Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A Trip to the Local “Big” Book Store

I know that when I put things off for a long time it seems to take much longer to do them when I do get around to doing them. This includes “shopping”. I had the car and was out-and-about today. Really I just had to go to the post office but as long as I was out…

“Why not go to Barnes & Noble?” I thought. It has been a very long time since I last browsed a large bookstore. Really, it was just an excuse to see if there was a new issue of Step-by-Step Wire Jewelry magazine. That's as good a reason as any.

The local Barnes & Noble is an older location, you can see in the photo that it isn't fancy. It certainly isn't fancy enough to have a Starbuck’s Café! Or maybe they just feel the need to add Starbuck’s aroma to the customer's book-browsing experience. Actually, I think this location has smaller overall square-footage than many of the newer locations. Hence the lack of really comfy chairs for the aforementioned book-browsing experience.

 But I was there for a magazine…or so I thought. The magazine racks are really cramped and close together. Not a whole lot of room for “personal space” while browsing. The jewelry and wire magazines were located in the worst possible place; bottom shelf all the way at the back, top row. The magazine titles can't be seen from a standing position because backing up far enough to see isn't possible without getting really “friendly” with anyone standing behind or running into the next row of magazine racks. This was definitely a sit-on-the-floor magazine rack location. Did they even have Step-by-Step Wire Jewelry once I got myself comfy on the floor? They did not. Not a single issue unless the “Best of Step-by-Step Wire Jewelry” counts—and it doesn't because the “Best of…” really contains projects from the issues that I already own. No Starbuck’s, no Step-by-Step. What kind of an establishment are they running here anyway?

I was already on the floor so in what looked like a half-assed attempt at yoga moves, I sat cross-legged and bent all the way over to the side leaning on one elbow while reaching out with the other arm to check behind other magazines to see if there was some mistake. Nope, no magazine. They had a new Bead & Button but I didn't feel like getting that magazine at the time. I should have, the trip would have been way more productive.

Did I leave? No. I hadn't been to Barnes & Noble for a very long time and I was going to make the best of the trip. I looked through all the different categories, mostly non-fiction, though the “dark romances” looked pretty tempting—I should read more. The jewelry books in the craft section were “meh”, nothing I couldn't live without—hardly any books on seed-beading. They had mostly metalcraft and collage jewelry books. I don't really need those.

During much of my browsing experience I found myself saying, “That's available for Kindle…that's available for Kindle…” (There's a Kindle iPhone/iPad app for that). In the past I would have come out with a book…any book, usually a bargain book. The combination of electronic files and lack of storage space has changed the book-buying part of my world forever. I just don't have room for more books.

In the end I spent way too much time browsing the store only to leave empty-handed. If I went more often, maybe every two weeks or so, I wouldn't take so long just looking and catching up on the new stuff!

How about you? Do you spend too much time just “browsing” stores like that, or am I just weird?

I'm actually proud of myself for getting in the car and leaving rather than repeating the time-consuming browsing experience across the way at the local Michael’s!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Jewelry Class In-a-Box

Jewelry Class In-a-Box!
I have always been crafty and love to work with my hands. I love needle arts, crochet is my favorite and the first of the arts that I learned at the tender age of 6.

I started beading just four short years ago. I was looking for something to do for "extra income", something fun and crafty. I found my passion at the local Joann Craft and Fabrics in Kissimmee, Florida, in a package called Jewelry Class in-a-Box. Hey, it was on sale—something like 40 or 50% off. Couldn't pass THAT up! I had really not made any type of beaded item before. I had done some on-loom bead weaving and had made a couple of crochet necklaces from yarn but had never created a strung beaded object so it was all new to me.

The kit came with glass pearls, crystals, bugle beads, metal beads, beading wire, crimps, clasps, head 7 eye pins, earring findings, a bead board, and some round-nose-type pliers. I followed the written instructions carefully and was delighted to find that I had just produced my own professional-looking beaded and crimped necklace and earrings although they were very simple. The pastel colors of the beads were not the greatest, and now I know that the quality of the beads was also not that great. But I had done it. I had made jewelry, and I saw that it was good...very good! Not bad for an initial $15.00 or so investment.

From that point on I was totally and completely hooked!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Making “Stuffies” for Cat Toys Etc.

I haven't posted for a while and I know how much y'all love to see what I'm doing. It won't be fancy because I'm using my phone so bear with me (or bare with me—it's hot in here). Also, I wasn't planning on making a cat toy. It just sort of happened as I realized the design was one-sided. I didn't want to start over and I knew the cats wouldn't care if it were one-sided or not.

First, some iTunes.

I'll be using a design and tutorial from Urban Threads for “Stuffies (in the hoop)” .

Next, I'll plan and gather supplies; thread, hoop, scissors, felt…

I'm going to use baby-blue EcoFelt (made from recycled pop bottles—woo!) with a dark royal blue contrast stitching for the details.

