FO Friday: Bedding for Blythe

I participated in the most recent Blythe Swap this month, and my partner let me know that she had a room box with a sixties pop art theme/color scheme. This was really inspiring and I decided to make her a bedding set.

Blythe Swap: Blythe's Inner Artist -  what I sent

I made a quilt, two sheets, four regular bed pillows with cases, and two decorative pillows. I free-handed everything, just cutting and sewing what seemed like it was probably the right size (spoiler: it was! *phew*).

I made the bed pillows out of white muslin:
Blythe Swap: Blythe's Inner Artist -  what I sent

And two decorative throw pillows, one with a button accent and the other with piping:
Blythe Swap: Blythe's Inner Artist -  what I sent

For the bed pillows, I opted to do two styles of pillow case, so she would have some variety and be able to choose how busy she wanted the look to be.

Blythe Swap: Blythe's Inner Artist -  what I sent

For the quilt, I chose to do a fairly uncomplicated pattern that I thought would fit in with the era her room box is decorated in.
Blythe Swap: Blythe's Inner Artist -  what I sent

The straight lines of quilting and one stripe of accent fabric really work, I think! I’m really quite pleased with how the whole set turned out.

Blythe's Inner Artist swap photo Blythe_Kingdom_Blythe_Swaps_-_2015-07-26_15.20.59_zpss2huy4fm.png

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Things That Are Awesome: Wham Bam Pow

I keep thinking about things in my life that bring me joy. It only seems appropriate to share those things, to spread that joy. So here you go! The first installment of Things That Are Awesome!

Wham Bam Pow

Wham Bam Pow is a podcast from the ever-awesome Maximum Fun. It features comedians Rhea Butcher, Cameron Esposito, and Ricky Carmona talking about what they term dick flicks: action and sci-fi movies. Each episode includes movie news, fun facts, banter, and a more in-depth review of a specific movie. Usually that movie is either in the theater right now or is available streaming on Netflix/similar, so it’s easy to watch it after the episode comes out if you haven’t already seen it. I have to admit, though, that even when I haven’t seen the movie I will often listen to the podcast because it’s so funny that it doesn’t matter that I haven’t seen it.

I listen to a fair number of comedy/comedian-based podcasts and it is SO REFRESHING to hear one that is hosted by three feminists, especially since they are aware of and often discuss how ism-filled many action and sci-fi movies have been and continue to be. They super get that, yes, we like things blowing up and traveling to the distant reaches of the universe, but we ALSO want these movies to be more than just the surface level of satisfying. They get genuinely excited about a movie like Mad Max: Fury Road and the fun they have discussing is contagious. More than once, I’ve listened to an episode and then gone back to watch the movie (even though I didn’t think I wanted to) just to see the things that they’ve pointed out.

In addition to being funny people with insightful opinions, the hosts of this podcast feel like, if time and geography had worked out a little differently, they could be in your group of friends. Rhea Butcher’s favorite movies of all time are the Back to the Future trilogy, which – GREAT CHOICE. (Have you heard this awesome BTTF-related song by my amazing pal Dan Louisell? Check it out!)

So, if you’re looking for funny, thoughtful reviews of movies that don’t always get that kind of attention, check out Wham Bam Pow. I highly recommend it!

Review: Digital Nature Photography

Digital Nature Photography

I’m an unabashed amateur when it comes to photography. I mostly snap quick photos using my phone these days, and I only haul out the DSLR for things that require better lighting or have more detail (primarily close-ups of knitting or plants tbh). I do still want to be better at using the DSLR, though, and I thought this would be a good book for instruction since I like taking photos of things in the garden/yard/nature already. As I read into it, I learned that I was right in that this book is overtly JUST for DSLR technique. Not film, not phone, not point and shoot.

I already have a DSLR, but if I didn’t, this book has a lot of great info on how to choose one and what options are out there. I do need to spend more time with the setting up your camera section, though, as I’d like to learn how to shoot RAW so I have more options. There’s also a ton of technical information that I need to let soak in and then play with repeatedly over time in order to learn what my preferences are and what gives me the best results. I feel like this should be a good guide, though, for that kind of practice. Should I get to the point where I’m ready to invest in an additional lens, there’s a lengthy chapter on different types.

The part I was really looking for, though, is the chapter on composition. I feel like I have a pretty good eye for this on my own, but I certainly have room to improve. There’s also a good chapter on close-ups, both with and without a macro lens. I’ll be practicing some of the techniques from that as well.

The only drawback to this book for me is also one of its features, depending on your perspective: John Shaw is clearly a very talented photographer who has had the opportunity to shoot in a wide variety of stunning and remote locations. Many of his photos are of rare creatures or landforms that aren’t accessible to most folks without a lot of travel. I do appreciate the beauty of these subjects, but I would appreciate someone with his expertise demonstrating photography with more commonly accessible subjects. I am looking forward to practicing his techniques, though, as I improve my photography knowledge and DSLR skills.

Disclaimer: I received this book from Blogging for Books.

