Block printed tea towels

A few weeks ago, I came across some block printed tea towels for sale online.  They were $20 apiece.  And I am crafty.  So I thought to myself “Self, you could make these for way less than $20 apiece.”  And when I was in high school, printmaking classes were my favorite elective, so I have some experience, but it’s been a while!  So I went to Dick Blick (they didn’t sponsor me, but I wish they would….ahem!) and ordered all of the stuff I thought I’d need, and then eagerly awaited the arrival of my package.  When it came, I jumped in with both feet.  I drew out designs and carved several blocks.  When I had time, I went to the Costco business center and picked up a few dozen flour sack tea towels, and then did nothing for a little while. I’ll write a real post with better photos about the start-to-finish process at a later date, but I mostly just wanted to show you how the towels turned out!

The setup:

As a way to dust off my skills, I started off small with some gift tags and a 5 golden rings design that I’m using for labeling Christmas gifts.

Rolling and mixing the ink.  I went with a yellow-green-red combo for the artichokes.

Depending on how much ink is on the glass, how sticky it is, and how hard I press with the roller while I’m inking the block, I have some control over the darkness of the print and whether ink goes into the lines between flat areas.

This was a canvas bag that I did.  It is much more 3 dimensional than the tea towels, and it was the tail end of my green ink, so it ended up printing much lighter than I had desired.  The bags will take some additional practice.

I’m really happy with how the broccoli turned out.  I wasn’t expecting much from it when I carved, but I think it’s pretty neat.

This octopus proved to be a bit challenging.  I had to have a very light hand with the tentacles, as the “back sides” with the suckers had a tendency to get blacked out with too much ink.

My stand mixer print actually looks better than the photo (it was a weird perspective), but the block does need to get fine tuned a bit.  The ink was just too thick and ended up filling in all of the voids.  I am pleased with myself that I was able to get the color almost exactly what I wanted.  The mixer print that I ended up getting on a canvas bag actually turned out beautifully.

This one’s my favorite.  I love the happy llama. 🙂

Sock cat is more of a personal joke that I have with Craig, and I thought it would be a funny block.  It is.  I mean, it’s pretty creepy, but also pretty funny.

The beets were toughies.  They were the only thing that I printed with 2 different blocks.  I did an awful job of lining them up properly, but I think if I come up with some sort of index mark, I’ll be able to figure it out.  Also, I lost a lot of detail in the leaves, so that is going to take some fussing with in the future.

Here’s the brisling (sardine) print that I did.  Above you can see it on the tea towels, and below it is printed on the back of a piece of scrap paper.  There is a huge difference in the clarity of the lines between fabric and paper.  This was one of the few prints that I tried to work with a gradient. I wanted the belly of the sardine to be lighter than the top.  It kind of worked, but wasn’t as dramatic as I’d have liked.

Here some of the prints are drying.  Once they dried overnight, they were still a little tacky (the ink is oil-based, which makes it capable of handling a wash cycle, but it takes a long time to dry).  Based on the Speedball Ink’s recommendation, it doesn’t need to be heat set, but many fabric inks do, so I figured it couldn’t hurt.  The next morning, I hit each piece with an iron, and it did seem to help set them a bit. I’m excited to give these to my friends and family as Christmas presents!

A very thoughtful birthday gift

I am pretty obsessed with trying to find things to match the odd color of my stand mixer. Jadite glass is one of those things that is just about right.  I had mentioned to Craig a few weeks ago about wanting a big Jadite cake plate, so he did some research, and ordered me one for my birthday.  It came early, and since we aren’t really the kind of people who “need” to wait for things, he got it out for me to open yesterday.  And I couldn’t be more pleased.  It’s so pretty!  I don’t even have a cake or dessert for it yet, but I have put some of the random produce that has been collecting on the counter on it, and now all the produce looks so fancy!  Can’t get enough of Jadite.

