Sunday, September 30, 2012

DIY Money Saver - Attic Insulation

We own an old house.  This has been well established as truth on this blog.  One downfall of an old house, which happens to also be a big house, is that it costs a small fortune to heat and cool it.   We endeavored to decrease that small fortune leaving our bank account each month by re-insulating our attic earlier this year.  And by "we" I mean Trent and a generous church member named Gary who offered to help.  Since it took place during tax season, I was off at the office earning the overtime pay which made this endeavor possible.  So I guess I did help some.

When you buy over a certain amount (like $250 or so) of insulation at either Lowe's, Home Depot or McCoy's, you get the machine rental for free.  We chose McCoy's because, well, I don't know, ask Trent.   Gary volunteered his help and another church member named Will let Trent borrow his trailer for hauling the stuff.

The way this works is you haul home all your packages of insulation and the blower machine itself.  You snake a hose into the house through a door or window close to your attic opening.   Then one person feeds the condensed packages of insulation into the machine, which spins around inside and fluffs it up, then blows it through the attached hose.

This was Gary's job, but I assure you Gary does not look like that pink dude.  Hurray for random google images.

The other person is up in the attic with a face mask and the other end of the hose, pretending to be a fireman, but instead of water coming out, it's fluffy pink stuff.

This was Trent's job and, once again, yay google image.  Of course I don't have actual pictures of this endeavor...I was at the office remember?  Trent had traipsed around in the attic beforehand and nailed some shims (random flat, long pieces of wood) around on the rafters so they would stick up and be a guide for how deep to blow in the insulation all over.  He did math to insulate our 2100-ish square feet to about R-9 but we ended up having enough insulation to blow it in at more like R-19.  Blah blah construction language.  It basically means we were able to insulate more thoroughly than we thought but still at the price we had in mind the whole time for the project.   Good job pink fluffy stuff!  Within only about two hours, our attic was a winter wonderland and Gary and Trent were done.

So here is a rundown of how this DIY money saving attempt is working out:

Cost of actual insulation:  $724.39
Blower Machine: zero
Labor:  zip
Trailer:  zilch
Total cost:  $724.39
Total energy savings so far between insulation on April 14-ish and now, end of September, compared to the same time period last year : $349.02.

So, in 5 months' time, we have paid ourselves back almost half of our original investment.  Now I know we may not be comparing apples to apples since last summer was flippin hot and crazy dry whereas this summer wasn't quite as bad.  But still.

Raise your hand if you live in an old house.   Raise your other hand if it sometimes has not so friendly energy bills.  Raise your foot if you would be scared to tackle a project like this on your own.  (I won't make you raise your other foot. You're welcome)  Folks, it's very, very doable.  If all those home improvement stores rent these machines to normal folks and shoo them out the door on their merry way to insulate their own attics then it's gotta be pretty user friendly.   You just need at least two people, some face masks and a few hours.  Oh and some dollars.

Anyone interested?  Hit us up for questions or cheerleading.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Pumpkin Amnesia

There are four words spoken repeatedly at our church around this time of year that have the power to instill in my soul glee and anticipation as well as fear and trembling:

The pumpkins are coming!

Um...what?  You see, our church has a pumpkin patch fundraiser for the entire month of October every year which benefits the children and youth ministries.  It is a lot of fun but also a lot of work.   

Right now I'm still mostly in the glee and anticipation stage.  Texas is cooling off (we haven't reached 100 degrees in weeks!). Fall is in the air. I want to go buy school supplies and give someone a bouquet of freshly sharpened pencils.   And I'm excited about pumpkins!  On this beginning end of the month-o-pumpkins I'm all sentimental about the multitude of pretty orange pumpkins and cool looking gourds that are soon to arrive, the joy we witness on the faces of those who come visit the patch and pick out their perfect pumpkin.    

But you see...I'm currently suffering from a certain condition that is common among CCC church members this time of year:

Pumpkin Amnesia

We have all forgotten the past sweat and dirt of the two unload days, when we first unload an entire 18 wheeler trailer of pumpkins and then two weeks later we do it again.  

