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WFMW: Getting a Style

When I go to Vermont in April, I’ll be traveling by plane, train, and automobile. Oh, my.

That means I do not want to lug more luggage than I need to.

The dorms have laundry facilities. But really, I should be able to put together a little wardrobe that I can carry in my rolling suitcase, and then a carry on bag for a computer, book, notepad and pen…whatever I need for all those travel hours.

Right?

Right.

So I decided I need a style. A uniform. Something that is easy to put together, mix and match, and not too bulky. (No prom dresses then. HAHAHA.)

I think I’m going to go with jeans, t-shirts, and cardigans. Easy. Breezy.

Okay, I never claimed to be a cover girl.

I saw this at the Anthropologie website:

$118 for a cardi is definitely not my style. But how hard would it be to find a striped cardigan on eBay and sew some lace to it? I think it’s adorable.

I also love these shoes:

$13 at Payless is way more my style. And they’ll go with a lot.

So my plan is to buy a couple of cute cardigans. I have my eye on one or two on eBay. And let them be the basis of my school uniform. I have some jeans I really love. I do believe new shoes are in order. (But that might just be me talking myself into things.)

But guess what I really, really, really want. More than anything.

I want to get my nose pierced.

I did last spring, and it didn’t work out like I wanted it to. The girl went in at a weird angle and the post kept falling out. I went to the local guy here to have it re-done, and he messed it up, too. So I am nose-ring-less. I miss it. But I’m not going back to the local guy. And I’m not going anywhere out of town before I travel.

So pfft.

Maybe just tossing it out there to the universe will make some way to get it done magically appear?

That would so work for me.

More Works for Me Wednesday here.

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WFMW: Combating Stuck

Don’t forget my giveaway!

Last night Kevin and I had an interesting conversation.

We have this phenomenon going on in our lives.

I call it Stuck.

Simple, huh? Yeah. Well, Stuck looks like this: we both are not satisfied with our work, but we have not gotten to a place where we’re comfortable breaking free. (By not comfortable I mean, if we both quit today, we would not be able to pay the rent. We haven’t done the work to get Unstuck.)

Last night we talked about what to me seems to be the only way out of Stuck. Starting a family business. I’m way more comfortable with this than Kevin. I grew up with my dad working for himself. As a single mother with a high-needs kidlet, I was the princess of figuring out how to make money in unconventional ways.

Kevin has always had a standard 9-5 (well, he’s worked grave yard shifts at a casino for twenty years) job, as has his father, and his mother, and his grandparents. I’m sure his great-grandparents, and every aunt, uncle, and cousin as well. Where I tend toward the free-thinking spectrum of workdom, Kevin is firmly on the side of doing-the-familiar.

I have had a successful vintage store on Etsy in the past. I had my items on the front page every week. Blogs featured my offerings. Somewhere along the way I’ve developed a good eye for design and classic style. (I don’t really know where that came from, because I don’t have a super sophisticated personal style. I did have a penchant for altering vintage finds in my Material Girl days.)  I added a bit of fixing things up to make them slightly more modern, and it was a winning combination.

When we lived in Vegas I figured out a way to connect professional photographers with professional models and my stylings (oh that sounds important doesn’t it?) and got pictures like this taken for free:

(I sold each of those dresses for $100. That model on the right ended up on Project Runway this past season.)

When we moved and I didn’t have access to fancy pants models and photo shoots, I bought a dress form and did the best I could.

(That dress started out as a ankle-to-neck-to-wrist full-coverage pink pouf of a 70s prom dress. I sold it for $200.)

At the height of my business I was making about $500 a week in sales. I’m sure there are people who blow me out of the water, but it was a living. A real one. Then Etsy made some changes, and the sales slowed way down. And I got offered a job substitute teaching at the local high school–then another one to be a substance abuse counselor–and now I’m kicking myself for not appreciating what I had.

I’ve been evaluating why exactly I was so willing to give up my store. And I realized that a big part of it was that it was a lot of work. A whole lot of work. And after a while I wasn’t happy doing it by myself. I love the photography, the shopping, the fixing up, the washing and ironing and mending–there is art in vintage, and I honestly believe that I found away to express myself creatively in it. But I also had to organize, find the things that had sold, package and ship them. I didn’t like those things so much.

So now I have an entire room filled with vintage clothing, shoes, purses, and kitschy home stuff. And a strong, deep desire to be home again.

I also have some ideas for handmade things to add to my store. I want to join the handmade revolution! I’ve been thinking about the things I write about here. The things that are important to me, and my interior homestead. And I have this head full of ideas for things to make and add to our store.