It's still the same light-blue felt, trust me. My objective here was to stitch the outlines so I could cut them out. I failed a bit on the bottom one as you can see, but it will work out. No worries.

See? These pieces turned out okay. Those stitches were just cut lines and are completely gone now. This is what I was going for: two nicely cut-out pieces!

Now I have some backing in the hoop and I've stitched the shape out again. I'll put one of the cut-out shapes inside this line. The little X in the center is a sanity-check mark indicating the center of the hoop. I don't want to hit the hoop while sewing—don't ask how I know this. Better safe than sorry!

I was sweating a bit over hoping I had the shape oriented correctly. This piece uses three digital files. I hadn't switched to "file 3" when I should have. But it worked out okay, unless I was expecting a live fish.

The in-between step was kind of boring. Basically I attached the other cut-out shape to the back of the hoop and the first shape. The machine did the rest. Now I have two shapes sewn together into a little "pocket". But what to fill it with? I just realized I have NO stuffing, it's Sunday, and everything is closed!

Since this is a "test" piece now I'm going to stuff this little wad of fresh and dried catnip into the nose area using this wooden skewer and hope I can finish before the cat wakes up. I will finish stuffing it with small bits & strips of plastic grocery bag hoping for that satisfying crinkle sound cats love.

My embroidery machine, being industrial, does not double as a sewing machine and it's so not worth threading the sewing machine for a 1-inch closing seam on felt. I'm going to use the good ol' time-tested needle & thread.( *poke* OW!)

There! The open seam has been sewn shut and I have trimmed up the edges so they don't look so rough. There it is, a nice stuffed fishie—and made with recycled items too! How earth-friendly is that?

I have already hooped up and stitched one two-sided—easy peasy for me! And while doing that I realized that two-sided doesn't have to mean fish bones on both sides. What about personalization on the reverse side. Wouldn't Twinkles love his own personalized fishie? Yup, my brain fills up with ideas even as I work.

Now…where's that cat?

Update 11:00 pm: The catnip fishie is a success but not according to my cat, she thinks she's too good for it. My dad's little semi-feral tabby, however, was tossing it into the air, dancing, stalking, whirling, twirling, pouncing…you get the idea. She was delighted! And this is the cat that doesn't really react to catnip. Must make more…

-- Posted From My iPhone

Friday, July 16, 2010

Teva® Dozer Sandal Review

When I find a great product, I tend to replace it with the same product. I found these Teva® Dozer Sandals over a year ago and I'm shopping for a new pair, not because the old ones are worn out and useless, but because the older ones are just looking a little…well…worn.

I must not be a normal woman, I really hate shopping for shoes. I used to have a rather large shoe collection—not because I needed a shoe to match every handbag that matches every outfit, but because the shoes I bought were uncomfortable. My feet never enjoyed being crushed into a shape that the “Good Lord” did not intend—and I have never considered paying ridiculous amounts of money for a single pair of shoes that would do just that! Sorry Jimmy Choo. Shoes are an investment in my feet and my overall well-being. I also like to eat.

Last year I knew I'd be spending a lot of time on my feet, especially on race weekends. The "fashion" sneakers I had just weren't going to cut it. No cushion, no arch support, cute, but uncomfortable. I found myself in one of those large shoe warehouse stores looking for something better for my feet. I would never have considered these shoes because I have rather large feet and while display shoes look great in a 5, have the guy bring them out in a 10 and they look a bit…er…different. I tried them on as sort of a "dare" by the sales guy. I absolutely loved them! These shoes actually appeared to make my Olive Oyl feet appear smaller, (if that can be done)!

Besides making my feet look less “obvious”, the next factor I consider when buying a shoe is longevity. I don't want sandals with straps that break or pull out, I don't want the sole to start separating, and I don't want tearing to occur at any point in the shoe. I also want foot comfort. I don't want to spend the first week of wearing the shoe “toughening up” parts of my foot by enduring pain and blisters until my feet get used to them.

These shoes were perfect! I love sandals and comfy shoes so this hybrid was the perfect…er…fit.
Of course not a week out of the box I managed to step on a ketchup packet and, well…

They cleaned up very easily with a little water and a brush. They are, after all, made to get wet sometimes.

These shoes must have a million miles on them. I have worn them almost daily since March of 2009. There were times when I wore them for 12 to 16-hour work days, I have worn them for working out (walking/running), I have worn them all over Disneyland, and I am still wearing them today. As you can see, I have worn most of the sole nubbins flat and it looks like I have worn a hole clean through the sole. These shoes have been GREAT! I'm not going to fall for those thick-soled “fit” shoes…puh-leeze! I about fell over when I saw the price. At about half the cost of those fad shoes I can have another really great pair of daily-wear shoes and know I'm going to have comfort and style. Yes, I'm going for another pair of Teva® Dozer Sandals!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

The Evolution of the Ladybug

Picking up where I left off a couple months ago, I mentioned that my ladybug beads would naturally evolve into bigger and better things. This post will work backward chronologically.

