Lots of health issues happened in 2014 which gave me endless fatigue. Upper respiratory infection, allergies, Epstein barr virus plus a recently diagnosed sleep disorder. No wonder I’ve been tired!
But while there were months of just dealing with the fatigue, I still managed to do some new things. So the year isn’t a total write-off.
DIY WEDDING FLOWER ARRANGEMENTS
A lovely friend was married in January and I did the reception table flowers. Due to her allergies (and common sense) I used artificial flowers. Some she already had, others I bought on sale after Christmas. Another arty activity was face painting children for Halloween at the church’s “trunk n treat”. Yes, Elsa, Frozen princess was the most requested face.
I’d made this resolution to not buy any new clothes or shoes in 2014, apart from underwear, socks, stockings and swimwear. I intended to either sew clothes, or buy second hand, or just make do with what I had. Sewing had to be thrifted fabric or else bought on sale. Oh the idealism!
Well my dress for the wedding was second hand. The new shoes were a gift from the bride, so they didn’t count.
What do you do with your hands in photos? Don’t they look awkward?
But for the rest of the year, I stuck to my resolution – apart from sewing. Too tired for that and too tired to go shopping much anyway.
KNITTING – SOCK FAIL
In January I tried to join K-Line’s knit-a-thon, two socks on circular needles. I’d never used circular needles before. I even got help from Kristin, so nice of her. I knitted two inches, then got sick. Upper respiratory, whooping cough, whatever. Never got back to the socks.
SEWING – MEH
All year, this Dritz dress form has been used as a hanger for this 70s dress.
I got stuck on the neckline facing and setting in the sleeves. It’s a winter dress and now it’s winter again.
Circle of life, right?
This did not get made, not even a trial vest in cheap purple fleece. I had bought some top quality fleece on sale intending to make a jacket for mum. Now I have given her the fabric…and she’ll get it made up by a professional, using a different pattern.
This came from a co-worker cleaning out his garage. The idea of my very own vintage Singer was an exciting one, so I bought extra cams, and replacement rubber parts for those which had perished. Getting it working again has yet to happen nor do I know where to set it up.
But I did sew something!! I made my first pair of boxer shorts for a friend. An 80’s McCall pattern bought on eBay and a cotton sheet to make a test version. These were an exercise to practice flat felled seams and the construction of a fly opening. And I still need lots of practice on both.
In the past two weeks, which is about two minutes to midnight on the 2014 Doomsday Sewing Clock, I made another pair of boxers and also pajama pants for myself. Feedback given on the first boxers was about a lack of roominess, so side panels were added to fix this.
My pj pants are in this Japanese themed print. Alas I cut them too small. Clearly I have delusions about my body size! Any how, once again panels were added to the side seams.
I like the print, but the fabric (whatever it is) is slippery and frays easily. The pants became an exercise in french seams and patience.
In the photo you can see how I stuffed up the first french seam; it’s sewn twice because first it was sewn too close to the edge, and the seam allowance (which is supposed to be enclosed), poked through on the other side. The pattern is a 99 cent Simplicity pants pattern. Two pieces, three seams. I still made mistakes.
I finished the pjs while on vacation with the help of my sister-in-law who has an overlocker. Thankfully she was very patient, seeing as I pinned it wrong and two side seams had to be unpicked.
Why do Americans call it a serger? Spelt as “surger” would make sense as it does go fast – but overlocker better describes what the machine does.
I don’t know how long these pj pants will last. Already the fabric is fraying at the seams. Mending required even before wearing them? Yikes!
The overlocker (serger) impresses me though and one is now on my “someday” wish list.
Amazon Local – do you purchase deals on Amazon Local? I usually ignore those emails. Until this one. An online sewing course offered for $30, supposedly to the value of $1000. Is it? I am not sure – who decides that? E-Careers is a British site, and once registered, I have 12 months to complete it. Patterns and course content are downloaded. While I can’t see myself getting through all the content, surely I can complete enough to be satisfied of my $30 investment.
