Monday, December 19, 2011

Hi-Tech Nuns and Harry Potter

This morning I went to hang out with the old people, and it was lovely as usual.  We made some bracelets, watched part of an old Cary Grant movie and ate Christmas cookies for breakfast.  A perfect morning.

Towards the end of my visit, I spied a nun who came to spread Christmas cheer.  She brought a friend with her, and at one point the Sister said to her friend, "Just shoot me a text on my cell."  My reaction was a bit something like this:

...Shocked and clutching a land line in a scrumptious mock turtleneck.  I guess I just never think of nuns as being hi-tech.  I picture them living a simplistic old-fashioned kind of life--praying the rosary, serving those in need, and occasionally smacking the back of a young wrist with a ruler.

And it made me think, this nun is even more hi-tech than I am.  I am 27, currently not residing in a convent, and yet still use the old land line as my primary mode of telephone communication.  I do own a $10 trac-phone (at the insistence of my husband, in case my car breaks down somewhere...sensible enough).  And while I have been known to use it occasionally (even the 25-cent text feature), most of the time it sits in the bottom of my purse, either dead or off.  I'm trying to get better about this.  Whatever, I'm not much of a phone-talker anyway.  Thank goodness for good old-fashioned email and facebook!  Maybe someday I will be as hip as the nun with the smart phone.

Where does Harry Potter come into all this?  He comes in on a riddikulusly unrelated note, of course.  (Ahem, I do know how to spell ridiculously...previous spelling was for the enjoyment of the Potter turbo-fans.)  As we all know, 'tis the Christmas season, and this year I got one of those "wild hairs" to make a random Christmas sewing project.  Unashamedly, I present you with my Harry Potter Christmas pillow...

These are a couple of simple lines from the first movie, only ashamedly, I got them backwards on my pillow.  Oops!  Oh well.

I wish you a very Happy Christmas!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Secret to Making Housework Fun

I've discovered the secret to making household chores fun...Broadway.

I challenge you, nay--dare you, to do dishes without breaking into spontaneous song and dance while listening to this on full blast.

I am like the girl with the guitar at 2:33.   Yes, I will get these dishes done while rocking out on my air guitar!  If you were easily able to resist Conrad Birdie, try not dancing to this one...


I love that Family Guy did a tribute to Shipoopi (The Music Man).  I've always been a fan of Family Guy, but when they did this, it really sealed the deal for me.

Anyway, listening to/dancing to show tunes while doing chores makes it so much more entertaining for me.  And so much more embarrassing for my husband.  I have to be careful, though.  I am very tempted to take my show tunes along with me to my least favorite chore (grocery shopping).  I know it would make it a million times more bearable, but I also know that I would probably be escorted out of Schnucks for disrupting the peace due to doing high kicks and barrel rolls down the cereal aisle.

I do own a pair of tap shoes (REALLY hoping to take a tap class someday--hint, hint to anyone racking their brain for a good Christmas gift for me).  I think it would be hilarious to take my show tunes and tap shoes to Schnucks.  Can you just imagine, holding on to your cart, tap dancing up and down the aisles, in your own little world?  The acoustics would be amazing.


For now, I leave you with a recent sewing project, and something funny my dad said.

Golf bag for Little Sis

And the funny thing my dad said...

Me to Mom (on the phone): Hey, I blogged my shorts for you to see.
Dad (in the background): Don't worry, Ree.  I blogged my shorts once, too, but it came out with bleach.

Good one, Dad.

Monday, November 28, 2011

My Favorite Sewing Project Ever: Walker Bags

I have a new sewing project that's ongoing and very near-and-dear to my heart.  Walker bags.

Every time I say or write "walker bags", I think of this guy.  We all know how epic he is.  Can you believe that he is 71 years old nowadays?  A few years down the road Walker may be needing his very own walker bag.  Or perhaps a few decades down the road; after all, he is Chuck Norris.

Some of you may be wondering what exactly a walker bag is.  Basically, it's a bag that is attached to the top bar of a walker.  Quite the description, I know.  These bags are useful for a few reasons:

  1. To stow away essential items like Kleenex (new or used), cookies, an extra pair of reading glasses, word searches, peppermints, hot pink lipstick, etc.
  2. To be able to clearly recognize your own walker (walker mix-ups are a huge problem in many elderly communities).
  3. To walk with flair.
A couple of times a week I visit a lovely group of elderly people in a nearby Assisted Living.  They are wonderful.  When I first started visiting this particular place, I spotted a few residents who were walking without flair (and repeatedly heard the common question, "Which walker is mine?").  Solution: walker bags.  This is an easy sewing project AND a great way to connect with the elderly.  