We have forgotten the reluctance to stand up for hymns in church the day after unloads because our legs are too stiff to stand and our arms too weak to hold the hymnal.  

We have forgotten the smushed toes and broken nails and the Great Bee Sting Epidemic of 2009.   

We have forgotten the times we have been driving on a highway around October 25th behind an innocent 18 wheeler and breaking into a cold sweat while imagining the doors opening to an entire trailer of pumpkins begging to be unloaded. 

We have forgotten those times when we have said "We just eat, sleep and breathe pumpkins these days!  I don't want to see another pumpkin for at least a year!"

Well...time has shown that a year is more than enough time for those with a risk of exposure to develop Pumpkin Amnesia.  It's highly contagious and its running rampant at CCC.  

The pumpkins are coming!!  THIS Saturday, the 29th! 

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Rose Jar #3

You may remember from my last post that Trent gave me some beautiful red roses as part of our first scheduled weekly date night a few weeks ago.  

As is my habit now when I get flowers from my wonderful husband, I set them up to dry in my craft room when they started to get a little sad, in order to make a rose jar out of them, like my first and second rose jars.

In the meantime, I made a trip to Hobby Lobby and toodled around for almost an hour gathering supplies for this third rose jar, as well as many other little things that I just had to have.  I'm a believer than random strolling through stores such as Hobby Lobby is good for the crafty soul, but maybe not for the crafty wallet... Included in this assortment of "must" haves was a pack of little labels that I intended to add to my past rose jars as a reminder of the when and why of the original flowers.

But back to the rose jar at hand.  I decided to go for a different look than the mason jars I had already used for the others.  So I got a squatty round jar for a couple bucks at HobbLobb.

After some clipping and poking and placing and putzing about with how I wanted to use yarn or ribbon, it was done.

To get the yarn to frame both sides of the jar, I just criss-crossed it underneath like you would when putting ribbon on a gift, but wiggled it a bit off center so that yarn wasn't cutting through the view of the two roses from the front.

Here's the back of the jar and the back of the tag.

Top.  Just a floppy bow.

And then there were three!

I realized that since I keep these in my craft room and I keep my craft room door closed most of the time so that our crazy dog isn't able to make a snack out of a project-in-progress, nobody ever gets to see these jars!  So I set about finding new homes for at least two of them.  After taking pictures of this new one on our hallway shelf, I decided I liked the looks of it there.

And, as if there wasn't already enough sentimental stuff on our living room shelves, I added rose jar #2 there to go with the pink picture frame of me and my girls.

So there you have it, the story of rose jar #3.  And now if you come to our house you can actually see them displayed!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Back Up Off Our Friday Nights

After you read this post, please know that if you really do need us on a Friday night, you can totally get in touch with us.  I just like to be gangsta in blog post titles sometimes, kind of like this post.


This fall we've got not one, but two Bible studies at our house on Sundays.  We've got King's Club every other Saturday morning.  We've got youth family dinners once a month at various youth families' houses for fun fellowship time with all our families together.  We've got regular Wednesday night programming of course.  Trent will be gone to two weekend retreats in November and then I leave for a three day work trip to Dallas shortly after he gets home.  The Mission Waco youth program that he co-directs keeps him busy until about 7:00 three evenings a week.   Meanwhile I've got 9/17, 10/15 and 11/15 tax deadlines.

We have had seasons like this before.  Last spring was one.  Pieces of this summer kind of were. In the past, we have ended up with an attitude of "We just need to make it through April, then things will calm down" or "Once summer is over, things will calm down."   We basically throw up a white flag amidst the onslaught of our schedule and think "Well, I guess we'll see each other in two months."

We've realized something: things will never calm down.  So we've decided to capture and protect a morsel of regular time that is OURS.   After some consideration of what time frame would be best, we decided on Friday nights and began our new schedule addition two Fridays ago.   

Sunny, the young lady that stayed with us for the month of August, left us some restaurant giftcards upon her departure, one of which was to Diamondbacks, a very nice restaurant downtown.  We decided to start off our new date night routine with a bang so we went there.   Meanwhile, Trent decided to start it off with a lovely vase of two giant red roses in the cup holder of his car.  They were waiting there when we left the house and he insisted they come along instead of be transported into the house, despite the threat of a hot car, so that I could enjoy them for the whole date.

