Tutorial: Window Zippered Pouch

I have a little cold this weekend so I thought I’d stay indoors and make up a tutorial for a zippered pouch I did a couple weeks ago. These are handy little pouches that you can use to keep all types of things, and you can pretty much vary the size according to your personal preference, limited mainly just by the length of your zipper. So whether you keep makeup, knitting stitch markers, pencils, a little sewing kit, or whatever else you feel like, these are handy little things because they let you see their contents at a glance and pretty much everybody could find a use for one. My cell phone pictures here aren’t exactly professional, but hopefully they’ll still show you what to do in a way you can understand!

Zippered Pouch Tutorial

Finished Zippered Pouch

Materials (for a pouch 7.5 x 5.5 inches):

  • Fabric for the main part of the pouch (what you see on the back and sides)
  • Coordinating fabric for the inside (what you see through the window)
  • Heavy weight interfacing (fusible or sew in as desired)
  • A zipper to go with the fabrics you chose (at least 7 inches)
  • Thread to match or contrast your main fabric, as desired
  • Clear vinyl (note that the insert for mine says it can be used for “blankets” – NO IDEA what that might mean, and I for one am not cheered by the prospect of a vinyl blanket, personally)
  • Optional: fusible mesh tape
Materials for Zippered Pouch

Choose coordinating fabrics for the main body and the inside of the pouch, some heavyweight interfacing, and some craft vinyl.

From your materials cut the following pieces:

Piece Cut From Size Notes
Piece 1 Inside fabric 7.5 inches by 5.5 inches Size of finished pouch
' Interfacing 7.5 inches by 5.5 inches Same as Piece 1
Piece 2 Main fabric 8.5 inches by 6.75 inches Cut 1 inch wider and 1.25 inches taller than Piece 1
Piece 3 Main fabric 7.5 inches by 2.5 inches Cut to width of pouch and to be 2 inches after turning under 1/2 inch on each long side
' Interfacing 7.5 inches by 2.5 inches Same as Piece 3
Piece 4 Vinyl 7.5 inches by 4.75 inches Cut to width of pouch and to be .75 inches shorter than Piece 1

A note about the measurements: I’ve provided the cutting instructions for a pouch 7.5 inches by 5.5 inches, but you can pretty much make this project to your own specifications if you cut Piece 1 to the size you want your finished pouch to be, then cut the other pieces to add the appropriate allowances as directed on this linked image.

Pouch Pieces Before Assembly

Pouch Pieces Before Assembly: Piece 1 (cut from inside material), Piece 2 (cut from main material), Piece 3 (cut from main material), Piece 4 (cut from vinyl and kinda hard to see in the photo!).

For the interfacing, you can cut it to size separately if you prefer, but I sort of like to to use fusible, iron it to the pieces, and then use my rotary cutter to square off the edges. I think it’s a little easier than measuring and cutting out the pieces separately. Speaking of which, you can begin by doing that.

Attach Interfacing If Using Fusible

If using fusible interfacing, attach to Pieces 1 (Inside fabric) and 3 (Strip of main fabric that goes under zipper).

Square Off With Rotary Cutter

Cut off excess interfacing with rotary cutter or scissors.

Take the 2.5 inch by 7.5 inch strip (Piece 3) and turn the long edges under .5 inch (I find it helpful to mark the folding line with a pencil). Press into place.

Folding Line Marked In Pencil

Here I’ve marked the 1/2 inch folding line in pencil on each edge. This is completely optional, but I find it helpful.

Front Strip With 1/2 Inch Folded Under

Here is the front strip with 1/2 inch folded under on the long edges of top and bottom.

Preview of How The Pieces Go Together

Here’s a quick little preview of how the pieces will go together in the finished product. However, first you’ll assemble the front panel before you put everything together!

Take one side of the strip and place it on the zipper up near the teeth. I like to use the fusible tape here to hold it in place while I top stitch it down, but you can pin it instead if you like. Stitch along the folded edge next to the teeth, but not so close that it will rub too much against the pull.

Place Front Strip On Zipper & Sew In Place

Place the front strip on the zipper and pin or fuse in place. Right now the position of the zipper pull isn’t very important, so just keep it closed. Stitch along the edge of the fabric close to the teeth.

After you topstitch this, you’ll have a little flap on the other side where the folded edge is free. Take the piece of vinyl and tuck it inside that flap. Pin it into place. When pinning, be careful not to pin the vinyl anywhere that it will show later – so the part behind the fabric strip is OK, but the main window isn’t (not that it would help you to stick pins there anyway). Fabric mostly self heals from pins, but vinyl won’t!

Tuck The Vinyl Into The Top Flap Of Piece 3

Tuck the vinyl under the top flap of Piece 3, lining up the edges along the width of Piece 3. Pin in place. Turn it over and top stitch the other edge (the one that isn’t already sewn to the zipper) to the vinyl.

Pinned In Place and Ready to Sew

Here is the other side with the vinyl pinned in place (the holes in the vinyl won’t show when you pin here) and ready to be sewn along the bottom of Piece 3.

Top stitch along the other folded down edge to fix this cloth strip to the vinyl.

Turn it over. The little long flap at the top underside of Piece 3 will still be free. Technically you can just leave it this way, but if you’re like me and this will annoy you every time you try to take something out of the pouch, get out a needle and thread and whipstitch the flap in place, stitching it directly to the vinyl.

Whipstitch the Loose Flap of Fabric On Strip 3

This is optional, but I prefer to go back and stitch this loose little flap of folded fabric down to the vinyl in the back of Piece 3 so that it doesn’t interfere with anything you put in or take out of the pouch. Do this part by hand with a needle and thread.

You now have the front panel of the pouch pretty much complete.

Now take Piece 2 (the larger piece of the main fabric) and place it right side down. Place Piece 1 (the inside fabric piece) right side up on top of it, with a half inch allowance on the sides and bottom. I like to use fusible tape here again to fix the two pieces together in place, but again, you can pin it instead.

Sandwich Pieces 1 and 2 Together

Place Pieces 1 and 2 together with wrong sides together, with 1/2 inch allowance on sides and bottom, and 1-1/4 inch allowance at top. Fuse or pin in place.

When you go to assemble the pouch, you’ll place the top panel on the Piece 1/2 sandwich, and align the vinyl and the top of the zipper with Piece 1, like so.

Final Assembly Preview

Here is a preview of how the final assembly will go. The top panel you just finished will align with Piece 1 (inside fabric) and then you’ll fold over the top and bottom edges and stitch in place, then fold over the sides and stitch those in place.

First, though, take the Piece 1 and 2 sandwich to the ironing board (keep the iron away from your vinyl!) and press in your edges. For the bottom and sides this will be 1/4 inch folded over, and then folded over again to cover the raw edge. Since you left 1/2 inch allowance, a good way to do this is to fold the raw edge in to meet the inside fabric, press, and fold it over again to overlap the inside fabric, and press. Do the bottom first.

After doing the bottom, do the top edge. Position the front panel in place with the zipper aligned along the top of the inside fabric, and press the top edge so that it lines up along the zipper teeth. This will mean a folded over flap of about 3/8 for most zippers, so your first fold with the raw edge will be just slightly over 1/4 inch. Basically just get it to line up nicely with the zipper. Check it before you move on to the sides.

Pressing the Allowance for the Top Edge

When pressing down the top edge, you won’t first press it down exactly 1/4 inch like the other edges – instead it’ll be just a hair more because the goal is to have your folded over edge align nicely with the zipper teeth when the front panel is in position.

After doing the top edges, fold in the sides and press them as well. Don’t worry that they will probably not stay in place. The important thing is just to have the creases there for when you stitch everything into place.

With All Edges Pressed

Here’s about what it will look like once you’ve folded and pressed all your edges in. Remember that you’ll have done the top and bottom first, then the sides so that when sewing everything down, the side edges should be sewn over the top and bottom edges.