A “special request” led me into attempting to make sculptural lampwork beads. I began with creating ladybugs. As I played with the glass, all the time experimenting with colors, shapes and sizes, my ladybugs eventually evolved into…bees?
When you look at the bees you might think, “Well, that's easy, just make stripes of black and yellow going around the bead.” Wrong. That would be true if the bead hole ran horizontal—from nose-to-tail, so to speak. To get the stripes with a vertical bead hole I need to actually “build” the stripes one on top of the other.
You can see the stripes aren't “uniform”, and that drives the OCD in me crazy, but in nature the stripes on bees aren't “perfect”—in nature bees don't have awesome oogly-googly eyes either…

Wasn't this post about ladybugs? Oh yes, the ladybugs…
I wanted to call this yellow ladybug set, “Who farted?” but it sold too quickly!
One of the most recent changes to my ladybug beads is the option of horizontal, or nose-to-tail stringing holes. These are a little more rounded in shape and are slightly flattened on the bottom side so that hopefully they don't “spin” too much on the stringing wire.
Back detail of a couple of the newest vertical-hole ladybug beads. Another change is the size. The ladybugs are all now slightly larger than they used to be. I have also made their heads blend into the body quit a bit more. They are now more egg-shaped than pear-shaped.
I have tried a bunch of different colors and they do well, but red does remain the most popular, of course!
You can see the shape changing from my earlier style to the newest style. I have a preference for the newer, slightly larger, rounder ladybugs. They look less like ticks!
The size makes no difference in how easy it is to make the ladybugs. I know the slightly larger ones are a lot easier to get a “matching pair”. There aren't a whole lot of ways to measure out molten glass. It's mostly just “eyeballing” it as it is put on. It isn't unusual for a lampworker to make at least six beads, even small plain round ones, to get just one decently matching pair!
In the beginning…I made ladybugs. little red ladybugs. I'm happy with their “evolution” and I never know where they are going to take me next. Loving the creative journey although I have far more ambition than I have oxygen…

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Kelley's Bead Studio: My Random Thoughts for Today

Kelley Wenzel has better random thoughts on glass than I do because she includes pictures!

Kelley is just awesome. I met with her when I was in Atlanta last year and she gave me fun glass stuff to play with. She's very helpful and is always willing to trade a hint or tip. Check out her famous "egg beads" and other great stuff by visiting the link here:

Kelley's Bead Studio: My Random Thoughts for Today

Check out more of her beads on Etsy:

And she even has a separate shop with finished jewelry, also on Etsy:

More Glass Today! Ladybug Beads

Three sets of beads are on their way to new homes today and two new sets are cooling now after being freshly-made this evening.

 The newest thing, ladybug beads! I gave them a try after receiving a special request—ladybugs are relatively easy. I probably would have turned down a request for butterflies, or hornets.

So I made a handful of red ladybug beads. They're really small and a little bit difficult to do because red glass turns black when it's hot. Black glass stays black when it's hot and it is really difficult to tell where the red ends and black begins when they're used together.

Of course, over time the design will naturally evolve. The weirdest thing though, before I even had my beads completely cleaned and ready to go, someone had posted a picture of ladybug beads that were very similar to the ones I just made. This morning I saw even more ladybug beads posted that looked even MORE like mine. If I came up with the idea at the torch, how did similar ideas show up at the same time? I wasn't copied, I didn't copy. Weird. There must be only so many ways to make ladybugs!

-- Posted From My iPhone

Sunday, May 2, 2010

This is What Happens When You Make Plans

Okay, yesterday's post had big plans to try out a wire-wrap ring tutorial. Unfortunately life had other plans for me. When I get all of life's straw spun into gold I can start that tutorial.

Last night I pushed to make a bunch of beads because today is "kiln day". The happy little beads are all now toasting merrily at nearly a thousand degrees F. By the time I get back from The Office and The Grocery Store tonight, I will have cooled beads ready to clean. Yay me.

One of the beads in yesterday's post pic had actually split in two. In my avocation, a glass bead split in half is from then on known as "two cabochons"— the bead merely transformed into a different jewelry element.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

I've Been Silent. Updates & Latest Work

I have not updated this blog since…well…what seems like forever. Since my Lazy-Ass-Cook rant. What happened there is that the Lazy-Ass-Cook ran completely out of food. Things kind of went downhill from there.

Now somewhat back-in-the-saddle, I need to start with some updates. My location is now Idaho Falls and will be until who-knows-when. I would say until hell freezes over, but it's still freezing here, and we're not going anywhere. Seriously, they're predicting a low of 26ºF by thursday!

I have been working diligently on keeping my Etsy store up-to-date and stocked as well as promoted. My "day job" is to assist BigAl in writing proposals for local businesses for new copier/printer machines.