So when we were talking about it last night, Kevin started getting into it. He started thinking about things he could make to add to the family shop. He also pointed out that organization, putting things where they belong, and the whole shipping thing–right up his alley.

In a perfect world, Live Once Juicy: the shop, would be our ticket to freedom. It would mean that we could move to Seattle, or where ever we end up, without having to worry about jobs. We could bring our work with us.

So I’ve been slowly crocheting wash cloths, and sewing up little goodies, and filling notebooks with ideas. I’ve been slowly getting back in the habit of hitting the thrift stores and finding the hidden beauty in things that others might not even see. Kevin has been paying attention to the things I bring into the house to add to our stock. He’s thinking up ingenious ideas for organizing the stock and keeping track of what’s listed and what needs to be sent out.

This is how we combat Stuck. And it works for us.

More Works For Me Wednesday here.

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Review: Sew What! Bags by Lexie Barnes

(This is my WFMW post this week as well.)

I have a giveaway going on!

What I love most about Sew What! Bags by Lexie Barnes is the tagline: 18 pattern-free projects you can customize to fit your needs.

And it’s true! See what I made without a pattern?

Know what it is? It’s cutest little green thing ever.

The main book entry is a big tall bag holder for your kitchen. Basically a long tube with elastic at each end and a ribbon loop at the top. Put your grocery bags in one end, pull them out the other. Everyone’s Nana has one of these, right?

But then there was this itty bitty picture of a lady with a little white dog and a tiny bag holder around her wrist. You know, to help her be a good neighbor.

I don’t have a dog. But I do have eleventy-billion grocery bags stored in a kitchen-sized garbage can in my pantry. I can’t bear to toss them. I haven’t gotten my act together (or my sewing skills up to par) enough to make resuable grocery bags, so I keep adding to my impressive collection.

But that little picture got me thinking. Especially since I’ve been reading all week about people using resuable bags as their small change. The biggest complaint is that they went out the door without them. My little wheels turned until I thought, how about a teeny tiny little bag holder that would fit right into a purse or diaper bag? Just a little thing that holds enough bags for one trip to the store.

Anyway, I made up two. One for grocery bags, and one for produce bags. Homemade produce bags are light weight enough that they’d fit in here, but since I already have a stock of produce bags I’ve been hording, I can use the heck out of those. I even made the ribbon long enough that the bag will sit around my wrist while I’m shopping. And they can wait for me on the hooks by my door in the meantime, if I don’t want them in my purse.

Each little bag is 6 inches long and about 3.5 inches thick when filled with 5 standard-sized plastic grocery bags. Perfect for dog walks, like the book said, wet cloth diaper bags, or little wash cloths, or (what I plan to use them for) a trip to the grocery store. They’re so stinking cute that I’ll be able to spread the word about reusing grocery bags when everyone at the store asks me about it.

Okay, okay, back to the book. It has a core of four types of bags (totes, drawstring, messenger, and organizers) each with a project for newbies, pros, and daredevils. There are also five adorable warm-up projects, of which the grocery bag tube is one.

The best part is each project lets you customize, like I did for the grocery bag tube. The instructions are written in a fun and friendly tone, with no intimidation factor at all. The instruction section in front has all kinds of details like how to measure a shoulder strap, how to make sure you’re making your bag deep enough for your needs, and how to do a test run with paper.

The book is spiral bound, so it lays flat while you’re working. The samples inside are made with inspiring fabrics that make me want to make one of each.

I won’t say the ideas inside are super unique. There are patterns all over the place for drawstring bags, or messenger bags. Even grocery bag tubes. What makes this book special is how it encourages the reader to stretch their imagination a little and not get hung up on a pattern. So I’d say for a beginning sewer like me, who needs well-written instructions but also permission to experiment, this book is a keeper.

(The publisher of Sew What! Bags sent me this book to review for you. This didn’t inform my opinion in anyway.)

More WFMW here.

Things other people love here.

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Cultivating Skills

We got our grocery sales flier in the mail today. It’s a little different from the one Kevin gets early from his friend at the store, because we spend enough to be “platinum” members (at least $75 a week.) I was super excited, because the apples that I thought were 69 cents a pound are only 48 cents a pound for us.

On Wednesday I’ll be heading over to talk to the produce manager about buying four 20 pound boxes.

Those 80 pounds of a apples represent a conservative 250 pieces of fruit. According to Putting Food By by Hertzberg, Vaughn, and Greene, apples stored properly will last about 6 months. That’s about 10 apples per week, or two for each of us.

I’ve never stored fresh food like this. Between the 45 pounds of potatoes I have in my laundry room, and these apples–well, I guess I’ll be learning.