Return from Up North

Last week we took a family vacation in the Upper Peninsula. We spent most of the week at a beach house on Lake Michigan near Manistique and then finished up with a night in Newberry.

On our way up north, K and I stopped in Clare for some of the famed Cops and Doughnuts sweet treats, which did not disappoint.

Vacation doughnuts! At Cops and Doughnuts

I wouldn’t have remembered them, but their highway billboards worked to give us the idea. ADVERTISING WORKS.

Our "cabin"

This beach house was lovely! It had plenty of room for all of us (me and K, my sister and her husband, my folks, and my uncle) and a beautiful view as well as access to a private area of beach.

Our view this week. Not too shabby!

Most of the fam took advantage of the opportunity to play in the water, and I happily spent time admiring the water from the deck and the family room.

I'm melting - gif

The first full day we were up, we went to Pictured Rocks and did some hiking.

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

We had beautiful weather and I managed to get a minimum of bug bites despite it being a little more intense outdoorsyness than I was expecting.

We also took advantage of having a captive audience in the house to play some tabletop games, including Dixit, Ticket to Ride, Quiddler, Settlers of Catan, and Boggle.

Who's adorbs?  Coraline!

Coraline helped.

Later in the week we went to Tahquamenon Falls, where at the Lower Falls the majority of our group took a rowboat to the island, but K and I opted to walk the trail alongside the falls on the mainland (see again: melting).

Tahquamenon Falls

At the Upper Falls, we noted the majesty and then ate dinner at the Brewery (all state parks should have a brew pub on site).

Tahquamenon Falls

It was a tiring but fun vacation! I have to admit to being very happy to be home again, though – after a little bit of travel I always remember that I’m just more of a homebody.

the roof! the roof! the roof is ON POINT

If you’ve been following my flickr stream lately, you will have been inundated with eleventy photos of our roof in the process of being redone. After two+ weeks of work (done by pros, not us), it’s all complete!

We started out here:

Firefly Cottage

When we bought the house, we had to go through all kinds of rigamarole to get the bank and insurance company to believe that we were going to redo the roof right away. We even negotiated as part of the deal that the sellers gave us a healthy amount in escrow to pay for the re-roof, but it still took a bunch of hassle to get it all okayed by the powers that be. Well, now it’s done, emmereffers! Just like we said it would be.

Anyway, you can see that there was an area on the main front part of the house that was actively losing shingles, so we would have wanted to get it done sooner than later anyway. Luckily it wasn’t leaking at all! They started on the garage first, since it required some extra interior work.

Roof in progress at Firefly Cottage

The framing was sagging a little because some BRILLIANT GENIUS FORMER OWNER decided to chop off the vertical support beams without reinforcing the main header. Who does that?! Anyway, the roofing crew did the necessary reinforcement in the garage framing, so now it’s got more integrity and slopes less than it did before (to fix it to 100% true, we’d have needed to rebuild the entire garage, which we did not see as necessary). The crew also pulled out a ton of old crap that was hidden away on the roof beams: old wood-framed window screens, a lot of random lumber, rolls of old carpet, curtain rods, foam coolers, a pharmaceutical company convention display setup, and a bunch of other stuff. Luckily the dumpster they were using had extra room for a bunch of that stuff so we got rid of almost all of it right away. Then came the process of removing all the old shingles and such from the house:

Roof in progress at Firefly Cottage

It’s interesting – there were two layers of shingles, but no barrier under the lower layer – it was just laid right on top of the wood beams, so I guess it was the original roof? I suppose that two layers of shingles could have lasted (or barely lasted, given the state they were in when we started) since 1940?

Now everything has all the appropriate layers of plywood and contemporary roofing products under the new shingles, so we are good to go.

Roof in progress at Firefly Cottage

(The roofing crew was hamming it up a bit since I kept taking a million pictures.) One of the roofers commented on our old falling-apart shed and as a result of that conversation, he removed it for us and hauled it away for scrap.

Shed be gone!

Whatever he’s getting for the scrap is not more than what it’s worth to us to have it gone (this also makes the insurance company happy as they deemed it uninsurable), so huzzah! ALSO, we had previously suspected that a groundhog was living under the shed, but it happily appears that we were wrong!

We have almost gotten rid of all the firewood now, and are looking forward to cleaning the crud off that garage exterior.

The roofers also installed gutters, downspouts, and two rain barrels. Eventually I think I’ll install some soaker hoses on the rain barrels, once I have more gardeny stuff near the barrels – for now we just have drain hoses on them (leading into the lawn away from the house) for times when it rains super hard (and they fill up), and we can use them for watering as needed.

So, we have a finished product!

New roof complete at Firefly Cottage

New roof complete at Firefly Cottage

Beautiful! I’m quite pleased with the color we chose. I think it lets the lovely brick color shine and doesn’t compete as much as the former brown shingles did. Projects like this are less satisfying for me than those we do ourselves, but this was definitely not a DIY situation, so I feel good about it even though I didn’t do/learn as much as I like to during a house project. And now I can gleefully watch rain running into the gutters and feel secure that everything is ship-shape.

plotting the property

Having moved into a new home, as you can imagine I am champing at the bit to start gardening! We’ve had a few house projects in the way first, though, including getting a new roof put on the house and garage (more on that coming soon!). That’s been going on for the last few weeks and has not been kind to the existing plantings near the house.

