Saturday, January 31, 2009

Organizing & Stuff

I'm organizing my craft room. Without actual fixtures to sort things into, I didn't get much done for the first month we lived here. And, since things always cost more than you expect, they're out of the budget for awhile. (Plus, the room really needs painting. It looks like an Easter basket threw up in there.) Then John got the bright idea to take the milk crates he collected in college (and has moved with over & over) and zip-tie them together.

yarnstorage2After (click any pic to see bigger).
It still needs to be organized better, but now everything is out of boxes. There are some tools to find and some books still to bring over from the old house, but it's so much better than a stack of totes!

I'm identifying yarn that I can give away, and some that I think I can sell. A bag of thrifted yarn is already set aside for SIL C, since she has a greater use for it than I do. (It's enough for a baby blanket, which she can crochet pretty quickly; I've promised myself to never knit a blanket of any size!)

I've also managed to empty and sort out several other boxes. I have one little unit with plastic drawers; one is set aside for tools and one for punches. Now I'm going to see exactly how many hole punches I actually have!

slouchy beretFinally, a little knitting action. I'm still working on Christmas socks, but my goddaughter, Sarah, walks to work every night and asked for a hat, so I think the sock recipients will understand why I stopped to attempt the "slouchy beret" she asked for. Her head is much smaller than mine, so I couldn't tell if it achieved the right amount of slouch. It's in the mail today and we'll just have to see.

Sarah: don't forget - if it fits, I want pictures!

Yarn: Paton's Classic Merino in "That's Pink," held doubled.
Pattern: Laurie Perry's Super-simple fast and easy chunky hand-knit beret!
Needles: 11 & 13 (I'm pretty sure)

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Thursday, January 29, 2009

Another blankedy-blank zombie

Almost exactly a year ago, reports came out that a fairly well-known (in some circles) etsy shop owner and designer of sock patterns had passed away. There was a lot of attention: some of her patterns were sold to benefit charity; I think there may have even been collections taken up to send to her family. People she'd owned product to were told there was no money to refund to them, and most of them just felt so badly that this had happened on top of everything else, that they walked away. Those that were still upset were told to get over it -- the family had been through enough.

A couple of months later, a fairly popular yarn dyer in New Mexico, probably inspired by the outpouring of love for the above situation, sent out emails - purportedly from family members - announcing that she was very ill. Then a few days later, that she'd died. There was no money to refund outstanding orders, and they couldn't replace the shabbily-dyed yarn others had actually received. Oh, but we do have stock in the garage and it's for sale, cheap. (image source)

People called shenanigans almost immediately. Sleuthing turned up new business names in the works, with the same address and phone number. Then the zombie dyer was spotted at the bank. I wrote about it a little bit on the old blog. The dyer created a couple of "sock puppet" accounts and posted as her sister (which she didn't have) and a family friend, but finally just gave up and went away.

Weeeel. Remember that first woman? The one whose tragic demise gave the zombie dyer the idea in the first place? Still alive.

I'm not saying more than this, because the sleuths that figured it out are going to be putting together a nice big stack of proof and sharing that online in the very near future. It's been leaked in a couple of places, but I won't give any clues right now. I've seen enough evidence with my own two eyes to be 100% convinced that this person is still alive or - also terrible - that someone has stolen her identity. But the former is the more likely explanation.

Oh, except to give a bit of advice: if you're going to fake your death on the internet, get a new email address.

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Saturday, January 24, 2009

Bright Spots in a Couple of Dreary Days

It probably goes without saying that the last few days have been tough for me. I'm a worrier, and I worry most about money. So the thought of being without a job soon... worrisome! I've been working on my portfolio the last couple of days, getting it up-to-date, and posting my resume. I got very, very down last night, but felt better after some uplifting words from some email buddies and a good night's sleep.

felt mouse 09 calendarAfter several hugs, John told me that I'd actually gotten some mail. What a wonderful treat from such a talented person. Jennifer, aka The Felt Mouse, sends out little New Years suprises to a small group of people, and this is the second year I've counted myself among that lucky few! I totally want to steal the idea... not what she sends, but the fact that she has this fun mailing every year. Maybe I could start small and manage holiday cards of some sort?

This is such a fun calendar! It's totally sassy and really just adorable. (I think August is my favorite: "Look Dewy and Avoid Stinking.") Check out her blog post about the calendars -- she links to where she had them printed, and there is a link to some other ideas.

nby ad ikwinter08This morning, I got a nice surprise in my email. I did an ad for one of my freelance clients and it appeared in a magazine (Interweave Knits) this winter. My subscription ran out after the fall issue (which included another ad).

First of all, in the middle of all that's going on, I completely forgot about the ad. Second, if I had remembered, I wasn't up to paying for the magazine just to get a copy of an advertisement! Last night, when I started working on an electronic portfolio, I remembered the ad and posted a begging email to the group I referred to up at the top there. Koren corrected the issue (I thought it was Winter 09 for some reason) and provided the page number, and Andrea scanned the whole page for me and loaded it to our group album! I scanned the ad (shown in miniature here - click to see it bigger) and popped it straight into my portfolio.

But wait, it's not over yet! Getting Jennifer's calendar in the mail reminded me that I'm a terrible correspondent. I owe letters to so many people! I haven't sent out Christmas cards since my mom died eleven years ago (maybe once?). I was feeling kind of headache-y, and thought some time on the couch with a Miss Marple DVD and a glass of cherry Kool-Aid would do the trick, and figured I'd get all of my address books combined and updated. (They are in a scary state, believe me!)