I attempted making home fermented foods. The results were mixed:
- Sauerkraut – the first batch, made at a friend’s house while I watched worked. The second batch made at home – moldy
- Water kefir – never multiplied and gradually weakened to the point where they no longer fermented the sugar water.
- Milk kefir – this was successful and now I make regular smoothies
ALDI was selling incredibly cheap small appliances like a dehydrator, icecream maker and a bullet style blender. I bought all three. What did I make?
Dried figs, pineapple, cranberries (fail), mint, basil. Also:
Free cayenne peppers from co-workers.
Beef jerky. I dried raw beef strips and didn’t give myself food poisoning. I’m still amazed (and grateful).
Strawberry icecream, nothing more than strawberries, cream, sugar. Yum.
Two batches of fig jam, thanks to a generous coworker who took time to pick the figs. I added grated ginger root to the second batch. I also made a batch of pineapple jam. Yum. Look for old fruit and veg at the back of Kroger supermarket. That’s how I got 6 pineapples for $6.00.
As ever, Loki the orange kitty supervises.
Pavlova makes the perfect dessert for a 4th July block party. But what to do with all the egg yolks?
Wheat free bread means gluten-free flour(s). The bread making attempts were dismal. It tasted as boring as it looks. Now there’s all this gluten-free flour in the pantry to be used up.
I did some grilling – on a little battered grill that takes a small bottle of gas. Lava rocks is the secret to stopping the massive flare-ups from dripping grease. Those peppers are Hatch chili peppers and taste great charred. I got good at “blackened chicken”. Also, wedges of cabbage charred on the grill are delicious. Strange, but true.
For a few months I went through a juicing phase. What to do with all the pulp? Well you can a) toss it out; b) give it to a friend who has chickens, or c) make veggie patties. Season profusely – curry powder is good, egg and a little coconut flour to bind them. The first batch were fried and I discovered how fragile they are to turn over, so baking in a greased muffin tin works the best.
FREE YOUR MIND
I started a certificate course in technical writing at the local university. It was challenging because my knowledge of grammar is rather impoverished. Looking at a sentence and thinking you know whether the grammar is correct or incorrect is not enough – how to explain your reasoning? That gets me. However I will knuckle down to learn the grammar and complete the remaining units next year.
Coursera.org offers free, online short courses from various universities around the world. There’s a range of topics and I got through this one, a music theory course offered by the University of Edinburgh. It was challenging, and the final assessment was scary: analyse two pages of a Mozart quartet score. Never thought I’d do that! The teachers were excellent and really made an effort to answer questions in the forums and Facebook page, which is where the students who were from all over the world got a chance to discuss the lectures.
Still managed some music – I had to drop out of a songwriting course because I was too sick/too tired to keep up with it, but I did attend HCAMP down at Kerrville (January) and the Winterfest at Irving (February). I also began to go to the Lone Star State Dulcimer Society (LSSDS) club meetings and get a friend I’d made at HCAMP to come along. The dulcimer club meets every two months – and I made a couple. What HCAMP taught me is how important it is to play with others instead of being holed up in your bedroom.
These two autoharps were rescued from the church choir room and made playable again by Chuck Daniels whom I arranged to meet at the LSSDS Winterfest. I also took a few classes on the autoharp at the festival.
This is the gospel service with the two autoharps put to use. You can play it either flat, as on the left, or held in a hug. We dressed up in old timey clothes; I already had the hat and found the “granny dress” at the thrift store. The repertoire included old-timey country gospel and spirituals like I”ll Fly Away, Shall We Gather At the River, Farther On, Will There Be Any Stars in My Crown, I Saw the Light and Angel Band. The fiddle player was hired – and her contribution really made a difference. There was also a guitar player and double bass player. Rehearsing was so enjoyable that we decided to keep on with this “Back Porch Band” concept and prepare a set for the church picnic held at the end of summer.
