Wednesday, March 29, 2017
What lasted for me from our darling daughter's eight-month adventure in Wisconsin was an abiding interest in working up my mom's yarn stash into cat mats for the Angel's Wish Foundation (http://angelswish.org/about/). The first photo above is the last batch of cat mats turned over the day she left Wisconsin. The top one is kind of embarrassing; I was gleefully crocheting up a pattern, then discovered I didn't have enough yarn to finish it, and had to add completely different colors to finish it. DD calls this one "broken television." The pink one is made of a very soft chenille yarn that I should have stabilized before donating, but what can I say, I was in a hurry and distracted by the upheaval in our house.
The lower photograph is of a batch of mats that I hope to pack up and walk over to the post office today to send out. The top one is actually made from a sport weight yarn; my mom crocheted it in the hospital, just a couple of days after suffering a stroke a few years ago. I stitched a piece of leftover fleece to the bottom to stabilize it and added the fringe to help it lie flat. It really represents a triumph over adversity and I hope its future owner loves it.
I'm about to run out of rug yarn soon, so future mats will probably be made of double strands of worsted or sport weight yarn. There is a seemingly never-ending supply in my mom's house, so I'm looking forward to trying out some new stitch designs on those unsuspecting kitties. This project would be a real triumph if I could get my mom, the master crocheter, to start making them, too. (Are you reading this, Thelma?)
Sunday, December 25, 2016
DD lives near Madison, Wisconsin, where she works for a big software company and volunteers for Angel's Wish Foundation, an organization that rescues cats and finds new homes for them. When a cat is adopted, the new owner can choose from a variety of handmade cat mats to take with the kitty to its forever home.
My mom has a lifetime supply of acrylic yarn, so when I heard there was a shortage of cat mats, I got right to work creating some from my mom's yarn. Some of the color combinations are a little bizarre, but I had a lot of fun making them and the cats won't mind.
Tuesday, August 2, 2016
You may remember the summer I made seven tops without spending any money on fabric. Unfortunately, most of those tops are now uncomfortably tight. While I work on my weight, I am enjoying wearing big tops that cover everything.
Yesterday I discovered an old sarong that a dear friend sent me from India. I wore it as a swimsuit cover-up in Africa more than twenty years ago. It was a great big tube in the softest cotton with a cute elephant border. Check out the before and afters below.
I showed the finished project to DD, who loves elephants, and she wants the top, so I think I'll send it to her and look for another promising garment to refashion.
Sunday, July 10, 2016
I set up a simple snack station in the hall with DS's old dorm fridge and an end table. I contemplated buying a Keurig, but ultimately decided on a water kettle and various packets of instant beverages instead, having read scary things about difficult-to-clean disease-harboring tubes in the Keurig. I was also concerned about all the waste involved in the little K-cups, but having used a Keurig recently at the Howarth House B&B in Fitchburg, Massachusetts, I may be revisiting that decision. The coffee was delicious.
DH and I scoured the countryside for antique furniture and other pieces to make the rooms interesting, and I did a lot of "shopping" among the treasures we had collected from overseas as well. I spent a small fortune on bedding and towels, all white 100% cotton so they can be bleached (something I learned from watching "Hotel Impossible"). I created a "Management Handbook" with breakfast recipes, tax information, etc., cleaned the kitchen as it had never been cleaned before, got a food handler's certificate from the local health department, and we were ready.
I wanted to dip my toe in the business, so I started in November 2014 with two listings on the website airbnb.com: https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/4033247?checkin=07%2F11%2F2016&checkout=07%2F12%2F2016&guests=1&s=_ZxOOA7v and https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/4235270?checkin=07%2F11%2F2016&checkout=07%2F12%2F2016&guests=1&s=z6_qY5O_
Within a couple of weeks we had our first guests, a very nice couple who were coming to the area for Parents' Weekend at IU. Since then we have welcomed many IU parents, as well as students, business travelers, wedding parties and an amiable fellow with a vintage Porsche he was taking to a car show at French Lick. All of our guests have been wonderful, and I feel very fortunate that things have gone so well. Thanks to airbnb, I never have to handle money, which makes things easy.
