Tuesday, July 20, 2010


This past weekend I completed my first few Christmas presents. Yup, I'm being that well prepared this year (more details another post). I had noticed that my local farm stand place had tomatoes (they have a really awesome facebook page) and figured that the men in my family (notoriously difficult to find gifts for) would certainly enjoy some homemade salsa.

In the week leading up to my free days I did a good bit of research to prepare myself. I determined a number of things:
  • My pressure canner which I'm really not sure how I ended up with it beyond that someone in my family gave it to me could, logically, be a safety hazard. So I opted to go with the water bath method.
  • If I could find the supplies this would also be a good opportunity for pickle making.
  • Being a low-acid food the canning of tomato products can be a bit sketchy. Maybe I ought to warn the fam. before they dig in.
On Saturday I came home with a whole bunch of tomatoes (1/4 bushel maybe), lots of yellow onions, a bunch of jalapeno peppers, peaches to be eaten, and larger peppers whose name I couldn't remember. This forgetfulness caused me a bit of despair as I worried about making things too spicy. So steeling myself for possible doom I sliced a bit off, threw it in a hot pan (that I had just used to make myself an awesome BLT aka my new favorite food) and then ate it. Thankfully it was a very mild nicely sweet tasting pepper. Whew.

Sunday afternoon as the Sun roasted life in my apartments to new heights it was time to begin. First up was cleaning and filling the ginormous pot and hoping my little stove would be able to bring it to a boil. Thankfully it worked.

First up was the pickles. I sliced up my cucumbers, determined I really didn't have that many, and stuffed them in 4 jars. Then I used a bagged mix to prepare the pickle juice. Holy moly is that stuff strong. But everything went smoothly and soon I had 4 jars in the water bath. 

At some point I looked in and noticed one of the jars floating. "Well that's not right" I thought to myself and proceeded to try and sink it back down for proper processing. This mixing up of things however revealed that the entire bottom half of the jar had cracked of and therefore pickles-to-be and pickle juice had spread into the water bath. Very sad.

But as I shared the story with Bran I heard the tell-tale popping sound which both startles and delights me as it means the vacuum seal has taken over the jar. 3 out of 4 isn't horrible. Now I was stuck with the task of dumping the recently boiling giant hot pot of lightly pickled water. In attempts to cool things down more quickly I resorted to this set up in the middle of the room. It can also be noted that by this point walking into the living room felt cool, which is not quite right as the thermostat there read 90 which is in fact as high as it is capable of going.

Eventually the pickle chaos was cleaned up and after a break it was Salsa time. If I ever decide to do such a thing again I really ought to buy a food processor. My knife skills are horrible and the exact timing is iffy but I think it probably took me around 2 hours to get all this chopping done. And really I slacked off on a few things and didn't necessarily chop as much as was listed (minced jalapenos I'm looking at you). But here, at long last, was my finished prep. And everything went on the stove.

 Thankfully the Salsa processing went much more smoothly and I ended up with 3 pints, 3 half pints, and 3 little 1/4 pints :-)

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Beaches at Night

As previously mentioned after receiving notification of my raise I 'gave' myself $20 to spend however I liked. Given my current obsession with spinning (thank you TdF) I opted for roving.

I did a good bit of Etsy window shopping, marveling over all of the beautiful rovings. At first I was really leaning towards something cheaper to leave me some extra $. But in the end I went for this:

Found at BitsyKnits' Etsy Shop it's called Beaches at night. I first took notice of this particular roving a while back when BitsyKnits was the Phat Fiber give away shop. For some reason I absolutely love the subtle natural tones of it. The blues and browns are simply marvelous.

It was $16 +4.95 shipping.......whoa. That's actually $0.95 over my alotted spending. But in the end I decided to take a jump and go with the piece that spoke out the most to me. After all this is my splurge :-)

Alas I am rather a bit behind on my posting as I've already received the package (although she did ship awesomely fast). I still love it and I'm also ridiculously excited about the magnet and postcard she included....sometimes it's the small things!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

TdF stage (yarn) 2

Well I may have fallen off of the July blogging bandwagon but I've been kicking butt with my Tour de Fleece progress!!!!

