Wednesday, November 7, 2012


As any quilter can attest, there is never just ONE "future quilt" floating around in your head, but zillions of designs and color combinations...all vying for the prominent place in your brain so as to be the next quilt started!  I decided that what I really needed was a "Design Notebook" in which to draw up all of my quilt dreams for future reference and completion.  Goodness knows, I wouldn't want to have one of my creations fall into the deep dark holes in my brain and never come to the light of day!

After a thorough search through all of the nooks and crannies of our storage closet for a suitable tablet of graph paper, and finding NONE (I would have sworn there were at least two or three in there!), I was forced to head to the store to purchase a spiral bound notebook.  Since I figured the notebook would be permanently out on my cutting table, I chose a blue cover to match my sewing room. 

As soon as I got home from the store I rushed right up to my sewing room, opened my new book, grabbed a pencil and waited for inspiration to strike.  Nothing!  Not even a split second flash of colors entered my brain.  Where had all of my beautiful ideas gone?  Had I lost them all?  Or, worse yet, had I suddenly lost all vestiges of creativity?  I closed my book and stared.  What was the problem that had blocked my Picasso moment?  As the blue cover of the notebook filled my vision a light bulb slowly took shape above my head.  That was notebook was BORING!  How could I expect to create within the pages of such a bland book?  Creativity inspired creativity!

Thinking back to the pre-"book sox" days when my school books were covered in brown paper bags, I did a few quick measurements and decided on the amount of material I would need to make a jacket for my notebook.  I needed it to be sturdy, of a dark enough color so as not to get "grungy" from frequent use, but "fun" all the same.  A quick scrounge through my fabric stash brought forth a "happy" and colorful material that reminded me of Scandinavian design.  A remnant of a long ago Ikea pattern?  Since I get most of my materials from fellow Freecyclers, I was unsure of the source (or fabric content)...but I was absolutely certain that I wanted this material for my notebook.  Now I just needed a dark material that would hold up well to constant use and abuse.  A brown "suiting"? type fabric fit the bill and would pick up the brown stems of the flowers nicely.  A light bluish/aqua linen look material matched perfectly and would be ideal for the lining and a small pencil holder on the front.

Now for the trim.  Although the patterned material sported both red and a "watermelon" pink color, I decided to accentuate the pink with a thin grosgrain ribbon and thread.  The pink thread would look nice against the brown cover.  I had always been a sucker for brown and pink.

The book jacket itself was surprisingly simple to construct and within an hour I had my notebook covered and ready to use.  Even better, it was now a self contained designing tool that I could take on vacation with me...ready to call upon the ocean view off of my balcony for inspiration. 

But, how was I going to carry a large selection of colored pencils with me?  I could store them in a zippered pouch, but then I would be juggling numerous pencils on my lap as I searched for the specific one I needed.  Not good when you are sitting on a balcony 11 stories up!

My dilemma was solved by a freebie I received yesterday.  I had placed an order for ink from Office Depot.  Because of my timing (I never order unless there is a "promotion" I am interested in) and the order amount, I was able to receive a set of 10 colored highlighters...FREE.  These highlighters came in a plastic pouch...all self contained and all visible at a glance.  While the highlighters didn't provide a very wide selection of colors, I could probably use them to illustrate a general coloration in my blocks.  AND, if I had a specific quilting pattern in mind, the dotted quilting lines in my design would be visible through the highlight color.  Eureka!

I had left the inside flaps on my jacket large enough to accommodate various thicknesses of notebooks.  The back flap would be more than sufficient to hold the pack of highlighters, but how would I secure them inside the flap?  I decided on a button attached to the inside of the jacket, a sufficiently sized hole cut into the back of the cardboard notebook for the button to fit through and a hair tie to attach the flap to the button.  My ideas worked well and I look forward to carrying my designing notebook with me so that I can draw out my ideas whenever and wherever I'm inspired!