I have just started back up on lampworking after a long hiatus of being off the torch since mid-October. It's good to be back and I have a custom order already. Here's some of my latest work. I just found out that I could make my regular iris orange raku do nice metallic things in the flame. I just had to try:

I was also just asked to try out a new tutorial written by a very good friend because she will be unleashing in on the public very, very soon. No spoilers here. Since here tutorials try to stretch one's creativity to its limits, I'm starting with bead selection. I can see right now that I can use inspiration from the work of Cassie Donlen to start this project. Cassie will use lots of stacked brightly-colored mini-beads to create one-of-a-kind jewelry. Here is some of her work.

And while my beads are a little lumpy, and not at all like Cassie's, I'm going to give it a go anyway. There will be more on this later as well as a link to said tutorial. The hardest part is selecting the beads.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Lazy-Ass Cooking: Chicken Corn Chowder

Today I'm preparing Campbell's Chunky Chicken Corn Chowder. There are two kinds: Original and Healthy Request. Original = good, Healthy request = not so much. Now this preparation should be the simplest of all; Open can, heat soup. But not really. I have a real challenge getting enough protein into “the diabetic” that way.

Always start with a marginally clean electric frypan—which means it's now time to wash it from the last time we made random-sh*t-from-the-freezer.

Having cooked a lot of random-sh*t-from-the-freezer on a previous date, I could see what I had left in there more easily. I found a frozen-solid chicken breast that wasn't dated back to the last ice age. It was raw, but frozen, and fairly recent too. I kind of make it a point to not thaw raw meats in the same manner as an Uncrustable, this I can usually microwave, or more fun, fry/steam/boil from the solid state to a mushy-thawed state—don't forget to add some water, oh, and maybe some salt—or maybe a lot of salt if all you have is that gawdawful unsalted Healthy Request Chicken Corn Chowder. It only takes a few minutes to thaw completely.

The chicken breast doesn't need to be cooked through, just well-thawed. Grab it with kitchen tongs (caution: chicken breast is HOT) and cut it into small bite-size pieces about the same size as a compressed slice of Wonder Bread…or a sugar cube. At this point the chicken pieces can be browned to your liking. I would have added frozen corn kernels at this point, but I found that I was fresh/frozen/canned out of corn. Thought about substituting corned beef.

Chicken browned? Now open can, dump in soup, and a can of corn, which I desired but did not have. Let it heat through before serving it up with the serving spoon that you should have washed at the same time as the electric frypan earlier. Put the serving spoon and frypan aside to cool for washing—on another day.

Lazy Ass Serving Suggestion: This is a cream-style soup, which means it's always better with shredded cheese! Everyone puts the shredded cheese on top of the soup, but then it just doesn't seem to melt. I'm a Lazy Ass, so while I'm waiting for the soup to heat through I put shredded cheese in the bottom of each paper serving bowl. When the soup is hot I spoon it right onto the cheese. This is great in two ways: 1) the cheese gets thoroughly melted, and 2) the hot bottom of the soup bowl is not hard to handle because the cold cheese cools it. Oh, and bonus protein for the diabetic.

Now a little dialogue about the chicken breast:

The diabetic: “Did you add chicken?”
Me: “Yes.”
The diabetic: “Did you get it from the freezer?”
Me: “Um, well, there's plenty more where that came from…and, oh, we don't have to buy cat food any more.”

In hindsight, that would have gone a whole lot better as a punch line if the cat hadn't been sitting right there in his lap very much alive.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Lazy-Ass Cooking: Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwich

Can't get more Lazy-Ass than this. I present The Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwich!

No, I'm not going to tell you how it’s made. That's a secret—a secret that even the frequent users of certain recreational “herbal” products can figure that one out—or so they tell me.

The Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwich—known from here on as the “PB & J” because, after all, I am a Lazy-ass—can be nostalgic, controversial, or just a means of survival.

And how genius is “Whole Grain White” Wonder Bread? It's the same air (or bubble) bread that we have always known, one slice compacted is roughly the size of a sugar cube and with about the same number grams of carbohydrates. I don't care what they call it. It's delishus! The Wonder Bread also tends to hold it's “just-bought-freshness” for an infinite amount of time, except in the dead of summer heat. I'm not sure science knows the half-life of a piece of Wonder Bread and I can't say for certain I have ever seen it go moldy over time.

Side note on bread: PB & J sandwiches are not the same made on 3/$1.00 store brand bread, whole wheat bread, or that loofa-tough-and-scratchy 7-grain type bread. Never skimp on the bread!

Peanut butter, crunchy, chewy, creamy, stripes-of-jelly included…it's a personal choice…well, except for the stripes-of-jelly kind, that's just wrong, especially when the jar is half-gone and the stripes are no longer stripes but more of a brownish-purple goo. Crunchy peanut butter gives much needed to texture to the otherwise soft-and-squishy Wonder Bread and Jelly, but it's a choice. Some peanut butters are harder to spread than others, some have different flavors, it's all a matter of experimenting on which combinations are right for your temperature and climate.