And here we are doing a sound test outside in preparation for the church picnic. I am on the left playing mountain dulcimer. By this time Emily had joined as the fiddle player. Playing live was lots of fun. Perfect? No. But did people enjoy it? Yes. Yes they did… or else they’re big fat liars!
What is this? This is a bowed psaltery. I bought it on the Goodwill auction site (photo source). Because the soundhole has a distinctive design I was able to trace it back to this luthier, Song of the Wood. It’s beautifully made and has the cutest bow, especially when you put it next to a double bass bow! The bowed psaltery is a chromatic instrument spanning two octaves. Each string is a note, and you simply bow between the pins. Advanced players use two bows. To hear what the bowed psaltery sounds like, this site, Psaltery Strings, has lots of audio and video. I played in this version of Revelation Song, performed in church, and got many comments afterwards about it.
During my Christmas vacation, I have made my mum a dulcimer from a Folkcraft kit. The body is cardboard – it has a surprisingly nice sound. Surprisingly? No one thinks a cardboard instrument is going to sound much, but be surprised.
I surprised myself also by putting it together! It wasn’t easy – the bridge was too high and had to be filed down, using a metal nail file made it a slow process. Then a string snapped when I was putting it on.. but mum is learning to play it now. Word of advice if you ever build a Folkcraft cardboard dulcimer, save yourself a lot of hassle and time by getting the kit with the fretboard already set up. Trust me.
I started piano lessons again. Not just re-learning to play again but to keep up with theory and to learn how to arrangement and improvise. It’s challenging and I love it.
PLANTS THAT CAN
Why do African violets have the reputation of being difficult and fussy? Put them on a window sill facing east, ignore them most of the time, but do water when they start to droop. They reward this haphazard attention with pretty pink flowers.
Even being knocked off by cats doesn’t seem to do any lasting harm.
The City of Arlington enforced its rules about nothing being on the walkway areas outside apartments. This meant my plants at the top of the stairs (which were out of the way) had to go. Coping with large chili plants inside was challenging, until I put each pot on a chair and got a couple of 200W lights. Want to know why your chili plant isn’t setting fruit? It’s not getting pollinated! Now that hand pollination is being performed, the kung pao pepper is setting fruit. I got this seedling from Greens Produce. It’s late.. but at least it now has peppers.
The plant frustration, both outdoors and indoors, led me to this:
A plot rented for 2015 at the Fish Creek Community Garden. Blessings to the person who worked this plot over summer then relinquished it. In November I enjoyed fresh mint, basil, parsley, green capsicums and tomatoes. Look how convenient watering will be – the tap (faucet) is right there poking up out of the cinder block. I used all the fresh herbs to make pesto gifts – not only the traditional basil pesto, but mint and parsley pesto also. No recipe for that, just lots of garden mint, Italian and curly parsley, almonds, coconut and olive oils.
ANIMALS OF NOTE
Cat sitting: My two cats – so suspicious of the little black interloper, Schubert, but by the last day, some peace was restored.
These two did very well this year. Just a pair of typically demanding, bossy, puking (until I stopped leaving out dry food 24/7), peeing on my bathroom mat, crying & jumping at the door to be let in, clawing at boxes, shedding hair, escaping out the front door, stealing food off the counters, bug-hunting, purring, pouncing, waking me up at 4am, wanting to play cats.
Cats and catnip. Nothing more to be said!
Mum’s little foxie, Dolly, died this year.
Such a sweet little dog.
But Sally, a Jack Russel-Maltese cross was rescued and given a loving home. Sally is more outgoing (and naughtier) than Dolly and loves walks and chewing shoes.
Dog sitting Riley down at Joshua: Although it’s a longer drive to work, it always feels like I’ve had a mini-vacation in the country.
Also dog sat two lovely dachshunds for my friends who were on honeymoon. How can I not have a photo of Sam and Shiner?!
TWO UNMISSABLE TRUTHS
Straight hair looks good on me. For the first time ever I had my hair flat ironed when I got a long over-due hair cut. Of course, I can’t get it to look like that when I do it myself.
I have put on a lot of weight this year. Hmm.