A Sewing Do-Over

Sewing and I have a love/hate relationship.  I’ve always been fascinated by it in theory.  But it’s always fallen apart in practice.  As a kid, my mom put in a good faith effort to teach me to sew.  The poor woman finished every item I ever started.  Unfailingly, the projects were miserable experiences.  The detail…The jargon…The need for constant focus…all of it worked to my weaknesses.  Even then, I was a big picture girl-conceptual and broad in my focus.  Attention to detail has always been an “opportunity” for me.

After I began crocheting, however, my craft blog obsession led me to all that sewing can produce.  The adorable, the beautiful, the intricate, the awesome projects on the web beckoned….and I began to covet.  I began to covet the ability to sew.  Per my usual mode of operation, I made the decision to learn and immediately began collecting all the accoutrements needed.  Especially fabric….stacks of it.  That’s what I do-I collect…

Over the last three years, I’ve completed the following:

  • One apron
  • A handful of cup cozies
  • One skirt
  • Approximately 25 pair of pajama pants
  • Curtains
  • Monday’s  pillowcase

I enjoyed the curtains and the monkey pillowcase.  The others? Not so much.  I make so many stupid mistakes!  So I’m regrouping.  I can do this!

I’m starting over….that’s right, a sewing do-over.  First, the basics….pillows! I’m more than tired of the throw pillows in the living room.  I’m going to use some of this freaking fabric if it’s the last thing I do!

I’m thinking some combination of these…They make me happy.

I’m also going to look for a class.  I won’t let my past define me.  That’s right, I call “do over”.


Chicken Mission

Learning and thriving…

Chickens are definitely a new learning curve for me.  So naturally, I’ve done what I always do-I read and research extensively, then I point my toes and leap.  And, per the usual, there’s always, always always (!) an early misstep.  The good news is, the chickens are alive and well.  The bad news is, for a few days there, it seemed as though I had inadvertently put their health in jeopardy. The culprit?

The common Red Cedar tree.  You see, they take these trees, and make stuff with them.  One of the many products available made from red cedar are cedar shavings.  These are manufactured and packaged for use with small animals.  I found them at a bargain while readying my chicken coop for the ladies, and thought, this is a great idea.  The cedar will help with the chicken smell (ewww) and should have some anti-bug properties to boot.

Fast forward to Thursday of last week.  I’m bleary eyed, reading an article on the deep litter method before going to bed for the evening. About two thirds of the way through the article ( frankly I was almost asleep) I read the following words “….cedar shavings are toxic to chickens and should never be used.”   Bleepity, bleep, bleep!! I said to myself, and for the next hour and a half, I scoured the internet for more information.

The bottom line as far as my research took me, is that there is no bottom line.  A lot of people are convinced cedar is toxic to chickens (as well as other small animals).  It’s discussed in chicken forums across the web that red cedar’s aromatic properties can actually create respiratory issues for the birds and in fact, can kill them.  I couldn’t find any conclusive (and by that I mean cited, scientific, etc) point of reference that gave me the 411 on cedar’s effects on chickens.  On top of which, there are folks out there who say they’ve used cedar shavings as part of their bedding mix for years and had no problems.

What did I do?  Well, my philosophy is this:  If there’s a chance something might kill your chickens, and you don’t want your chickens to die, then quit doing the thing that might kill them.  So I spent the better part of an incredible, beautiful Saturday morning mucking out a chicken coop.

What did I replace the cedar with?  Well, I know you’ll find it hard to believe, but for every bedding material available and used, there’s someone who’s going to say it’s no good for your chickens.  I found folks who think pine shavings are toxic, and then there are folks who use pine religiously.  Some folks are sold on hay, and some folks say it tends to mold and is a mess to try to compost.  So, I used pine shavings and threw some hay on top  and in the nesting boxes for good measure.  I love these chickens, but I don’t see any backyard chicken death epidemics and people are using these materials left and right.

So today, I reached out to my county extension office and asked them.  The agri-extension representative said,

“I can’t speak with authority about cedar shavings, but will try to find out. I do know that pine shavings and/or rice hulls are the preferred bedding materials for the poultry industry. I believe this is for the absorption value of these materials. I will forward your question to someone in the poultry department at TAMU and see what they say.”

TAMU is Texas A&M University, and as soon as I know, I will let you guys know.

