Sunday, February 26, 2012

T-Shirt Pillow

One of my S.O.S. goals was to create a t-shirt pillow like Brooklyn Limestone's.  Dan has a t-shirt that he loves and wears all the time.  It's really special to him, but unfortunately it was starting to tear and fade.  When I saw the t-shirt pillow online, I thought that would be a great way for him to still enjoy his shirt without wearing it down even more.  As a throw pillow it wouldn't get too much abuse.

Making the pillow was much more difficult than it should have been for two main reasons: 1) I had never used a sewing machine; and 2) cutting the pieces of fabric required math skills.  Ugh.

I used a shirt I didn't really care about as a trial pillow.  It kind of worked, but I couldn't figure out how to close it.  I had some ideas on how to do it, but it all seemed really complicated so I decided to try again.

Trial pillow

Using math

Learning to sew!

"Finished" pillow (it doesn't close)

I attempted making a second pillow using the same method as my friend Nick.

Nick's awesome tea towel pillow

T-shirt fabric is not the same as regular fabric though.  It's terrible to work with.  It's so stretchy that getting a straight line is very tricky.  Let's say that after threatening to kill myself and everyone around me, I gave that effort up.

The smile is all fake

I searched online to see if there was a better way, and behold!  I found a tutorial that actually made sense to me.  I "borrowed" a shirt from our S.O.S. host of the day, Katie, and gave it a try.  This one actually worked!  Hurrah!

Sorry Katie, this shirt is now mine!

Feeling emboldened, I thought I was finally ready to tackle the one shirt I absolutely could not afford to mess up: Dan's prized shirt.

I took a few deep breaths, measured and measured again and then started cutting.  Pretty soon I was ready to sew.

Don't I look so confident and capable?

With a lot of help from Nick, I made this!!

It's not as wonky in real life

All in all, it turned out pretty well.  The seams are surprisingly straight and the back of the pillow looks just like it should.  The most important thing is that Dan loves it!  I'll call this one a success!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

It's Lambing Season!

It's the most wonderful time of the year.  No, not Christmas.  Lambing season!  When all the baby lambs are hopping around in the fields, and flowers are pushing their way up on the stray.  Spring is coming!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Organic Fruit and Veggie Delivery

I'm now one of those know, the kind that gets fresh organic produce delivered to her door.  Did I ever think in a million years that would be me?  No.  But, so far I'm loving it.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

It's Finished!

I finally finished my pine box and it looks fantastic!

Finished Box!

It took a lot of work and a lot of patience to get here, but overall I'm really pleased with the result.  As a reminder, I bought this box at the local auction in December for only £18!

Original Box

When I bid on it, I couldn't really tell how big it was because it was surrounded by lots of other furniture.  I originally planned to use it as a coffee table in the living room.  Turns out, this thing is massive!  It was so big that I had to get it delivered by a truck.  (Incidentally, it's also big enough for my entire body to fit into...not that I've tried that.)  Though it didn't work out as a coffee table because it was too tall, it fit in perfectly as a side table for my new arm chair.

I had to finish the wood before I could use it as a table though.  I wanted it to be darker and I needed it to be at least water resistant so I could put drinks and food on it without worrying about damaging the table.  I turned to my good friend Pinterest for some inspiration. 

image from here
image from here

Notice a theme?  I was definitely interested in a darker wood with some rustic accents.  So I went to HomeBase to grab some walnut wood stain in a satin finish.

Before I could do any staining though, I first had to sand everything down.  I already owned an electric sander from when I refinished the table, so I got to work.  I had some help from the Spouses on Sabbatical.

Go S.O.S.!  Go!

After the initial sanding of the top and sides, I let it sit for more than a month.  Part of that was sheer laziness, and the other part was that I was traveling a lot.  Either way, not a lot got done.  I finally decided to get my tush in gear and called in some support. Thankfully, Rachel was glad to help out.

We started with the underside of the top of the box.  We thought this is the least visible spot, so if we messed up it wouldn't be too bad.  Luckily though, there was no need for concern.  It looked great from the get-go!  I love how the stain really brought out the notches and grains in the wood.

We had a minor accident that thankfully did not cause any permanent damage.


