My son has been in this room every day of his life from the day his dad and I brought him home from the hospital. 21 years. His crib was in his room. His toddler bed. His bunk bed/futon. His adult bed.

I worried about will he feel comfortable when he comes home for the summer, holidays, weekends? What if he wanted to come home for a while? Will he feel like he doesn’t have a place at here anymore? Will he feel pushed out? I have to keep reminding myself, he’s 21 and does not need me to have a shrine in my house. As long as he has a door, his bed, Internet,  his parents (hopefully), then he’s FINE and it will work out.  This is always home.

On the plus side, MartMan was prepared. He already knew I would sob. You just have to grieve, I guess. And it’s okay to do it.

You would think after you get through the whole kindergarten debacle, you wouldn’t grieve as much.

I Search

I’m not sure why, but I search. It’s in my nature, maybe my DNA. I search for products. I search for places, I search for names on the crime drama shows I watch, I search for people, property, things.

To be fair, a lot of my searching is for work. I have to find companies, property and people. It’s amazing to see the lengths people will go to to hide themselves, their normal and mundane, and their misdeeds; their lives. If I’m lucky, I’ll find what I need to find that’s helpful. I know about bankruptcies, property, tax liens and creditors. I know how people take advantage of their parents. Where is that sister? I know about things people own and don’t want anyone to know they own. I know about real last names and how clever merging makes new identities. I know where folks were born, where they grew up, where they went to school.

I know.  But does it matter?
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Everyone’s life is like a giant puzzle. Some folks have a clear picture of what they’re putting together. My personal puzzle is fuzzy and indistinct. It’s like trying to put together a picture of fog. I can find the facts, but that doesn’t tell me the why or where the facts go. Some of other people’s pieces may fit with pieces in my puzzle, but I don’t know why they fit. So what if I know random facts?  I still can’t put them in my puzzle in any way that it makes sense.

I feel like I deserve to have a picture to work on.  I feel like it’s my right.  Maybe the more pieces if find, the clearer my puzzle will be.

So I search.

Bathroom Vanity and Medicine Cabinet Project

Over my Christmas break, I decided it was time to update the bathroom vanity in our Master.  30+ years was showing on the finish.  I love the look of the General Finishes gel stain product, and we had used it over the Christmas break in 2014 in the kitchen. The Java color seems to be really in style right now as well if you pay attention to all the home flipping and DIY shows on HGTV and DIY Network.

This is not a hard project, just time consuming. So here’s before and after.

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And here’s what it takes, generally, to do it.

  • 71rtztfzfsl-_sy355_General Finishes gel stain in Java. A little bit of stain goes a LONG way. This project took a fraction of a pint can of stain and topcoat.
  • General Finishes satin gel stain topcoat.
  • Tri-sodium phosphate (TSP) cleaner and a bucket of water, cleaning sponges and cleaning rags.
  • 1″ and 3″ sponge craft brushes.
  • A small water color brush to get into corners.
  • Latex gloves – a whole box. Trust me.
  • An old cotton sock.
  • Ziploc bags and and saran wrap.

Gel stain is communicable and TSP is not friendly to surfaces you are not working on, so prep first.  Really.  It travels if you’re not careful.  Cover your floor with an old sheet or painter’s tarp, tape off edges with painters tape and mask your work areas. This stuff is seriously messy if you don’t control it. Prep, prep, prep.

Clean the wood surface with a TSP solution and allow to dry several hours.  You can get TSP in the paint supplies section of your local hardware store.  It comes in a powder you dissolve in a bucket of water.  Do not get this on any wooden out painted surfaces you are not staining.  It will damage your finish.

When prepping, be sure you tape off your line inside your cabinet where you’re going to stop staining so it looks nice and neat when you’re done.  I didn’t want to stain the entire inside, just the inside of the doors, so I stained the lip inside the cabinet doors and stopped with a nice, straight tape line, leaving the rest of the interior its original wood color.