Place the front panel in place and position it as precisely as you can. It should align almost perfectly with Piece 1 (inside fabric). Pin it in place on the Piece 3 strip (almost anywhere else would leaves holes in your vinyl window!).

I recommend sewing the top edge first. Begin at the inside edge (see picture), even though this will mean you have a funny flap of the main fabric that is folded over but not sewn to the zipper. This will let you go back later and carefully trim the zipper off. There are other ways to do this, such as trimming the zipper before sewing the top edge, but this is my preferred method since it allows the zipper to remain closed while you sew the top edge. Personally I think it’s easier to sew down a zipper when it closed, but if you’d prefer otherwise then have at it!

Sew Top Edge First

Sew the top edge first, starting at the beginning of the inside panel, not going all the way to the end.

When you get to the other end, stop sewing at the inner edge just like how you began. Later you’ll go back and trim the zipper overhang, but let’s wait so that there’s no risk of the pull coming off and ruining all your work!

Now go to the bottom edge. After folding it in 1/4 inch and folding that in again another 1/4 inch to hide the raw edge, you should have a 1/4 inch binding overlapping the vinyl panel. Pin this in place, but be careful not to puncture any part of the window that will show. Pin only on the 1/4 inch strip of fabric.

Pin Bottom Edge Binding In Place

Pin the bottom edge into place, being careful not to make any holes in the vinyl that will show.

Now you can carefully stitch down along the edge of the bottom binding. Note that here it’s OK to go all the way to the edge, since you won’t need to trim anything from this later. I admit, I usually stitch this part by hand because it makes me nervous that I might make a mistake with the machine and make holes in my vinyl. So whichever method you choose, be careful not to stitch onto the vinyl part and create unnecessary holes in the window.

Now you have the top and bottom edges stitched down and you’re on the home stretch. Let’s trim the excess zipper now. The most important part of this to remember is to move the zipper pull to the middle of the zipper before trimming off the ends! I’m sure it’s not impossible to reattach the pull but your life is going to be SO much easier if you don’t have to. So tug the zipper pull to the center where it’ll be nice and safe.

Top and Bottom Edges Sewn

Here is the pouch with the top and bottom edges sewn down and the zipper pull safely in the center where it can’t accidentally be chopped off and orphaned!

You’ll note here that I trimmed both zipper edges at the same time, but if I had it to do over, I think it’s slightly “safer” to trim one side, sew the side edge down, and then wait to trim the second side of the zipper until that side is secure. That way at any given time there is only one place where the pull could theoretically come off, which you’re already at work stitching down anyway. Your preference, though. I trimmed both edges and it went OK.

However you choose to do it, when you’re ready to trim the zipper, fold back the flap of main material so that the excess zipper is easily visible. Now you can see more easily why I asked you not to stitch that particular part to the zipper – now you can trim the zipper without cutting your fabric!

Fold Back the Main Material Flap To See Zipper Overhang

Fold back the flap of your main material so that you can see where the zipper overhangs the edge.

Carefully trim the excess zipper, being carefully not to cut into the body of your pouch. When you’re done it should be even with your inside fabric panel.

Trim The Excess Zipper

Carefully trim the zipper overhang so that it is even with the edge of the pouch.

Now you can fold over the side edge where you just trimmed the zipper, and pin it in place. The edge of the fabric will create the new stop for the zipper.

Side Edge Pinned Down

Pin the side edge into place. The edge of the material creates the new stop for the zipper.

Note that you’ll have a bit of bulk at the corners where you’ve folded material over. If you need to trim a little of it the part that isn’t showing to reduce some of that bulk, that’s OK. Be careful not to cut too much, though.

Trimming Some Bulk From The Fold

It’s OK to trim a little of the inside fabric that doesn’t show to reduce the bulk at the corners. Be careful not to cut anything that is supposed to show!

At the beginning and end of the side edges, take care to tuck any awkward little raw bits under and sew them down so that they don’t show. Do your best to keep the folded edge looking as neat as possible. Stitch down the length of the side, being careful not to puncture the vinyl window.

Pin Side Edge Into Place

Sew each corner carefully so that no funny little raw edge bits are showing.

Sew The Side Edge Down

Stitch down the length of the side edge.

After stitching the first side, if you haven’t trimmed the the excess zipper on the other side, repeat the steps for doing that. Then repeat the steps for sewing down the second edge. When you’ve done that, your pouch is complete!

Completed Pouch With All Edges Sewn

Here’s the completed pouch with all edges sewn down!

I tried to be as thorough as possible, but if you have any questions or need clarification on anything, please comment on this post and I’ll answer you the best I can. Thanks for reading!

What I’ve Been Doing

I think having a blog is sort of like the one-sided version of falling out of touch with a friend who moved away but you both promise to keep in touch by e-mail and then after the initial spurt of energy you both sort of think about it less often and when you do it seems like more work because of the time you already let by. I think a blog with hardly any readership is even more difficult because you don’t even have the incentive of thinking, well, so and so isn’t writing to me either so at least it’s 50% not my fault. But in both cases the answer is pretty much the same, that if you want to come back to it you have to just pick a place to start catching up and then do your best.

So here goes: Oh hi dearies, I’d have been blogging except I won the lottery and spent the last month in Scotland getting fat on shortbread and sausages!

That’s only my pretend version, sorry. Actually I was just rather busy at work, never made it to any thrift shops since I bought that sweater I last wrote about, except when I went to buy some sheets for a quilt I’m making, and I’ve been on a mad sewing tear for weeks now. If I didn’t spend so much time hand sewing I’d have more to show for my labors, but I like the look of hand stitching for certain decorative stitches. I’m pleased with myself because my machine tension has been an issue lately and I finally sat down last night and did a lot of troubleshooting and figured out that the problem is because I’ve been putting the bobbin in feeding clockwise instead of counter-clockwise. At some point I forgot how I learned to thread the machine and have been doing it wrong since I came back to it after barely sewing for a couple of years. So, done and done!

THING #1: NEEDLE BOOKS

My sewing kick sort of crept up on me and I needed a project to work on at my monthly ladies’ craft group where my special buddies and I get together and eat cream dips and donuts like they’re going out of style and talk about lady business and in theory work on craft projects. I was feeling pretty disenchanted with the cardigan I’d gotten like a third finished and then made a mistake and wasn’t sure how to fix it and suddenly it just almost nauseated me to look at it so it went in a drawer and has stayed there like some sad dead pet ever since. Note. I was being figurative just now and I have never,  ever kept a dead animal in a drawer.

So I checked my sewing board on Pinterest and I remembered this needle book tutorial I’d found from the Nana Company blog. I made a needle book a few years ago that sufficed in the functional sense that it provided a place for my needles, but I hated everything about it because I hadn’t properly interfaced the cover and therefore it was floppy and despicable. I hated this needlebook so much that once I finished my new one I threw it immediately in the Goodwill pile. Anyway, if you tend to misplace needles or know anybody who could use something like this, I highly recommend her tutorial because she makes it very easy. In fact, I sort of went on a crazy needle booking kick. I made one for myself, my friend, my friend’s daughter, another friend, another friend, etc. etc. I may make another couple because they are so much fun and people seem to really love them. I might try doing a version with a mini patchwork motif of some sort for the front as well, just for something different.

First Needlebook

First Needlebook, the one I kept for myself. Raw edge applique on cover.

For My Friend

More raw-edge applique. This time I cut the shapes from a circular patterned material I like and arranged them here and there for a sort of tree.

For my friend's daughter

I knew my friend’s daughter likes cute skulls, so I did a Google image search for dia de los muertos to get a basic idea of the shapes I’d need for the applique. I used circles from the same material that I used for her mom’s tree for the eyes. Raw edge again. I pretty much hate applique that isn’t raw edge! I’m lazy!