Here's the second UFO (un finished objected) which was checked off the list on Saturday:

Pre-tour roving and previously completed skein in the background.

First completed skein. 80 some yards maybe?
Varying stages represented. Original roving in the back. Torn bits of fiber drafted into long strips is the fluffy stuff. There's single ply yarn on the spindle. And a full skein beneath and in the back.
A batch of single ply wound off of the spindle waiting it's mate to become double ply.

When wound on the spindle the color changes could be very pretty. This is during plying even.
The final skein of 94 yards. Hooray!!!

I had an absolutely dreadful time capturing the true colors.....ah well....

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Don't spend it all in one place.

When I heard that I was going to get a raise (before I even knew the amount) I decided that I would take a bit to give myself a "treat". Pretty quickly I stettled upon two things. 1. I would buy some fiber, given the fun and success I am having with my TdF spinning. And also given just how very very much I'm enjoying it/ wanting to do more/ drooling over all of the other participants yarns. 2. I wold give myself $20.

I'm pretty sure that makes me rather cheap (which is true). $20 is not much at all, particularly if you consider that I'll be making over $1,000 more. But on the other hand given my frugal living it still feels like a big splurge for me. In my budget I have a monthly $50 which I designate my "freedom fund". Theoretically this is for any discretionary spending (like roving and yarn) but sadly it often ends up being hit with less cool things like replacing broken sunglasses and fans to futility try to combat weeks of weather in the high 90's.

So really I was quite excited for my $20.

I knew that I wanted to buy some kind of processed fiber but as I started thinking about it I realized that some other things would be pretty cool as well. Still on my radar is wanting to learn needle felting which requires about $10 of supplies to get started. Or it can even be broken up into components for less than $5. "That could be doable" said my overactive and easily excitable brain. Or what about a *gasp* second spindle. Looking at other peoples stuff in the TdF I've been coveting all of the beautiful spindles....my poor cheap beginner really doesn't compare. Plus different spindles obviously spin differently so it would open up new yarn possibilities!

Off to Etsy I went.....
to be continued

PS: I find it quite amusing how my two little worlds (crafting and finance) have here collided. Go me!

Friday, July 9, 2010


I know that I have been watching too much TdF when I start dreaming of dating Lance Armstrong......goodness

TdF sprinting

My first Tour de Fleece skein is complete!

First up was 1oz of fluffly white alpaca that has been waiting for me for over a year now. The stuff practically fell into laceweight so I decided to go with it and even joined the TdF as a sprinter (fast spinning or lace).

I really wish I had more. My yarn, which is indeed a rather nice laceweight once double plied, came out to 101 yards. I would really like to make myself a lacy scarf (perfect for those cold winter days in the office perhaps?) but this may be cutting it a bit short. Maybe I'll just have to make something rather skinny to compensate...hmm....

Lastly it must be noted that spinning prepared fiber is my new favorite thing ever. I am so used to the tedium (and pain) of hand carding raw dirty alpaca that this cloud of fiber was absolutely a dream.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

I am raised

So it turns out that my most favoritiest finance manager and most favoritest co-worker in the whole world got permission from Boss to tell me about my raise :-)

We now turn to the numbers which probably make most people want to gouge their eyes out. But I find playing with excel sheets to be absolutely awesome fun and this is my blog so here we go.....

I have been raised 3.812%. This is 1.544 percentage points higher than the average rate of inflation so far in 2010 (http://inflationdata.com/inflation/inflation_rate/CurrentInflation.asp). But better yet word on the street is that there wasn't an across the board raise but rather I did better than some other people. They must like me :-)

My gross salary was $30825.00 and now I shall be earning $32000.05 which is an increase of $1175.05. Honestly that doesn't seem like a huge increase. But check this out....My previous take home pay each period was $922.68 with my own approximation of taxes the increase will have me at 1037.67. And so my best estimation of the increase in monthly net take-home pay is $229.99. Now given that $1175.05 divided by 12 does not come close to $229.99 you are probably confused. I was too for a bit.