Here’s what I’ve learned so far: Apples and potatoes don’t play nice together. We rent both sides of a duplex though, with a door in the middle,  so we have another unheated laundry room. This one even colder, because we don’t actually use the washer and dryer or go into it during the day like we do the other one. This room is perfect for storing apples in a box, each wrapped neatly in a sheet of newspaper. Nearly freezing.

And if some of those apples go soft, I’ll be learning to make apple sauce.

Knowing what to do with surplus food, and how to handle it when it comes along, is a good skill to have.

I’ve been thinking lately about my skills, and skills that I want to learn.

My Nana taught me to crochet when I was 8. I’m good at it. I have tried teaching myself to knit and just haven’t caught the bug yet. I want to learn.

I want to know how to grow and preserve herbs to use for medicinal purposes.

I want to learn to make soap and candles.

I want to be self-sufficient. And that doesn’t begin and end with growing all our own food. It’s about figuring out how to do things for yourself that you might hire someone else to do. And about learning to make the most of the resources available to us.

We don’t have an apple tree in our yard. Yet. But we can take advantage of apples that come along if we learn how. That way, when we do have our own we’ll be prepared.

More WFMW here.

Tackle other things here.

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WFMW: Giving Up Dieting

Adrienne’s grandma gave her a little photo album for Christmas with pictures of her from newborn to 17.

By default there were some pictures in there of me at age almost-21.

(That’s me in the background, my mom in the foreground holding Adrienne. Both of us, I can promise you, feeling huge and uncomfortable. Do good legs run in my family or what? I weighed about 200 pounds.)

First: I can’t believe how young I was when I had her.

Second: I can’t believe how slender I was when I had her.

Why? Because I felt like an absolute cow. As big as a house.

As big as I feel now, after 17 solid years of dieting, a good 100 pounds heavier.

I weighed 200 pounds, so I wasn’t exactly skinny. But I also wasn’t fat. I’m nearly 5’10”, 200 pounds is probably only about thirty pounds overweight for me. So why, a couple of years earlier when I was still a competitive swimmer and runner and an incredibly fit 40 pounds lighter than the day Adrienne was born, did I still feel like a big fat cow. Why did I still feel just like I do now, 150-ish pounder later. I’m nearly twice as big as my teenage self, but I don’t feel any different.

(This is my in San Francisco summer of 2008, at my very heaviest.)

I’ve always felt fat.

Maybe it’s because my mom felt huge. Both of us had skinny-minny sisters, and comparisons were drawn all the time.

Maybe because my dad left my soft, curvy mother for an angular, petite woman.

Maybe because I’ve always had an unhealthy relationship with food, and I knew it.

I have an eating disorder. I binge. I would be bulimic, if I wasn’t so scared of throwing up or taking laxitives. So I go through periods of eating enough to make myself sick–and all that time while I’m eating, even to the point of illness, I never feel full–but I don’t do anything to get rid of the calories. (Except from ages 10 to 17, when I exercised enough to burn them off. Sometimes eight hours a day during school breaks and weekends.)

I can remember looking at my naked 8-year-old body in a bathroom mirror and deciding I was disgusting. That night I skipped my Oreos. I’ve been on a nearly constant diet for the next 30 years.

I’m tired. I don’t want to do it anymore. I want to be able to care about myself just as I am. I don’t want another 17 years of dieting to leave me a middle-aged 400-pounder.

So this year, I’m not dieting. This year, I’m not weighing myself. This year, I’m honoring my emotions so that I don’t have to stuff them with food. And this year, I’m accepting that food is my drug of choice and I’m an addict. And if anyone knows that an addict can change, I do.

I’m scared. I’ve had food rules for as long as I can remember. What if I end this year even fatter than I already am? What if I binge?

Chances are I will binge. But instead of beating myself up after, maybe if my focus isn’t on dieting I’ll be able to understand why. And then I can learn otherways to cope.

Last night I made a gluten-free pizza. (Another sort-of Annalise Roberts recipe, and it was so good.) I meant to eat half and save half for my lunch today. I ate the whole thing. It was a nine-inch pizza–so four decent sized slices. I’ve eaten more in one sitting. I wouldn’t exactly call it an all-out binge.

But I was really uncomfortable with the idea of not eating the rest of that pizza. After I was done, and full enough to be slightly uncomfortable, I tried to figure out where that discomfort came from.

TO BE CONTINUED.

(Sorry, this gets really involved and I have to get to work. I won’t make you wait long. It’ll be my post about why I need to have a stocked pantry for my peace of mind, too.)

Continued here.

More WFMW here.