Other Friend

I wanted to do another needle book for somebody else I know, so I did another tree, but for this one I did a bunch of French knots to add fruits? berries? (I don’t know – didn’t think it through that far!) to the tree shape to jazz it up a little.

THING #2: DONUTS

I also learned to make homemade donuts and I did that for a while anytime a remotely appropriate event came up for it. They kick ass. Don’t roll and cut, just make drop donuts with a cookie scoop. They taste as good and they’re less hassle. Deep frying isn’t as scary as you think it is.  I said it before, but try these apple fritters to start yourself out.

THING #3: THE QUILT

I decided to make a lap quilt for my husband’s sister for Christmas, but I am not a quilter and this was to be my first quilt, and I really made kind of a mistake in choosing my design, which was 20 7.5-inch crazy quilt blocks arranged with 2-inch sashing and is taking me quite a while. I machine quilted the sashing but wanted to hand quilt the blocks themselves, without really realizing what a time commitment that was. I decided not to ruin my December by pressuring myself to finish by Christmas, so if I do, I do (probably not) and if I don’t, then she’ll get it later and I’ll give her a gift card for Christmas. I’m not making fast progress exactly, but I am doing a good job of working on it here and there while we watch TV or whatever. I’m a little under a third done quilting the blocks and then I have to finish the edges.

Lap Quilt - Laid Out On Bed

Final layout before machine piecing.

I think my next quilt will be something much simpler. I’ve been ogling mini quilts and I kind of want to do a couple for fun wall decorations (maybe as a gift for whoever I get for the family Secret Santa drawing this year?) because they’re so adorable. So, live and learn. This quilt was a great learning experience and really I haven’t done too badly considering it’s my first.

THING #4: THE BEER

My friend and I have been wanting to try beer making, and I have this kit that my husband bought years ago but never ended up getting around to messing with. So I started hoarding bottles and last week I finally went and bought the ingredients and this weekend I got my giant boiling pot and my hope is to get the first batch in the fermenter today. We’ll see. I’m a little nervous but the book keeps stressing, Don’t worry – it’s easy! so I’m trying to reassure myself. Worst case, I wasted some money. Best case, it turns out great and it ends up being a cheap alternative to buying beer.

CURRENT PROJECT LIST:

And of course my sewing kick is still going full force, so as I make slow progress on the lap quilt, I’ve been trying to decide what my other priority projects should be. I’m trying to make a list, but it’s tough because there is so much out there for me to love. Maybe I should start a page with my list of stuff I want to do.

  • New pincushion – I bought crushed walnut shells at the quilt shop a few weeks ago, so now I want to make myself a pincushion or two. I could see this going the way the needle book thing did. A few ideas: cathedral window, mouse, birdie, patchwork square, apples & pears, elephant… I may have a slight “thing” about pincushions. I have more than this pinned…a lot more than this.
  • A quilted something to hang in the doorway from our kitchen to the laundry room to keep out drafts. I haven’t decided on the design, but I think this time I’d be comfortable attempting to machine quilt it so that I could get through it faster. Considering something simple and clean like this or this, or maybe Dresden blocks since I’m sort of obsessing about those right now.
  • Sewing organizer for basic items – I actually bought a pattern for this and have set aside one of my most treasured remnants that I’ve been saving for ages to use for it. I need to pick out some coordinating materials sometime. I’m taking some time off around Christmas so maybe then.
  • A mini quilt to hang on the wall or give as a gift. My coworker bought a couple at a quilt show and took them in to show me and I fell in love. A few cuties for inspiration (and by inspiration I mean I want to rip off their ideas basically wholecloth): totally meta quilt of a quilt, birds on a branch, night and day mini, puffy hearts, Dresdens.
  • A simple baby quilt for my husband’s cousin
  • My mending/alterations pile (BORING)

I Am A Traveler Of Both Time And Space

Before today I hadn’t been thrifting for quite some time, since I felt like after I bought the new computer I needed to kinda ease off on the twice weekly thing I had going for a bit there. But then yesterday it dipped into the forties and I was chilly and I realized I really needed to go buy some warmer clothes.

When it comes to long-sleeved clothes I’m usually kind of a failure because of my tiny T-Rex length petite arms, so my wardrobe has mostly a collection of short sleeved and three quarter sleeved tops, which I supplement with ladies’ petite blazers in winter. But really, nothing suffices in the cold when you really just need a good, cosy sweater. I own a couple of sweaters, but I thought, I really ought to go check it out and see if I can find some good winter stuff. Maybe I could shorten sleeves if I needed to, I figured.

I picked up some great stuff, but the one crowning glory of my haul is so remarkable that I’m pretty sure it represents my all time greatest thrift find:

I found a Saks Fifth Avenue 100% cashmere turtleneck in my size for THREE DOLLARS.

I know.

Saks Fifth Avenue $3

Saks Fifth Avenue $3

I looked for a while on their website and I think this sweater originally retailed for $350-$500.

I’m pretty sure I’ve never owned anything this nice before.

I’ve also never owned anything made from cashmere before. I might never take it off again. I’ve been hanging out all night wearing it under the Nordstrom suede jacket I picked up for $10. Jeans and boots. I feel rich and classy. I feel like I’m ready to go somewhere sophisticated like an art premiere.

I Buy Art. Koff. Yes I Do

I buy art. Koff. Yes I do.

That Nordstrom jacket surprised me, by the way. I never shop at Nordstrom because even though they have great stuff, I think they’re incredibly too expensive. That said, I didn’t expect the jackets to be $250-$350. So that one was a good find, too, apparently.

I picked up some other nice stuff, like some new boots and a shirt dress, but I don’t even want to talk about it that much right now. Maybe later. I know Rissy has Sweatums, but I think my sweater seems like an Astrid.

City Thrift ($14.92), Red Racks ($5.98), Goodwill ($11.47): My Sweater Romance

I agree with pretty much everything that Missy said in her tales of these thrift stores with the addendum that I still love that 89th and Wornall Goodwill best of all but I understand that J.Crew tops don’t just fly out of nowhere like glorious and well-crafted bats. I, too came away from our day of thriftery with a sizeable haul, but rather than dissecting each item, I wanted to focus on one in particular. This sweater came from City Thrift, which had a great many designer brands hiding in its racks (Diane von Furstenburg and Marc Jacobs to name a couple). Then the sweater looked up at me with its big, brown, uh… stitches.

LOVE ME

Oh, I wanted it. It was too big and the shoulders had some kind of bizarre 1980s pads in them, and there were a couple of holes in it, but I loved it just the same. I initially succumbed to reason and put it back after trying it on, but then I bought it after Missy and Amanda had to listen to several minutes of me talking about the sweater like it was an old boyfriend I’d reconnected with on Facebook and encouraged me to do so. Being awesome friends, they even volunteered to help me rehab my shabby new companion.

Shoulderpads are tumors made of the 1980s.

When I got Mr. Sweatums home, I did a bit of research on the brand name. Turns out that “Krizia Maglia”  was started by Mariuccia Mandelli, who started the brand in the 1950s and named it after Plato’s unfinished dialogue on women’s vanity. It had its hayday in the 80s with such hits as this:

RAWR

 

I felt pretty thrifty indeed learning that Sweatums is a sophisticated European who probably retailed for a hundred+ 1980s dollars, so basicially a million now-dollars. Not that it matters, since I’m in this for the luv, not the money.

I didn’t need to know his name to know that I loved him.

Jellies (Three Different Ones)

If either of you thought, is that post title a Pink Floyd reference that hasn’t been topical for at least 30 years and even that’s really pushing it, then you deserve to have it confirmed that yes, yes it is. I feel maybe slightly bad that I wanted to do this blog and then I left it for over two weeks without any updates, but I won’t waste your time whining about that now. And anyway, my cowriter has written a little.