Jadite cake plate and Seacrest green Kitchenaid stand mixer

Jadite cake plate and Seacrest green Kitchenaid stand mixer

How to wash/clean your disgusting rug

Sorry, I may be projecting a little bit.  So far, I haven’t found any part of owning pets that isn’t at least a little bit disgusting. Last night, Craig fed the dogs the remains of a veggie tray someone brought to our house for a party. Then Helo threw up baby carrots that he hadn’t properly chewed. 3 times. In the bedroom. On the carpet. That’s just part of the wonderful world of sharing your home with animals who don’t have to clean up after themselves. Anyway, February of 2013, we had our floors done, and with all of the hard surfaces in the house, it felt kind of noisy (we also had all of our furniture out of the room, and curtains tied back, so that might have had something to do with it.) Plus, I wanted a green shag rug. So I got one. It was like $80 at Ikea. I loved it. I also counted on it getting destroyed by the dogs, me throwing it out, and then replacing it. But then I thought to myself “Can’t hurt to try to clean it before I throw it in a dumpster. So I got to work.

First off, our “rug” is 2 shag rugs that I duct taped together. The shag pretty effectively hides the seam, and since they’re under our coffee table, they don’t get scooted at all. I brought these outside after a week of not vacuuming them. I just wanted them OUT, and figured I’d go ahead with cleaning as necessary. Also – if you don’t like dog hair everywhere, don’t own malamutes. Additionally, if you are going to wash a rug that you care about, please check it for colorfastness and whatnot on an invisible area. These were cheap and synthetic and I was not concerned. Your mileage may vary.

dirty green shag rug
dirty green shag rug

As you can see, the cheap shag has gotten matted (no amount of vacuuming has been able to return this to the kind of nap it had when new). Then here they are after having been vacuumed. I am sure my neighbors thought I was totally sane vacuuming the rugs that I dragged out onto my deck at 10am.

dirty green shag rug

Then came time to actually clean them.  I sprayed them down with the hose to get them wet, then poured an oxyclean mixture (just oxyclean and hot water in a bucket, stirred til the oxyclean dissolved) over the rugs, and started scrubbing with my feet.  For a shorter nap, a push broom or a scrub brush would probably be great. I didn’t feel like trying to dig any of that out, and the shag is so long, I’m not entirely sure they’d have done any better than my tootsies.

scrubbing a rug with my feet

This process was disgusting.  There were so many pine needles, bits of sand, etc that came out of this (even after vacuuming!).  And you know what?  The carrots that I gave to the dogs as treats several months ago… there were chunks of those in the shag, like lots of them.  Dude, shag is gross. After scrubbing both rugs thoroughly with my feet, I rinsed. And there was so much dirt. Seriously. Gross.

dirty water coming off rug being washed

dirty water coming off rug being washed

Blech.  Deciding that I needed another “layer” of cleanliness, I put some eco friendly laundry detergent into my bucket and diluted it with more water.  Then I followed the same process of scrubbing with my feet. Then I let the rugs sit with the laundry detergent on them for about 20-30 minutes.

rugs soaking with laundry detergent

Then I rinsed.  Thoroughly. Then I squeegeed as much of the water off as I could (with my feet, again), rinsed again, squeegeed again, then rolled the rugs up and leaned them against the house to drain off as much water as they could over the course of a couple hours.

sqeegeeing water off of a shag rug

rugs rolled up and drip drying against house

After the initial drip dry, the deck had dried off, and I laid the rugs out to dry in the hot sun for 2 days.  Boris enjoyed their presence on the deck.

dog laying on a rug outside

cleaned shag rugs

I hit them once more with the vacuum before bringing them back inside (you’d be surprised at how much dog hair was still in them!)  But in the time we had them out of the room, we both decided that we liked the living room more without them (and the dog hair could easily be swept, versus vacuuming it out of the pile), so I rolled them up and tucked them away.  Perhaps we’ll get them out this winter when everything feels cold.