Back at the end of December our Finance Manager (who I shall now call CFO to make my life easier) came in the office and started talking to me. She was a bit frazzled because she had been to our payroll company to pick up checks where she was informed that when a company is paying its employees bi-weekly (as we were paid) that every 11 years there would be a 27th pay period in the year and so 2009 or 2010 would be that year for us. However since this was coming out of the blue for this fiscal year (we run July1-June30) the amount we recieve each pay period had been caluclated by dividing our salary by 26. And so continuing to pay us regularly would cost an extra lot of money for that extra pay period. Many phone calls then happened to various board members. The final decision was made that we would move to a twice monthly pay system. Somehow it worked out that we would get the same amount each pay period but now we had less pay periods - which made up for the 'extra' pay we had received. It was ridiculously confusing but I puzzled it all together at the time and it did work out.

But anyways as a result of that transition even without a raise my pay would have gone up $76.89 each pay period ($153.78 monthly). So it would have already felt like I was getting more money. See I always budget monthly using 2 pay periods. In the old system this meant there would be 2 awesome months where I had extra awesome $. So when we changed it sucked to loose that but didn't impact my budgeting. The increase would have felt like a raise anyways so the real raise is kinda just more awesomeness.

Next up shall be budgeting!

PS: I could probably go on talking numbers for many more posts but I'll try to contain it and intermittently schedule it with more crafts :-)


Sitting up front at my desk our Finance director (with whom I have a very good rapport) asked if I had talked to our boss yet. The question was rather out of the blue but quite intriguing.

See our fiscal year begins July 1 and so if we are to receive pay raises that is when they go into effect. Typically we have a performance review with the boss and he'll let us know whats what with regards to $ there. Traditionally he is behind the times and the pay raise ends up hitting my bank account before I am aware of what I'm newly earning. And so I have been somewhat nervously anticipating my review. Not that I think anyone has a problem with my performance, but still one never knows. Plus what if this year they're not doing raises?

So when she asked this I perked up. I told her that I had not but I'd been anticipating it to come up sometime. However as he was scheduled to not be in the office that day already owing to vacation it seemed like it would be a bit before it happened. Well from the hints she dropped things could be very happy. She said that I'd be able to buy spinning wheels and bake many many peach pies. (Can you tell that I like to share my life happenings with her?)

Now I am ridiculously anxious to see what I'll be getting. She's quite the character so I have no idea if I'm actually getting like a substantial raise or if she's just making a big deal out of something mediocre. But then I don't even know how I'd qualify substantial vs. mediocre really. I always just budget for where I'm at now.

Alas, unless I convince her to spill the beans (dunno if that's proper or not) I won't find out until the next pay period. The $ will hit my bank account on the 15th (direct deposit) but I should find out on the 14th which is when pay stubs are normally passed out.

I don't know if I can wait that long. I'm already envisioning how I might want to budget the extra $. And despite my best efforts I do believe that I may just have to open up my budget worksheet now and play with the numbers.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010


It is quite possible that one of the first crafts that I was ever much into was sewing. My mother taught me to sew at a fairly young age and at some point I had one or two of the little tiny machines for kids. But using her big machine was always way better. And so at some point Grandma came up with this behemoth....my very own sewing machine.

Unfortunately she never really worked particularly well. Some of the settings were off and while it came with a manual, the paper had sustained some pretty serious water damage so it wasn't the most helpful. So I would occasionally drag thing thing out (it weights about 50 lbs), get frustrated, and then use her machine. By the end I was pretty exclusively using her machine for sewing....much less frustrating.

When I moved out of the house I don't think I took it at first a: because of the weight, b: because it only half worked. But one Christmas my parents found a repair person and had it looked fixed up. At first I thought this to be the most awesome thing ever. But now I'm really not quite sure that it ever quite made it up to ideal standards.

The primary problem is that it practically eats lightweight fabric. I can kinda almost get away with quilting cottons but forget about thin fashion fabrics. And I have found as I use it periodically it likes to skip the occasional stitch. But I still use it because I like making things.

