Monday, August 27, 2007

my neighbors

My neighbors across the street have a yard full of dogs--4 to be exact (either some unfortunate pugs or some kind of mix). I know this because they sit next to the sidewalk with their noses through the fence, trying to bite the ankles of anyone or anything that tries to walk by. They sit at the fence for hours at a time,which is a little hidden from the house since it's on a hill, so I figured I could surreptitiously snap a few dog photos.

Some ground gazing...

Some fence inspecting...

Some grass eating...

As promised, tote #2

I actually made this tote a while ago, but I am finally getting around to posting the pictures. This tote was made with the "all day tote" pattern from Lotta Jansdotter's book Simple Sewing. The pattern was very easy to follow despite it being my second--SECOND--sewing project ever.

What would I do differently? A lot. Even though I used a sturdy denim for the exterior of the tote as the instructions directed, it is a floppy bag. It tends to take the shape of whatever objects are inside, which makes it lumpy. Not a good look.

Also, that white "stripe" on the front is an additional pocket--I don't care for it much. The instructions called for twill tape (the white part you are seeing), but it looks a little messy. I wouldn't use it again.

Regardless, it was fun to make and now I know next time that I need to learn to use interfacing!

Some additional pictures:

Carnival of Personal Finance

Just an announcement that a blog post of mine, "How to find money," was included in the latest issue of Carnival of Personal Finance, a collection of recent blog posts and articles about personal finance. Lots of good info, check it out!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

how to find money

How much money did I "find" this last week?



Now to a lot of you personal finance gurus and those otherwise experienced with all things money, you can more than likely skip this. For all you others out there, read on.

"Finding" this money was simply a matter of making some calls. This past week I have gathered all of my monthly bills and expenses into a pile. One by one, I called the customer service numbers to see what they could do about lowering the amount. For other expenses, I realized that I wasn't really using them enough for what I was paying, so I simply canceled.

Credit Cards
This is a biggie. Since I'm young with a short credit history (though it is good), my rates are through the roof. When I first had the cards, I probably took too much advantage of the intro rates and never really paid attention when the finance charges started accruing. Solution?

I called each card and told them I was looking to consolidate all of my cards, that I was calling each one to compare the rates, and then asked them what could they give me. The last one I called gave me the best deal. Only 2% balance transfer fee and 0% interest for 18 months. That's way better than any intro rate I've ever had! Some handy calculators at my card's website allowed me to calculate how much I would save in the next year minus the transfer fees and interest I would have been paying on my other cards. It was a lot, and most of what you see in that number up top.

So now that the finance charges are under control, I will be able to pay off everything in 6 months. Not to mention only one payment deadline to keep track of every month!

The Gym
I hate going to the gym. For some reason, I thought signing up for one a block from my office would convince me to go, but now I laugh at myself thinking that. Needless to say, I canceled my membership. If I really become motivated to workout, I will be motivated enough to work out at home. Another small plus is that I won't feel as guilty when I walk by the gym on a frozen yogurt run because even though I'm not working out, at least I'm not paying to not workout!

I hardly ever watch tv. I mean really, weeks go by that I don't even turn it on. I called Comcast to cancel, but doing so would raise my internet bill by $10. I complained, and the second rep I talked to instead cut my cable bill in half for the next 6 months. Savings? A cool $150 just with a phone call.

Bill Pay
I've never realized that my bank was charging me for this. Shame on me, I know. What effectively was happening was that I was paying $6.95 per month to pay one bill. Ridiculous, I know. I canceled that pronto to quickly save myself almost $85 dollars in the next year.

Cell Phone
I researched other phone plans, but I found that I have the best (read: cheapest) deal that fits my needs. I wasn't able to save any money here, though it's still comforting to know that I'm not overpaying.

Sticking with a plan
The last step? I've been tracking my expenses, keeping all receipts and once a week, entering them in a spreadsheet by category. These categories would be different for everyone, but the bulk of my spending falls into the following buckets:
  • Dining out
  • Coffee & drinks
  • Alcohol
  • Clothes
  • Apartment shopping (decorating, org stuff, etc)
  • Misc Shopping
  • Books
  • Groceries
  • Cabs
  • Medical
It surprisingly isn't taking much time at all, and it's allowed me to create a reasonable budget for me to follow each month to quickly pay off my debts.

It feels so good to be in control. How much money can you find???

Thursday, August 16, 2007

how to hand wash clothes

It has taken me 23 and 1/2 years to be motivated to educate myself on how to hand wash clothing. The catalyst that sent me to the Internet to research hand washing and sent me even faster to the store to buy a drying rack and Woolite?