My holiday gift jelly project is coming along pretty nicely – I even started a pinboard to keep track of the more unusual jelly and jam recipes I’ve encountered online. I’m really not very interested in the more ordinary types of jelly – strawberry, grape, all that stuff you’d pick up a pint of for $2.50 at the store, but I’m keenly interested in all the stuff that is weird that you wouldn’t see for sale most places. For instance, I found recipes for root beer jelly, stout beer jelly, and something called carrot cake jam. I honestly couldn’t say whether any of these would actually taste good in the end, but my sense of curiosity surrounding all three pretty much ensures that I’m going to have to make them at some point. Thankfully, I’ve gotten the art of hot water jelly and jam canning down to a pretty manageable process.

After I made my first batch of the pinot noir jelly, Rissy came over to have dinner and spend an evening chatting, and I asked if she wanted a little taste of it. She really liked it! In fact, I think her love for the jelly might even qualify as “ravening”. So I decided I had a winner and I started putting together my extended holiday list and deciding out how many batches I’d need and of what exactly. At less than $2 a half pint jar for the Charles Shaw jellies and not too much time and effort expended for a batch of 7 jars, along with a good shelf life, I felt like I’d found a real sweet spot at the intersection of effort, cost and how long I could prepare things in advance.

I knew I was going to need to make at least a few nonalcoholic jellies – since I didn’t think everyone I know would be able to enjoy the wine jellies. I don’t want to be the clueless jerk who gives the nice LDS lady at work a holiday gift that directly contradicts her church’s teachings. I also wouldn’t want to give wine jelly to someone who is a recovering alcoholic. Or to people who just don’t like the taste of wine.

So my first nonalcoholic jelly was really a jam – I’d found this kiwi jam recipe and was curious to try it out. I mean, I love kiwi fruit fresh, so maybe it’d make a good jam? Side note – I just realized that website, while it has some neat stuff on it, is completely obnoxious in that it plays music that you can’t turn off. So be warned.

Kiwi Jam

Kiwi Jam in jars.

The kiwi jam turned out with a nice texture, but I got so caught up in the process while I was making it that I didn’t taste it before canning. What I found was that after I tasted the stuff left over in the pot, it tasted more, just, sweet than anything else. What I like most about the taste of kiwi is that tartness, but the amount of sugar that you use in jam seemed to have kinda killed that. I experimented with what I had left and added some lemon juice to it, which seemed to help the flavor. I think I can still give it as gifts and people will enjoy it, but if I ever make it again I’ll make sure to sour it up again with lemon juice. My jelly ravening taste tester and our other chick friend both enjoyed the lemon juice version, so I think I’ll go with that in future.

After the kiwi jam, I figured I should do another wine jelly. After all, they’re very easy to do. So I did a jelly with Charles Shaw sauvignon blanc next, using the recipe from last time. I thought it tasted pretty decent, maybe not as good as the red wine jelly, but good. I brought some to work for a friend who was interested, and she said she had it with cheese and crackers and liked it. With the white wine jelly, I experimented and used some Certo Sure-Jell liquid pectin that I ordered in bulk off Amazon instead of the powdered Sure-Jell I’d used before. I thought the liquid stuff did decently well, but it didn’t give as firm a set. If I turn the jar the jelly slides a little. But nobody complained, so hey.

Sauvignon Blanc Jelly

Sauvignon Blanc jelly in jars.

Personally I didn’t find the pale wine color very appetizing, but then again, I’m used to jellies being reddish or whatever. Note the hard water stains on the lids – I’ve been considering adding a little vinegar to the boiling water to see if that helps keep mineral deposits from forming on the jars! As it is now I have to scrub them after their final set to get the hard water deposits off.

The last jelly I did was an apple pie jam, which I felt had great promise but I think I screwed it up somehow! First, it tastes delicious so it really does have that spiced apple pie flavor. No complaints there. However, on reflection I must have not chopped the apples finely enough, and I also thought the jelly didn’t set up as firmly as it looked like it was supposed to from the pictures. I could tell as I was stirring it that my apples were all floating at the top and they were probably too big, but I didn’t really know what to do about it at that point. Get out the potato masher and go to town? I didn’t, so moot point.

I’m still going to do the apple pie jam as gifts because it tastes so good, but I think if I make it again I might run the apples briefly in the food processor to see if that helps them stay better distributed, and I’ll also plan to let it simmer down a little longer before adding the sugar, since I thought it didn’t set up all that well. No worries, taste is terrific and I think it would be the exact right texture to stir into hot oatmeal this winter!

Apple Pie Jam

Apple pie jam with all the apples up at the top!

On the topic of apples, I was going to make the apple pie jelly again with my few remaining apples last Monday when Rissy came over to hang out after work, but instead something took ahold of me and I impulsively made delicious apple fritters instead. Who knew fritters were so easy. I mean, I already knew they were delicious, but they’re actually not very hard to make! It’s just, well, dealing with the oil. Highly recommend this recipe. I rolled mine in cinnamon sugar, because, well, duh, it’s delicious. Forgot to take a single picture of them because they were so delicious.

Finally, a couple comments about how I plan to package my jellies for gifting – first of all, Ball sells these dissolving labels that you can write out and put on the sides of canning jars. They’re cute and oval shaped and better yet, they’re just…easy. I don’t have an inkjet printer at home, and I didn’t want to buy one just to print up cute labels (and oh how cute some of those free templates online are!). So I took a super fine tip Sharpie and just wrote the name of the jelly and the expiration date on the label.

Ball Canning Labels

These dissolve after 30 seconds of contact with water – no gummy mess left on your jars! Not that I guess you care if you’re giving them away, but hey, maybe some people will return your jars and let you can for them again!

Canning Label Example

Here’s what the Ball labels look like. Oval shaped, simple and with a couple of curliques. I like them.

I also wanted to decorate the tops of the jars somehow. I had a couple of packs of nice paper around and I had the idea that I could use a winter themed rubber stamp to decorate a circle and then put the recipient’s name on it. I’m really not slightly even talented when it comes to paper crafts, and this was my first rubber stamp and ink pad purchase, but I like how it turned out. This paper is actually “ivory” resume paper that has been around the house for ages. But pretty much nobody does resumes on fancy paper anymore, so I can use it up this way.

Snowflake Label

Ivory colored paper cut into a circle, stamped, and with handwritten message.

Anyway, this is only one of the projects I’ve been up to lately. I haven’t been thrifting in just ages at this point, but I’ve been doing other stuff that in theory could qualify as “thrifty” at home! I’ll try to keep you guys posted again soon.

Pete ‘n’ Repeat: $34

The Thrifting Bug is like the “kissing” bugs which spread Chagas disease by pooping it into your mouth. But Rissy, you say, when I go thrifting, nobody poops in my mouth. Well, maybe not where you shop, gentle reader (don’t judge me!), however, when the Thrifting Bug bites, it infects you with a subtle poison that burns in your blood long after the initial fever. The sequelae strike without warning, and can plague you for a lifetime. All this is my way of saying that the day after my Goodwill score, I went thrifting again.

Two things: firstly, I’m not seriously trying to compare the torments of thrift-love to Chagas disease (which I am extremely paranoid about) but I will say that the thrill of victory from Saturday would not leave me be. I couldn’t stop thinking about thrifting. It burned, man. After googling KC area Goodwills and Ye Olde Consignment Shoppes, I knew nothing would slake my lust for recycled fashion except the thing itself. Second: WHY AREN’T MORE THRIFT STORES OPEN ON SUNDAYS ARGLEBARGLEARGL.

