Saturday, July 20, 2013

Outside the Lair

The sewing, craft and DIY projects I write about typically take place inside. For a change of pace, let's see what's going on outside the lair.

The yard still looks so pathetic, it makes me want to cry. No job = no money for landscaping. But at least the teeny tree planted last spring...

is still alive. :D I love my tree! I can't wait to see it turn red in the autumn.

The local rabbits don't mind that the front lawn is patchy and full of weeds. They like to chill out in the shade of the house.

Around back, a robin made an impressive nest on top of the electrical panel next to the kitchen window. Sadly, she only stayed a couple of weeks. I think jays harassed her and chased her away. :(

An acrobatic squirrel was caught in the act of helping himself to the birdseed.

Sometimes an afternoon shower passes through and then I see a lovely rainbow to the east.

Here the end of the rainbow is at the school. Wonder what the students would think of this...

Sometimes while the sun is shining and the sky is blue...

rain is falling.

Sunshine and rain falling on the pavement simultaneously? Indeed! 

Ah, Colorado... where you need sunglasses and a raincoat at the same time.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Another Sunblock Review

As I wrote in an earlier sunblock reviews post, I once loved Solar Protective Moisturizer SPF 30 from DeVita. Then they changed the formula... and it was horrible. Since then, I've been searching for a replacement sunblock; more specifically, a facial moisturizer with SPF.

I prefer natural products, so I headed over to a natural grocer that provides testers for its skin care products. I saw the DeVita moisturizer wearing a "Back and Better Than Ever" label. Could it be true? The old formula was the best SPF moisturizer I had ever used. To my great disappointment, it was definitely not "better than ever." It wouldn't smooth on and the zinc oxide gooped up into little white balls and flakes. :(

So I moved on to trying other products. Most made my skin shiny, an effect I was trying to avoid. I managed to find one that I thought was worth buying: a BB cream from Mineral Fusion. The tinted version was too dark for my skin tone, so I went with the untinted version, which is SPF 30.

It's not bad. It goes on with a white cast which disappears within a few seconds. It's not quite shine-free as the label touts, but it's less shiny than other SPF moisturizers I've tried. It also has some "age-defying" ingredients as a little bonus. It's just moisturizing enough for me to use alone for now, though I'm sure I'll need to layer it over a heavier moisturizer during the winter. That's typical for my very dry skin.

I have been using it only intermittently because I don't leave home some days. It will get a better test once I'm wearing it all day every day. Mineral Fusion also makes a brush-on sunblock that I'm interested in trying. It might be a way to avoid the dreaded sunblock shine.

Through my sunblock trials and research, I've learned quite a bit about sunblocks and SPF (Sun Protection Factor) ratings. In particular, I've learned that SPF ratings can be VERY misleading, so I thought I'd pass on some details:
  • SPF 30 blocks about 97% of UVB rays. SPF 50 gets you only one additional percentage point, with about 98% UVB blocked.
  • SPF is a rating for UVB rays (which cause sunburn). It has little relation to the protection from UVA rays (which are linked to skin damage). Even if you're not getting a sunburn, you might be soaking up lots of damaging UVA.
  • SPF ratings are based on wearing enough of the sunblock. And in this case, "enough" means "a lot." To get the full SPF, you need to apply about half a teaspoon just on your face.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Fabric is My Drug

And is my latest dealer.

I took advantage of their big Independence Day sale and ordered several fabrics.

A cute Halloween fabric; black with black owls and yellow moons.
Moda Pumpkin Party Owl at the Moon

A black fabric with cats. This is a smaller print and more subtle than it looks in the sample.
Moda Pumpkin Party Scaredy Cats

Skeletons on an off-white ("bone") background. This one has an old parchment type of look.
Sleepy Hollow Skeletons

Goth cupcakes. This one was too kitschy to pass up.
Michael Miller Halloween Goth Cupcakes

A print of ravens, skulls, etc. on a dark red background. I didn't pay close attention to the ruler at the bottom of the sample, and the print is much larger than I expected. The raven in the center is 7.5" tall, for example. Makes for a very bold fabric!
After Dark (red has sold out)

A collage of Edgar Allen Poe-inspired images. I wasn't sure if I would really like this one because I'm not a fan of golds and browns, but turns out I love it! It's a big, detailed print, and the colors are much richer and more complex than they look in the sample. Michael Miller fabrics have a good reputation, and now I know why.
Michael Miller Nevermore Collage

An Edgar Allen Poe-inspired print on a script background. This one also looks much nicer in person. The sample appears almost monochromatic, but there are actually hints of purple, brown and gold. The print is very impressively detailed. I love this one!
Michael Miller Nevermore Old Script

A print with various scenes of odd characters. This one is so great, it makes me squeal with delight! 
Oddities Scenes

A print with the odd characters. I love this one!
Oddities Characters

I can't wait to get sewing! The question is... what should I make? There are so many options...
Pillow cover
Window valance
Tote bag

What do you think? If you were going to have something made in these fabrics, what would you want?

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

That Oughta Hold It

Recently, I bought a dining table and seven chairs from a craigslist seller. The chairs are sturdy but need a good scrub and new seat covers.

I began working on the chairs today. When I took the seats off, I discovered that whoever last replaced the seat covers must have seen a few too many action movies. You know, the kind where the bad guys don't bother to aim their guns, they just fire about 46,000 bullets in the general direction of the hero. Why do I think this? Because they used over 100 staples. PER SEAT. This one, for example, has 137 staples. Assuming a similar number for each seat, that's about 950 staples I have to pull out one by one. This might be the most heinous case of staple overkill in recorded history.

Oh, and they also apparently tore the fabric with their teeth.

Speaking of movies... a modified quote from one of my favorites:
"Why would anybody want to put in 137 staples?"
"It seems so unnecessary."
"It's what we call overkill."
"It's what we call psychotic."

Monday, July 1, 2013

It's in the Mail

Giveway winners, your packages are in the mail. If you're in the US, you should get them in 2-3 days. I am sorry for the delay!

That's the main point, and you can stop reading now if you like. :) But if you're interested in details and a bit of commentary on the US Postal Service...

After I'd received the giveaway winners' addresses, I went to the post office to pick up Priority Mail packaging. I discovered that they do not stock the flat-rate padded envelopes I needed. I was told to order them online. I placed the order, and day after day passed with no envelopes arriving in my mail. Last week, I made two more trips to the post office; the second time, a clerk took pity on me and brought me four envelopes from the back. (It's now been two weeks since I placed the order, and it still has not arrived.)

First... the Postal Service stock other flat-rate Priority Mail packaging; why don't they stock the padded envelopes? They tout their online postage services, but in order to use those services, I need the flat-rate envelopes. Why set up a service and then make it difficult for people to use?

Second... why does it take so long for online orders to be sent? Amazon can get me my order in two days via the Postal Service, but the Postal Service can't get me my order in two weeks via the Postal Service. WTH?

It's irritating. The Postal Service's service needs some work. But it's hard to place too much blame. I'm aware they operate under the burden of government control but without the benefit of government funding. They are, in essence, a for-profit company that is controlled by the government. That is a terrible situation to be in. For-profits and government agencies have polar opposite business/ management models. From what I've seen, any government-controlled company that can turn a profit is just short of miraculous.

Anyway... I'm way off topic here. But as someone who has a business degree and has worked in both the for-profit corporate and government-funded worlds, I find the Postal Service's situation interesting (and unfortunate).