Inspections & Improvements

From time to time I notice Paul looking at houses online and get sucked in, and we start bouncing ideas off each other. Two years ago it led to us deciding to build a new garage and turn the old one into a studio. Lately we’ve been at it again, only this time we’ve gone to a few inspections. Just testing ourselves.

We’ve been looking at the one acre properties on the other side of the freeway. Expensive houses with pools and tennis courts. But many have no fences with houses positioned at the back of the block, back yards quite close to the neighbours’, so despite being large pieces of land they feel even less private than typical suburban blocks. Not enough gain and too much loss for the upheaval and cost of upgrading and moving.

When I ask myself what it is about our house I most dislike it’s how hot the upstairs rooms get in summer even with air conditioning. It seems every summer is less bearable (and not only because of menopause, though hot flushes in hot weather is a whole new level of discomfort). If our climate goes the way that’s predicted it’s only going to get hotter and windier.

When I asked Paul what he most disliked he picked the same thing, so we discussed what we could do to the house to reduce the problem. I already had a mental list that went like this:

* Work elsewhere in the house
* Work elsewhere out of the house (Rent an office? Buy a holiday home?)
* Plan to spend summer not working

Paul’s went something like this:

* Remove all the weatherboards upstairs, triple the insulation and replace them, fixing the dodgy flashing the builder put in at the same time.
* Get double glazed windows.
* Put in more ventilation.

So you can see, our minds were in two entirely different places.

Paul’s first two suggestions would cost quite a bit and require emptying the upstairs part of the house. When I said this, Paul pointed out that it wouldn’t cost as much as stamp duty or cause as much hassle as moving house. He also reasoned that we did the extension fairly cheaply and, five years later, we should think of any money we spend on these problems as the extra money we’d would have spent anyway if it had been a better quality extension.

Still, it would be nice to avoid a big upheaval.

We debated the groovy upward-angled verandah at the back and realised that we have quite opposing views about it. Paul doesn’t like how it looks and thinks it doesn’t work. I disagree. It’s meant to shade the house in summer, but by being angled up and out it allows sunlight below the verandah to warm the house in winter, as you can see here:

What bugs me about it, however, is that it makes the back wall of the house creak and move when it’s windy. Now the reason that happens is because, though engineers had approved it as a freestanding structure, the dodgy builder’s plumbers wouldn’t put the roof on it until it was attached to the house because they didn’t like how it swayed slightly under their weight.

As we were sitting in the back yard and looking up at it, I hit on the idea of detaching it again, adding cross beams to the uprights, then putting wooden slats between the cross beams to shade more of the house.

Paul thought it would be ugly. I reasoned that it could look, from a distance, like a balustrade for a deck on the back, and he didn’t mind the sound of that. Then I remembered that I’d found a company that would do a nice aluminium balustrade that could replace ours.

The one made by dodgy builder is shrinking and rotting where they extended the posts (because they made them too short to pass the building inspection) and when they removed the top rail they splintered some but reused them anyway, as you can see here:

Maybe, at the same time as replacing our balustrade, the company could attach matching panels to the verandah. Panels like this example from their site, but with the louvered slats facing out and down so I can still look between them into the garden from the workroom:

So I rang the engineering company we used for the reno to booked a consultation to make sure what we’re doing is safe, and made an appointment for a quote from the balustrade company.

Looks like we’re heading down the home improvement path again.

It’s August…

It’s been a month since I got back from my trip, so last night I had a look at the stuff I wrote when I first got back, in particular the to-do list that turned into an examination of what I do with my time. I’d highlighted what I wanted to do more or less of.

Write short stories – done (well, a novella)
Attend writing critique group – not done
Exercise – done, though mostly unplanned activities
Home maintenance (gardening, etc) and improvement – done
Read – done
More art – done
Travel and take more holidays – planning to

Convention attendance – well, none have come up to not go to
Tv – no reduction
Craft related internet – moved to evening, mostly
Hobby group meetings during work hours – done

The best solutions were:

* Shift reading Pinterest and Bloglovin’ to the evenings, while watching tv, so I don’t get bored, feel the time is as wasted or hurt my back and hands embroidering too much.