It seems that many of the more “upscale” thrift boutiques in KC don’t have functioning websites to tell me their hours of operation (lolwhat) so I set out on Sunday afternoon to do some drive-bys. I went by Thriftique (closed on Sundays! Boo!), a supposed Goodwill on Quivira that is either trapped in another dimension or has moved without updating its website, and finally, Pete’n’Repeat, which was supposedly open on the Lord’s Day. And yet, when I spotted the signage in a strip mall on State Line, the parking lot was suspiciously empty. Perhaps all of their customer base was at church, I told myself. And was promptly greeted with a sign saying “We’ve moved TROLOLOLOLOL.” Well, maybe not the last part. Oddly enough, rather than deter me, this only fueled my desire to find the damn place. I would not be balked! I drove around downtown Overland Park for a while until I found their new location.

“Are you here for the interview?” asked a kindly-looking dude as I walked in.
“Uh, no,” I replied, and 5 minutes later, when the teenaged interviewee did show up, I took it as a compliment, since I’m slowly decaying into my 30s.

I have no idea what Pete’n’Repeat’s original store was like (though the owner mentioned their new digs were considerably larger) but the current location is everything the Yelp reviews promised. I found their organizational system confusing at first, but their clothing is good-quality stuff and I enjoyed browsing. They were having a tag sale: certain items were either 50 or 25 percent off the store’s price based on the color of tags attached. It was in the “After Hours” section (one of the “good stuff” collections you can sometimes find in thrift stores) that I found the following:

Betsey Johnson dress ($22 w/ tag sale): retailed for God only knows how much. Closest match I could find on Ebay was listed for $129. Betsey Johnson clothes always intimidated me- the brand looked like something a vintage-obsessed drag queen would wear out for a night of kicking ass and granting wishes. This dress, however, is classy, sexy, and retro-but-not-costumey. Perfect.

 

In the regular rank-and-file (but still good) clothes area, I found:

Angie skirt ($11 with tag sale): based on websites that sell this brand, retailed for somewhere between $30-40. “The Angie clothing brand is known for its trend-setting boho looks with a sweet edge,” quoth Lulus.com. This is cute and kind of steampunk-y, and I love the color. Skirts like this aren’t flattering on most people, but one of the few benefits being unnaturally long-limbed is that I can rock a midi-length skirt.

                                                        

 

Both of these finds were way pricier than what I’d normally pay for used clothing, but the quality and the brand names, especially for the Betsey Johnson piece, made for absolutely no buyer’s remorse.

Final Verdict for Pete’n’Repeat: friendly staff, great selection of good quality clothing including designer/vintage, so-so organization, decent prices made better by an awesome sale- an A. Or “green” on the awesome map that Missy created.

8929 Wornall Goodwill, $7.00

I had the most amazing weekend on a Saturday in July. First, my boyfriend agreed to go to a yoga class with me. And we actually went. My boyfriend isn’t really the type; he loves stretching, but can’t do most forms of yoga due to medical issues. He also hates bullshit. Sorry yoga, but the idea that a magic snake lives in my ass and will shoot out the top of my head if I do it just right is the the platonic ideal of BS. However, I managed to find a class that was all done in a sitting posture, and I figured that he’d enjoy the exercise so much that the hippie nonsense would be quickly forgotten. He told me afterwards that he’d spent the first 10 minutes of chanting silently plotting my death for dragging him to a place where you were encouraged to sip the air and pull your sphincter, but then we got to the actual stretching and he liked it so much that he asked if we could go back next week.

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Jelly Making For Cowards & Lazy People

I know I’ve left you alone here for over a whole week, all probably three of you dear, dear readers, but you see it’s been a very busy week while I wasn’t here telling you things you could probably figure out on your own if you wanted to. The beginning of each month is a hectic time because I’m busy closing the books for the previous month and putting out financial statements and everything, plus I’ve been working on another writing project that I hadn’t been making any progress on all summer, and I suddenly felt like working on that again. I may hit another dead spot, but at any rate I’m going with it for now. All this spells neglect for this place.

Still, isn’t it nice knowing that I have such a rich life outside of the internet? Cough. I also made cream pies both this weekend and last, which I should probably cut out because I really don’t need to be eating that much pie all the time. Ahem. And I also made macaroons because what a tragedy if I wasted the 4 egg whites from the eggs I used for the pie custards.

Lemon Cream Pie

Lemon Cream Pie. Delicious, but we think we preferred the coconut cream from last weekend. Couldn’t find my picture of that one, besides cream pies pretty much look the same anyway.

Anyway, something I’ve wanted to do for a while now is to make some wine jelly. Normally I regard jelly making as a monumental pain in the ass because most jelly recipes require that you process fruit, which means peeling and dicing and all kinds of other time consuming stuff, before you ever even get to the part where you process your jars in a hot water bath. But wine jelly! Because it’s quite literally just jellied wine, all you do is mix up a bottle of wine, some lemon juice for flavor and acidity, pectin and sugar, and no cutting or peeling of any sort is required. You boil all that stuff together while you sterilize your jars, and seriously, it just looked easy. Then this summer my MIL “L” had some merlot jelly she’d gotten somewhere, and we tasted it with a bit of crackers and cheese and it was pretty good! So I made up my mind, OK, sometime I’m going to do this!

Then I’m not sure what exactly got me thinking on it this week, maybe it was that our nice friends from Emporia came up and visited over the holiday and they brought us a half pint of peach preserves that she’d put up, and possibly that’s what got the wheels turning. Also, we’re getting close to Christmas, and if this worked it could mean some nice gifts that I could make inexpensively, and well in advance of the holidays. I tend to get a little depressed in winter and around the holidays and gifts are often a challenge for me because all my energy has to go to just getting to work and attending to daily life. Winter is a generally nonproductive time for me, so if I can do these this fall, then I can lighten my load a little for the holidays!

Wine Jelly Collage

I also think that nonperishable food gifts, especially ones that don’t require effort like mixes do, are often in good taste (haha) because they get used up and they don’t clutter people’s homes. Plus, if they get something and realize they won’t like it, it’s easy to just accept it graciously and then give it to a coworker or someone without it being weird or awkward, plus the gift won’t sit unused or go to waste. It’s also nice because people tend to get a lot of treats around the holidays that have to be eaten immediately – whereas a preserved item gives somebody the option of saving the item until they aren’t as inundated with sweets. When the last week of January comes round and they’re sick of dieting, that jelly is waiting. Beckoning, even.

This week I checked our booze cabinet and found this bottle of Beringer 2004 Pinot Noir that someone must have given me just ages ago, and I decided, I don’t really even care much for most red wine, which is why this is still here anyway, so jelly shall be its fate! On Friday after work we stopped at HyVee and I bought a 12-pack of Kerr half pint jelly jars for $9 and a packet of pectin for a little under $3. I always have bottled lemon juice in the refrigerator anyway, and I had some wine I probably wasn’t going to drink.

Here’s the base recipe just so you have the ingredients in a simple list. I’m going to discuss the process in detail, though, for anybody who has never canned before.

Also, if you have a Trader Joe’s near where you live, I think I’m going to do my future batches with their “two buck chuck” wine, which will represent pretty major cost savings for me. I think you could get pretty nice jelly with fairly cheap wine, honestly. If it tastes remotely OK to drink, I think you’re in good shape. I’ve included a cost estimate chart below which assumes you use cheap wine. Not cheap a la Boone’s or Mad Dog, but you take my point.