A couple of hours later and we had this:

That was the easy part.  Then we had to sand down the inside of the box, which took another few hours.  Unfortunately, this wood wasn't in the best condition.  I'm pretty sure this was meant to be a tool box where the state of the wood is of no concern.  Since I wanted this piece to be functional as well as beautiful, I needed to get as many splinters out as possible.  It's no fun grabbing a blanket out of the trunk and getting assaulted by wood pieces.

If you ever need a sanding partner, I highly recommend Rachel.  She's awesome.

We kept painting, and painting and painting. 

And it was looking awesome!  One major downside is that I could still see raw wood in between each plank and it was driving me crazy!  I didn't have a brush small enough to fit in those crevices, so I used the next best thing: a Q-tip.

This was a very tedious process, and I probably used around 30 Q-tips, but it made such a difference.

See the raw wood in between the planks?

Using a Q-tip to stain the cracks

While it's not 100% perfect, it is 100% mine and I love it.  I can see myself owning this piece for a very long time.

So much storage!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Spouses on Sabbatical Update

I owe you guys an update on my Spouses on Sabbatical projects.  This group has really taken off!  We meet once a week at a different member's house each time.  Next week I'll be hosting again.

There are six members: Alisha, Rachel, Nick, Karen, Katie and myself.

Spouses on Sabbatical

So, how am I doing on my S.O.S. projects

  • Makeover a kitchen table 
As you know, I finished my table.  I'm really enjoying it!  Now that I've lived with it a while, the tiny imperfections make it all the more charming :)
I have big updates on my pine box.  Hopefully I can get to that post tomorrow.  In the meantime, here's a sneak peak:
I ran into some difficulties making the pillows, and may have mentioned something about a murder/suicide plan in the height of my frustration.  Don't worry, I won't actually hurt anyone.  But I did need to find a different tutorial on how to make my pillow.  Once I got the new one, it went much better and I created a cute little throw.  One down, one to go.
Very Ironic T-Shirt Pillow

  • Continue learning Russian
Het (means "no" in Russian).  Haven't done a thing on this.
  • Find/makeover two chairs for the living room bay window
Got really close last week at the auction, but no.  I'm still looking.
  • Find/makeover two nightstands for the guest bedroom
Ditto from above.  Got close at last week's auction, but I'm still looking.
  • Find/makeover kitchen table chairs [Bought chairs, will makeover soon]
Got a steal  at the auction last week!  I bought two chairs and a table for £15!  I'm going to put the table in the conservatory and use the chairs in the kitchen.  They're in great shape, but they aren't exactly lookers.  Don't worry though.  I have a plan.
  • Make a light fixture for exercise room (like this). [Bought some supplies]
I bought the twine for this project, and I found a recipe for how to make my own mod podge, but I can't find a ball the right size.  I may have to look online.
  • Buy/make artwork for above the living room couch (really want this, but they can't ship it here)
I'm still kind of bummed that I couldn't get that map, but I got a really neat poster instead.  It's hard to describe, so I'll take a picture and show you soon.
  • Lean how to use my Panasonic Lumix to take better pictures
Haven't done this yet, but three out of the six S.O.S.ers have a Lumix and we all want to learn how to use it better.  I think this project will come up soon.
In addition to working on my own projects, I've also been working on some of Rachel's.  Specifically, she wants to learn how to be a better cook.  Who doesn't, right?  So Nick, who has professional culinary training and has worked in a restaurant, is helping us with our knife skills and our sauces.

Our Knife Gang

Sticky Toffee Pudding!

I'm having a great time and really learning a lot.  The only down side is that I'm making poor Dan very jealous.  When ever he feels like he's missing out too much though, he can look at this and feel a lot better.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Valentine's Day

I am not a big fan of Valentine's day and never have been.  I get why people are in to it, but I'd rather have someone show me they love me all 365 days a year rather than just one day.  So Dan and I have never gone out of our way to celebrate.

Earlier this year though, we both said we weren't going to do anything big for Chanukah.  I took that to heart and got Dan a couple small, practical gifts.  Dan, however, went above and beyond and got me a set of Le Cruset ramekins.  So, to assuage my guilt a little bit, I thought I would do something nice for him on Valentine's day.  After all, isn't that what it's about?  One-upping your spouse?

This week's Spouses on Sabbatical project was learning new knife skills and creating the mother (or leading) sauces.  One of the mother sauces is hollandaise, which gave me a great idea for what to serve Dan for dinner.  The menu: smoked salmon eggs benedict; sauteed mushrooms; fruit salad; and homemade cinnamon buns for dessert! 