Some months we have no guests; other months we may be quite busy. I think in our busiest month we had 11 room nights, which for a B&B with no staff means that I am constantly washing sheets and towels. I have learned to "x" out the rooms on airbnb.com if I know I'm going to be busy or out of town.
I changed my website from oldjailarts.com to sheriffshouse.com, but immediately ran into an issue when I couldn't upload the photographs I had taken with my phone. I paid for that website to remain dormant for more than a year, thinking I would get someone to redo the photographs for me, before finally deciding to give it up last month. I'm still contemplating the benefits of having a website.
All in all, though, the B&B experiment has been a success. Although I do all the cleaning and laundry involved, making the breakfast is a job for the two of us, and it's fun to get up early and go through the many steps to preparing healthful, delicious food and setting a pretty table.
There are some issues: Keeping the lawn respectable is difficult. DH is busy and really too tired after a long hard day fixing icemakers to run the lawn mower. This summer I finally started hiring someone to mow and weed-whack, but at $50 a visit, lawn care costs seriously cut into the very modest profits I make on what is still a part-time business. Another issue: the cotton comforter covers I bought are a real pain to put on and take off after every guest. While I agree with Anthony Melchiorri in principle that everyone should have a fresh, clean bed to sit on and not a spread that was last cleaned when George Bush was President, there has to be a better way. The 100% cotton bedding also wrinkles like nobody's business, which I hate, but there's no way I'm going to try to iron these huge sheets.
We've never put up a sign to indicate that we have a B&B; all our guests so far have found us through airbnb.com. We talk often about marketing a little more widely and hiring someone to help if needed, but I'm reluctant to go from B&B "Lite" to a full-time operation. We also talk about turning the third-floor tower room into another B&B room, but that is a subject for another post. There is still a ton of work to be done on the house, and now that we have so many more guests, and a little more money, hopefully we will be inspired to tackle more of it.
Monday, July 4, 2016
Friday, April 15, 2016
Another April, another wonderful Trashion/Refashion show in Bloomington. Thanks to John Streiff-Fraser for the two professional photos, and to my beautiful model, Kara Ratcliff, for making the clothes look so good! You can see more of this show at http://bloomingtontrashion.org/.
I submitted only one outfit this year, "Stellar City Girl, " a rather obvious reference to our little city of Bedford and all the positive changes taking place here since our designation as a "Stellar City."
The outfit consists of four pieces: The first, a skirt made of vinyl banners promoting the Stellar program and an old shower curtain, was draped with a gunslinger-style belt made of choice words cut from the same banners to deliver a positive message about our community. The crop top was fashioned from old jeans salvaged from my mom's house, and fastened in the back with four gold star buttons from the same source. For the hat I cut down a damaged cowboy hat of my dad's (you can see the original in the picture), then edged it with gold Thai silk from my stash and added a starburst medallion cut from an old necklace and a shooting star "tail" of the same silk.
Obviously not just anyone could wear this outfit, but Kara looked fantastic in it. Every time I think about getting rid of all the fabrics, old clothes, old jewelry, etc., that I hold onto, I remember how much fun it is to pull together an outfit without spending a dime.
I'm already collecting plastic mesh produce bags for next year. Stay tuned!
Monday, February 29, 2016
For a "Farewell to Downton Abbey" tea party at the museum, I dug deep into my fabric stash and came up with a sheer sparkly piece that I bought at least 17 years ago in Djibouti. Inspired by a kimono jacket worn by Essie Davis on "Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries," I bought Butterick B6176, which promised to be "Fast & Easy," and voila, a couple of hours later I had a sparkly jacket.
The tea party was at 4 p.m. on Sunday afternoon, so after thinking hard about how to dress my head, I hurried home from church and whipped up a turban from an old skirt (bought in the Tbilisi bazroba in 2003 for a Halloween costume for DD). I sewed a piece of broken jewelry to the front, added a peacock feather rescued from the mannequin tree at Christmas, and I felt pretty fabulous as I left the house!
If I make this pattern again, I will make it a size smaller than indicated by the pattern measurements. I love the freedom of movement of the kimono shape, but honestly, two of me would fit inside that jacket. I pinned it closed in the front with an antique button, but I could have wrapped it to the side seams.