Well, there's this sweater I wore once last winter...and what would you know, it's been in the bottom of my laundry hamper since. Now, said sweater has been washed in the washer before, but it was starting to pill so I told myself next time I'd pony up for dry cleaning. Through what was left of last winter, through spring, and now almost all of summer, it remains banished to the bottom of the barrel. It even made it in the hamper through a move from one side of Seattle to the other.

Needless to say, the dry cleaning prices in Seattle abhor me, so it made easy to ignore for a while. But this sweater is looking sad. And lonely. And I couldn't go another day thinking that one of these days it's going to be winter again, and I will realize that it's been a YEAR since I needed to wash it.

Do you think I'm disgusting yet? Good. Me too.

On to the washing. Not surprising, there are tons of resources on hand washing clothing. I read through several and even watched a cheesy video, though when it comes to anything about cleaning I tend to trust good ol' Martha Stewart. I particularly love the mag Real Simple, though I'm not sure why, because every time I read it I find that there is some square inch of my apartment that I've been negligent in tending (read: more work for me). Regardless, here is the round-up of hand washing tips from Real Simple online:
If you don't want to click through, here's what I found particularly useful from these links, others, and actually doing it:

-Most things can be hand washed. Even things that say "Dry Clean," with the distinction from "Dry Clean Only," which means just what it says. (Note: I washed a sweater that said dry clean only, and it is fine! You can use your judgment based on the make of the garment.)

-How the garment dries is important in keeping its shape. Some things need to hang, some need to dry flat, and still others need care to be reshaped.

-Don't soak the clothing for more than 2-5 minutes. Letting it soak can weaken embellishments and besides, 98% of the dirt comes out in the first 2 minutes anyhow.

-Don't use water that's too hot. Most things should be washed in luke warm, but some of my tags said cold only.

-Roll sweaters in a towel to squeeze out all of the water. They will be really heavy after washing and difficult to reshape without this step.

Final verdict? Worth doing.

As for my hamper-ridden sweater? It's actually still in there!! I didn't get to washing that one. Soon though, my friends. Very soon!!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

happenings: time is flying

All my days are starting to fall into one another. Before I know it, Tuesday is Friday and Friday is Monday again. In the hustle, my writing has taken a backseat (in good company with my sleep, which is also on vacation) and even now, I only have a few minutes to quickly catch you up on what it is exactly I've been doing for the last week.

Last Monday (August 6th!)
I went to El Corazon to see the English band, 65 Days of Static. Instrumental, loud, and probably the first time I have truly felt old--the place was packed with misunderstood, skinny jean-clad teenagers. Good, though.

I rushed home from work to sew the all-day tote from Lotta Jansdotter's book. It took me all night (I even forgot to eat dinner--me, forget dinner?!?), but it was moreover a success. The photo of the finished project is still on my camera, but I'll post it soon.

Met a friend to go to Ignite. Being in the company of smart, entrepreneur-minded people is always inspirational, and this night was no different. I left bursting with ideas. Beforehand, I ran into a couple lady friends from Yelp, then I finished the night with too many whiskeys.

Left work a little early to go with T to see G Love at Marymoor Park. It was seriously a blast. The weather was gorgeous, and we had some additional entertainment when our friend Jon met up with us. We got a little giggly on wine and by the end of the night we were shaking our booty's a little bit (only after the sun set!).

Went to the Seattle Art Museum to see the documentary Finding Kraftland. You know the rich guy who collects an insane amount of Disney paraphernalia and the like? Yeah, that guy. He was there, actually, and confirmed for me that not only does he just seem full of himself in the movie (he made about himself...), but he's really that way in person! Wow! Imagine that.

It was interesting, though, to be surrounded by Seattle's most enthusiastic collectors, one of which was donning bright purple spandex shorts and a cropped, sleeveless shirt. Did I mention they're a fashionable group of people?

I got up early to bus it to my second acupuncture appointment. It is really working! I was skeptical, but I know my Dad isn't a liar (acupuncture worked for him) so I shouldn't be all that surprised it is making my knee feel a million times better. They also put these weird spike/stud things in the top of my ear this time, which I ended up taking out early because they were painful. The needles don't bother me, though. Looking forward to my next appointment!

Met a friend for coffee to work on computer stuff. We didn't even talk or anything, but at least if you have someone to go with you can leave your computer to take bathroom breaks! Made a little progress on my project and figured out some new-to-me functionality in iPhoto.