* Do some gardening in the mornings instead. Not every day, though, and only for a half hour or hour to allow my body to get used to it. So far it’s been mostly tidying up – weeding, pruning, cleaning out and rearranging the shed, and putting mulch down. (This is short term, though. Once full summer hits the garden and I will go into ‘hibernation’.)

The other successes have been unplanned or easy because it’s easy to not do something. The novella was commissioned, not initiated by me, for example. I’ve had exercise, but mostly through activities, not imposing a routine. Not attending a craft meeting takes no effort or planning. The trouble is, the same inertia and lack of planning had me miss another crit group meeting, mainly because I didn’t make time to read the stories.

Most of our planning time and energy has been going into another half work, half holiday trip coming up, but Paul has started gathering info for an adventure we might do next summer, or the one after, and I’ve been toying with the idea of a short visit to Japan.

I’ve done some work-related drawing as well as progress on the portrait. I’ve designed and started another cat embroidery. If I hadn’t done anything this month I’d be very worried. I always write better when I’m doing some other kind of creative activity.

The weirdest thing we’ve been doing is looking at houses. Like I need another source of anxiety! So far I’ve concluded that there are a few things about this house I really don’t like, but maybe not enough to face the upheaval of moving and renovating a house to fit our needs. I’m not sure Paul agrees.

Looking back over the month… perhaps it’s all just resettling after a very hectic first six months of the year. Between art classes falling on Tuesdays, working on weekends, and fad hobbies, routine didn’t exist. Not that I’m the sort who needs a strict routine, but meeting more recent deadlines has threatened to send me down the same path again. I just want weekends to be weekends again.

Two free days I know I can plan for. Maybe then I’d plan a little crafting.

Pants. Boot. Reboot.

I keep waiting for things to return to normal, for me to slip into my old routine. Instead the little life revelations keep on coming: a death in the family of someone I admired for her adventurous spirit, advice from an older woman to enjoy the rewards of your hard work and not let others stop you, the discovery of an insignificant heart condition that may prove more significant when I get older, and yes, menopause. None of which would have amounted to a kick in the pants if they’d occurred separately. Together? Eyes opened.*

I read an interview this morning with an actor and entrepreneur in which she talked of how success had affected her sense of identity. Suddenly a lot of things that had been bothering me made sense. I’ve felt a disconnect between who I ‘really’ am and my professional self for some years now, growing stronger all the time. It happens because of Other People. Sometimes those who know the professional me are disappointed to find I’m a normal person with flaws and those who know the personal me react with jealousy to the professional me.

I suspect that separation wasn’t working, more so thanks to a newer source of disconnection. I’d read that menopause can shake a woman’s sense of identity, but I’d figured mourning the loss of youth was vain and foolish. But I missed the point. I’m moving from being a young, ambitious woman to being a middle-aged, successful woman and I’m not sure how to be that person.

Change has snuck up on me and I don’t have any role models to advise me on how to handle it, because nobody in my family or among my friends has had to face that particular combination of changes.

That’s why Carrie Fisher’s question has stuck with me: “What are you spending your money on?” I suspect the answer is “nothing, because I’m afraid my friends will envy and hate me if I do”.

But one thing’s for sure: you can’t take it with you, and since I have no children to inherit the rewards of my hard work I shouldn’t let Other People’s opinions or jealousy stop me enjoying them. And I may as well have fun working out who the middle-aged Trudi is going to be.

Before I become the elderly Trudi, who might be unable to do anything.

*Speaking of eyes, yesterday I went for a vision check. Apparently I have the eyes of a late 20/early 30 year old. But I have the tear ducts of a menopausal woman. Hormone changes mean they aren’t so good at lubricating so I get scratchy eyes and blurriness. I went to the doctor about this a few months ago thinking I had a cyst, but she couldn’t find one and couldn’t explain it. Now I know what’s up. Yet another symptom of menopause. Yay for the good eye sight, though!

Home Again, Home Again, Zippedy Zee

I’m back from a two week part work trip, part holiday. Highlight: talking to Carrie Fischer (I kid you not!). Lowlight: bad food. In between: lots of hanging out with fabulous, interesting people and simply getting out of the house for a while. Oh, and doing my first cross stitch as a gift but forgetting to take a photo of it.