Jelly, jam, fruit spread (I'm not sure why they came up with a separate class for that one, implying that jellies and jams may not be “fruit” at all) should be chosen to compliment both the peanut butter and the bread. It might also be interesting to note that if you become accustomed to berry jellies like strawberry or raspberry, switching to grape tastes weird! I like to go for the fruit spread. You would think that a Lazy-Ass like me would be all over the squeeze jelly, but I wasn't. I don't use a lot of jelly/jam/fruit spread on my sandwiches and couldn't use the squeeze bottle fast enough. That, I can vouch for certain, does go moldy! Fruit spread comes in small bottles and is available with the seeds already removed. How cool is that?

A PB & J sandwich can be assembled almost anywhere and the ingredients are so incredibly portable and, oh my, inexpensive, and that's important because, remember, I'm also a Cheap-Ass.

I'm sure you're thinking, “You're a Lazy-Ass, why not just buy Uncrustables?”
I will admit that I have a box or two of these little gems in the freezer, but they do have some disadvantages:
  • They need to be frozen until almost-ready-to-eat. For best flavor and Wonder Bread-like texture, the Uncrustable must be eaten immediately after thawing and near room temperature. Don't wait too long—they dry out right in the package.
  • Maybe they're still frozen and you're hungry now! A big problem. Microwaving really isn't recommended, trust me. However, they are the perfect shape so you can stuff one into each side of your bra cup and inconspicuous enough so that nobody knows you're actually making lunch. For guys, go for the shirt or jacket pockets. They're flat enough so as not to draw attention as “man-boobs”. When you can no longer feel the chill of the frozen Uncrustable, it's ready!
  • They're only made with creamy peanut butter. This leaves a lot lacking in texture. Smooth bread, smooth jelly (I'm sure it's jelly and not spread), and smooth peanut butter. I'm glad they're so small because one could fall asleep from boredom trying to finish one.
  • There is an imbalance in the peanut-butter-to-jelly-to-bread-ratio. The amount of jelly appears to be twice the necessary amount. It will squeeze out onto whatever you're trying to keep clean and sticky-free, like your keyboard.
  • Eat Two, they're small. Seriously, they're small! Don't let the package fool you. They're small.
  • They're small because the crust and a good portion of the good-bread-part has been removed by the cookie-cutter-ravioli-press type machinery they put those poor sandwiches through just to remove the crust. You didn't think the crusts were cut off by hand by an assembly line of caring motherly figures did you? C'mon…seriously! And crust is important. Everyone knows that all of the vitamins are contained in the skin. Cut it off and you're losing two-thirds of the vitamins and nutrients—just throwing them away…

Ah, but kids love 'em! I noticed that kids love Uncrustables so much that Ikea has created a kid's meal around them. You get one Uncrustables sandwich, chocolate milk, and a chocolate-chip cookie for, like two bucks. Please, mothers, feed your children on your way out of the store…thanks!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Lazy-Ass Cooking: Beef Stroganoff

stro•gan•off |ˈstrôgəˌnôf; ˈstrō-|
a dish in which the central ingredient, typically strips of beef, is cooked in a sauce containing sour cream.

For clarity's sake, the “beef” included in the Campbell's soup is in chunks and not in strips. Beef is beef, at least the kind I'm talking about here.

So what I'm going to put here is a quasi-recipe, more of a menu suggestion, if you will.

Start out by pouring some water into the bottom of an electric frypan. I just sort of eyeball it as I hoist the unwieldy 2.5-gallon container of bottled water and let 'er splash. Just enough, not too much. I'm a Lazy-Ass and I don't want to have to drain the noodles/macaroni/pasta when it's done.

When I get what I think is a good amount of water in the bottom of the electric frypan I throw in an unspecified amount of salt. I just shake some into my palm and dump it in. It always works out. The right amount comes naturally when you've spent years as a Lazy-Ass Cook.

When the water finally boils, drag yourself away from Facebook, Twitter, or reading entertaining blogs and add the noodles/macaroni/pasta, whatever you want to call it, and whatever shape you want; elbows, shells, fusilli, bowties, spaghetti, you get the point. Purists may use wide flat noodles as with traditional stroganoff. But I must warn the stroganoff purist right now that the next step might just make you throw away a whole pan of noodles so do read ahead. Specific amount? Riiiiight. Again, I just sort of eyeball it. Years of being a Lasy-Ass has paid off in knowing just the right amount to add. It's no big deal, add too much pasta, add more water. Add too little pasta, cook uncovered, dip water out, or drain it when it's cooked. If it were that exact of a science, I wouldn't be cooking it.

Go back to your Facebook, Twitter, or whatever because the pasta will take anywhere from 6-12 minutes to fully cook. Just don't forget you're cooking something. Pasta should never set off the smoke alarm. You might as well do something to entertain yourself while it cooks because it will never cook if you stare at it.

I like to put the lid on while the pasta cooks, mostly because I don't use a lot of water and I'm trying to keep some of that in, also, I don't want to add any humidity to the ambient air that might make my tortilla chips (not used in this recipe) go soggy.

