Project Complete: Reindeer Glasses-Holder

This project grew from disparate things:

  1. Paint pens from a going-out-of-business sale
  2. A badly-painted “freebie” Christmas decoration
  3. An online ad for an outrageously-priced eyeglasses holder
  4. Recurring incidents of “lost” or knocked-around glasses



    Christmas decoration (after removing plastic wreath from neck).

Despite lumps of epoxy and nicks in the paint, it had promise. Its weighted legs meant it wasn’t going to fall over when I bumped the nightstand, and its well-felted feet meant no worries about setting it on furniture. 

It was a perfect project for brain-frying quarantine, particularly during the dreary days of flooding rain. I  laid out junkmail flyers on the table next to my daily workspace. Between bouts of staring at the screen,  I played around with the paint pens.

It took me roughly four weeks to finish. 

Voila! A deer for all seasons. 

Toolset: Mending


Old and new tools in the sewing box

I’ve written recently about how cheap clothes make it easier to toss them than to mend, but a globalized economy creates an environment in which even little things are outsourced.

The photo above illustrates the point. The American-made crocheting needle, which dates from the ’80s, was in my first “emergency” sewing kit.  I neither crochet nor knit, but it’s my “sweater-saver.” When a sweater is snagged, I poke the needle through from the back, twist the errant yarn around it, and draw it through to the reverse side.

The darning needles and thread-cutter came from my late maternal grandmother’s carefully-kept cache. The needles were imported because, as everyone knew, Sheffield Steel was high-quality. I can attest to their strength, since I’ve used them on denim and suede. (Note: If you look on the left side of the package, you can see Grandma paid a dime for the package. Quite an investment!) 

Continue reading

On the Mend… clothes, that is!

I had the misfortune of walking through rotting mushrooms and neighbor-dog residue while gardening. They made quite an adhesive for pasting mulch and leaves to my white sneakers.  For a moment, I contemplated tossing them into the garbage. Then I got the bucket and the bristle brush. Then, after a spin in the laundry with a bit of whitening agent, they were ready for many more seasons.

That is, if I take care of them.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the saying from the Great Depression: Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.

My quest for clothes that fit has shown me how easy it is to donate and buy, donate and buy, etcétera ad nauseam.

It’s also easier to toss than to mend.  Yesterday I discovered a hole in a nearly-new patterned sock. Contrary to rumors spread by Young Humans, I don’t have clawed feet (or eat children), so I wasn’t expecting early-onset sock failure. Luckily, it’s a seam opening, not a tear.

I’m grateful that my mother taught me rudimentary sewing skills, although I’ll never sew clothes like she and my grandmothers. A stitch in time saves nine and a little seam repair or darning saves space in the landfill.

Related Reading

Benjamin Leszcz writes about “The Life-Changing Magic of Making Do”

An oldie-but-goodie post about how to follow the philosophy Use It Up, Wear It Out, Make Do, or Do Without



Odds and Ends of House Upkeep

Usually winter is my relaxing season because, despite an increase in paperwork and often-hectic holiday preparations, the pace of life slows. There is little yard maintenance, the local roads have less traffic, and there are no mosquitoes.

Early snowfall, however, created its own problems. I had to get the birdfeeders squirrel-feeders set up early, so I grabbed two bags of the very limited selection at a soon-to-close retailer. The wildlife do not like it. It has too much corn, judging by the slowly-growing pile of kernels beneath the feeder. At least the suet is a hit, as well as easy to stock up; a local grocer carries it in the seasonal aisle. Continue reading

Last Day of Intensive Gardening

Today is the day I finish the back garden! I’m so close to done, I can almost taste it. (Or is that topsoil in my mouth?)

Yesterday I was stabbed, scratched, and eaten alive by everything but earwigs. The hydrangeas in particular gave me conniptions. First I tried digging them out. Then I cut them at the base. Finally I put flattened cardboard boxes over the stubs – which stabbed THROUGH when I walked over – and hoped they will give up the fight. 

THREE HOURS later, I finished (at least for this year). I jam-packed three bags with their wands and roots.

The one near the house gets to stay. Or should I say “the hydrangea community,” since the dead ones were clearly separate roots in the clump. Or perhaps I should call it Mosquito Estates because the bloodsuckers sheltered during yesterday’s dry, breezy weather.*

I found two lovely river rocks beneath old fabric. I suspect they came from the original owner of La Casa de Tontería, as the couple who sold me it preferred semi-circular bricks. With the river rocks and my collection of Lake Huron souvenirs, I can make a “water feature” aka rock garden around the downspout. 😉

*Amazing how they discovered the gap where the cuffs of the work gloves no longer fit snugly! Bites on the wrist are more painful than the forearm.

Project Complete: Steampunk Box

Late this winter, I saw a steampunk trinket box. Made out of plastic resin, it looked like the perfect size and durability for an plugs-and-cords catchall. But the price! I wasn’t paying almost $9 per square inch. (Sounds like the rent in San Francisco, California.)