ANYWAY, I did a bunch of measuring with K and made a rough plan of the property.

Firefly Cottage property plan

This is pretty accurate as far as measurements go, though not 100%. Each square represents approximately 2.5 feet and as you can see, we have a lot of yard. We also have a lot of large trees (the large circles represent the approximate size of the canopy for each tree – my freehand circles are AWFUL, so just imagine them as more natural), some of which need to come down due to old age/rot/potential danger. However, that’s an expensive project that will probably have to wait a little while. The candidates for removal are the two box elders, the spruce in the back, and the maple in the front corner. Each of them has issues according to the arborists we had out for quotes and much as my instinct is to save and appreciate old trees, when they start to look like they’re suffering awfully and/or present a danger to the house and people in or near it, then it’s time for them to go. When we take those out I would like to plant some replacement trees – ideally productive ones such as fruit or nut trees. I still have a lot of research to do on that. Suggestions for relatively low-maintenance yet productive trees welcome!

Since the yard is so large, I’ve been coming up with a system for planning so that I can approach it in a logical manner and be able to do a bit each year – certainly I will not be able to do everything at once.

So my thought is this: figure out where I want the paths to be and then figure out the plantings around those pathways. I want to go for a cottage garden aesthetic, with wide stone paths (stepping stones set into the earth and surrounded by walk-on-ables that don’t require mowing) and then flower beds with a lot of variety happening surrounding the paths. Also some raised beds somewhere for edibles. We will always have some turf in the fenced-in area of the back yard so Coraline (and hopefully another dog when things are more settled and we can afford it) has a place to run and play, but I’d like to minimize the amount of mowing elsewhere. Eventually we’d like to expand the fenced-in area toward the back (we are limited by ordinance and can’t extend it any further toward the street on the east side of the house) and possibly toward the west, but I don’t want to get too close to the garage, so we might just push that back wall of the fence back toward the property line. We’ve got about 30 feet more we could go back there, which would expand the fenced-in area quite a lot.

So far I know that I want a pathway from either side of the garage to the existing walkway between the garage and the back of the house, like so:

Firefly Cottage property plan

And now that we’ve got the ugly old falling-apart shed down, there is actually the possibility of doing this!

Shed be gone!

I need to move some daylilies out of the way, but that shouldn’t be a problem. I’ve got plenty of other places that they can go. We still need to get rid of the last of the old firewood pile, but hopefully we’ll get that taken care of shortly.

So now I need to figure out what other pathways make sense. Any thoughts? Suggestions welcome!

take note!

This weekend I made time to pull out one of the Dog Under My Desk patterns that I hadn’t yet made: the Notepad Organizer.

Notepad Organizer -  pattern by Dog Under My Desk

I just adore this fabric (from Spoonflower) and I think it turned out quite well! I’ve been on a kick of using fabric from my stash instead of shopping and I’m finding lots of fun stuff I forgot I had.

Notepad Organizer -  pattern by Dog Under My Desk

Of course I don’t happen to have any of the right sized notepads on hand, but I will find one soon enough, I’m sure.

Having made that one according to the pattern, I then couldn’t resist adapting it to make a larger one that will fit an 8.5 x 11″ notepad.

Notepad Organizer, modified to fit 8.5x11" notebook - pattern by Dog Under My Desk

I did some excellent math to figure out how to make it the right size, and it totally worked!

Notepad Organizer, modified to fit 8.5x11" notebook - pattern by Dog Under My Desk

It’s maybe a little taller than it would have to be, but I wanted to have some leeway so that any loose papers wouldn’t risk having their edges poking out.

We recently started playing a D and D campaign with our trivia teammates and it has been great fun so far! I will be using the large notepad organizer to hold my character sheets and any other related stuff. Here is our crew on a recent quest:

Ongoing campaign

My character is a gnome sorcerer but I haven’t found a good mini yet, so for the time being, I’m being represented by an Adipose. K is an elf ranger, currently in the guise of a Dalek. There is no shortage of Who-related minis around our place, but we have room to improve our collection of fantasy-based ones!

flowers for July

One of the beds in front of the house is going well with previously existing flowers! The purple, taller plants are Bellflower, and the white are Shasta Daisies, I believe.

Bellflower and Shasta Daisy

I’ve been picking rocks out of this bed and pulling weeds, and will have plenty of room to add some more plants. I think that it could use more daisies, and maybe another something?

The Bellflower clearly isn’t getting quite as much sun as it would like, since it’s leaning noticeably to the right. The daisies are pretty alright, though.

Shasta Daisy

There’s also whatever is closer to the house (on the left side of the bed), which hasn’t started to bud yet. What might it be?