Now I just need to find the lead for my mechanical pencil!  I'm sure it is here someplace........

Monday, November 5, 2012


I woke up at 5:00 this morning feeling...GOOD!  Considering how rotten I had felt yesterday, how good I was feeling today was a complete and total shock!  I have learned over the past year that when I have a GOOD day I need to grab it with BOTH hands and make the most I can of the infrequent occurrence.  So, after a quick shower and breakfast, I immediately dug into my massive ToDo list.

One of my goals for the next few months is to re-evaluate our monthly expenses and research cheaper alternatives.  I made a phone call this morning to an alternate electric supplier in our area and discovered that switching suppliers would save us around $25 a month, or more.  Within a half hour I had switched suppliers and locked in the reduced rate for one year.  I am looking forward to a little bit more money in our pockets starting in December!

Yesterday I found a copy of a vision claim in my "Pending" file.  There was no notation of payment received anywhere on the xeroxed claim, nor any type of Explanation of Benefits attached.  While I do forget more these days, it is usually only short term memory and I found it hard to believe I had failed to follow through with correspondence, had I received any from the company.  This morning I made a quick phone call regarding the claim and verified that it had NOT been processed, and they have NO idea how it fell through the cracks.  I don't really care as long as it was THEIR cracks it fell through and not mine, lol.  A check for $100 should be arriving at the house within the next four to six weeks.

On Wednesday we are scheduled to have our roof damage from Hurricane Sandy repaired.  However, current long range forcasts call for rain that afternoon.  I phoned the contractor and questioned how and when I would be notified if the appointment needed to be cancelled.  The wonderful woman I spoke with suggested that she pencil me in for an appointment on Friday just in case the weathermen are correct and Wednesday is a wash-out.  That way I can get on the books before all of the other customers call her on Wednesday to reschedule.  Works for me!  Hopefully we can get the repairs done before we have any additional damage due to a leak through the missing shingles.

Dear hubby and I need to have some routine blood work drawn in January.  We have all of our labs drawn at an independent laboratory facility.  We have discovered (the HARD way) that we can wait up to two hours when arriving as a walk-in at the facility upon opening.  EVERYONE wants to have their fasting blood work drawn as early as possible.  So, today I scheduled appointments for us at 7:00 and 7:15 AM.  We should be eating breakfast and sipping hot coffee by 7:45!  While making an appointment won't save us any money, it will save us time...and some days that is even more precious than money! 

A year and a half ago we had our air conditioner and heater replaced.  As part of our contract with the company who installed the units, we have a free yearly check up and maintenance of the equipment at the beginning of each season.  I usually wait for the HVAC company to call me to schedule, but since today was my day to focus on organizing our lives and saving us money, I decided to call now to set up the appointment.  Our heater will be serviced the first week of December...thus I know it will be running at peak efficiency when our weather starts to get REALLY cold!

Today I had one of my prescriptions transferred to a different pharmacy.  While it won't save me any money on this particular prescription, as my son works in the store he will be able to pick up my refills as needed and save the gas I would have wasted driving to pick up the prescription.   In addition, once another one of my prescriptions has run out I will be able to get that medication transferred over and filled at no is one of a group of maintenance medications that the pharmacy offers FREE to its customers.   Like I said, I am reigning in every penny, nickle and dime that I can...while simultaneously seeking any and all freebies I have coming my way.

I am once again focusing my attention on "freebies" and "trickle income streams".  To that end I visited several sites today that offer free samples upon request; and also did several online surveys to earn points...which can then be redeemed for gift cards.  When I opened my mailbox today I  was happy to find a freebie four pack of Green Mountain K-cups.  Since I drink one cup of coffee per day in my Keurig, these freebies will cover half a week's morning beverage at no cost to me. 

I keep all of my coupons for freebies in a separate zippered pouch in my purse.