Before making the bag, I talked with the resident and got the necessary info (their favorite color, what they like to carry around with them, and of course their life story because that's always fascinating).  Sewing the bag is super easy and fast; some great tutorials can be found online.  Find the one that would best suit the person's needs and tweak it as needed.   Voile.   

Without further adieu, here is the recipient of my very first walker bag, Gigi.

This woman is spunky and no-nonsense.  She now has her walker bag filled with all the essentials and that makes me so happy.

Gigi's walker bag.
Here's another one, more compact...

Cathy, one of the sweetest and most intelligent people I know.
I've made a couple more and can't wait to do even more of these!  However, in the future, I'd like to sweeten the deal by delivering the waker bag filled with the recipient's favorite goodies.   This ongoing sewing project warms my heart unlike any other.   I learn so much from these people and always walk away rejuvenated.  

And, really, I do have so much to learn.  One of my best friends, Kristy, and I have plans to move in together when we're old ladies and relive The Golden Girls.  She is Dorothy Zbornak and I am Rose Nylund. Her sister Wendy is Sophia.  We're still looking for our Blanche.  Any takers?

Thank you for being a friend...

Thursday, November 10, 2011

A Couple of Sewing Fails

It is my dream to one day sew a dress.  And I will wear that homemade dress to some fancy event, like a wedding or Christmas party or the like.  Maybe just around my house on a lazy Sunday.  Who knows?

Earlier this year, around prom season, I was looking around the internet at different "Make Your Own Prom Dress" competitions and was floored at the talent these young gals had (like this go, girl!).    I have a sneaking suspicion that if I tried to sew my own prom dress in high school, it would have turned out something like this (if I was lucky):

I'm slowly working my way up to this dream.  First, I made my little sis a nightgown that looked more like a muumuu.  My next "sew my own clothes" project was a peasant tank top.  I got the free pattern from, and rushed through it because I really like instant gratification.  The outcome was fairly instant, but not so much gratifying...

What's so wrong with this one, you ask?  Wait for it...

Boom.  Side view.  Makes me look like I'm 7 months pregnant.  Yikes.

I took a little vacation from sewing my own clothes.  Until a couple of weeks ago.  I figured, "What's the harm in whipping up a quick pair of pajama shorts?"  After all, we all had to sew a pair of pajama shorts in 8th grade Home Ec.  And those turned out okay...if you have an asymmetrical butt.  So, I followed an old pattern that Grandma Alice gave me, and went with size medium.

Two thumbs down.
Balloon shorts.  A good breeze and I would've been up in the clouds.  And it has twisted elastic in the waistband.  My husband got a good laugh out of them, though, so not all was lost.  I did try to take them in a bit, which helped slightly.  But pajamas are all about comfort, right?  

Speaking of comfort...

Dear Santa Claus, please swing by Walgreens and pick me up a Forever Lazy and I will be Forever Grateful.  Love, Ree

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Trash to Treasure (or How Badly I Wish I Was On American Pickers)

My brother Adam recently flew home to Illinois from California.  This is always a real treat because  A) I love my brother and B) we enjoy doing a lot of the same things together.   This trip, Adam and I headed to the next farm town over to go thrift store shopping (and to make a quick stop at Rural King...that place always smells the same).  There is something so wonderful about rummaging through piles of junk and finding things that are a real treasure to you, usually for mere pocket change.

Sadly, I was off to a bit of a rough start at the big thrift store.  I was about to own up to the fact that I would go home empty-handed when I struck gold.  Guess what was for sale in between rows of sheets, dish towels and nasty old comforters....FABRIC!  I don't know why I never thought of looking for fabric at thrift stores before, but it's there.  Woo!  What's really great about thrift store fabric is that it's vintage...REAL vintage.  So tonight, after dropping Adam off at the airport, I got right to work on a sewing project using my new fabric.  I found this thick, mustard yellow damask fabric from the 60s or 70s (a good yard-and-a-half for fifty cents!), and I had a pattern for a bag that would be the perfect match.  Here's the end result...

The cute floral fabric on the inside is from Grandma Alice's collection...thanks, Grandma!
I love my new bag!  I can't wait to tote various things around in it, or possibly just use it as my everyday purse.  Here are some potential candidates for "items to be toted"...

Candy (of course), my current reading material, and a fun/challenging card game
Or there's always Slam.
One other really cool thing I found was this wooden candy bowl from the 1950s (very "space age", isn't it?).

All in all, it was a great trip.  Adam made it home with a few new-to-him shirts to remind him of the midwest and a retro puffy vest.  As an added bonus, Adam also found some copper wire in the inside pockets of the vest when we got home.  Hmmm....