Pasta/macaroni/noodles cooked to your liking? Great. That's the hard part—unless you're a purist and I'm getting to that. Get yourself a can of steak & potato soup. Campbell's makes it, but you might just come across an equivalent store brand of the same flavor that works just as well (not only am I a Lazy-Ass, I'm a Cheap-Ass too). I say steak & potato because it's just that; steak, potatoes, and the Campbell's even has bonus mushroom slices which also belong in stroganoff dishes! Also the savory beef broth/sauce is already in there. It's all good.

Okay, purists, listen up. I just mentioned potatoes. Everyone knows that potatoes don't really belong in stroganoff. At this point you can just pick them all out. I don't care what you do with them because I prefer to ignore tradition and leave them in. They add texture and I‘m a Lazy-Ass.

Open the can of soup and dump it in over the noodles. This is also a good time to add cooked hamburger, leftover beef strips, extra mushrooms, etc. Poke around in your freezer you never know what you'll find once you brush the frost off.

Let this good stuff simmer together for a few moments, stir it around and enjoy the aroma of a hearty meal. The next thing you'll add is sour cream. Regular, lite, fat-free (well, I'm not sure about the fat-free). Use about 1/2 cup. No, I don't measure a half-cup, I eyeball it and give it my best guesstimate. Stir this around as well. Don't get too overambitious because you'll slosh it out onto the counter and you'll have to clean that up too.

When it's heated through, serve it up in paper bowls with plastic spoons gathered from Wendy's the night before when the Lazy-Ass wasn't into cooking at all.


Up Next: Make a meal with random sh*t from your freezer…

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Thursday, February 11, 2010

It's Someone Else's Baby Now

A pic I took earlier today at the 2010 Winternationals in Pomona, California.

We have given it up…passed the baton…let someone else have all the fun. Here it is, good ol' trailer #14, occupied by someone else for this 2010 season!

It also happens to be the trailer I was standing on the top of for the aforementioned Space Shuttle launch sighting.

Do we miss it? Meh…a little bit…too soon to tell. We sure miss the people! Maybe more exciting things on the horizon—not that this wasn't exciting, mind you.

-- Posted From My iPhone

Sometimes I Just Can't Resist…

Extra funny if you've been to West Virginia or Tennessee! Hillbillies are great folk. We stayed at an RV park in Pigeon Forge, TN, run by the lesser-known cousins of the cast of HeeHaw, complete with dog. It was great! The Smoky Mountains are so gorgeous I wouldn't mind being reintarnated there, with the bus of course, and coming back as a hillbilly myself!

-- Posted From My iPhone

Monday, February 8, 2010

A Splendid Endeavour!

OK, I stole the title from NASA Television and their video from YouTube, but this is a landmark event—the last night launch of the Space Shuttle…and I'm sad.

It wouldn't mean so much to me if I had never visited Johnson Space Center, Kennedy Space Center, or stumbled by chance upon the John C. Stennis Space Center while traveling through Mississippi.

It certainly wouldn't mean as much if I hadn't taken the Cape Canaveral: Then and Now historical tour of the (now) Kennedy Space Center. The original launch sites for the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo space programs are all still there, including the most sombering Launch Pad 34 where the crew of Apollo 1 perished.

It wouldn't have meant as much if we hadn't gotten a bit “lost” on the massive grounds in my little truck and the nice facility security guard pointing us in the right direction and sending us on our way but not without handing us a couple of large coins commemorating STS-117 and STS-119 (STS-117 being the current launch, the missions were out of numerical order at that time).

It wouldn't meant as much to me if I hadn't taken the tour of the crawlerway, the LC 39 Observation Gantry, the massive Vehicle Assembly Building, and a viewing area of Launch Pad 39B complete with the Space Shuttle prepared for launch within the next couple of days. Which reminds me that I have photos, I just need to remember where I “filed” them.

It wouldn't mean so much if we hadn't driven 60 miles one way to watch a late night launch. We had to do this two nights in a row because the launch was scrubbed 30 seconds before takeoff the first night. This was before the beginning of the iPhone. I had my trusty Mac and network card with me to keep tabs on the launch status the whole time. Yes, I'm an über nerd.

It wouldn't mean so much if I hadn't turned around last year one evening in March to see the Shuttle gracefully arcing up into the sky as seen from the roof of our N.H.R.A. merchandise trailer while in Gainesville, Florida.

And there's so much more that I don't remember right off-hand I'm sure, like waiting on the jetty at Port Canaveral for a day launch that was eventually scrubbed, scrubbed again, then rescheduled. And watching a launch on the television while being trapped in West Yellowstone for the summer—it was a lot like ”being there” having ”been there” before.

But I'm sad now and will be even more so when the very last Shuttle mission takes off, thus closing another chapter of the United States in Space. Now what?