Remove hardware, doors and drawers.  I worked on them separately on sawhorses in the garage. If you’re not replacing hardware, this is a good time to clean your existing hardware. Drop your hardware into a Dawn/white vinegar and water solution and let it soak overnight. Have an old toothbrush handy to give them a bit of a scrub.

Lightly sand all surfaces you’re going to stain with a sanding block to rough up the surface, then wipe down to remove dust.  Allow to dry if you used water to wipe down.

Now you can stain. I used the sponge brushes to apply the stain, but you can wipe it on too.  An old cotton sock is great for this. Regardless of how you apply, wear gloves.  Have a box handy.  Trust me.  You will need gloves. As far as timing, the doors will take twice as long as the vanity and cabinet base since you can’t stain both sides at the same time.

Just so you know, the first coat will look like CRAP and you’ll be wondering WTF you just did to your cabinet. Don’t panic. Be patient. By the second and then the third coats, it will start to look fabulous.

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1st coat.  Ack!  What have I done?!?

Allow each coat to dry 6-8 hours.

Do NOT rinse your work tools. This is stain, not paint, so it will stain your sink. Just wrap your brush in saran wrap and store in a closed ziploc bag between coats. The brushes are cheap.

Once you’ve stained the wood to the desired color and it is dry, apply your gel topcoat with your cotton sock. Wipe on, let dry, wipe on again. I used three coats. Again, a little bit goes a long way. Allow to dry 6-8 hours between coats.

If you accidentally get stain on your wall, counter top or floor, clean it IMMEDIATELY. I found water, a scrubby sponge or brush, and some Soft Scrub will remove fresh, wet stain completely.

My little project took four or five days with all the drying time. I could have done it faster if I’d have stained early morning and again in the evening every day, accomplishing two coats in one day. But I was on break after all.

After the last coat is dry, put your hardware back on, touch up where you need to, and you are DONE.

I felt so accomplished.  All grown up and everything.

If you’re buying new hinges, take one of the old ones with you to the hardware store so you buy exactly the right style. It will save you a trip. I bought mine at a store here called Locks and Pulls. Cabinet and door hardware is all they sell and they have a huge selection.

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Curtains

When I first moved into this house I made actual lined drapes with the pleats for my family room.  They were necessary because once upon a time the family room was the TV room of the house, and the afternoon/evening sun blazed in and disturbing viewing.  But the windows were short, because the family room is in the basement.  I made short lined blue drapes, crisp with pleats and curtain hooks.  When I think back about them, I am kind of amazed at myself that I got them made as well as I did.  No pictures, it was far too long ago.  The curtains eventually succumbed to sun fade and cats.  It was kind of a sad day when they came down for the last time.

The lesson I learned was that I could make curtains.  Now mind you, just because you CAN do something, doesn’t mean you WANT to.

20160120_184905Six years ago, during a real, honest-to-goodness blizzard when work was cancelled and I was trapped at home, I made a project of making made lined, tab topped curtains for my large new replacement sliding glass door in the dining room. The new door had replaced French doors that I had made lace panels to fit top and bottom inside the frame for the glass.  They were not “private”, but very pretty.  The door had to be replaced eventually though and I opted for a sliding glass door.

This door is huge, and it takes a lot of fabric to adequately cover it.  As luck would have had it, I had a giant piece of lightweight wheat upholstery fabric that was given to me some time ago, and that I found was suddenly begging to become a new curtain.  Applying measurements and math, I found was just short enough that I was not going to have enough to make curtains with adequate fullness — unless I got creative.  With nothing but snow and time on my hands, I found some brown fabric that I added to the top and bottom, and tabs making my curtain a perfect fit.

The lesson I learned from these curtains is I certainly can make them, but I don’t really like making them.  Curtains this size are usually big, bulky, hard to measure in small spaces without using the floor, and really difficult to press on a standard ironing board.  I have a short memory.