Although every time I make things its a real pain on my back. My typical set up has the machine on the floor. I use the foot pedal either with my knee or somewhat awkwardly with my foot. This past time of sewing however I had the very smart idea of putting it up on my table by the window. I then sat on the lid and enjoyed the awesome view out my window (plus excellent light) while sewing.


Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Another one bites the dust

So I found out that one of my co-workers has given his notice. While there are many great things that I enjoy the ridiculous staff-turnover is not one of the better aspects of working for a small non-profit arts organization.

We currently have 7 full timers and 3 part timers who work here in the office (there are some other staff people that aren't in the office regularly so I'm not counting them). And once he leaves of that staff I, with my 3 years of employment, will be the 2nd longest term employee. Which is particularly humorous considering I am the youngest, by about 10 years, person here most of the other staff having a good 20 or 30 years on me.

Kinda makes ya wonder about workin here.....

Monday, July 5, 2010

Making it up as I go

For some reason before we went to the beach Bran had this ridiculous (but fun) notion that we were going to play video games on the beach. This was brought on in large part by the fact that he first bought me a Nintendo DS for my birthday way back in February. Then sometime later in the spring he got me addicted to Pokemon.

But before our trip I determined that for this to happen I needed a DS case......enter the sewing machine.

I sorted through (and ended up organizing) my big box of fabric picked out some of my favorites. At first I
was very tempted to go with both my fun ladybug print and a second blue print with bubbles because they are both awesomely fun. But in the end I decided that it would be best to tone myself down and just play off of the ladybug print. I think it was an excellent and wise choice. Here was the pile of supplies I put together.
I had the idea in my head to make an envelope type enclosure with a band across the top flap to hold extra games. I also wanted it to be completely lined and I didn't want to make it terribly bulky.

Because it was such a freeform project I started my cutting with everything a bit bigger than needed which was ok as I had more than enough supplies. It took a long time with lots of trial and error, but surprisingly only one (somewhat) serious re-do. I've made bag type projects with linings before and each time I get it figured out enough to be quite good.....by the end of the project. But I never manage to carry the knowledge into my next task. This is probably because they are so few and far between. But ah well at least I generally churn out something pretty cool by the end.

Here is my final product:

It has a few flaws to it. But I still quite love it and it works splendidly. Although we later determined that playing video games on the beach is just too bright, and too distracting. Ah well.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

As American as Peach Pie

The planets have finally aligned so that I will be attending one of Bran's family picnics today. And as I prepared to meet his people I decided that bringing a pie ought to be a good way to impress people and encourage them to like me. 

And me being me of course I decided that I wanted to go all out. Never mind that I've only made one homemade pie crust before in my life (and that it didn't actually quite work out so well). I will be making a 100% from scratch awesome Peach Pie down to a what I'm sure will be beautiful lattice crust.

Somewhat unfortunately my designated pie baking time coincides with watching the TdF. This could be interesting.

Pie baking:

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Tour de Fleece

Given as I am already planning on devoting obscene amouts of my non-working life to following the Tour de France I decided to join in the Tour de Fleece hosted on Ravelry. According to the group site: "The concept is simple, They spin, we spin. A real spinning themed spin-along." Combining two of my loves: Priceless.

Alas I am cheap and so not only do I not have a spinning wheel, but in fact I have only one spindle. It's pretty lame. But I shall aim to spin every day of the tour never-the-less. And obviously I shall be shooting to watch as many stages of the tour as I can manage. However it may come about that I miss some stages. And in those instances I'll try to do a bit of spinning outside of my biker watching, just to keep up with the Tour de Fleece goal.

I'll be starting with some awesome white alpaca. Purchased as a part of the "learn to spin" kit which I purchased when I first began my spinning at first I didn't want to touch the fleece because I thought it was too beautiful to waste on learning. And then it just kinda got set off to the side while I did other things. Somewhat randomly I picked it up not too long ago and started spinning it into some very nice lace weight which is what I'll be aiming for. There will be a bit of getting used to as the carded batt of fleece is quite different from my regular self taught hand carded "rolags", and so far I also noticed a number of second cuts that are yucky. But it should be a good learning experiance and yield some pretty yarn.