So he drove us downtown and back with a bouquet of roses blocking his view...although his dirty windshield was doing a pretty good job of blocking his view on its own.

After dinner, we stopped by "our" bridge, where Trent asked me to be his girlfriend on 9/30/05.

Trent told me to pose with my purse in the picture, which seemed really random but whatever, I did.

Then he told me to get out of the way and took a picture of just my purse and explained that he wanted it to look like I jumped into the river.

What the heck?  Dorkasaurus.

Did I mention my roses were huge and beautiful?  Stay tuned for a new Rose Jar post, to add to my collection of Rose Jars One and Two.

Our second Friday night date, this past Friday, wasn't quite as glamorous.  I left work in a tax season haze and we headed to the new Freebirds where the line was expectedly long.  So we trotted over to Double Dave's pizza close by, where Trent had a craving for Baris, so we headed that direction.  Third time's the charm I suppose.  After dinner, we went to the big Goodwill store to poke around.  I told you this date wasn't as glamorous. But you know what?  We loooove doing things like that.  I found an Ann Taylor skirt for $4 and Trent found an espresso maker for $10 that kinda sorta mostly works. So far it is better at making messes than making espresso...

So yeah.  That's it about that I suppose.  I survived the 9/17 tax deadline so hopefully I'll be back to blogging a little more regularly now.  Until the 10/15 deadline is upon me...

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Flashback - I Used To Draw

It's been a while since I've done a flashback post.  And since I have a bunch of these cued up and ready to hit go, it's a good one to pull out during tax deadline craziness.  The good news is that I'm over the hump, my big clients are done and I'm feeling a lot less like I'm headed for the loony bin now.  

Normally flashback posts include cute pictures of times gone by.  These are actually pictures of a pastime gone by.  I used to draw...  Mostly for art class in high school, but also some just for fun.   Digging these pieces out from a plastic box under my bed has made me want to try to pick up a pencil or ink pen again and give it another whirl.  Maybe I will...but after the tax deadline.,.

Quick pencil sketch of some random nearby objects during art class

A lesson in pen and ink "stippling", bunches of tiny dots, which turned out to be my favorite method, as you can see below.
For the best effect, blur your eyes or stand back from the drawing,

Miss Marilyn Monroe

Don't ask what happened to his ears.  I don't know.

This is one I did for fun on my own time.  I copied it from the cover of the book "I Kissed Dating Goodbye"
which was all the rage in my teen years.

This lil guy was actually entered into an art contest in Fredericksburg.  I won a savings bond.  Lame.
So those are a few of my best ones from years past.  Bet you didn't know this about me!  To bring back a dumb quote that was also all the rage in my teen years: "My name is Anna and I like to do drawrings."  Anyone? Anyone?  Bethany?  Lara?  Andrew?

Sunday, September 9, 2012

What's New With You?

It's a new semester.  It's a new school year.  And we've got some new stuff in our lives, so I thought I'd update y'all.

~We have new sixth graders
It's always a fun time at the beginning of the school year when we have new sixth graders come into the youth group.   We have several this year.  Here's me with one of them, Lauryn, at the women's tea party at church a few weeks ago.  She gives grrrreat hugs, is super sweet and I'm super excited to finally have her in the youth group.

~Trent got a new-to-us car
Trent has been eyeing Subaru WRX wagons for a while years and we found a good deal on one a few weeks ago and after some discussion, thought and negotiations, ended up getting it.  It looks like just a short hatchback type station wagon but actually it is a turbo charged standard with a lot of horsie power.  He's loving it and enjoying having air conditioning, a cup holder and a radio.   Does anyone want to buy a 2007 Honda VTX 1300C motorcycle? Our driveway is a little squished in the meantime...

(Bike is really for sale.  Not kidding.)

~I got promoted
Oh, I didn't tell you that?  It actually happened way back at the end of July.  I'm no longer a wee Staff Accountant. I am now a Senior Accountant.  Is it too unprofessional in the accounting world to say "I'm stoked"?