Monday, again already!
Convinced myself that I need to spend some time at home to clean my apartment and catch up on laundry, but not before I go walking at Greenlake first! Finished the walk with a Crystal Lite Slurpee and found out people find my love for the brain freeze inducing treat funny because it's "so 80's." Whatever, they are delicious! I didn't realize that all this time I was being old school!

Tonight I'm meeting up with some gals from Yelp to go to a Poetry Slam at Trost Lounge in Fremont. I am excited! Because you know...I haven't gone out in a while!!

Sunday, August 5, 2007

P-Patch: A Community Garden

I live in an odd part of Seattle. It's technically Queen Anne since I'm on The Hill, but it's so far west that it encroaches Magnolia but is also a mere stone's throw from Ballard. Some call it Interbay, but if you blink while you are driving down 15th Ave W, you'll miss it, so most don't know where it is.

Though I love my apartment, the neighborhood isn't quite what I'd call glamorous. No fancy restaurants, boutiques, or walking trails. No restaurants or shopping at all, really, but don't feel sorry for me yet.

While at the bus stop every morning, I've noticed an inviting red archway buried in climbing vines, most recently decorated with heavy blossoms. For the longest time I've had this nagging sensation to go there to see where this curious entrance led.

Today was the day.

Walking through the cherry red archway, it felt like time stopped. The sun shone hot on my skin, the noise of busy traffic on 15th was stifled and replaced with the happy buzzing of bees, wafts of rosemary and blooming flowers floated in the air, and overgrown plants tickled my ankles as I walked. This is a Seattle P-Patch.

Though community gardens exist in most cities and towns, a P-Patch is specific to Seattle. I had always thought a P-Patch was a Pea Patch, but I have learned that in fact the "P" is in reference to "Picardo" of Picardo Farms who started the first P-Patch in Seattle's Wedgewood neighborhood. The city of Seattle eventually followed suit and started the P-Patch program in 1973, and now there are 54 P-Patches dotted throughout the city (map).

Going forward, my wait at the bus stop will never be the same. From now on I will be facing north, looking longingly at the red archway that I now know hides the splendor of a gorgeous community garden, a P-Patch.

Would you like to see more photos of my walk through the P-Patch?
Please visit my flickr page.

project 2: "the tote"

I'd love to be different and make something other than a tote for my beginning sewing project, but alas, here it is anyway! I spent Saturday afternoon piecing together this tote design from Lotta Jansdotter's book, Simple Sewing.

Considering I'm fighting a steep learning curve (I've never sewed before and am "teaching" myself via books and a handful of mostly unhelpful you tube videos), I'm happy to have made something. Needless to say, though, I will probably not actually use this for anything but as testament that yes, I am trying to learn to sew. The fabric was a purchase not made on love for the pattern or color but for the sake of being cheap and more sturdy--and practical--to use than the muslin of my earlier practice sessions.

I'm finding that unlike my job, where too much time is spent on email and more or less just transferring knowledge back and forth all day, it is nice after an afternoon of sewing to have something I can hold in my hands.

For those thinking about taking up sewing or are learning as well, I thought it might be helpful to document some current struggles I am facing teaching myself to sew. If I'm lucky, those more experienced will chime in with some answers!
  • Thread slipping off take up lever. How on earth is the thread slipping off the take up lever whilst sewing, but it stays put everywhere else (including the needle!)? Most problems are not unique, but I could not find anything about this online. In fact, the take up lever is hardly mentioned at all in regards to problems. The only thing I can think of is that while threading the machine, maybe the presser foot was not up the entire time or the thread did not "click" into place? I did not think of this yesterday so I didn't try, but I'm going to make sure of that next time. Regardless, after I figure this out there will finally be a resource for other people having this problem, because hopefully I'm not the only one!

  • Applying correct pressure to the pedal. Silly problem that will only be better with practice, I have a hard time putting the correct amount of pressure on the pedal. To make it go slow enough, it seems that only the slightest amount of pressure will do, which is hard to maintain. Looking back, at least for learning to sew I think it'd be nice to have one of those pedals with the "cruise control" so I could easily keep the machine from going too fast for my novice hands.

  • Cutting straight lines. Yes, I said it. Cutting straight lines is hard! A ridiculous thing to complain about, I'm sure, but I'm not ashamed. Maybe I'm just not a good cutter. Maybe it's because I only have a tape measure and not a yardstick like my book recommends. My books don't speak of any tricks or recommended methods for cutting precise squares and rectangles. Not much is said other than to have good scissors, which I have. Ideas? Anyone?