Making gingerbread houses for the first time

When I was a wee lassy, my grandmother used to make gingerbread houses and invite her grandchildren over to her house one weekend day in December for us to decorate them.  Back then, the name of the game was to stick as much candy onto the house as possible, making the snacking to take place over the following weeks better.  I’ve been wanting to do gingerbread houses for the last few years, but never bothered to actually get my shit together enough to plan and make them.  This year, somehow I’ve completed all of my Christmas shopping short of picking up a gift card in a part of town that I haven’t made it to yet.  Feeling especially superhero-like, I convinced a friend that she would also like building gingerbread houses, and we set to planning.  Since Laura rides horses, she went for a barn.  Since I like strangely shaped houses, I went for a mid-century design.  Then I used the gingerbread recipe that I had pinned last year and got to it.  We made our pieces on a Thursday night, I assembled them on Saturday morning, and by Saturday night, we were ready to decorate.

rolling out gingerbread dough
Cutting out gingerbread dough
Storing cut-out and baked gingerbread panels

The assembly was interesting.  I learned a lot about the texture of the royal icing.  Adding too little water makes it sturdier, but not sticky enough.  Adding too much water takes too long to dry.  I also baked one of my roof panels upside down.  It works out fine though, because I covered it with necco wafers anyway.

prepping my gingerbread board
laying out pieces before assembling gingerbread house
assembling gingerbread house
assembling gingerbread house
assembling gingerbread barn
Mid-century gingerbread house setting

I did a lot of googling to find out what types of candy to get for houses, and wasn’t able to find any really solid list of what is reasonable, so here’s mine:
Pretzel Rods
Pretzel Sticks
Nilla Wafers
Necco Wafers (does anyone under 70 buy these for anything other than gingerbread?!)
Hot Tamales
Jelly fruit slices
Starlight Mints
Swedish fish
Peppermint Patties
M&Ms (not shown)
Twizzlers Pull & Peel (not shown)
Gumdrops (not shown)
Mini Candy canes (not shown)

What I found was that my one roof panel took all 3 packs of necco wafers (i would get a lot more of those things next time), both structures used up all of the oreos and the entire box of vanilla wafers.And my driveway used up all of the starlight mints.  I was a total candy hog.  What a jerk.  But I had an artistic vision, and wasn’t going to let things like friends dissuade me from completing my goal.

gingerbread house decorating
gingerbread house decorating
gingerbread house decorating
gingerbread house decorating

And the end result for my mid-century house:

mid-century gingerbread house

Not bad for being 4 drinks in.  Gotta get those creative juices flowing!

mid-century gingerbread house

And Laura, continuing to work on her barn.  She made a jump out of pretzels, and a hay bale out of jelly fruit slices.  Laura had never made a gingerbread house, and said that she didn’t anticipate getting so into it.

decorating a gingerbread barn
decorating a gingerbread barn

And the barn’s final product:

gingerbread barn
gingerbread barn
gingerbread barn

Oh, and what the rest of the people who came to “decorate gingerbread houses were doing:  watching Whale Wars!

not decorating gingerbread houses

Because selling stuff on Craigslist is never easy.

I sell a lot of stuff on Craigslist.  I don’t make it a career move or anything, but when I need to get rid of something of value, Craigslist is unfortunately the best way to make that happen. When I was in college and working part time, I sold some strange things on Craigslist.  I sold a 5 gallon stainless steel bowl for $7.  I got $200 for a destroyed eggplant-colored sofa once.  I even posted up photos of a bunch of invasive plants in our yard and go someone to come by with his wheelbarrow and shovel and dig up half of it for free.  I haven’t sold food, human organs, 11 foot long Victorian-era wardrobes or anything, but I’ve bought and sold cars, furniture, and espresso machines.  I’d say my craigslist portfolio is pretty well-rounded.