Probably one of my favorite moments from this trip, though, was getting dressed up in costumes and going trick-or-treating on Halloween with all of my siblings for the first time ever.  Thank you, choice residents of Hillsboro, who gave me candy instead of weird looks when I rang your doorbell with my wand.  I'm 27, I'm in a costume, and I want your candy.  Thank you.

Luke (15) as Mail/Male Model, Karli (9) as Fat Elvis, Me (27) as Professor Umbridge, Adam (26) as Vampire Clown

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Domestic Daredevil

I imagine that if those who know me were asked to describe me, "hardcore" is not the first word that would come to mind.  In fact, a friend recently compared me to Dr. Leo Marvin's wife Fay, from the hilarious movie What About Bob?.   Enjoy one of my favorite clips...

"Mmmmmm.  Fay, this is so scrumptious.  Is this hand-shucked?"

While I am completely flattered to be compared to her, it just goes to show how very un-hardcore I am.  And I'm okay with that.  But sometimes, there is this little part of me that wants to believe there is a daredevil underneath all of this Fay-ness.  Someone a little more like this...

So, today I tapped into my inner Xena, and did something really daring.  I mean really REALLY daring.  ...I made an oven mitt.  (Insert Xena battle cry here.)  But not just any oven mitt.  One with a little edge to it--one with tattoos.  

Honey, of course I'll bake you an apple pie.  Right after I tune up my Harley.

Really, making a tattooed oven mitt is probably a combination of both Fay and Xena.  Either way, I was pleased with the outcome.  I will thoroughly enjoy baking/cooking as a tattooed domestic diva. Hmmm...perhaps "enjoy" isn't the right word, but I will at least do it with flair.  

For my parting shot, the oven mitt in action:

Works like a charm and fits like a glove.  And thank you, Gramarion, for the lovely mug!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Our House's Ghosts

1929.  The days of prohibition, Al Capone, jazz, the stock market crash, dance marathons.  The country was topsy-turvy and all abuzz with energetic chaos.  And here on my tiny plot of St. Louis land, a group of German immigrants got to work building a sturdy gingerbread house.

The house would stand through such major events as the Great Depression, WWII, and the assassination of JFK.  It lasted through ever-changing fads from bobby socks to bell bottoms to giant hair-sprayed bangs.  And it served as Home Sweet Home for an assortment of families throughout its decades.  We are the second family of Duncans to live in this house.  The previous Duncans lived here in the 50s and 60s.

So, you can only imagine the stories that live in these walls.  While we obviously never knew the many previous residents of the house on Rosa Ave., we do still hear from them in other ways.  You've just crossed over into...(cue theme music)....The Twilight Zone.

I promise, this is not as scary as you might think.  And it's probably not even close to what you might be thinking.  If you are the type of person who loves a good ghost story, I'm afraid I must disappoint you.  While we do not see any sheet-covered ghosts or simple orbs floating around our house, we have found messages from the past.  Allow me to share...

From our teenage 80s ghost.  Attic.
Probably my favorite.  From our 1940s or 50s little boy ghosts.  "Radio Parts Sold Here".  Attic.
Probably another from our teenage 80s ghost.  Attic.
Fingerprints from 1929...German carpenter ghost :)  Basement floorboards.
Math whiz ghost.  Bedroom door frame.
I cringe to think of all the other amazing messages that are buried under layers of paint.  Such a shame.  Some of the coolest stuff we found was during the bathroom renovation.  The floors and walls were stuffed with scraps of old newspapers from 1929.  Oddly enough, though, the papers were from Cleveland, Ohio, not St. Louis.  It was covered with gangster mug shots and the most flowery journalism you've ever heard.  But all this got me thinking...what messages can I leave behind?   Embarrassingly (or not), my first thought was to leave some Harry Potter reference inscribed in the walls of the attic (for example: Wingardium Leviosa, or D.A.)  Dork!  But I'll probably still do it.  So many options...

When my brother and I were growing up, we had to do some bedroom shuffling to accommodate for additional siblings.  My final destination was the home gym in the basement, remodeled to my very own bedroom/teenage hideout.  I definitely left some messages on the closet down there, the best of which is "I (heart) JTH" in purple fingernail polish.  Now every time my youngest brother Luke gets a shirt from his closet, he's reminded of his big sister's undying love for Jordan Taylor Hanson.  Sorry, brother.  Mmmbop.

Me and Taylor, on my sweatshirt.  True love, 1997-style.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Check It. Proof That I Did Graduate High School.

I had an afternoon to spare recently, so I did a quick little sewing project that was long overdue.  Take a gander at my old beat up checkbook below.  