I go through it every couple of days and make notations on my calendar of when my free item is expiring.  Then when I plan my necessary errands, I add stops to redeem as many of these coupons as possible.  My goal is to only leave the house one day a week, as saving gas is a high priority these days and less wear and tear on the car is always a good thing!  Beginning today, Dunkin Donuts is offering free medium iced coffees and iced teas with a special card.

Since I had to drop off a form at my doctor's office, I planned a stop at Dunkin Donuts on the way home.  I also had a coupon for a bag of Lindt truffles, which were on sale at Rite Aid and would be FREE with the coupon.  I plan to add the candies to a relative's Christmas gift as they are her favorite candy!

My next stop was at the beer distributor's to cash in the lottery tickets I received on my birthday.  In my family we have stopped giving greeting cards, but rather put lottery tickets into an envelope instead.  We are spending just as much, but at least giving the recipient a chance to win something!  I cashed in my tickets for $8; which I immediately placed into my savings envelope!

So, all in all, today has been a wonderfully productive day.  I did have one bit of a "step back" when a Christmas gift I was working on was ruined beyond repair and had to be thrown away.  Fortunately I had gotten the base item that I was embroidering with my machine for a really, REALLY reduced I am not out too much money.  Coincidentally, yesterday I found another gift for the same person...something they had mentioned wanting, and that I had just about ruled out EVER being able to find...and was able to purchase it with a $10 OFF coupon at Kohl's!  While I am disappointed that my project didn't work as planned, I am thankful that my learning curve didn't cost me too dearly!

And now, some 14 hours after getting up, I am beginning to feel really sore and fatigued.  Time to snuggle down under my warm electric blanket, still smiling over the amount of progress I was able to make with just ONE feel-good day!  Just think how much I could accomplish if my health would cooperate!  Oh well, maybe someday....

Thursday, November 1, 2012


Well, it is finally done!  My "Memories of Myrtle" quilt is finished and ready for snuggling.  

Attaching the buttons was really straight-forward and easy on my machine.  So much so, that I didn't even bother doing a practice button!   I must be getting daring in my old age, lol.  By dinner time yesterday the embellishments were all sewn on, the quilt was labeled and it was folded over the arm of the sofa waiting for someone to wrap themselves in its warmth. Now that Hurricane Sandy is over I can't wait for the patio furniture to be moved back out of our family room so that I can sit before a wonderful cozy fire, all wrapped up in this snuggly goodness! 

BE GONE, SANDY!! Our Preps...What Worked and What Didn't......

Hurricane Sandy has come and gone, leaving a trail of destruction up and down the east coast.  We were fortunate, escaping with very little damage...for which we are oh so grateful.  Other than some lost shingles and loose siding, our home is intact.  Getting through the storm wasn't easy, though, as we lost power for about 20 hours.  We had plenty of candles, batteries, flashlights, water and food, but we had failed to plan for the most critical of our needs. 

Hubby and I both have sleep apnea and use CPAP machines at night to keep us breathing.  We have used these machines every night for years and years, and had never considered our inability to sleep without them.  When the power went out we realized that our CPAP machines were inoperable!  Every time we started to doze off we would stop breathing and our bodies would wake us!  Thank God the human body has these automatic responses built in, but it made for a completely sleepless night for both of us.

Obviously, during the outage we also had no electric sump pump.  We had been proactive and had a "backup" sump pump installed in our home.  It is, I believe, the reason we had so little damage.  Many of our neighbors, some sitting on much higher land than our own, had up to 4 inches of water in their basements because their electric sumps were out of commission.

Two years ago when we had our basement "finished" we had a backup sump pump installed.  It is one that uses water pressure from our household pipes to flush the water out of the sump pit.  In theory it sounds like a wonderful solution, and in reality it is...almost.  Early Tuesday morning we noted that the amount of water in our sump pit seemed to be rising.  I could hear water running and our son verified that there was, indeed, water flowing out of the sump pipe in our yard.  So, why was the water rising?  My fear was that the water pressure sump was simply pumping out our expensive household water and not flushing the flood water with it.  So for five minutes we turned off the municipal water flow into the sump pump.  We got our answer quickly as the water in the pit rose one half inch in 5 minutes!  The pump was obviously working, but was having a hard time keeping up with the deluge of water Sandy had dumped!