~Our church has a new senior minister
His name is Brian and so far things have been great.  This is an exciting new chapter in the life of our church and we are "stoked" that he is here.  (I don't have to worry about being professional at church...come on, I spend most of my time there with crazy young people.)

~Can't forget the birth of our niece!

So those are a few things that are new with us.  What's new with you?

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

A Perfect Little Human Shares My Name

Earlier this year, when K'Lee was still pregnant with our niece, I texted her (K'Lee, I didn't text the baby) to ask if they had a name picked out yet.  She told me that they had decided on Hope for her first name and were thinking about JoyAnna for her middle name.  K'Lee asked me "Would you mind sharing your name?"  At the time I was very flattered and texted back that of course I didn't mind!  

Hope was born around 8:00 am, so I was at work when we began getting texts that she had arrived and that everyone was doing fine.  Grander texted me her name, all put together: Hope JoyAnna. And that's when it really hit me.  

A new life, a perfect little human shares my name... 

I cried.  Oh I cried.  I sat at my desk and smiled and stared at that text message, but mostly I cried.  It was one of those moments at work when I wished I had an office door I could close, when I hoped nobody picked that moment to pop by my cube to discuss state apportionment factors or e-file diagnostics.  Sure enough, nobody did, but I realized that even if they had, I would simply tell them that I was overwhelmed with joy because my sweet niece had arrived and...she shares my name...

What an honor.
What a challenge. 

I pray that I can live up to it, that I can embody grace, love, kindness, maturity and Christlikeness, that I can be an example of a Godly woman to my sweet niece, sweet Hope JoyAnna.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

A Baby Blanket For Hope

Some of you know that we have been expecting the arrival of our sweet niece.  Well, she arrived on August 23rd and is an adorable bundle of cuteness.  Her name is Hope.   To keep up the baby blanket tradition that I began with our nephew Asher's baby quilt, I bought supplies for Hope's blanket earlier this summer.   It started out like this:

You know what that is?  A roll of pre-cut strips of fabric from Hobby Lobby that are already all the same size and already all color coordinated and matchy matched and purty.  And the roll was only $12. You may call it cheating.  I call it brilliance.

Dear Hope,
Sometimes it's important to work through all the steps of something yourself, but sometimes it's ok to take the packaged deal.  Look for ways to save time and money, but make sure not to cut corners with quality.
Aunt Pie

I played with a lot of layouts for these strips of fabric and finally decided to sew them together completely at random.   So I poked along with sewing the strips together a bit over the summer and worked a bit more intently in the past few weeks before her arrival.   Then the top was done minus the border I had planned.  Can you find my kitty cat in this picture?

Then it was time to bust out the pink flannel and also time to head to the dining table, since this blanket work was no longer fitting on my card table or crafting desk.   

Tip for any seamstresses out there: do you have a table with a removable leaf in it?  You know how they cut fabric at the store with that handy groove in their cutting surface?  Tug the pieces of your kitchen table apart a bit and use it as a groove to slide your scissors down into and it's perfect for effortless cutting!

A bit more sewing later and the top was finished!

Time for the backing.  More soft pink flannel!  Unfortunately, the dark browns and the seams on the back of the top (you following?) showed through the single layer of pink flannel.  This was "whop whop" #1 of this past week while working on this project.

I stood staring and thinking for a while trying to figure out what to do.  I obviously needed to add a layer of lining in the middle.  I didn't have enough flannel to double layer it.  Then I remembered that Angela had given me an old curtain she no longer needed in her craft room, with the hope that I could somehow use the fabric instead of her throwing it away.  Her mom had made it for her and she said she was pretty sure there was a layer of muslin inside it.

So I carefully took it apart unceremoniously chopped it up...and found a double layer of muslin inside.  Ding ding ding!  Perfect.

Dear Hope,
Learn to reuse, recycle and repurpose things.  Your mama is really, really good at this.  I have seen her repaint old dressers and create perfectly functional, pretty end tables using cardboard boxes and throw blankets.  I'm pretty sure the furniture on your front porch is the result of a dumpster diving adventure.  Before you throw something away, think about whether you could switch it up, fix it up or chop it up to use it for something else.
Aunt Pie

Well, unfortunately my joy over this discovery was squished by the discovery that the muslin wasn't actually big enough to fit as a lining layer.  Whop whop #2.