As always, I went into reassessing my habits mode as soon as I got home. I began a to-do list and next thing I was writing down every activity I engage in and picking out the things I’d rather do more or less of.

I came to the conclusion that I have a troubled relationship with craft these days. I enjoy it and it has great benefits, but it can be bad for my health, takes up more room than I have, and sometimes distracts me from more important things. Mostly because I have an obsessive temperament. And I am, as the blog title says, a creative fidget who flits from one craft to another.

The biggest issue I can see is that I spend an awful lot of ‘craft’ time on the internet reading blogs, blogging and looking at Pinterest, all sitting down. I need to get up and move.

I’m far more likely to do a craft if I can do it sitting in front of the tv of an evening, however. The rest of the time I craft on weekends, in the workroom or lounge, finishing a project in a weekend or two, and that does involve moving around. Lately I’ve set up in the lounge more often than the workroom – the sewing and Bond fads I had earlier this year required lots of space and the big dining table.

Like so many times before, I’m wondering if the workroom is the problem. I’ve managed to get everything to fit better, but it means movement is restricted. I suspect that’s why I still have the same piece on the table loom that I started over a year ago, and haven’t touched the knitting machine in ages. Still, the last six months were pretty hectic, work-wise, and that meant a sore back.

The trouble is, to get more space in the workroom I’d have to remove something, or several somethings. Perhaps abandon a craft.

So instead of trying to rearrange the workroom yet again, I’m considering the crafts I do. They seem to fit into three categories for me: odd projects that I do once that occasionally have leftover materials, fad crafts that seize my attention for a short while and I buy lots of stuff for, and commitment crafts that I do long-term that I bought expensive equipment for that takes up space.

Do I need to use up and/or cull the leftovers and fad craft materials? Maybe I’d have more room for equipment then. Though that sort of thing leads to obsessively trying to Use Stash Up rather than doing projects I want to do.

There’s furniture in here that doesn’t have anything to do with craft, too. The day bed, for example, which I do use and the cat loves. Or the drawing board, which I don’t use very often. Maybe I should make a list of furniture and rate it by how often it is used and get rid of the least used pieces.

Maybe I just need a bigger workroom. Maybe I’ve wasted half a morning writing a blog post about how I should spend less time writing and reading about craft.

The Fast Diet

I’m a great believer in avoiding fad diets, mostly because I’m extremely skeptical of anything recommended by someone who gets paid to do it – magazine editors, celebrities and self-help gurus. Except a doctor, but not some doctor cited on the dieting product.

So I’m fully aware that I’m breaking all my own rules about diets at the moment. Well, sort of. Paul and I saw a doco by Dr. Michael Mosley about longevity and how people who eat a low calorie diet tend to live longer. One of the methods of achieving this that he investigated was intermittent fasting, where you reduce your calorie intake to a quarter on some days and eat as you please on others. On ‘feed’ days people don’t tend to make up for all the calories they reduced on the ‘fast’ days, and the fasting triggers some interesting beneficial changes in the body. Dr. Mosley settled on a 2:5 day ratio and called it the Fast Diet.

It sounded doable to both of us. I could do with losing a few kilos and I like the idea of not having to give up foods I love – instead rewarding myself with them after getting through a fast day. Paul looked into it further, bought the book and we both read it and decided to try the diet.

We’ve been doing it for five weeks or so. At first the fast to feed days were more of a 1:4 ratio as we worked out which days of the week better suited to fasting and there was one fast day I skipped because I was ill, but we’ve got into the swing of it now. We’ve had fun searching for and trying different low-cal recipes. Our bodies are adapting to the fasting so that we’re not so hungry (and cranky, in my case) on fast days. I’ve also noticed that on feed days I’ve gone back to preferring smaller meal sizes, as I did before I moved in with Paul.

Paul has lost a few kilos. Until last week I’d lost nothing. Nadda. Zilch.

I find this hilarious, considering how skeptical I’ve always been about fad diets.

To be honest, we were eating a fairly healthy base diet already with occasional treats that were often low-fat anyway. The diet recommends 500 cals for women and 600 for men, but a different cal count is impractical when you’re making meals for two so we’re both aiming for 600. My ‘cycle’, such as it is since menopause started, often gives me water-retention which will add to how much I weigh.

