Thursday, August 4, 2011


Not in a "house divided against itself" way, or in the mathematical way my middle schooler feels a worthless endeavor meant only for her torture. Division of my blog. I will now be dedicating Studio j to my creative endeavors. I will blog about home improvement & decor as well as my sewing and other crafting projects. I want to get my Etsy shop (which has been open and empty since December) up and running, and I'll blog about those products and projects here. Blog posts of a more personal nature about parenting, spiritual discussions, my Africa trip, struggles, etc, will be posted to the blog I share with Scott. It's a family blog we started more than 5 years ago and then ignored. I have moved all previous posts of a more personal nature over to that blog. I would love it if you would follow both blogs. Occasionally I might publish one post to both (the My Mansion post for example), but mostly they will be separate. For now the personal blog is simply called "Reisig Family" as it has been since 2006, but it will soon have a new name (at the same address). Thanks for following both sides of me, and I love it when you occasionally comment also!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

My mansion

I love to do projects around my home. We purchased this home, in part, because it didn't need much work, but before we even moved in I had plans to add an additional bedroom in the basement. Add to that list, plans to do a laundry room remodel / bathroom addition in the basement, master bathroom remodel, kitchen back splash tile and under cabinet lights, overhead lights in 3 rooms that don't currently have them, replacement of 80s-style bathroom lights, removal and replacement of popcorn ceiling texture on entire main floor, and I'm sure there is more I'm forgetting. That's in addition to what we've already done: replaced 2 gates and the entire front of the fence, painted multiple rooms, added framing and a door to the master bedroom (yes, it never had one), built a raised garden bed, and probably a few other things I'm forgetting.

I'm not discontent with my home. I like my home a lot, but I love to look at the design and function of something and see how I could make it better. I set a budget and a goal, watch for sales (we tiled the floor of a bathroom in our old house for under $40 using 18" tiles found at more than 80% off), and refuse to hire anyone to do the work for me (that would take away all my fun).

Scott teases me that when I get to heaven, I'll know which mansion is mine. It will be the run down one in need of repairs and ripe for all the projects I've been eager to do. People will probably glance down the golden streets, spot my mansion, and wonder what bad things I did on earth to deserve such a place. I, however, will be in heaven...well, yeah!

I've been thinking of this in context of going to Africa. I've wondered if I shouldn't be on a construction team instead of a teaching team. But there isn't a construction team going this year (they built the school last year), and I do love teaching too. Who knows, maybe I'll find a few opportunities to do some projects too while I'm there. And, if something happens and I don't come home from Africa (don't get me wrong, I fully intend to return, but I'm not in control of my fate), you'll know where to find me when you get to Heaven. Just look for the fixer-upper mansion.

Tiling the kitchen back splash in our old house.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Confession: I hate to knit

At least 15 years ago, I taught myself to crochet. I enjoy crocheting. The stitches make sense and are easy. Patterns, while often initially confusing, soon can be repeated with ease. Crocheting is fun and fast and easy, but it's also kind of ugly. The stitches are big and bulky and don't lay slick and neat like knitting does. So I decided to teach myself how to knit. I decided this over a year ago. I've practiced many stitches (I've probably made the equivalent of dozens of coasters), but I have been unable to produce anything. It takes forever. Forever. It doesn't come easily to me. I want it to. What I want to make the most is socks. The socks in the store say "size 4 - 11." They lie. Maybe the cotton athletic socks, after washed in hot water a few dozen times, would comfortably fit my size 5 1/2 foot. Fashionable socks never fit me. And I hate bunchy socks. So...I want to knit my own cute, comfortable socks. I know socks aren't a beginning knitting project, but I don't mind a challenge. I do mind that it took me over an hour to get 4 tiny knit/purl rows on my double pointed needle. It took that long and I only used about 2 feet of the beautiful brown/grey wool sock yarn I purchased. In that same amount of time I could have crocheted an entire market bag using 2 skeins of yarn, or 3 hats, or at least half a scarf. But, as I said, I like a challenge, so I'll keep at least for now.
A small sampling of the yarn I've purchased from a local wool manufacturer (and a few of my sample stitches).

Africa skirt

I've purchased many patterns over the past few years and sewn zero. Not that I haven't wanted to or didn't intend to. It's that whole "too much to do in too little time". In addition to the purchased patterns, I have clipped pictures of many skirts and dresses I'd like to try to make without a pattern. I've even purchased some fabric - I'm good at the purchasing part! (My husband would agree with that last statement.)