20160130_150727Four or five years later, and having forgotten lessons, I decided I must finally re-cover the window formerly covered by the crisp blue pleated curtains.  An inexpensive upholstery remnant from Pottery Barn, some white fabric for lining and they turned out pretty nicely.  This particular window may be wide, but nice and short, so there’s not a lot of bulk required.  It helped that the fabric was exactly wide top to bottom to not require much cutting at all.

In December, I stained my bathroom cabinets.  Turns out gel stain is apparently communicable.  Note the lovely stain spot on the above large curtain.  That stain isn’t coming out.  At all.  Ever.  I also noticed that after six years of use, the curtain was pretty worn on the lower right corner too — lots of rubbing by dogs going in and out of the door.  The brown fabric had faded, and there was no amount of starch that was going to make them look crisp again.
image

I also had a big bolt of light beige upholstery fabric that was screaming at me, “make me curtains.”  I used the prior curtains for measurements, found a nice coordinating upholstery fabric for the top and bottom, and set out to make curtains.

Now I remember as I’m crawling on the floor — I don’t like making huge curtains.  At all.  But I’m committed, and here they are.  I see errors — this fabric was wider than the original fabric and I didn’t account for that, so they’re pretty full.  I also measured the lining without taking the top stripe in account, so the lining is a bit too short.  But they’re done and I’ve decided I’m my own worst critic.  They don’t have a spot on them so I’m happy.

On to the next project.  And it won’t be curtains.

A Little Catching Up

I have a new toy.  I bought a Singer XL-400 sewing/embroidery machine.  It replaces my starter embroidery machine, a Singer CE-100, which I hated.  Or it hated me.  I’m not sure which.  Fortunately, things are working out better with the new relationship.  I use the XL-400 for embroidery, and I still sew on my old metal Universal, or my Brother electronic.

I’m finding myself somewhat ambivalent about the whole machine embroidery thing.  On the one hand, there’s a science to it, and getting the embroidery to come out looking neat and professional is definitely something that requires practice.  On the other hand, unless you are your own digitizer, you’re really just applying designs someone else has created to your stuff.  It’s nice to personalize things, like the coin purses below, and even the kitchen set had a little bit of personalization on it, but it’s not like I actually made the artwork I’m using myself, I’m just interpreting someone else’s work.  I’ll come to terms eventually I suppose.

So some recent things I’ve been doing.  Coin purses.  Lots and lots of them.  I made them for Christmas gifts for friends and family.  Did I mention I made a lot of them?  I based my little pouches this year on instructions  at sewmehappyblog, and personalizing them with my handy-dandy embroidery machine.  http://sewmehappyblog.blogspot.com/2011/11/coin-purse-tutorial.html

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Coin Purses

In the midst of making coin purses, I realized my fabric stash was a mess.  If I can distract myself from the project at hand, I certainly will.  I found the organizing project very liberating though and am glad I made time for it.

I started the gift-giving season with a gathering apron for my cousin, who raises chickens.  This apron was made from scratch, using the instructions found Sew4Home, http://www.sew4home.com/projects/kitchen-linens/easy-half-apron-jumbo-pockets, and then I embroidered it.

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Gathering Apron

A few other gifts:

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Dollar Tree Holiday Placemats with embroidered monogram.  The dreaded metallic thread conquered.  (Adorn monogram from Designs by JuJu)

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Dollar Tree kitchen set – required disassembly to embroider.

 

Jewelry travel pouch from Instructables for a friend who makes her own beaded jewelry.

A giant foam finger required a custom Chiefs cuff and optional costume change cuff.  My hubby carried it to the Chiefs v. Raiders game (we won, advancing to the AFC playoffs) on January 2nd.  I created this cuff from scratch and it attaches with a velcro closure in the back.  The Chiefs logos came from a licensed flag we bought specifically to cannibalize and add with Heat ‘N Bond.

A couple of pre-made cheapo aprons that I embroidered.  The green one was for a friend that does ceramics, and the red one I did for myself and used on Thanksgiving Day.

