14 August 2011

Today's Change of Plans

I am taking an unexpected break today, courtesy of a dog that decided that 5:30 in the morning was a great time to throw up.  Bending over while you're pregnant is never a fun experience but quickly hauling 20 lbs of dog into the bathroom at 0530 can really set your day back.

I've been working like crazy these last two weeks to accomplish some fairly nebulous goals: catching up to all the things that were neglected while we were traveling, getting ready for baby's arrival, and just generally trying to put some order back into my life.  I've actually gotten a lot done (i.e. baby clothes/blankets/bedding is 90% washed and put away) but I still have a long list of things that need to be accomplished (i.e. renewing a car title).

Being unemployed for nearly two years has required a lot of mental effort on my part, mostly to stay busy and feel like I am contributing to our family.  I'm guilty of reminding my husband a little too often that he doesn't understand "how much I do around here" but the last few months have shown me that maybe I don't know how much I do.  During my first trimester, it was a good day if the dishes got cleaned and my homework was done; grocery shopping was a great day.  For my second trimester, while I was feeling better, I was at least able to keep up with the housework and homework, even if I didn't ever get ahead (although it didn't help that we were gone so much during the last month of that energy boost).  I'm still continuing that slow down effect in my third trimester, with naps looking more appealing every day.  My to-do list shows me that I can accomplish 4-5 tasks each day, generally a mix of errands, housework tasks, and a craft project.

I'm learning to modify my plans when I need to.  For instance, today I was supposed to run some errands to Target and a couple other places but my back muscles and slightly swollen ankles are telling me that long periods of walking are not an option.  My errands can wait a couple of days, so instead, today I will do projects that can be done while sitting at home.  I remind myself that it's still progress, just on different goals.

First up: rearranging my to-do list into a more realistic timeline.  Listing always makes me feel better.  :-)

How do you know when you're doing too much?

08 August 2011

August Readings & Thoughts

It has been awhile since I spammed my blog with interesting links.  While traveling last month, it was nice to be able to keep up on my reading through Google Reader, but I didn't have much to say about what I read.  Since I've been back home, it's been easier to focus and think.  Here's what I've been thinking about:

  • Grocery Shopping: When I did my weekly grocery shopping last Thursday, a gallon of 2% milk had gone up to $3.13 from $2.86 just a week before.  That doesn't sound like much, but if 9.4% is indicative of rising grocery prices, no wonder my food budget has been creeping up a bit lately!  Get Rich Slowly (GRS) recently did an update to their ongoing "how much do you spend on food?" post.  It's garnered over 300 comments and reading through them is fascinating... everything from families of 8 living on $300/month to singles or couples spending $1500/month!  
  • Comparative Statistics: Most of the comments on that article include info about urban/suburban/rural location and how picky people are about food choices.  This is a data goldmine that I really want to sink into.  For two suburban, non-organic eaters, we spend about $300/month on groceries and another $200/month on eating out; groceries includes entertaining an average of once a month.  Surprisingly, while our eating out amount varies, it never affects our grocery bill much.  As an added bonus, one of the comments introduced me to Bundle where you can compare how much you spend in certain categories relative to others in your age, family, income, and geographic groups.  Fascinating info!  This is one place where I don't mind being below average!
  • Food & Science: Hmm, I'm starting to see a trend.  This article on biofortification of foods is why I love both the Freakonomics books and their blog.  This one is a guest post (which happens frequently) and, in addition to providing good data on a relevant social topic, gives a strong case for why waiting for the perfect solution is often a bad idea.  This is essentially why I'm an engineer and not a researcher; perfect theories blow up in the real world and you need to know how to adapt new knowledge to existing problems.  The article also brings up a favorite soapbox topic of mine: that engineered foods have, on the whole, been a Good Thing for the human race.
  • Economic Circumstances: GRS had an entry last week about what part of your personal financial situation is your responsibility/fault and what is not.  This is a fascinating discussion and, interesting as the comments are, they don't begin to scratch the surface of how complex this topic truly is.  There's a lot of personal philosophy and experience revealed in how you feel about this subject.  We all know people who complain and yet do nothing to help themselves; equally, we know people who did "everything right" and still ended up broke (hopefully, we also know lots of people who did most things right and came out okay!).  Hindsight is 20/20 and articles like this remind me of two favorite quotes: "Chance favors a prepared mind" and "Statistics mean nothing to the individual".
That's enough thinking for me today... after all, I have homework to do.  ;-)

What's been on your mind lately?  How are issues like this affecting you?