I wanted to make it a surprise so that he would be ambushed by my love :)  Unfortunately, he saw the smoked salmon in the fridge and knew something was up.  When he came home from work, he was ready. 

Flowers AND Girl Scout Cookies!!

Dan's the best.  He brought me beautiful flowers and was able to track down some Girl Scout cookies!  I have no idea where he got them.  He also gave me a fantastic massage.  Yay!

The food was a big hit too.  The pictures don't do the cinnamon buns justice.  I wish you could smell them from where you are.  They were heavenly.

Valentine's Meal

Cinnamon Buns--Much Better in Real Life

Overall, it was a fantastic night.  Dan didn't help me lose some of the guilt from Chanukah, but I'm OK with it.  I guess I'll just have to find another time to surprise him with something nice :)

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Jewel of the Nile: Final Days

We woke up extra early to catch a pre-sunrise flight to Abu Simbel.  This trip was not part of the original itinerary and I was pretty on-the-fence about whether I wanted to pay extra to see the temple.  But then our tour guide Sal said that Abu Simbel is one of the top three must-sees in Egypt; I was sold.  I am so grateful too!  It was amazing!!

Large chunks of granite prevent river boats from reaching Abu Simbel, so we flew.  One amusing fact: you can't bring instruments to kill cattle; a spear; or roller skating shoes on the plane.  But you can smoke!

When we got to Abu Simbel, it was still pitch-black.  Sal led us to the sight and gave us some background while we watched the sun rise over Lake Nasser.

Even at night we could see how special Abu Simbel is.  It has four enormous seated Ramses statues at the temple's entrance.  Each statue is more than 65 feet tall!

Abu Simbel

We had the whole temple to ourselves, which was a unique experience.  The carvings were very detailed and there was still a lot of color left on the walls and ceiling.  There were also huge statues of Ramses inside.

By the time we got back outside, the sun had risen.

We also explored the temple Ramses built for his wife Nefertari.  It was equally impressive.

Both of these temples had to be moved in the 1960s when the High Dam was built because otherwise they would have been flooded.  Archeologists did a fantastic job.  You can hardly tell that it's not in it's original location.

Even though it was only around 8 a.m., it was time to head back to Aswan.  We made it back in time for breakfast and a nice morning nap.  Then, since we had some free time, Dan and I explored the Aswan market.  It was really bustling.

Fresh Spices

The most interesting vendors were the butcher and the guy selling the live pigeons, chickens and rabbits!

Live Pigeons

Later that afternoon the group went for a nice, relaxing felucca (sailboat) ride.  We followed that up with (of course) some shisha and card games.

The next day we toured the high dam and Philae Temple.  The dam was built in the 1960s and today provides power and water to Egypt and five other countries!  It also created Lake Nasser, which has a large enough reserve to supply Egypt with water for more than 300 years.

Lake Nasser

We reached the Philae Temple via motor boat, and the approach was beautiful.

Philae Temple

The temple itself was really beautiful too, though one part in particular was extra interesting.  After the Romans invaded they ordered the Egyptians to create carvings honoring them.  Since Romans couldn't read hieroglyphics, they only saw the finished product and thought it looked great.  What they didn't know is that one pillar is filled top-to-bottom with curse words and insults!  We had Sal read some of it to us...Wow!

We only had a couple of hours left in Aswan before we took another sleeper car back to Cairo.  Dan and I managed to find a shisha that we liked enough to bring back with us!  In fact, everyone from the group bought one!  Ours is a really beautiful frosted glass bowl with an ornate silver top.  And it only cost us $30!  Like I said earlier, shisha really is a lifestyle.  Ha!

Our last day in Egypt ended with a city tour of Cairo.  We saw an ancient Coptic Christian church called "The Hanging Church."  It's called that because the nave of the church is suspended over pillars and there is no foundation holding it up.

Hanging Church in Cairo

We also saw the Greek Orthodox St. George's Church.

St. George's Church

But my favorite was the Mosque of Muhammad Ali (not the boxer).  It is built in the Ottoman style and is supposed to look like a smaller version of the Hagia Sophia in Turkey.  It was gorgeous.

We spent a few more hours just wandering around the city, but then it was time to go home.  It was an incredible adventure--one that I won't soon forget!

Read about our other stops along the Nile:
Edfu and Kom Ombo
Luxor I
Luxor II