There are certain rules of etiquette that people on craigslist seem to not quite understand though. Like actually showing up, either on time or at all.  The generally accepted craigslist rule of discussing price via email is usually followed, and incredibly annoying when people show up after you’ve rearranged your schedule to meet with them, then offer you considerably less than your asking price.  I always make a point of giving as much information as possible in my ad to avoid tons of questions.  I’ll include measurements and links to product info pages, take tons of detailed photos, and give a basic rundown of my availability so I don’t waste my time or anyone else’s.  When I sold my white jeep, I made a comprehensive list of everything that’s wrong with it.  That gave potential buyers the ability to do some of their own research and determine whether they were willing to buy something with those particular problems.  Saved me the hassle of wasting my and their time meeting with them and going on a test drive with a stranger.   I think that also makes the potential buyer feel like you’re not lying to them about anything (which I wouldn’t), thus more interested in doing a deal with you.  The first person who contacted me about my jeep ended up meeting me that evening (the day I posted the ad), and test driving.  They came by the next day with cash and picked it up.  It was an easy transaction.  Most of them are not quite so simple.

I listed the axle to our old jeep once.  It’s huge and takes up a bunch of room in the garage.  I tried to be as clear as possible, and also made sure my limits were listed so nobody came expecting me to help them move it (not happening).  Occasionally, Craig, whilst bored at work, will troll me. I mentioned to him that I had listed the axle on craigslist and that afternoon I received an email from someone asking about the axle… saying they wanted to know if it would fit a Mustang.  So I cursed under my breath about the total idiots on craigslist, then proceeded to write a nice email saying that I have no idea, but it’s up to him to figure it out.  A few hours later, after Craig and I had eaten dinner and were relaxing on the sofa, a reply comes in saying that they’re not sure if it’s worth it to come get the axle if I’m not sure what it fits, and that he lives about an hour away.  I went on a tirade about the stupidity of craigslisters again to Craig, then once again sent a pleasant email explaining that if it doesn’t work with his mustang, of course he could recycle it for scrap and get some cash money.  The response comes back that he doesn’t have the ability to make it all the way up to my house, but will I please meet him about 45-50 minutes away with it?  I got super angry and ranty and cursey, but by then, Craig was unable to control his laughter, and I finally realized that he had been trolling me like crazy.  This has happened on at least 2 other occasions, and he did it to his best friend when he was selling a car.  It ends up being hilarious once we figure it out, but until then, you feel like stabbing the guy on the other end of the emails in the face.

Related to oversharing, it definitely does not hurt.  If it’s something that someone may need measurements on, just include them.  Invariably, you’ll receive emails asking about dimensions, and if you don’t have them, that could cost you a sale, or invite a slew of additional questions where the person on the other end asks you a number of vague questions regarding the size of the item.  And since people rarely seem to read the text of the ad, I overlay the dimensions on the photos of the item.  It eliminates any questions.  Also, include tons of photos.  They’re free to take, and if it saves you even 30 seconds worth of reading and replying to emails from some functionally illiterate idiot on the internet, it’s well worth it.  Be sure to include close-up photos of any damage to the item, be it dings, dents, scratches, rips, etc.  That will prevent people from taking up your time coming to look at  the item and then deciding that they’re not interested. I avoid buying/replying to ads that describe but do not illustrate damage.  A person’s assessment of the damage to an item they’re trying to sell tends to be pretty far off from your assessment of the damage to an item that you’re thinking of buying.

vent hood with measurements

I had a sale a few weeks ago where I was selling our old media credenza thingy.  I really didn’t care how much I got for it, just that it went away and I didn’t have to keep it in the house anymore.  This is where I ran into the standard craziness/flakiness of Craigslist people.  I made plans with this woman to come get it no later than 6.  When 6:45 rolled around and she still hadn’t shown up, I emailed her (she didn’t give me a phone #).  40 minutes later I received a response stating that she was in urgent care with stomach problems.  Um…. Even if you ARE in urgent care (which I doubt), wouldn’t you have the presence of mind to remember that you were planning to meet someone, and at least show them the courtesy of cancelling?  Perhaps I believe that people should be more considerate than they are, but when I make plans with someone, I stick to them unless something unavoidable comes up, in which case I let them know as soon as possible.  It was after 8 when her boyfriend eventually made it to our house to pick up the damn thing.  Luckily SOMEONE actually showed up.  When I sold our old dresser, I had it posted up.  This lady made an appointment with me, and after cancelling once (ahead of time) waited until I had rearranged plans to be there for her to pick it up, and past the designated pickup time, THEN called to see if she could reschedule, citing already-planned events.  I told her that I had someone else coming to pick it up later that night.  It was a lie, but I didn’t want to deal with her after that.   I sold it a few days later to someone else for more money.