At this particular point, it was this past Wednesday evening, after youth group, two days before we were going to Winnsboro to meet Hope.  Time was of the essence.  I looked at my watch and realized it was not yet 9:00 pm, aka closing time for JoAnn Fabrics, so I scooted out the door and drove the whole two blocks to JoAnn's.  About ten feet from the door I found this:


Dear Hope,
Buy things on sale when you can.  Maybe it means you have to wait a bit, maybe it means your wardrobe isn't exactly the current style, but look for those sale signs.   Your mama, your Grander and I all do this like crazy.  In fact, Grander and I bonded shortly after I met her because we both decided we had "sale-itis".  But amidst all that sale hunting...make sure to splurge on yourself every once in a while too.
Aunt Pie

I returned home with my on-sale flannel in hand, planning to quickly layer up the almost-the-same-color-pink as lining with the original pink as backing and get this blanket all sewed and turned right side out and ironed.  I'd just have to whipstitch the hole closed by hand and would have plenty of time to do that Thursday after work.  

Then, as I was trying to line up the back, lining and top...disaster ensued.   It was more than whop whop #3.  The world was crashing down around me.  There were tears, oh there were tears.  I was about ready to turn in my sewing badge forever.    

My blanket top was not square...  I don't mean it wasn't the shape of a square.  I mean two corners were not right angles.  My blanket top was crooked...   I don't know how it happened and frankly I don't want to talk about it!

Trent deserted the Rangers and came over to the dining room to help me repeatedly try to line it up with the other layers and it repeatedly was hanging over one side or another, no matter how we spun it.   I was angry at myself.  And I was tired.  And I took it out on my sweet husband who was just trying to help me.   He didn't give up on me though and we persevered through my tears.  He brought in a giant metal measuring stick from his shed, busted out his woodworking knowledge, taught me about a "3-4-5 triangle" as a way to determine if a corner is square.  We figured out the three correct/straight edges and measured and remeasured until we knew where to cut to get rid of the crooked part and square up the blanket top.   

I considered not sharing this picture because I am ashamed, but in the interest of keepin' it real, here you go...

Dear Hope,
Someday when you are married to a wonderful man, try to remember not to blow up at him when you are upset about something that has nothing to do with him.  Especially if in the midst of it he is trying to make you feel better.  You may want to just cry and freak out and that's ok sometimes.  But don't direct it at him and don't pull in other things you are worried about at the time.  If you do blow up at him for no good reason sometime, make an effort to apologize and thank him for trying to help you and support you.
Aunt Pie

Trent rescued this blanket.  It boils down to that.  We worked together, long past our bedtime, to chop off the crooked part and square it up.  I quickly cut another pink border piece and slapped it on.  When the night ended, I was no further ahead than when I had begun the night.  All I had was a blanket top.  But at least this time it was square.

Dear Hope,
Your Uncle Trent is really smart and knows a lot about fixing things.  Your daddy and Poppa do too.  I bet someday they would all love to teach you how to hang a curtain rod or check your oil or make sure the corners of a blanket you are sewing are actually right angles...
Aunt Pie

The rest was a piece of cake.  On Thursday night, 24 hours before meeting sweet little Hope, I slapped the three layers together, sewed around 3.75 sides, cut off the excess, turned it right side out and ironed the edges.

Then I hand stitched the remaining hole closed.

And it was done!

Just in time!

I would say Hope liked it but...she was kind of asleep...  But her mama and daddy liked it!

Dear Hope JoyAnna, my sweet little niece,
Can I teach you to sew someday?  I bet that would be fun.  Your mama and Grander like to sew too, so we could just have a big sewing lesson party, maybe even with tea and cookies!  I'll draw some shapes on pieces of paper and you can learn to guide the needle along the lines without even any thread.   I know sewing paper with no thread sounds really silly but it is a good way to learn!  Maybe we can sew you a new, bigger blanket when you grow out of this one.  We might mess up and it might not be perfect...but that is ok because it will have a lot of love sewn into it.

With all my heart,
Aunt Pie