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Tweezers, Paper, Scissors…Tiny origami models created by Mui-Ling Teh

I don't like to waste anything, even the tiniest scraps. This, however, is one of the most incredible uses of tiny pieces of paper—not necessarily scrap—that I have ever seen! If my eyes were better…much better…I would try it just to prove I could do it to. However, this will remain one of those “don't try this at home…” things as far as I'm concerned. I'm blind enough already!See the full gallery and story from the Telegraph U.K. here. It's just incredible!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

How Embarrassing!

Now you're just talkin' trash!

-- Posted From My iPhone

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Tell Me: are the Prices too High?

Is it wrong to insist on quality?

(Link to The Big Ass Dude Store)

Over the past few months we have been creating our own clothing line. It has been neither quick nor easy. In fact, it would be scary to even look at the time taken to create each individual piece. As it stands, the lowest price I can possibly make one of these awesome shirts for is $75.00 with the average fully-embroidered shirt in the $85-$90.00 range, and technically, that's the wholesale price.

I just can't bring myself to sell cheap crap at cheap prices, or worse, cheap crap at expensive prices. There's some bad business juju right there! I say offer the highest quality at the best price possible. The prices I set are the best prices possible. Is that so wrong?

Like jewelry, each piece is finely handcrafted (with a little help from a machine, I'm not totally crazy) with the utmost attention to detail. I know, because I do the details. I very much enjoy and take pride in what I do. However, these are not mass-production pieces nor will they ever be. This is what I was hoping would set us apart from the rest of the crowd. In fact, I'm lucky to complete two shirts a day. So with that in mind, this is what I have been trying to do:

I want to use the highest-quality materials available. I'm not talking cultivated silk or anything, but I am talking good, heavy, noticeably better- and thicker-feeling 5-1/4 oz. easy-care poly/cotton blend twill. I have had samples from several different suppliers, and I do get them at wholesale rate:

The cheapest shirts were so thin they had only one side! I have attempted to embroider on them and it is a nightmare trimming afterwards. It's almost impossible to not cut the shirt in the finishing process! I have seen this same type of shirt screen printed. The shirt is so thin that the ink bleeds right through to the back side. That's not good. The sizes also seem to run on the small size—they run at least one size small.

The next cheapest shirts are okay, and are still on the thin side. They have obvious shirt tails front and back and the buttons are natural/brown instead of black. In addition, the collars do button down, which is a nice feature, and much dressier, but I doubt that they are extremely durable. One problem I had with stitching on these was that the fabric tended to pucker under normal stitching conditions and I needed to take extra care to stabilize well and pull tightly. Their sizing is on the generous side and run pretty true to size, maybe a tiny bit larger. Single pocket on left chest, no button.

My favorite shirts, and the ones I insist on using are the Dickies® (yes, name brand) style 1574 work/shop shirt. They are the 5-1/4 oz (whatever that means) heavy, but not too heavy, twill fabric. The sizing is generous and they have a good roomy fit. The fabric is a dream to stitch on. Sometimes I wonder if I need backing/stabilizer at all. These are by far some of the highest-quality shirts I have worked with. I have no doubt that they will be durable and last a very, very long time. Two button-flap pockets on the front—two!

Here is an example of the Dickies® work shirts with our own BigAss Bear logo.

I have had a long standing history of undervaluing my work, especially when creating beads or jewelry. So could I be undervaluing my work here too? Perhaps, but my gut tells me no. A fully-embroidered Tommy Bahama® shirt retails for around $260.00. The embroidery is awesome and the work is very fine. The shirts themselves, however are 100% silk and are marked "dry clean only" (well, that and it is Tommy Bahama® after all). How practical is that? I guess if you would pay $260.00 for a shirt, you can also pay to have it dry cleaned.

I would like the world to know that I have the same type quality embroidery work as a Tommy Bahama® but at a way more affordable price, but it's slow to catch on. BigAl wonders if we should lower the price because "nobody is buying" and he's in a sort of panic. I prefer to not back down on price because I feel the rate is reasonable and fair for the quality.

Store Remodel Complete!

I finally got the Big Ass Dude store looking halfway decent and filled with product. There is still more product to add! We're going "on the road" in the morning and leaving the fine city of Anaheim for a while. It costs a bundle to stay here and we're working too much to go over to Disneyland every-other-day.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

A Little Maintenance Goes a Long Way

As with any learning curve there can be a lot of “oopsies” along the way. Now that I finally got a fairly complex job to run beautifully, it's time to make the stitches even better. I have driven the needle into the hoop a few times as well as run the foot into the side of the hoop. This can wreak havoc on the fine adjustments to the machine at best!

So into the Big Bad Barudan I went. I now know which covers I can remove to do what is necessary—thankfully I don't have to do that very often! It takes three sizes of hex keys (Allen wrenches), a Phillips screwdriver, and two sizes of standard slot screwdrivers to do everything I need to do. A flashlight and a friend were listed as “optional”.