Lacks a little flair, wouldn't you say?  Except for one thing.  Notice the big white card on the middle of my checkbook (hard to miss, I suppose)?  Let's take a closer look:

Yes, ladies and gentlemen.  That IS my high school diploma.  Shrunk down and laminated, made to fit right in my wallet.  A gift from HHS as they sent me out into the "real world".  The gift of preparedness: that I should always be armed and ready to present my high school diploma in case I would ever need to prove it to somebody.  And goodness knows I've said and done plenty that could leave a person wondering...  

Obviously I still carry it around with me almost a decade later.  In college, I was shocked to discover that my boyfriend (future husband) didn't have one in his wallet as well.    I guess I thought everyone received a tiny diploma when they graduated high school.  He still makes fun of me today for carrying it around.  Jealous, that's what I say.  He wishes he was a Hillsboro Hiltopper!  (And, yes, I did spell it correctly...where I come from we spell it as one word and with only one L...the right way.)  But let's get back on track.

The old brown checkbook and I have been through so much together.  I remember buying it at Walmart in high school, a purchase that I felt to be very grown up and sophisticated.  Whipping out the checkbook to flourish my signature on a check seemed glamorous and oh-so-mature.  But to everything there is a season.  So, out with the old and in with the new...

Ta-da!  Much better.
And the inside.
I am sad to point out that I no longer have a piece of vinyl on the front to proudly display my diploma.  But you might notice it peeking out of the top pocket in the second picture.  It will never leave me.  I will always need proof that I graduated high school, just in case.

And now for a blast from the past...

Me, a high school graduate, with Mom and Dad.  :)

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Big Reveal: My FINISHED Quilt! it is!!!!

Here's the back.
You guys, I seriously feel like I just finished a marathon!  I feel like I'm on some sort of running high; a quilting high, I guess.  I'm an old lady.  I am so glad this project is over but I feel so good about having done it at the same time.  Will I make another "big quilt"?  You bet your britches I will.  Will I have a little break before starting my next "big quilt"?  Yup.

The finished quilt measures 58 1/2" square. Big enough for me to be wrapped comfortably in it, but not so huge that I'm drowning in it.  Here are some of the steps that went into making my "big quilt" dream come true:

Cutting lots of fabric and sewing together 32 of these bad boys.
Taping fabric to the floor and making a quilt sandwich.
Putting 192 safety pins in it...Michael counted them.
Machine quilting the beast.  Lots of frustration here...and learning!   :)

There were some other steps in there, like hand-stitching the binding around the edges (while watching several episodes of PBS's Downton Abbey), but you get the gist of it.  Now that I've finished it, I like to keep it in view at all times.  I've thrown it over beds, chairs, the couch, etc.

Someday I will probably get sick of looking at it, but I'm nowhere near that point yet.  Now, I'd like to give a shout-out to the women before us, who did all this stuff BY HAND.  My hats are forever off to you ladies.  

Wish I had this hat.

Before I bid you farewell, I wanted to share my favorite picture of the quilt with you all.  

Slam and Paul Terry approve.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Homemade Gift for an Artist Extraordinaire

I am still hard at work on my first real quilt.  I'm currently in the phase where I'm machine quilting my "quilt sandwich" (quilt top + batting + back fabric).  I am so excited for the end result, but that probably is still a ways away.  So, in the mean time, I thought I'd share with you a homemade gift from last Christmas.

My brother Adam is a crazy-gifted artist.  He always kind of dabbled in it, but who knew he would get this good??  I'm very proud of him.  Here's an example of his progression:

"Great Aunt Sophie" in Junior High (1st place in Old Settlers Art Show---hey hey!)

To this....
"Green Lady" least that's what I call her....sometime last year

I know...crazy good.  Since my bro has blossomed in his artistic ability, I wanted to give him a Christmas gift that would feed into that creativity.  I wanted to make him something so that he could make know, like a chain of creativity.  Hence, the artists' tool roll:

I think he liked it!  Such a cool thing to watch someone open a gift that you made for them.  

I'm always looking forward to Adam's next artistic creation.  Although, Great Aunt Sophie will always hold a special place in my heart.  She's been hanging proudly in my family's basement for a long time now.  She's kind of like a member of the Mackey family.

There are few things as rewarding as creating something for someone else.  Remember when you were a kid and you colored a picture for your mom?  So much love on both sides.  There you were, beaming proudly as you hand your mom a multi-colored crayon etching of her.  And there was your mom, looking at it as if there was nothing more perfect in all the world...even if it was the tenth one you've given her that day.  What a feeling.  All that said, consider making something for someone.  And if you don't consider yourself "crafty" or artistic, simply do something kind for someone you love.  There.

Since this post is mostly pictures, why not throw in one more for the road?

Hillsboro is special.  Ree & Adam circa 1991