Tonight started on a skirt that is part pattern and part idea from a catalog. It's a skirt that can also be a dress. I intend to wear it as a long skirt while in Africa, and wear it as a dress while in London. I'm big on minimalist packing, so an article of clothing that can double as 2 is a good choice. (I'm currently trying to decide on one, or at the most two, pairs of shoes that will be allowed to trek across the world with me.)

I know a dress/skirt combo sounds strange, but bear with me - it's is actually cuter than you'd think (if I can make it work without a pattern). And it isn't strapless - I'm not really willing to go there, even in London. Tonight I laid out the pattern part of the skirt on a yard of Moda fabric I bought a year ago from a little fabric store in our neighboring town. It was somewhat of a splurge. I like to get good fabric, but I don't like to spend a lot (translated: I buy on sale, with coupons, and out of town). I paid over $10 for this yard of fabric, so for me that was a spurge. Unfortunately this pattern called for 2.5 yards of fabric. I knew I wasn't going to cut out the top of the skirt (that's the part I'm modifying - a different fabric will be used). Even so, getting the few pieces laid out on that one yard of fabric was a challenge. After about 5 tries, I found the right layout. Here it is all ready to cut (I had to cut duplicates of the pattern pieces to make sure they would all fit on the fabric).

And look here for an example of a skirt/dress combo: T9's switch skirt.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011


I've been accused of being a perfectionist...because I am (see my last post for confirmation). I go all out. I'm unwilling to do things half way. I want it how I want it. It also hampers me from doing what I could be doing. It stifles and even paralyzes at times. For example, I currently have 6 blog posts I began weeks ago. None says quite what I want it to say, so even though I should post weekly, I don't click "publish" because I've let perfectionism get in the way. I have a hard time committing to or sticking with something I can't do perfectly. If I begin a workout program and miss a day or two, I stop altogether. I can no longer do it perfectly, so instead of continuing on as well as possible, I throw in the towel. To some it might not sound like perfectionism, but it is. It can no longer be perfect.
I've begun a new business venture (using the same name as this blog). I love to sew, and I've been making a variety of items I'll be selling in my Etsy shop and at the (very) occasional craft show. My first show will be this coming Saturday. I've been working on projects for two weeks and while I like what I've made, I'm not perfectly happy with any of it. The work is good, but I can see minor imperfections. I've had to fight to keep from stopping. I've wondered why I'm doing this. I can't make everything exactly perfect. I may have missed something here or there. What if no one buys my stuff anyway (to date, the only items I've sold have been to my mom, so does that even count?).
But by their very nature, handmade items aren't perfect. I love what I'm doing. I want to keep making and selling my creations. I don't want to let my perfectionism get in the way. Too often in my life I've gotten in my own's time to step aside.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The art of fence building in the dark and rain...or why a level should be used on every picket.

80 degrees outside and a new trampoline prompted a fence building project that was only going to take a few hours on Saturday (yeah, right). The next three days brought 28 degrees, snow and wind (and WIND), but this evening looked promising. The rest of the fence posts went in easily, so why stop there. While the kids bathed and got ready for bed without (much) fighting, we thought, "let's slap the rails and pickets on the previously set posts." Because I'm very particular, the posts that were set on Saturday, were perfectly level. The rails were easily leveled horizontally across the posts as darkness set in. Out came the clamp light, extension cords and pneumatic tools. The kids were kissed goodnight and the fun began. The first pickets were leveled with old pickets to the left of the gate (they should have been leveled with the neighbors fence to the right, but that was only the first mistake). Pneumatic tools at 9pm brought no complaints from the neighbors (at least not to us) and we were on a roll.The left picket was level, so as long as I lined them up at the top and made sure they were level vertically, all would be good...assuming the pickets were all dog-eared exactly the same way. I didn't think about this. Just like I didn't think about leveling with the neighbor's fence first. As the rain began, I stepped back to survey the finished section of fence.
View from the front yard.
Hi. My name is Jennifer, and I'm a perfectionist. (More on that another day.)
At the very least 12 pickets toward the right side are coming out. It turns out all dog-ears are not cut exactly the same, so when I lined up on the corners of the dog-ears, the tops didn't always line up, thus the slight upward then downward wave of the fence. It's possible all of the pickets will come off and we'll start on the opposite end and level with the neighbors fence. Those old pickets on the left are coming off and being replaced with new anyway (that post was structurally sound and didn't need to be replaced), so the only reason I leveled with those was because it made sense to start on the gate side.
Live and learn. We've learned a new skill, and learned from our mistakes. Better yet, we had a (semi) productive evening working on a project together - to us, that's better than a date night!