So every 25 minutes we would use a Red Solo Cup to scoop five or six buckets of water out of the pit and carry them up the stairs to dump into the kitchen sink.  It was exhausting, back breaking work...especially since hubby and I are both in poor condition physically.  But, it had to be done if we wanted to avoid flooding.  After a few hours of taking turns bailing, my hubby and son both headed out to look for some type of "pump" that could empty the pit without scooping.  My knees were killing me from kneeling on the concrete floor near the sump and my back was breaking in two from bending down to scoop the water.  I never again want to look at another Red Solo Cup unless it is filled with a liquid libation that will erase all memories of Sandy!  Hubby returned a short while later with only a 5 gallon bucket to use instead of my cleaning bucket.  He had found no pumps of any kind.  Yippee!  A larger bucket meant less trips.  But it also meant that I could no longer run the steps to dump the water.  I am just NOT up to carrying 5 gallons.   Several phone calls from our son verified that he, too, was having no luck finding any type of pump.

Then hubby had a brainstorm!  One of his better ideas, if I may say so.  Years ago we had a gadget called a "Paint Stick" that we used when painting our walls.  It is a giant syringe with which you draw paint out of the paint can and then depress the syringe to apply paint to the roller from the inside out.  It is truly a timesaver when painting, but it proved to be a real lifesaver when bailing.  Our Paint Stick had died years ago, but hubby thought his brother still had one.  So, after a quick phone call, our dear brother-in-law and sister-in-law arrived to save us.  They had TWO Paint Sticks and they worked WONDERFULLY!  Whoever was pulling water from the pit was able to sit on a folding chair and pull out the water.  No more sore knees and aching back.  And, with two Paint Sticks going, the water was being pulled out of the pit twice as fast!  I made a quick phone call to our son and his girlfriend and told them to stop searching for pumps and come home to begin the "bucket brigade" of the small and large buckets up the stairs. Thank goodness for their young bodies; as I think dear hubby and dear brother-in-law were exhausted after only eight buckets between them.  None of us are "spring chickens" anymore, and I can't imagine the strain on them carrying 5 gallons of water in one haul!

Eventually the power came back on and our electric sump pump made quick work of the water.  In less than 10 minutes our sump pit level was way down and the water that had been filling the French drains almost to overflowing was completely gone.  We had survived the storm, virtually unscathed.

So, what did we learn?  Overall our emergency preps were adequate, except for our water scooping and our inability to sleep without our CPAP machines.  Hopefully before the next emergency we can procure either a generator or marine batteries to power our electric sump pump and our two CPAP machines.  I would also like to buy another Paint Stick just in case.  Prior to Sandy we had very different ideas of what in our home needed preservation through a storm.  After a long sleepless night and battle with rising water I cared very little whether the food in our fridge or freezer spoiled.  Yes, I would hate to see that much costly food ruined, but a night filled with apnea events and water on the verge of spilling into our basement set our priorities straight.  As long as we have adequate stock in our pantry and adequate bottled water we can survive the length of the storm and its aftermath; even if we had to eat our canned food cold!  But, maintaining our health and a dry shelter over our heads are necessities that can't be compromised.

One other "prep" item that proved invaluable during the storm was a package of 3 "head lanterns" that we picked up right before the storm (another one of hubby's brilliant ideas).  Having light projected in front of you, while still maintaining use of both hands, was an absolute godsend.  Dear son had also picked up a few glow sticks, which we hung around the family room to provide some light once the power went out.  While not enough light to read by, there was certainly enough illumination to safely walk through the house.  I think I will pick up a set of head lanterns for my folks and aunt and also a few packs of glow sticks for both of our household emergency kits. 

Live and learn.....