Wine Jelly Ingredients:

  • 1 bottle (750 ml) wine of your choice (about 3 1/4 cups – I topped it off with some Trader Joe’s Charles Shaw Pinot Grigio to make the 3 1/2 cups called for in the recipe)
  • 1 box (1.75 or 2 oz) dry pectin
  • 1/2 cup bottled lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon butter (sounds weird, I’ll explain)
  • 4 1/2 cups (990 grams) white sugar
  1. Combine wine, lemon juice, and pectin in a large saucepot. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Add sugar, stirring until dissolved. Return to a rolling boil. Boil hard 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Skim foam off top, if necessary. (Butter makes this unnecessary!!)
  2. Ladle hot jelly into hot, sterilized jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Tighten 2 piece lids. Process for 5 minutes in boiling water bath.
Wine Jelly Ingredients

Wine Jelly Ingredients: Beringer 2004 Pinot Noir, Sure-Jell pectin, lemon juice, sugar

And by the way, if you’ve never canned, it probably seems very intimidating and like it requires absolutely tons of equipment, but it’s not as bad as you think. The specialized tools (like the special magnet wand that lets you fish sterilized lids out of your boiling water bath) are really nice to have, but most of them aren’t strictly necessary. To make something that’s safe to process in a boiling water bath, my opinion is that you can get by with the following equipment list. Bear in mind that I actually can like once every two years, so if you’re doing it frequently the neat-o extra tools might be more worth it.

A note – don’t assume your jars are sterilized if you ran them through a dishwasher. To be sure that all spores and bacteria are exterminated they need to be raised to a temperature of 212 degrees minimum.

One more thing – I show 6 jars here because that’s what I thought the yield of the recipe would be. It turned out I had enough to make 7 half pint jars. So, in future I’ll be making 7 jars with this recipe.

Bare Necessities:

  • half pint jars, rubberized lids, ring lids – rubberized lids should always be brand new for each batch – do not reuse previously sealed lids because the process of opening a sealed jar warps the lid slightly and increases the odds of a failed seal if reused
  • A big pot – should be about 3-4 inches deeper than your jars are tall, and wide enough that you can at least put a few in with enough room so that they don’t jiggle together a bunch and possibly break. Mine could hold 7 jars (and when filled, the lids kind of buffer them so they don’t bonk each other so much, so you can put them a little closer together when processing full jars)
  • Another pot big enough to hold basically twice as much jelly as you want to make at once. I ignored this and used a 4 quart pot for this batch and did OK, although I had to be careful not to splash. Could have gone a bit bigger, but I wanted to use my easy-to-clean pot.
  • A set of rubber tipped tongs long enough to grab something (your lids) from the bottom of the big pot without touching the boiling water with your hand
  • A jar lifter with rubberized grips on the part that contacts the jar. This is the one specialized tool I really do recommend you buy. It’s very useful for safely lifting jars in and out of boiling water. Unless you have some kind of basket that you use to lift things in and out without burning yourself, or you are a sentient robot with heat resistant metal hands, I personally wouldn’t even want to try canning without a gripper. WELL worth the like $5-7 it would cost you.
  • Clean kitchen towels
  • Normal kitchen stuff – spoons, whisk, measuring cups, ladle, crap you already probably have if you’re the type of person even considering doing this
  • Optional: a rack for the bottom of your pot is nice because it keeps your jars separated and prevents them jiggling into each other. However, I don’t have one and I do OK.
  • Optional but recommended: a funnel (preferably a wide necked one) to help you get the jelly in the jars with less spilling.

If you have this stuff, plus your extremely short ingredient list, you’re in good shape and you’re ready to do this. I like to start with a completely clean kitchen and empty sink and dish drainer – that way it’s a lot easier to clean as you go. Cleaning partially congealed jelly out of a funnel spout is annoying, so if you start clean it’s simple to just wash up quickly and then you’re not attempting to scrape jelly out of it with your pinky finger. Which, mine is just slightly too plump for that purpose, as it turns out.

By the way, I timed my whole process from start to finish, including post-processing cleanup, and it took about 77 minutes. Some of that went to me taking pictures to document things, and calculating the weight of the sugar I needed to use (I hate measuring ingredients because I’m super lazy – much easier to weigh them!). So plan for this to take at least 1:15 from start to finish, I’d say.

Begin by examining your canning jars for any defects, such as cracks or chips. I think the box I bought might have been dropped at some point, because I found two jars with chips in the first eight I pulled out. Ah, well. Sest-luh-viz, as the French say. This check is important because defects in the glass impair its ability to expand and contract for temperature differences without breaking – which is an important safety consideration because not only is a bunch of broken glass not fun to deal with, but if you had a crack that you didn’t notice, it’s theoretically possible that a jar could become contaminated and make someone sick. So, check these over.

Then wash your jars and the rubberized lids with hot, soapy water, and rinse them thoroughly. Place them and the rubberized lids in your big pot and add enough (cold!) water to cover them by about an inch. Some people also sterilize the rings that screw onto the jars, but I don’t bother because they don’t have direct contact with whatever goes into the jars, plus they end up being boiled in the end process anyway. So I don’t consider it necessary. If you’re paranoid, there is absolutely no shame in boiling the rings too, and it’s certainly not much more work anyway. By the way, if you have very hard water that leaves annoying mineral deposits, you can add a little white vinegar to the pot at this point to discourage deposits.

Jars in Water Bath (Before Boil)

Jars in the big pot with the water bath (pre-boil).

By the way, don’t attempt to place room temperature jars into already hot water, or hot jars into cold water; basically, never subject an untempered glass object to an extreme temperature change, as it cannot expand or contract quickly enough and may shatter or explode. So place your pot of cold water and jars on the stove top and begin heating it. I slapped a lid on to speed the process along. If you don’t have a rack that lifts and separate the jars (haha!!! I know ANOTHER product that lifts and separates!!! ahahahaha!!!! LOLOL!!!), you’ll hear some funny sounds as the jars gentle jiggle together a little, and also as trapped bubbles build up and then escape from underneath the little recess at the bottom of the jars. It shouldn’t be a problem, just keep an eye on it. Once the water comes to a boil, turn the heat down to maintain at a low boil and this should minimize how much everything knocks together.

Meanwhile, open the bottle of wine and pour it it into your second pot. Measure out the sugar separately, but don’t add it yet. Add the lemon juice and the powdered pectin to the pot and combine with a whisk. You can use a spoon to stir, but I prefer a whisk because you can stir fairly vigorously while keeping the splash factor down. How I like to time this is I wait to turn on the heat until the big pot is close to a boil, bubbles coming up, and so on. Then I put the heat on medium and stand there whisking the mixture until it comes to a simmer.

Wine Mixture

Simmering the wine mixture on the stovetop.

When the big pot comes to a boil, set a timer for 10 minutes, which is the recommended sterilization time for canning jars. Technically you could probably get away with less time, but when I think about how pissed off people would be on the weird off chance that they got sick from something I canned, I think the 10 minutes really doesn’t seem like too bad.

Here’s what happens with the jelly during that 10 minutes: You’ll stir it until it starts to get warm, and then you’ll melt your tiny piece of butter into it. I got this from America’s Test Kitchen – the butter adds a tiny amount of fat, which cuts down on the amount of foam that forms on the top. I’m lazy so I absolutely hate to skim foam off of boiling jelly. So you’ll see some foam as you boil the wine, but after the sugar is added, there’s almost nothing. Which really just proves that butter is a friend to us all. I did zero skimming for this batch. Thanks, butter!

When the wine mixture comes to a light boil, turn the temperature down slightly and add your whole amount (like, two pounds!) of sugar at once, then whisk to combine. Continue stirring constantly as the mixture heats back up and the sugar dissolves. Once it comes back to a boil, you want to continue stirring at least a minute or so past that point, which helps the jelly thicken up. If you have a couple minutes left on your timer, you can just keep stirring while the jars finish up.

When the timer goes off, move the jelly pot off the heat and turn the heat way down on the big pot. Set a clean kitchen towel on the counter and use your jar lifter to pull out each jar, very carefully pouring the boiling water out of it and back into the pot, and then set each jar, opening up, on the towel. Don’t worry about any residual water – it’s hot and it evaporates quickly. Do the same for the lids, placing them on the towel with rubber side up. Put the lid back on the big pot and return it to low heat.

Removing Sterile Jars From Bath

Carefull remove sterile jars from the water bath with the jar lifter.