The picture shows the inside guts of the machine where the needle bars live. The needle depth adjustment was really off and to set that correctly there are two screws that need to be loosened to make and adjustment of about 2 millimeters! I just made sure to crank them down really good when I was done so it wouldn't come loose again. On many machines each needle has to be adjusted individually. I have 15 needles, I think I would still be adjusting them right now! Luckily, Barudan has a single adjustment that takes care of all of the needles with just those two screws.

That isn't cream cheese frosting up there behind the take-up levers. That's some kind of Teflon or silicone lubricant. Or maybe it's cream cheese frosting. I'm not going to taste it, let alone touch it!

Next was adjusting the hook timing underneath which went pretty well considering that I had to manually move the needle up and down by pushing the pulley belt located at the back of the machine! I could not have pulled this off (pun intended) if I didn't have long arms. I had to work the belt at the back while leaning to the front to watch the needle and hook assembly. I guess this is where the optional “friend” comes in to help—and hold the “optional” flashlight! I can tell you, the friend part was “optional” but the flashlight part was not.

I haven't turned the machine on yet to see if what I did helped. If nothing else, the learning curve flattened out a little bit more!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

A Little Bit Naughty—But VERY Nice!

A custom piece that I stitched today. Of course BigAl created the art and the digital file, I made the magic happen on the embroidery machine. It turned out way better than expected. Usually we have to make some color change somewhere because it turned out to be lighter, darker, or a different tone than anticipated. This went well, very well. A minor easily-fixed file glitch that was all. Was it easy to do? Nope, but if it were easy everyone would be doing it. Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Here Comes the Rain Again...

Heavy rain has been predicted for Southern California for the next couple of weeks. I have seen the rain here before. It looks worse than it is. I remember looking out and saying, “I'm not walking to work in that!” But by the time I was ready for work, the rain would have stopped and the river flowing down the street would have receded and gone its merry way down the storm drain.

New year, new season, new RV park, new circumstances. Yesterday, January 18th, the raining had officially begun. Now I know why they call the place Anaheim Harbor.

The neighbors and the RV park manager wander around in the floodwaters. To the left out of the frame is the lowest point in the park as well as the storm drain and pump. Unfortunately with nearly a month's worth of rainfall in a couple of hours, the drain and pump could not keep up.

Yesterday's storm ended, the sun came out, and all was well…and wet. Nice and peaceful actually.

In Florida and Texas we had to pay extra for a lake view RV spot. Here it's included! The water had all drained off in a couple of hours and was gone completely by sundown.

Today was a different story. The rain began early and was steady throughout most of the day. The water level was much higher this time. I looked nervously across the way where the water level was rising on the Happy Hyundai II. I wondered if the doors were watertight. I was not looking forward to drying out carpets and floor mats! Also, notice the potted plant in the foreground, it's floating away!

Same situation in the other direction with the scooter. The water was creeping up. Neither one of us wanted to go out there. We don't own galoshes or any rain gear. We also know that this wasn't just rain water. In an RV park, all sewer drains are open. The draining water was bound to be mixed with raw sewage…ewww…yet another reason to worry about the car flooding!

 Just like yesterday, the sun came out and all was well. Today even included a rainbow. All was almost not well, however, there were tornado warnings for the area. Warning meaning a tornado had actually been seen. Wait, are we in Kansas, Arkansas, or Florida again? I'm not too alarmed by tornado warnings these days. Been there, done that. There's something about watching a tornado form in the clouds that is both spooky and mesmerizing at the same time.

The floodwaters are at peace once again. Well, for us anyway, they weren't getting any higher. To the poor neighbors that own the storage shed, maybe not so much peace. Not only is their washer and dryer in there, there were also stored items. Bummer. These water took forever to recede today. I thought for sure the pump and drain had quit working. I'm glad it stopped raining because I wasn't wading out in the pathogenic pond to get to the car, even if I was out of coffee. Well, for coffee I might risk it. Again the water was mostly gone just after sundown leaving me free to go to the grocery store. There was no water in the car, thankfully.

Tweet Me, Sweetheart!

From USA Today: Sweethearts candy adds a social-media message: Tweet Me.

A great combination of two of my favorite things, Twitter and sugar! The newest short phrases of "TWEET ME", "TEXT ME", and "LOVE BUG" (ala Jonas Brothers not the Disney Movie, USA Today was quick to point out).

Necco Wafers fans agree, the delightful cornstarch and sugar confection still has the same flavors like ‘lipstick’ and ‘Rolaids’, and remains the candy you love to give away—whether it be to send a personal message to someone special, or give away a chalky candy that you received altogether much of.

Interestingly enough, the article states that the phrase “BITE ME” was a fail last year, with it's tie-in to the Twilight movie. Apparently some sticks-in-the-mud complained that it was a bit too “sexually suggestive” this year they will probably pick on “TWEET ME” as well. Perhaps they themselves just need a good “BITE” or “TWEET” to help unwedge that stick.