03 August 2011

More Crafting

I took the day off yesterday to do whatever I wanted.  That mostly turned in to updating my Goodreads account and craft projects.  I decided, in my typical OCD way, that I should actually list the projects I'm working on right now.  Boy, was that a mistake... but one I'm happy to share for commiseration purposes!

First, I forgot to post yesterday that I did end up repairing the dog blanket last month.  The replacement batting and patching I had in mind worked out pretty well.  It's not elegant, but then again it's for my dogs.  They seem happy to have their comfy blanket back and I'm happy to be done with another project.

This leaves me with 17 projects at various stages.  Yeah, that number's not a typo.  Shh, don't tell my husband!  Especially since he said something the other day about not needing to go back to a fabric store for a few years...

Without further ado, my list of projects (1-6 are current; 7-13 are doable but not started; 14+ need something):
  1. Placemats - Found some cute blue gingham at the $1 fat quarter sale.  With the addition of some even cheaper red gingham, it will make 8 double-sided placemats.  Everything's cut, I just need to pin, sew, and iron.
  2. Cloth Napkins - Coordinating yellow starburst/flower pattern to make napkins to go with the placemats.  Unfortunately, I underestimated the amount of fabric needed for this and actually have to go back to Hancock for another yard.  Who knew cloth napkins ranged from 16 - 21 inches square?!?  I discovered yesterday that this may be a good test run project for my new serger!
  3. Picnic Bench Cushions - Blue leafy fabric I found back when we lived in Vegas (no comments on how long ago that was...).  The pieces are cut, the batting is cut, the straps are made (that was a pain); one cushion is even basted.  Just need to install that walking foot on my sewing machine and get going!
  4. Memory Game - Made some progress on this last night.  Interfacing is all cut out, felt is all cut (including frames).  Now I need to start cutting squares of fabric to insert.
  5. Baby Quilt - It's really a twin size quilt, which turns out to be a good thing.  Apparently all the crafty people in my family decided that making blankets for baby would be a great idea!  Plus, the 20+ receiving blankets we received as gifts are likely another craft project in the making.  They are all super cute but at least the quilt I make will be big enough to be useful for a long time.
  6. Dragon & Castle (cross-stitch) - I've been working on this one off-and-on for over 4 years.  Just getting it set up to work on is time consuming.  It is a huge design and I'm probably 60% done.
  7. PJs/Sleeper - Have the fabric (teddy bear fleece!) & pattern & notions & thread.  Just need to cut it all out and sew it together.
  8. Gift for my sister-in-law - This is a stamped cross-stitch project kit, the first one I've ever done (the other type is counted and that's what I learned when I was young).  Not sure if she reads this blog or not; if not, pics may be coming after I start.
  9. Crib Bumpers - I got the pattern from my mom and discovered last night that I may not have enough fabric (whoops!).  I based my cut size on another pattern I saw in a store, so I might just go back and get that one.  Once I decide what to do about that, it's cut and sew.
  10. Clothing Repairs - Ugh.  What uninspiring sewing.  I think I need a basket, like my friend Jen suggested.  I need this more out of the way than I need it done right now.
  11. Christmas Ornaments - Another cross-stitch project.  Each of these takes me 4-6 hours to do, so it's a good car-ride/TV-watching type project.  I make at least one for us every year plus a few for family/friends, but I'm running out of kits (only 5 left).  I haven't been able to find any at all the last two Christmases, so if anyone sees these (they generally run $1-2), please let me know!
  12. Hand Towel - Cross-stitch pattern that took me longer than I estimated.  I intended to make 2... one is done and given to my sister as a wedding gift... now I need to finish the matching one.  Whoops.
  13. Baby's 1st Christmas Ornament - Yeah, started this cross-stitch kit when I was 9... as in, for my new baby sister.  She's in high school now, so I should probably convert that to my baby's instead.  It would definitely take me less time now than it did then!
  14. Bear Cross-stitch - Picked out the pattern, need to order it.  This is going in the baby's room... should probably get on that!
  15. Curtains #1 - For that same sister, actually.  Still need the dimensions of her closet since she hasn't sent them yet!
  16. Curtains #2 - Not sure if this is still valid.  I got fabric to make curtains for our house in Vegas and did about half of them before we moved.  Still have the fabric (and the curtains) but they don't fit this house at all.
  17. Curtains #3 - These were for curtain sheers at the house in Vegas (it's very sunny there).  Never made any of them, but they might be retrofitted to another purpose through the sheer amount of fabric I have.
That's a lot and it makes me want to dive in and sew!  I also discovered that I have 9 fabrics with no plans.  I thought of uses for a couple, but still at a loss for the others.  It's good to have options, right?