After that I want to keep going on the dyed wool I picked up over a year ago when I visited Pittsburgh. Sometime in the spring I spun up a batch of it but there is still more to go - must get on that.

If I still have tour days after those projects I'll be back to my raw alpaca. So that will obviously require hand carding, which for my own purposes I consider to meet my TdF obligations, although I may try to spin at least a bit each day as well. I would really like to spin up a good bit of lace weight to use for a pretty scarf that I can give to Bran's sister for Christmas. Somewhat random, but I think it could be a pretty cool gift and I enjoy being random like that.

Wish me luck.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Many blue squares

Progress on Bran's Mario blanket has been in full swing since I started it mid June. I've made a few good observations on the project.
  1. One skein of Caron Simply Soft (6 oz, 315 yds) = 20 blocks. Approximately 16 skeins will be needed to complete the blanket.
  2. One block takes me approximately 17 minutes to crochet without interruption while watching TV. Therefore the project will likely involve 3 days worth of time for the crocheting alone (who knows about the piecing together) unless I get faster.

Originally I was making good use of coupons and the fact that the craft store is right next to the grocery store to load up on skeins one at a time at a 40% or 50% discount. But then this past week they went on sale, which isn't as good as the coupon price, so I couldn't use my coupon and somehow I managed to remove myself from the store without then using the coupon for any superfilous spending. But when they sent me a coupon for 15% off of your total purchase including sale on Wednesday, I couldn't resist going on Wednesday and buying $20 of yarn (9 skeins). It was like a dollar more expensive than it would have been using the one skein system so I'm willing to eat that cost.

I committed myself to making 2 squares a day from the get go, and then if I could work beyond that I did. So I'm already sitting on 45 squares (I think) and given the concerts tonight and tomorrow that I'll be attending for work I anticipate being over 50 by Saturday. Holy awesome progress.

So I considered switching it from Christmas to Birthday (8/31) present, but I think instead I'm going to put it on the back burner and devote July to participating in the Tour de Fleece. I'm sure I'll still churn out a few more squares, they are an awesomely easy project that I can take pretty much anywhere, but no where near the volume.

I've considered trying out how I'll be attaching them together, but I kinda want to keep them in original square form until I have all 252 squares and take a picture :-)

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Le Tour

This morning I realized that it is very nearly that time of year again....The 2010 Tour de France.

Last year I think I stumbled into the Tour somewhere in the middle, but I was fast addicted. I have never considered myself much of a sports person at all but sometimes things just manage to suck me in and I find myself wanting to devote my life to them.

The Tour is a particularly difficult challenge because if I actually watch the whole thing (which I really do want to do) it would be hours and hours and hours of just sitting and watching. The first hurdle against this is work. Being in the office 8:30-4:30 Monday through Friday will rob me of the majority of the live tour coverage. Now this can be more or less compensated by watching the daily prime time coverage re-caps which happen later in the evening. Unfortunately this plan will likely collide with any kind of a life that I am trying to have for myself including but not limited to rehearsals and my boyfriend.

Plus to add insult to injury Comcast is not being my friend right now and I was just about to take the hard line with them and cancel my cable TV package. Alas I'd still be paying like $40 for internet, but at least it saves me $10. However if I cancel cable then I'll loose the tour coverage and so far the only online streaming coverage that I've found is $30 for unlimited access. It would be sweet and ridiculously awesome in that I could watch whenever I wanted when I had time....but I'm trying to save for other things. Ugh.

Lastly I have just discovered a most grievous problem: I scheduled my camping trip to start on the final 2 days of the Tour. *cries* 

It's really not the end of the world because things will be pretty shored up by then with regards to the winner....but there's always that sneaky thought in the back of your head 'well the entire peloton could crash leaving a small breakaway who takes it home'.

Obviously my life is very stressful and crazy since I have such important concerns.