Instead I bought a plain pine box and a baggy of gears from a craft store. Luckily I kept the receipt, because soon I found a secondhand box in the Salvation Army store.


Decades ago, this treasure chest-style cedar box made an attractive (and popular) souvenir from Harrison, Michigan. Those imitation brass bands and the yellowish finish look awfully 1970s!

Beneath the dents and tarnish, the box was well-made. In particular, the sturdy hinges and tiny finishing nails impressed me. And the price was right: less than $4.50!

I bought a dark polyurethane. Then I gathered odds and ends: sandpaper, one-coat stripper, cheap brushes, and odd bits like a rusty key.

Stripping and sanding took a long time because I waited on the weather.* I applied the polyurethane one beautiful May day.  And speaking of mayday,  the first coat was a disaster! As it dried, flecks of pollen marred the smooth surface. Oh, the hazards of living in a bucolic wooded area!

Another round with varnish-remover and sandpaper. Then the tedious task of cleaning and polishing hardware with cotton swabs. I scuffed the finish around the latch and on the sides.

Finally I dug out epoxy and began gluing decorations to the surface. My favorite addition was an electrical connector made from a sliver of US nickel, which my grand- or great-grandfather found cheaper to create than buy for five cents. (A familiar story!)



My version of a steampunk box, relatively less gear and more box!

*Despite what manufactures imply, well-ventilated rooms are not a thing in my area. If such a room is discovered – usually in the heart of winter – we arm ourselves with caulk and insulation to fix it. However, some of us have screened porches  or what locals call “Florida rooms” (what my people call a solárium.)

September 2018 Progress Report

It was the best of times, it was the mediocrest of times. (NOTE: not a real word)

Budget Planning

My dearest, oldest friend laughed when I told her about the no-spending challenge. To paraphrase, she thought I was just asking for trouble. After paying for a transmission repair, dry cleaning, and bandages and ointments, I agree! That’s not including the waste of money on groceries like beans and grains I cannot eat on restricted diet.

I will not go into the details. Suffice to say that my savings account dropped drastically.


I need a plumbing inspection, a survey, and an estimate on a shed. Due to budget constraints, I contented myself with collecting papermill boxes (free!) to serve as weedblockers when I transplant plants.

I also gathered acorns to put out for the squirrels this winter. Bonus: fewer seedlings sprouting from various and sundry places.

American Life Cleaning VS the Middle School Mafia

Faithful readers may remember that last year The Young Human Factory shuffled the duties of employees, resulting in my new position as a Quality Control Inspector for the self-same hooligans that terrorize the neighborhood. This year, there are MORE widgets stuffed into my room.

They are like adorable deranged monkeys on Kickstart, Redbull, and whatever bad-idea beverage they can get their paws on.

Case in point: Last year, a boy got in trouble for picking paint off the walls while a substitute was covering the class. This year, while I was in charge of the room, one of the teeming horde continued the deconstruction. It dug through the blah beige of the Nineties, through the turquoise of the Eighties, and down to the Seventies’ persimmon orange.

I had to halt the production line and proclaim a Bold New Strategy(tm) of historic site preservation before anyone passed the psychedelic Sixties and reached deep enough to break through the brick and into the Tenth Dimension.

On the flip side, they say thank you and please and I spend only a couple hours each day contacting their progenitors, the discipline officer, and law enforcement.

But as a result, I come home and achieve little besides daily chores. Better luck this month!

August 2018 Progress Report, Part I

I had possibly the worst circumstances I’ve ever had for progressing on my goals. The antibiotic I took at the beginning of the month made me photosensitive and lightheaded. The final one gave me side effects that interfered with digestion and sleep.

As much as possible, I rolled with the punches. Wide awake at 2 am? Time to spackle the bathroom walls. Too dizzy to stand on a ladder? Work at the table.

In the end, I got quite a lot done. Continue reading

July 2018 Progress Report

woman using space gray iphone x

Photo by on

What did I do before a bullet journal?

I am planning to replace the shed, so everything from specs to easements are in one place. It doesn’t matter if I add information on a page much farther; it’s listed in the index under “shed.”

I bought a hanging calendar for upcoming appointments and events.  It is a plain Blue Sky spiral-bound calendar, July through June 2019. It’s replacing the four-month “future” section of the journal.

The Cycle Is Broken

I didn’t know what to do with myself after this school year ended. Part of it was mental fatigue, but the other was an overwhelming To-Do List.

The Young Human Factory has been saved by the voters, and my schedule will be slightly less hectic come September.

In the meantime, I have two work projects, three house projects and two personal projects. Honestly, I didn’t accomplish much in July because of sickness and related lethargy.

The Mortgage Is Slowly Ebbing

I enjoyed seeing how much the mortgage dropped since July 2017.  A monthly extra payment means even the regular payment reduces a greater and greater percentage of the principle. At my current pace, I’ll have it paid off by July 2022.