So at least for the time being, the Hogwarts quartet are thriving.  And me? I’m still learning…

Chicken Mission

Chicken Mission Accomplished!

We are “go”  for chickens!

I’ve been trolling Craigslist for weeks and quickly determined that given how little I know about chickens, buying my first batch of pullets from a state inspected breeder was probably the best route.  Fast forward to Tuesday of this week.  I took off work early and drove 45 minutes to Fowl Weather Farm, a not so distant breeder that seemed to fit the bill. The young proprietress of Fowl Weather Farm was helpful and professional and we ended the day Tuesday with four new friends and Chicken Mission accomplished!

I had intended to buy at least two Dominique (pronounced dominicker)  pullets and was open to the breed of the other two ladies.  I ended up with two Barred Rocks and two Black Sex Links.  Black Sex Links aren’t kinky.  A Black Sex Link is a cross between a Rhode Island Red Rooster and a Barred Rock hen.  You can tell what sex the chicken is by the coloring around its neck, hence the moniker of “sex link”.  And although their name shows a stunning lack of imagination, all should be great laying hens.  The Barred Rocks look just like a Dominique to the untrained eye, but apparently lay slightly larger eggs.  Eggs being the driving force behind this chicken mission, I was  fickle and opted for the Barred Rocks.  I have an egg dependency, you see. I’m not ashamed of it.


The Siren Call of Yarn…

You’ve taught yourself a few stitches, maybe even made your first simple crochet item with from one of the “Learn to Crochet” resources we discussed earlier.  You’re starting to get excited and you’re ready to pick out something a little more substantial.

Here’s what I remember about those first forays to the craft stores.  Whether you’re at a Hobby Lobby, Michael’s, Joann’s, whatever, the patterns, yarns and books can be pretty overwhelming.  I had a terrible habit of buying yarn, and then trying to figure out what I wanted to do with it.  Not your best path forward folks.  You wind up with the wrong amounts, or the wrong weight yarn and you wind up going back to the store for more.  You’ll be better served to 1) look at what’s available online. 2) Make a decision about your pattern, and 3) then go in search of yarn.

I know, I know, it sounds like a no brainer, but the siren call of yarn can be a powerful thing.  I’m trying to save you some money and closet space.  Repeat after me…'”First pick the Project.”  Go ahead, repeat it…Now, “Then Pick the Yarn.”  Good.  Repeat it again. “First pick the Project. Then Pick the Yarn.” Say it to yourself about 500 times, and you will thank me.  Your spouse and children will thank me.

Your welcome.


Watch out! “Me” Time Can Be A Problem….

I’m an HR Manager by day…a mom/domestic at night.  In reality, the two jobs actually utilize a lot of the same skill sets and mental muscle.  Unfortunately, I pretty much use up all my emotional intelligence (not to mention tolerance for the human race) during the day.  By night, I’m a conflict-hating introvert.  I avoid interaction.  Shamefully, that avoidance often includes my husband and children, and always includes any extracurricular interaction with friends or family.

Early on in my midlife crisis, I realized my crafting could be an unwitting accomplice to my extreme after-hours introversion. I have to be very careful to temper my selfish desire to pursue what can be a therapeutic and calming hobby. If I don’t, I ignore my kids, the house stays dirty, groceries go unpurchased, takeout reigns…This can be ok on occasion, but obviously, wouldn’t be tenable for the long haul.  I’ll be honest, finding balance between what I want to do and what I need to do remains an opportunity for me.  I know it’s a potential obstacle, however, so I keep my eyes peeled.

The lesson embedded here is that even with  productive, creative pursuits, there can be pitfalls.  The really cool thing is that the problem can also be the solution.  It takes self-discipline to temper my after-hours metamorphosis into a hermit.  It also takes self-discipline to learn a skill and use that skill to bring an item or project to completion.  In essence, both require that I flex the same muscle.  Now obviously, it’s easier to flex that muscle with the more selfishly pleasing task.  That’s ok.  At least I’m using the self-discipline muscle.  The more I use it, the stronger it gets. Ultimately, the act of exerting self-discpline makes me more likely to do it in the future.  Hence, my decision this evening to play angry birds and eat apple instead of beading or working on my afghan.  Hold it…Yes, I know…that doesn’t sound like it required self-discipline does it?…oh well, take that example and you know…such the like.