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Works For Me Wednesday: Make the Best

My work situation is kind of at a stalemate. Yesterday it took a potential turn for the worse, and I am back to having this icky sick stress feeling in the pit of my stomach.

I’m still not ready to walk away, although it’s inching that way. It’s a weird situation, because there is no one else in town doing what I do. It would be hard to find another counselor willing to move here, and I feel like if I leave, I’m leaving the judges and more important my clients high and dry. In the end I will have to do what’s right for me, but right this minute, I feel like I have to hang on.

I have a plan for sticking it out, making the best of an iffy-at-best situation, and taking what I need from it.

1. Make the glass half full. This will likely be the only time I ever work for a treatment center where I basically run my own program. I’m alone out here in the boonies, especially since the other girl quit. My supervisor has only been to my office twice in almost a year and a half. I have a lot more control than people with my same job in the main office who are constantly under the thumb of supervisors. I plan to hold on tight to that, because it’s the best part of my job.

2. Think about someone else. I need to remember that I’m part of an important program that is really helping people. Focus on that, rather than moaning and groaning about how things aren’t just how I want them to be. When I really pay attention to the progress my clients are making, the stress is much less.

3. Keep the goal in mind. Regardless, in 18 months we are leaving town. Our plan just gets more and more concrete. I can do anything for 18 months.

4. Have a plan B. I can make more money than I am now as a freelance writer. If things really get bad, I can walk away if I have to.

5. Distance myself. This is a job that is important to me. But it’s just a job. It doesn’t define me.

More WFMW here.

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Backwards WFMW

Works For Me Wednesday has a theme this week. I get to ask you what works for you, and you get to answer in my comments! How fun is that? Fun for me anyway!

So I’ve been thinking, and thinking, what to ask.

One thing that is big on my mind lately is money. I’m not feeling secure in my job, and narrowly escaped being jobless all together a couple of weeks ago with no warning at all. We were not prepared for that loss of income. For whatever reason the current economy has been slow to affect us (thankfully), maybe because both of our jobs are tied to addictions. (Kevin is a casino dealer, and I’m a substance abuse counselor…) But it’s starting to tighten up in these ways:

  • While Kevin is not in danger of losing his job, and people are still coming in to play, they aren’t tipping. His tokes (casino speak for tips) are down by close to half over two years ago.
  • My ex-husband, who is Adrienne and Nick’s dad, is out of work. He’s in construction, so it’s some kind of miracle that he worked this long in Las Vegas. Really. But he’s out of work now, has moved up here to the mountains, and is not paying child support for the time being.
  • My hours were reduced to 20 in August. And even now, with the other girl in my office quitting a couple weeks ago, my employer wants me to do both of our jobs (previously two people working 60 hours) by myself in 32 hours a week. Prior to August I was working 40 hours each week. So regardless, that’s still an eight hour reduction in hours compared to the last two years.

So you can see, money is slowly  tightening up. I would say that our income has been reduced by about a third over two years ago. I’m finding it important to find other streams of income. Swagbucks is great, who doesn’t love $5 or $10 a month at Amazon? (and if anyone isn’t using it, it’s super easy, takes no extra effort. I’ve been involved for a month and have 78 points, which is nearly enough for $10 in Amazon gift certificates. That’s without referrals. Please use my button over there if you’re interested though! lol) But I’m talking about real, actual money that the landlord will accept.

Here are my ideas so far:

  • Sell more of my books through bookscouter.com. Obviously this isn’t a long-term solution as at some point I will run out of books, but I bet I could raise close to a thousand dollars this way, which would help if I’m unemployed.
  • Keep freelance writing. I know that I could make this a full-time gig if I had to. Someone recently posted to my comments that they made more than $2000 a month at Demand Studios. I don’t see why I couldn’t do this, too, if I had to.
  • Keep up my substitute teaching license. It’s a good way to pick up $100 a day, if I have to. If I lost my job and had to substitute again on a regular basis, I could probably pick up enough jobs to make between $1000 and $1500 a month.
  • Sell other stuff. For me, this means vintage clothes. I already have a good stock of it. I don’t have an open store right now, because there are only so many hours in a day. But Kevin and I are in negotiations for re-opening as a family business. It’s been my experience that second-hand stores and garage sales are filled with things that can be bought, fixed up, and resold. I’ve made extraordinary amounts of money this way. (My best story is the coat I bought for $20 at a thrift store and sold for $750 on eBay. Etsy is my favorite place to sell vintage now, but eBay has it’s finer points, too.) In the past, when I could focus a lot of energy and attention to my shop, I was able to earn about $500 a week selling vintage clothes on eBay and Etsy.

What are your two cents about income streams? What is your plan B?

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