This apron is a crafting tool belt apron I made several years ago.  I’m not sure I remember where I got this idea from, but I’m thinking with a little modification, I could make this a little more user friendly and a cute addition to my project lineup.

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Crafting tool belt.

I also made a purse that I love, started on a base for a costume my husband is making for Comicon, and I worked very hard on an awesome RenFest dress for me.  I’ll add pics of those to another article.

And lastly, today’s project, which is the prototype for a craft show item I’m contemplating.  This heart coin pouch is an “in the hoop” design from Five Star Fonts. My friend that does ceramics wants to combine talents and have a mixed media craft show display sometime in 2016, where we both sell our wares, so I’m pondering what is unique enough, cute enough, and quick enough to make in quantity to do that.  And the back of this cute purse is a lovely blank space just begging for some sort of embroidered saying or appliqued initials.  I’m still pondering.

HeartCoinPrototype

Heart Coin Pouch with zipper

The next project I have planned is a sewing only project.  I stained my bathroom vanity and medicine cabinet over the holidays using General Finishes Java gel stain.  Gel stain somehow migrates all over everywhere if you’re not careful, and apparently I was not.  I somehow managed to stain, and ruin in my estimation, my sliding glass door curtain (also made by me) while letting the dogs out.  The good news is this project is all serging straight lines, the fabric I have was a gift, and I don’t have even measure that much, because I can use the current curtain as a guide.  Hopefully I can get it done quickly.

20160120_184905See the spot?  The curtain is six years old and definitely showing wear so it’s time for a new one.

But the bathroom looks amazing.

 

 

Projects in the Works

Ironing table made from a $10 tray table from WalMart, and 100% cotton upholstery fabric and natural fiber batting.

It’s been a couple of months, but I have been busy. In the next few weeks, I’ll be posting some blogs on a tea wallet for your purse; a tray table transformation to an ironing board; string backpacks (that I organized the pictures for and now can’t find them); and my foray into making coasters with 13 cent white tiles from Home Depot, embroidered fabric scraps, Mod Podge and pourable resin. teaoutside

I’ve learned a lot about my embroidery machine and using embroidery with resin. My first experiment has … well, let’s just say it has “character”. Learned a lot about stray threads and ironing my scraps as flat as I can get them. I’m curing a second batch of tiles now and am anxious to see the final results.

I’m also in the midst of organizing my massive recipe collection into an electronic form using Google Drive to store.  Using this method, I can get to them from anywhere and with any device, including my handy-dandy new Android tablet.  This is a project that’s turning out to be a lot bigger than I’d hoped, but I’m having fun with it and it’s already paying off in saved time hunting for recipes.

Before Christmas I finished up a “Christinaline” doll for our 10yo who loved, loved, loved the movie, “Coraline”.  This will probably be my one picture on this project, but if anyone is interested, I bought the pattern from a very talented young textile student in Australia.  She did a great job putting together a pattern and directions for what was a fairly complicated project.  I’m particularly proud of Christinaline’s rubber rain boots.Christinaline - modeled after the doll featured in the movie "Coraline".

I’m working on a really cute apron made from a pair of repurposed blue jeans.  I haven’t documented this one with pictures as well as I would have liked to, but I’m sure I’ll get some sort of blog out of it.

So hang on for some blogs.

Hello world! I Am Milady

Milady

Yup, it's ME

Milady noun

1.  an Englishwoman of noble or gentle birth
2.  a woman of fashion
3.  me

I am Milady — I am not a milady.  My name is Milady, a name given to me by a mom who liked to make up her own pronunciations for everyday words.  She pronounced my name Mill-uh-dee.

As far away from aristocratic, gentile, or fashionable as you can get, I’m just a wife, mom, cook, a crafter, a bargain shopper and public servant.  I have many ideas and little time.  I decided to start a blog after spending time on the next greatest thing, Pinterest.  So many crafts and recipes, so little time — I wanted to share my likes, loves and total failures.

Come enjoy my adventures in life, crafting, cooking and working.