Part of the old fence from inside the back yard. You can't tell just how far it's leaning,
but after removing the gate, we barely pushed on it and the rotten posts gave way as the fence fell.
The bare spot is where the old trampoline was and where the new will go.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

iPad case

I had a lot of fun making this case for my iPad. I searched for a pattern, but finding none I decided to wing it. I used material I'd found on clearance a couple years ago. The squares were pre-cut and coordinate with the yardage I used for the lining and handle. I used fusible battling between the layers, and I sewed in a padded micro-fiber cloth to give extra protection to the screen. The pocket and loop on back provide a spot for my phone and keys. I opted for a velcro closure, since I wasn't sure if a magnetic closure (usually my preference) would pose a problem when placed next to the iPad. I might make a few more (using this and other color combos) to list in my etsy shop.


Saturday, January 22, 2011

Bento & Furoshiki

Our oldest daughter is a vegetarian and her school cafeteria menu is far from vegetarian friendly. To further complicate matters, she dislikes most sandwiches, leftovers, and anything that is too cold, soggy, warm, etc. Carbs are her go to food, and snacking is her preferred way to consume food. After years of uneaten pb&j sandwiches returned home in her lunch, I went searching for an answer. I found it at Lunch In A Box, a blog about the Japanese bento. In a bento, a variety of foods are aesthetically arranged and packaged to be eaten on the go. I realized that lunch doesn't need to contain a sandwich, or even a main dish, but can be made up of many small foods. Better yet, since this is exactly how Faith eats, why not feed her this way. Before school started last fall, I did more reading and research and was happy to find many bento boxes available on Amazon. We found this adorable owl bento there.

All bento boxes, it seems, have multiple compartments and sometimes multiple layers. This box has a bottom compartment, covered by a top compartment that has a sealing lid. The owl cover loosely fits on top. I neglected to take a picture of the open box, so here is the photo from Amazon.
The bottom layer is usually rice, pasta, or couscous; although, I would also like to try quinoa, soba noodles, barley, and rice noodles for variety. The top does not have separate compartments, so I often use muffin papers to separate carrot sticks, nuts, egg slices, dried fruit, cheese cubes, etc. Many bento boxes come with an elastic strap to hold the cover snug on the box (the cover is loose enough that it will easily fall off if not secured), but this box did not. We've used a variety of rubber bands, but none looked very pleasing, so I decided to make a furoshiki. When researching bento, I had stumbled on furoshiki, a Japanese wrapping cloth. The furoshiki serves not only to secure and wrap the box, but creates a handle for carrying as well. I found a scrap of old fabric I'd stashed away, and here is the result.

Off to school with her bento. It usually comes home empty!

I am glad I snapped these photos a couple weeks ago, because sadly the bento with it's furoshiki has gone missing. First it was, "it's in my backpack," then, "I left it in my locker," until she finally admitted, "I don't know where my bento is." If it doesn't turn up soon, she'll be replacing it because we're not going back to pb&j and bento in a Tupperware container just seems wrong!

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Boy's Room Reclamation - the unedited before pictures.

My son is hopelessly disorganized very creative. He creates pictures, Lego ships, stories, train layouts, and more. When he's done creating one thing, he moves on to another thinking little of what he's left behind. Project Reclamation has begun and he might not be so happy about it. But I'm unwilling to walk by this disaster area any more.

Notice him sitting here playing his fish game oblivious to the disaster around him.

I'm more tolerant of his sisters' messes - their rooms are in the basement and I don't walk by them as often and nagging my children just sucks. (Yes, I realize it's unfair of me to expect him to keep his room clean and not care as much if the girls do, but tough - he's the baby of the family and probably gets way more than they ever did so he can deal with it!) He did help me clear out the clutter and now we're left with this.

It doesn't help that his clothes bar is so high he can hardly reach it from a step stool (which seems to encourage him to dump all his clothes on the floor).
This afternoon's project: empty out the closet completely, including shelf and bar, and paint inside the closet. Stay tuned for the rest of reclamation.

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