Even so, I’m eating less than I used to overall so I’d have expected some reduction. This last week I finally started to see something other than ’74′ on the scales. It could just be that I’ve managed to get a few walks in on the treadmill.

So it’s slow going. I’m not going to give it up, though. Partly because I want to support Paul, partly because it does have some unexpected benefits. For one thing, I sleep better at the end of a fast day. For another, my digestive system feels a lot happier. It’s easier to avoid alcohol when Paul does too. I like soup but Paul isn’t keen on it, yet will eat it on fast days. When I do eat something hi-cal, I want it to be something nice so I’m not as tempted by crappy food.

Now that we’re in the habit and have worked out which days of the week are best for fasting, it’s surprisingly easy to stick to. And if I do eventually lose some weight I’ll regard it as a bonus.

On Hold

Life at the moment is all work and recovering from work-related neck and hand RSI. To meet my deadline I’m working four days then taking one off, and on the day off and evenings occupying myself in ways that don’t make my back or hands worse.

There’s not much that doesn’t. I can go shopping, walk on the treadmill, watch tv/dvds and cook, but even these have limits. My lower back is acting up a bit and doesn’t like me sitting down to watch tv for long hours and my hands aren’t too keen on chopping lots of veges. I can’t walk on the treadmill all day and there’s only so much shopping you can do before you start buying stuff for the sake of it.

I’m sure there are lots of people who’d love to spend their time doing just one of those four things, but even doing all four I get bored pretty quickly. I need to make stuff. So I end up writing endless project lists, buying materials for making stuff, coming up with new project ideas, and inevitably cracking and doing a bit of crafting anyway.

I’ve been mostly good this time. The flanelette blanket sits waiting for a bit of sewing machine time:

I haven’t tried my new Sunna heddle yet, not even with the perle cotton I bought on eBay:

I also bought this big batch of embroidery floss on eBay for $31:

And wound it onto pegs:

And put the short pieces onto cards:

I’ve allowed myself a little bit of embroidery time in the evenings, so I’ve made gradual progress on the Flaming Kitty:

And I’ve woven more of the Paua Shell Ruanna when my neck wasn’t too sore as it doesn’t bother my hands:

And some of the cooking has been a bit creative:

Of course, once my deadline passes and I have more time for craft, I know I’ll end up suddenly floundering with indecision, unable to choose which project to tackle first. And they aren’t the only tasks wanting attention. The weeds in the garden are evolving into new giant species, I haven’t done any family history research in ages, and I have a half work/half fun overseas trip to organise.

Craft Day: Before, During & After

On Friday, after writing the last post, I got stuck into a few side projects I’d started then put aside. I made good progress on making map coasters and turning some embroidery hoops into frames, then opened a template I created ages ago for a portable rigid heddle loom that could be laser cut from an A4 sheet of acrylic, and I tweaked it and managed to fit in a heddle.

I also made these cookies:

That night I gathered all my inkle looms and The Weaver’s Inkle Pattern Directory around the tv armchairs so I could dabble and read. Like other kinds of weaving, it always seems there’s a mountain of techniques still to learn. I decided I wanted to at least get the pick-up band done and off the loom so I can try a few new methods.

Saturday was Craft Day, and we had a lovely, relaxing afternoon. At the end of a long, chatty lunch I brought out a quilt project, then after a rather bad attempt to teach crochet to the host’s daughter (I was trying to reverse everything because she’s left-handed and I’m not and, well, I just find knitting easier to explain) I moved on to a test portrait of a friend. Here is an in-progress shot:

When it got too dark I switched to the pick-up inkle band. I made a right mess of it and had to unweave half of what I’d done. Pick-up requires focus, which is frustrating as inkle band weaving is the most portable and could replace sock knitting as my out-and-about craft. I kept thinking there must be an easier way to do pick-up. My head spun with ideas of additional overlapping heddles and such…

On Sunday I finished the map coasters, continued with the embroidery hoop frames, and spent a few hours on the pick-up inkle band. I also followed a link I found on Pinterest to a wood turner who makes inkle looms and found a curious heddle with extra slots designed to make pick-up bands easier.