Freshly Sterilized Jars

Freshly sterilized jars lined up on a clean towel. Careful, they’re hot! Well, for the moment anyway.

While the jelly mixture is still hot (i.e. don’t rush, but don’t walk away for 15 minutes either), ladle the jelly mixture into the jars, leaving 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch of head room. It’s OK if the jars cool – the hot jelly will warm them up enough not to be temperature shocked when you put them back in the big pot. If you have any jelly left, you can put it into an unsterilized container and just put it in the fridge after it cools. It won’t be shelf stable, but you can still enjoy it.

Freshly Ladled Jelly

Hot jelly freshly ladled into hot jars.

Use a clean, damp paper towel to carefully wipe the rim of each jar. You don’t want any food particles or jelly left on the rim, as this can interfere with the seal and cause a canning failure.

Wiping The Jars

Wipe the rim of the jars to ensure a clean seal.

Place a metal jar lid (it’s probably overkill, but I try to do my best not to touch the inside of the lids as I do this) on each hot jar, and set a ring on top. Being careful not to burn yourself, gently tighten each lid. They bump together while canning, so get them tight enough that they don’t loosen and leak a bunch of jelly out, but don’t really screw them on hard on because it can prevent the excess air from escaping. Canning people call this “finger tight” – as in, get them as tight as you would using only your fingers and not the strength of your whole hand. Basically, firm is good enough.

Filled Jars With Lids

The filled jars with lids applied and rings screwed on.

Now, use the jar lifter to place the jars in the big pot, where the water should still be simmering lightly or at least steaming hot. Note that depending on the size of the pot, you may need to scoop some of the water out because full jars displace more than empty jars and you don’t want a bunch of water boiling out the top of the pot because it’s too full. Return the pot to a boil and after it begins to boil, set a timer for processing.

Use The Jar Lifter

Use the jar lifter to place the jars into the hot water bath.

Note that you may need to process longer for higher altitudes – America’s test kitchen recommends processing jelly at 5 minutes for up to 1,000 feet above sea level, 10 minutes for 1,001 to 6,000 feet, and 15 minutes for above 6,000 feet.

Process in the Boiling Water Bath

Return the pot to a boil and process for the appropriate time.

I like to use this time to wipe up any spilled jelly and to wash the jelly pot and funnel so they aren’t a pain to clean later.

After the jars have processed, use the jar lifter to remove them and set them on another clean towel to cool, about an inch apart. If it’s convenient, put them somewhere they’ll be out of the way and won’t be disturbed. They need to cool and sit at room temperature at least 24 hours, after which point you’ll check to see if they all sealed adequately. The next day, check to see if any of the lids “pop” when you press on them. If sealed, there will be no pop and the lid will be firmly attached and sucked down. If any of them pop, don’t despair. They aren’t shelf stable, but they are still safe to store in the refrigerator and enjoy like you would recently opened store bought jelly.

Jars Set Out To Cool

Set the jars out to cool and check the next day to see if any of them didn’t seal adequately. Don’t waste any unsealed jars – keep them in the refrigerator to be enjoyed in the near future!

Store your shelf stable jelly for up to a year or so, in a cool dark place.

COST SUMMARY Total Purchase Batch Cost (7 jars) Cost Per Jar
half pint jars 9.98 (12 jars) 5.25 0.75
Charles Shaw wine 3.00 (750 ml) 3.00 0.43
powdered pectin 2.78 (1.75 oz) 2.78 0.40
lemon juice 2.49 (32 fl oz) 0.31 0.04
sugar 2.59 (4 lb) 1.41 0.20
est. tax 8.5% 1.77 1.08   0.15
Total 22.61 13.83 1.97

Cheap “Art”

I think when we (yes, I’m still considering this a “we” blog because my cowriter is at DragonCon this weekend and I think she’s supposed to be less busy after that) originally came up with the idea to do a blog, our focus was meant to be on the topic of thrift/secondhand shopping in general. Now that I’m a few weeks in, though, I’m debating whether I have enough to say on that topic alone. More particularly, I’m debating whether I really need to be shopping, even thrift shopping, all the time when I just dropped a pile of money for this new computer?

Anyway, not like we have much of any readership right now to dislike whatever we decide to write about – just a few friends and family – so I’m making an executive decision that’s OK to talk about whatever, some stuff in the realm of thrifty topics, and some maybe not. I might have more to say on the philosophy of thriftiness, especially from the point of view of an accountant who wishes she was better at it in general, but I’ll leave that for another discussion. For now, I sort of want to show off this interesting thing I came up with yesterday.

The idea to do something with the big stack of magazines I couldn’t justify just throwing away was sort of inspired by this odd screen capture of a Pinterest pin board. I have a rare little minivacation this week because last week I decided on impulse to take Thursday and Friday off, so I wanted to do some creative stuff and really try to make the time count for something. And I spotted that interesting magazine silhouette picture and was for whatever reason really taken with it, so while my husband was in class yesterday I played with magazines. Later I went back and managed to find the original pin and seeing the bigger photo, I think their picture was much different than what I ended up playing around and doing. But I’m kind of glad, because I’m not a very creative person on my own. I usually have to rely on inspiration from others, and while I have great technique and I usually can manufacture something that looks a lot like the original, I’ve often wished I had more innate artistic sensibility. So yesterday was really cool for me because even though I’m sure what I came up with wasn’t original, it was for me – I ended up making something really different than the original thing that got me started. So at the risk of sounding hack, I got to have a “journey”. Yay.

Incidentally, the magazine stack – mostly The Atlantic, Wired, and Popular Science because we’re politically-moderate-elite I guess? – has been haunting my dresser ever since this lady at work asked for magazine donations to send to her son’s unit which was deployed in Afghanistan. I made up a stack of magazines we were done with, and then I just sort of kept procrastinating on taking this big old heavy stack in to the office and then before I knew it her son was back stateside. Oh, and then she retired. So, there’s that. Sorry, troops. :(

Anyway, I started out with this idea that I’d weave strips of paper together and do the silhouette thing. I had some fun with that:

Weaving Paper

I started out just making a big square to see where that got me.

Weaving Paper 2

The process of putting paper together was sort of relaxing and pleasant, even though after I was done I realized I didn’t really know what to do with what I’d made.

Finished Woven Mat

After I was through weaving everything together I was pretty pleased with myself, although then I realized I didn’t know what to do for a silhouette.

After I’d made an interesting mat of woven together stuff I tried to decide what I should do for a silhouette. I really liked the inspiration image which used a silhouette of Africa, but since I don’t have a personal connection with Africa I thought it’d seem pretty contrived for me to imitate that. I’d consider something related to Kansas, but (1) the picture frame I was working with was a square and Kansas is more of a rectangle and (2) if I did a Kansas one I think it’d be more interesting to use some kind of Kansas related imagery instead of just little magazine squares. So I set those aside and decided to try playing with strips of paper like in the original image.

One of the pages I’d cut into strips was an ad for Fat Tire beer, which I realized looked kind of interesting when I spaced it with strips from other ads. I wished I hadn’t used some of the Fat Tire strips in my woven mats because then I could have used them all the way across.

Unwoven Strips

This one was fun and sort of soothing to put together. I actually liked it better because you could see more of the original images in the finished product.

This is where I got the idea to flip through and find a full page ad with a picture I really liked, and try spacing strips of it with text from an article. I actually didn’t get that far, though, because I realized as I was playing with some strips of paper on the table that it actually looked kind of cool to place them with only negative space between them. I ran and got the big picture frame and mat that I found at the Hutchinson yard sale (which I wanted to turn into a cool jewelry organizer but now maybe I will stick with this thing I made) and I took this full page Dow Industries ad I liked and sliced it into slightly thicker strips and arranged it:

Windmills

Dow feather windmills. I thought these were kind of cool looking. Also, I dig wind energy.