Craigslist ad

Do you have any horror stories?  I’d love to hear them.

How to keep your pets off the furniture…kind of

After we got Helo, Boris went from a great dog to a terror.  His obsessive traits got worse, and he started marking all over, including inside the house.  It was awesome.  After trying EVERYTHING I could read about online to no avail, we finally broke down and paid to have a behaviorist come out and work with us.  And it was cheap too.  $150.  That might seem a little steep for someone to come to your house, sit down, watch your dogs be total snots, then fill a sheet of legal paper front and back with instructions for you.  It’s way cheaper than spending $8,000 putting tile in your house because your dogs pissed all over your carpet and your house reeks.  The best part of it was that there was nothing surprising, and it was all stuff that I knew we should be doing, but I was either not interested in doing so, or couldn’t get Craig on board with on my own.  The general gist of what the behaviorist had to say was that the dogs didn’t respect us or our things, and didn’t get enough exercise.  Bingo!  Her recommendations have been to make them work for everything, including pets, going outside, inside, meals, etc; going for long walks every day (I was initially pretty good with this and have slowly scaled back, I should really increase these… the dogs love them); and keeping them off the furniture.  The furniture thing has been a point of contention between Craig and I.  He liked having them on the sofa and bed.  I hated cleaning their fur off the sofa and bed.  But with the new rules (we were willing to try anything to get the marking to stop!), no doggies allowed on the furniture.

x-mat on sofa

That’s all well and good to enforce when you’re at home, but a lot more difficult when you’re gone.  My mother in law kept their old dog off the furniture by piling chairs on the sofas when they were gone for the day.  It was a huge pain in the ass, and something neither Craig nor I had any interest in participating in at our own house.  The behaviorist suggested something called X-Mats.  I researched it.  They were reviewed fairly highly on Amazon, but I didn’t expect that they’d be particularly effective against dogs with thick undercoats and high pain tolerances.  I was wrong.

Close-up of X-Mat

They’re basically just a rolling chair mats that go under desks, but smaller, with taller, denser spikes.  I was initially concerned about the price and spent several hours trying to devise something similar to save a little money, but it turns out that they’re cheaper per square foot than chair pads.  After buying these, I did read about someone going to Home Depot and buying vinyl carpet protector rolls and using those on her sofa.  Seems smart, though when I looked at them at a store later, the spikes do not appear to have the density or the height that the X-Mats have, and I suspect that’s what makes them effective in my particular situation.  They’ve worked wonders.  They cost us around $11 each, but the price varies between $10 and $20 on Amazon, so keep your eye out.  When I’m writing this, they’re about $14.50.  5 does a good job of protecting our sectional sofa, but if we didn’t have a huge pile of pillows in the corner all the time, it would take 6.  It only took one try for the dogs to realize they hurt.

sofa protected with x-mats

When you want them gone, they’re easy to grab, stack up, and slide under the sofa.  If we want to keep the dogs away from the front window, we will just throw a mat on the floor in front of the window.  We have even used them to keep the dogs from bothering Craig’s 94 year old grandmother by making a moat of X-Mats around her on the floor in front of the sofa.  We haven’t spent the money to do something about the bed yet, but Boris stays off of it, and Helo generally has the decency to pretend like he doesn’t get on the bed when we’re not around. We have been sure to put dog beds all over around the house so they have soft comfortable places to lay now that the sofa and carpet are gone through most of the house.  We have 2 fancy bolstered memory foam beds in the bedroom (they were Costco returns that I bought at Habitat for Humanity ReStore for $20 ea), and 2 fluffy round beds from Costco in the living room, although Perry the cat tends to take over one of them and the dogs don’t dare challenge him.

So.. Much less dog hair all over the sofa, and no more marking in the house!