Well, that made me sit up and take notice. I followed a link to the weaver, Susan Foulkes, who designed it, then watched a Youtube demo video. In the video the heddles are plastic and called the ‘Sunna’, so I googled them and found they were made in Sweeden by STOORSTĂ…LKA.

Needless to say, one of these is now winging its way to me. I’m wondering if this means inkle weaving is my next temporary obsession. My fixations on the Bond and sewing both involved me coming up with modifications and new tools. Perhaps I’ll finally get around to making a tape loom out a wooden magazine file, and there’s that laser cut acrylic loom template sitting on my hard drive.

What Next?

So many projects, craft and work, were due by last weekend that I find myself at a bit of a loose end. It’s not that I don’t have anything to continue with – work will be pretty hectic for the next six weeks and I have plenty more craft projects waiting in my hobby to-do-list. The trouble is I don’t know which craft project to tackle next.

  • I could continue sewing. After all, the machine and overlocker are still set up on the dining table downstairs and it would be nice to try out my new dress form. I’ve also snaffled one of Paul’s old shirts to make a pattern from. And there are some bag projects waiting in the wings.
  • I’ve done hardly any weaving lately. The ruanna project on my table loom that I set up for a demonstration nearly a year ago still isn’t finished. There’s also a pick-up inkle band that I started for the same demo, and I wanted to work through more inkle bands from The Weaver’s Inkle Pattern Directory.
  • The photo frame necklace needs paintings to fill the frames.

  • It’s been years since I did any bookbinding and an artist I gave a few sketchbooks to would love some more. The work she has done in them is adorable. Nothing like an appreciative recipient to bring extra joy to the process of creating!

  • The silver clay kit that Paul gave me for Christmas hasn’t been tried yet. I was waiting for cooler weather for firing. It’s plenty cool enough now.

  • I still haven’t made any progress sorting out our photo albums.

  • There are a couple of experimental and home decor projects I want to do, including map coasters, framing some embroidery, solar ink printing and making a shrinky dink weaving reed.
    So much to do! What to choose? This weekend we’re having another Craft Day so I’m eyeing the projects that are the most portable and least messy. That could be the shirt pattern, inkle bands, photo frame inserts and a bookbinding project that doesn’t require glue. I could also work on the portrait I’m painting and the flannel quilt I’m stitching.

    Perhaps I should concentrate on getting some WIPs finished. Or knock off some small projects that have been hanging around. Or take something to Craft Day that I can teach the host’s daughter, who has reached the age where she likes to join in.

    Or maybe I’ll just load up the car with materials and tools for everything on the list that’s portable and see what catches my interest on Craft Day.

    Hot & Bothered

    We’ve had a crazy number of days of 30+ degree weather, and have a couple more in the high 30s to go before the relief of a cool change arrives. Apparently it was the hottest summer on record. I have to keep reminding myself that it’s officially autumn now.

    The weird thing about this is that we haven’t had a run of 40+ degree days as we’ve had in the past. A few years back Adelaide had a crazy long run of 40+ degree days. So it could be a lot worse. But it still feels wrong.

    Maybe, for me, it feels worse because I was right about hot flushes and summer being a nightmare combination.

    I’ve been wondering why the heck we built my workroom on the first floor facing northwest. (The answer, of course, is that up was the cheapest and easiest way we could extend.) When you go upstairs you ascend into a layer of hot air at about chest height. When you then walk into the workroom it’s like walking into a sauna minus the humidity. I can run the aircon, but with a heatwave this long I’d have to run it night and day to make the room usable. There’s also something wrong about burning so much energy and ultimately contributing to the global warming that’s probably causing the extreme summers we’re having.

    So instead I’ve moved into the big open plan lounge and kitchen room at the other end of the house. The aircon there is stronger, and the crazy compressed straw insulation the original architect built into this place works its magic. If I could sleep down there, I would. In fact, it might come to that in the next few days.

    Paul was off doing vintage car racing things on the weekend. I had four days by myself. I took my computer downstairs and continued working on the Bond, making good progress on both. I’ll have knitted garments to post pics of, once the weather cools down enough to model them.