After I put together the Dow windmill thing I thought I felt brave enough to try it on my catfish picture. You’re going to laugh, but I kid you not, a couple of years ago I clipped and saved this HyVee ad for catfish nuggets because I liked the picture so much. Above the picture it says simply, “A splash of flavor. It’s catfish time.” I guess I have a greater than average love for commercial art, but anyway, I’ve been saving this grocery store circular, fish fry coating prices and all, for a long time and so I was a little nervous as I took the plunge and actually sliced up my precious fish picture into strips.

Fish Nuggets!

Prettiest fish nugget thing ever.

I was pretty relieved when I spread the strips out and really liked the way they looked. Today I went to Michael’s and bought some light blue cardstock to lay these out on, but looking at it I think I want to get a rectangular frame instead so the prices aren’t showing. They aren’t the worst, but they make it look sort of cluttery.

I also had a cool idea earlier today because years ago I bought this photo box from Hobby Lobby during one of their 50% off sales and then never put any photos in it. I filled all the outside photo panels with pages from that old novel I got at the Hutchinson yard sale for 25 cents. So I think this’ll make a pretty cool Christmas gift for someone that I have in mind for it. The best part is it’ll be that person’s problem to figure out photos to put in it.

Photo Box

The inside of the photo box has four little hanging things with probably like 10 photo sleeves each. It’s nice.

Dog Fight

This is a scene from that novel where a fancy lady gets out of a carriage during a dog attack and strangles the dog with her shawl, ruining the shawl. No kidding.

The Longest Day

I’m going to try to cut out the most boring parts of this story and get to the weird interesting bits, so the basic gist is that I bought a laptop in late 2009 and I succumbed to this really stupid gimmick product and bought an HP convertible tablet computer. Which was really cool at the time, but you’ll notice that there really are not too many of these things being offered for sale right now. Meaning, they’re kinda crap compared to regular clamshell style notebooks. So for the last 8 months or so I’ve been sort of living in the shadow of this machine’s imminent demise.

First it started having these weird problems with the screen, where it would have these strange bands that obscured the lower two-thirds of the view and made it impossible to use, but I figured out that if I put it in the refrigerator for about half an hour it would make the problem go away (don’t even ask how I got there). If the computer went to sleep the screen problem would come back. If the screen saver came on the screen problem would come back.

In the beginning I contacted HP support and they were like “Do you have an extended warranty?” and I was like “No, but this is far less than the life I expect from a product this expensive,” and they were like, “Ahahahaha, stupid, %*!&# you then. Seriously, go away, idiot.” Not exactly but you get the point. So I started living with the fact that to use this computer I had to have space in the fridge for it at all times, I needed to plan in advance for using it, and I had to deactivate its screen saver and sleep modes to prevent them from ever activating.

Then over the last couple of weeks it started to act funny, wouldn’t print, wouldn’t run certain programs, wouldn’t close other certain programs, wouldn’t allow devices (like my Kindle or Evo) to connect to it, part of the keyboard wouldn’t work, etc. But because these problems came and went, still I clung to this idea that I could coast out the year on this thing that was more brick than it was technology at this point. But Thursday the computer was acting so squirrelly that I had to turn it off and set it aside, and then the next day it wouldn’t turn on anymore. So I resigned myself to the fact that I was going to have to go to Microcenter and get a new computer on Saturday.

So I got up Saturday morning and read reviews and compared computers and examined price ranges and got it narrowed down to maybe 9 computers, which I figured I’d go check out in the store and then pick based on that. Once I was in the store I actually got it narrowed down pretty quickly. My husband was even proud of me for making it a faster process than usual. Typically if I’m spending a lot of money I have a hard time deciding what to get, and I often don’t even buy anything the first day I shop. But I really needed to replace my computer! So I picked out this newish Acer laptop that I’d read a positive review about and the salesman sent it to the register and we paid and left.

Incidentally, when we woke up Saturday there was a terrible stench coming from the laundry room, and after my husband investigated we were pretty sure that some creature had gotten into the crawl space and died under there. After conducting a cost-benefit analysis where the cost was him crawling under the house and trying to find a diseased bloated carcass somewhere in there and the benefit was possibility of less stench, we decided to let nature run its course and just wait the whole thing out with smelly candles to help. I mention this mainly because it should have been interpreted as an omen regarding the rest of the day, but at the time we just took it for a stinky dead animal.

Dead Possum Cartoon

Dead Possum depiction. Borrowed without permission from this blog and I hope they don’t mind, but it’s really important that you understand in cartoon form how bad it smelled.

After that we ran some errands and picked up some lunch and putzed around and then we decided to put in a movie and watch that while I set up the new computer. So I carefully opened it up and set it on the coffee table and plugged it in and started it up. But when I went to fill in the setup information, I noticed that the touchpad wasn’t working. I figured, huh, maybe it needs to be calibrated or something. I plugged in a mouse and got to the desktop and fiddled with settings, but I couldn’t get it working no matter what I did. So I packed up the computer glumly and put it back in the box, and we went back to Microcenter and exchanged it. The people there were very nice about it, and we were in and out in like 15 minutes.

I almost asked the people if we could open it up there at the store and make sure everything was OK, but the exchange went so quickly that I didn’t want to hold up the line, and besides, I was just being silly.

We got home after about an hour round trip and I opened up the box excitedly, because finally, now I’d get to start and we could watch our movie and just relax now that all that hassle was over. I set the computer on the table and turned it on and the touchpad wasn’t working. I don’t even know the right English words to describe the way this made me feel. Bad. I felt bad about it.

The line at Microcenter was longer this time and a nice man was going through the line doing triage and making sure people were in the right line. “I promise I’m not just a complete crazy idiot,” I told him, “but…” and explained the issue. He took us over to the tech support area and told me he’d let us open up another computer and make sure it worked before we took it home. We tested one out, it was OK, and we exchanged it and I took my inch-thick receipt with all the returns and exchanges and we went home.

This time I didn’t even make it to the table, I just ripped the box open and put the computer on my lap and held my breath…and the touchpad worked! It was about then that I realized I hadn’t had anything to drink in hours and I was ragingly thirsty! (not a spill story, don’t worry) I set the computer on the table and when I came back a minute later, the touchpad didn’t work!

My heart almost stopped and the terrible thought occurred to me that maybe the universe just wasn’t going to let me have this computer. I’d have to return it entirely and get the Lenovo instead. Worse, I’d have to go back to Microcenter again. But it had worked perfectly in the store! And just a moment before!

A strange idea occurred to me then. I lifted the computer up from the table and touched the pad with the whole thing up in the air. Working. I set it on my lap. Working. I set it on my desk across the room. Working. I tested it on the kitchen counter, the island, the table in the library. Working. I went back and set it on the coffee table. Not working. I teetered it on the edge of the table. Sort of working. I touched the back of the computer to the table top. Not working.

And that is how I learned that my otherwise ordinary, cheap wooden coffee table somehow has the unique power to disable the touchpad on at least this particular model of laptop. It’s been days now and I still haven’t managed to figure out just why this is the case! But the computer’s working now and I really like it, I just have to use a mouse when I have it on the table in there.

This is truly one of those things I would consider a mystery for the ages. I didn’t embed magnets in my table!

I feel kinda bad for Microcenter. It was all in good faith, but I feel a little bad that I returned two computers that probably weren’t broken that will have to be sold at a discount now, and probably those employees later opened them up and were like “That lady was a crazy idiot! These are fine!” That said, I probably did some other customer a favor because they’ll get a perfectly good brand new computer for less than sticker price.

So even though we’ve been attempting to be thrifty lately and not eat out, between the dead animal stench drifting into the kitchen and spending like half the day at Microcenter, we pretty much had to carry out sandwiches because we were both totally exhausted from the ordeal.

By the way, our house smells OK now. Thanks, nature! Thanks, bacteria!