Ever discover that you have more going on that you realized?  How do you handle the overflow?

02 August 2011

July's Cross-stitch Projects

Okay, craft update time.  I'm pretty sure that all the things I've finished since my last update were gifts.  I'm hoping to get to more me-crafts this week.  Either way, it feels good to finish some projects!

 Wedding Gift: This was for a very good friend of mine but was severely tardy (worked on it for close to a year).  The corner pieces are from a different pattern, but I adjusted some things, selected the verse (from Hamlet), and arranged the whole piece, so it's a semi-original design.  I would never have guessed that a red/silver double matte was the way to go, but it definitely trumped the blue design I was considering!  (The date on the pattern has been blurred out for information privacy reasons... I'm kinda big on the subject.)  Sorry that the pictures are a little blurry; I only had my sister's camera and it's not quite fancy enough to make up for a poor photographer like me!
Matted Final Piece
Close up of Verse
Better shot of stitching (wish I could get these two pics melded!)

Baby Gift: This piece was slightly less tardy but, because it was a little late, I was able to give it in person rather than having to mail it!  My friend Amy and her husband decided to do an arctic animals theme and she made an adorable quilt to match.  I was so pleased to see that this piece went with it!  She also made us a very cute amish puzzle ball, themed to match our teddy bear nursery.  I haven't taken a picture yet, but she posted a good one on her blog.  (Again, the little one's name is blurred out... no reason for an infant to have an online presence yet!)
Frolicking Orcas!
Thank You Gift: We got thank you gifts for everyone who threw us baby showers, but this is the only one I made.  My sister-in-law is a big Winnie the Pooh fan and I've looked for years for a cross-stitch kit to do as an ornament for her.  As luck would have it, I found one this summer instead.  Guess I'll have to do something else for Christmas!
Pooh Bear Says Thank You
Unfortunately, I did not get a picture of this one with its matte.  DH procured it (and picked out a good one) and we gave it as a gift right after.  I'll have to try to get a picture the next time we travel to see her!

That was a lot to finish in one month, but it was mostly matting and framing that was needed to complete these projects.  As I mentioned in my last post, I'm almost done with my current class, so the next couple of weeks should be crafty ones!  I intend to get the quilt front pieced, make some placemats and napkins, start on crib bumpers, and make some progress on the memory game.  What are you working on these days?

Before I forget!  My friend Amy is also interested in doing an internet-based fabric stash swap.  I will definitely be participating!  If any of you are interested, let me know and I'll put you in touch.

01 August 2011

Crazy in its Many Forms

Crazy traveling lady here, back from a whirlwind month!  We traveled to see my family in Florida (with fabulous baby shower #1), then drove to New York to see DH's family (with fabulous baby shower #2), and then (because the AF can't let a good thing be) ended up spending a weekend in Alabama because DH got called up at the last minute for mandatory training.  Not that I'm complaining; better now than when there's an infant in the house, but it's still just that much extra craziness to handle.

Speaking of being pregnant (and crazy), I have definitely hit the 3rd trimester full on.  A friend told me that going from trimester 1 to 2 was like a light switch being thrown and I definitely agree... over the course of 2-3 days, my energy (and appetite) suddenly reappeared.  Some mom-friends have told me that this energy lasted them till month 9, others that it went away just as suddenly at the beginning of month 7.  I am apparently in a third category: let's call it the "long slow decline" group.  I'm starting to feel my energy flag a little earlier and easier, but I'm no where near the exhausted state of my first few months.  I just hope this decline isn't too rapid; there's a lot to be done still before the baby arrives!

It should be a quiet few weeks around here.  I'm almost done with another class and will be starting my last pre-baby class in a couple weeks.  After that, I take a 3 month leave of absence, then return to take my last two classes after the first of the year.  I'm hoping to get further on some sewing projects and put up a post soon about ones I've completed since my last update.  I'm also hoping to actually crack open a book this month!  Then there's the baby furniture to be assembled and the clothes to wash and the registries to update.  Maybe it's not going to be as quiet as I thought...

Oh!  One last thought/question: what's your favorite personal finance blog?  Mine is Get Rich Slowly, but I'm looking to add one or two more to my subscriptions.  I'm also on the lookout for a purely military personal finance blog.  If you know of one, please send it my way!  Thanks all!  More coming soon!