Somewhere around the letter T, I thought, "you know, I really need to do something about new address announcements. I really do." (We sent out emails to many folks, but have to have missed many, plus we don't have addys for everyone.) One of the reasons for the delay has been a kind of designer's block: I want them to be kind of cool. But, considering all that's going on, they can't cost too much either.

my image on moo home page 24jan09This afternoon, I knew exactly how I would do them (mostly): Moo Mini Cards, with a cool image on the front and our new address on the back, attached somehow to a regular folded note. A flash of inspiration: Google Earth. I put a little pin at the old house, and a pin in the new house, and took a screen shot. When I went to Moo to order the cards,* I was shocked to see one of my own pictures on the Moo home page, and again when that link was clicked. It's like a chain. That last link leads to this page, which, down at the bottom of the page, leads to my button tie tutorial. This is the kind of little thing that can just add some extra sparkle to the day. I'm thinking about including it somehow in my portfolio. The question is... it will eventually lead back to my blog, if someone tries hard enough. So, I'm still considering it.

Speaking of mailing: If you think I should have your mailing address, feel free to send it to the email account linked to this profile. SIL C: if you're reading this, I need to compare notes on family addresses.

Finally - Should we be connected on LinkedIn? Drop me a note!

*I got half of the cards with the Google Earth image, and half with this picture of Neo that John took over Christmas.

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Thursday, January 22, 2009

Upside Down

A quick lunchtime post...

Earlier this week, I learned that I'll soon be out of a job, probably sometime in early February. With the state of the company, I've been waiting for this day to come for some time -- our team has been untouched by the cuts that have been going on all around us for months. Because of the nature of my contract, I'm the one to go this round, but it has nothing to do with my performance; indeed, my boss has been trying to prolong this reality as long as possible.

I'm taking advantage of having this much notice to get my resume updated and am earnestly looking for a new opportunity in my field (web content management and/or training). In addition to getting my resume up on Monster and CareerBuilder, etc., I'm on LinkedIn, and have been spending my breaks and evenings getting my profile updated. I'm also trying to get some endorsements, and one of the best ways to do that (besides just asking for them) is to write them for others. I found a great little gem that some of you might get a kick out of: linekdIn endorsement generator. I think it's meant in all seriousness, but I'm serious when I say: Do not use this to create endorsements! There is no punctuation, it does not recognize gender, and some of the phrasing sounds trite. However, it is fun, and can - occasionally - produce a phrase that will at least trigger a kernel of an idea you can put to use.

I am grateful for the folks that reviewed my resume for me and made suggestions, as well as for all the good wishes and prayers coming from friends and family.

In other news
The only grocery store on my best route home is just dreadful (of course). The fact that it's small and doesn't have the greatest produce - or general selection - isn't a deal-breaker; we can do our main shopping a distance away at a Meijer or Kroger. For convenient stops on the way home, however, it finally became a no-go last night.

I stopped to get a couple of things, including kitchen garbage bags. Store brand, because that's almost all we buy lately (I also got hit with a pay cut earlier this month), the box was stickered $7.49, but rang up at $7.99. I pointed out the discrepancy to the clerk, who turned, peeled off the sticker and said, "Well, it's wrong."

I told her that the scanner law in Michigan required that if the scanner rings up higher than posted price, the posted price had to be honored, but if she didn't want to do that, she could just remove the bags from my order. She stood there for close to a minute, debating, then deleted the bags and re-rang them at the labeled price, scowling the entire time. When the credit card receipt printed out, she slammed it down on the counter with a pen.

One thing is really sad... they have seriously excellent bacon at the meat counter. That I'm going to miss.

Quick response to Jess, and anyone else that's wondering: the $5 bonus applies if you complete the transaction. Then they owe you the difference plus 10x the difference up to $5. I only ever attempt that when the staff at a store seems like they could comprehend. In this case, we've dealt with their quasi-shady dealings in the past and I knew it wouldn't do any good. Once, we had a store manager (at a Best Buy of all places) threaten to call the police on us. So a small-town grocery store wasn't likely to comply. (I also only press it if I don't notice the error until after I've paid.)

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Monday, January 19, 2009


On of my favorite bits of the first Harry Potter book was when Hagrid gave Harry an album full of photos of Harry's parents that he'd collected -- it made me cry. I love photos. I don't care if they're physical or digital, in albums, framed or in boxes; they've always made me happy. Conversely, the lack of photos or loss of them is heartbreaking.

Only baby pic of my momPrecious photos can be lost in a variety of ways; some unavoidable, some unforgivable. Sometimes, there weren't many (any) to start with: my mom was so poor growing up that there was one photograph of her until she reached school age. At that time, her older siblings were working and purchased cameras. Disasters such as fires or flood can wipe out memories. When you store files digitally, and don't backup the files (or do, and lose the disks), and have a hard drive crash, it can be heart-breaking.

Sarah March 9 1999_2The hard drive thing... that's happened to me a couple of times, and it's agonizing, especially when you're sure you backed up at least some of the pictures to CD - but can't find them. During a recent trip back to the old house to continue retrieving stuff, I found a stack of miscellaneous CDs. In the mess was a disk of pictures of my goddaughter, Sarah, dating back to the weekend we met. I thought some of those were lost forever. While we IMed back & forth yesterday, I converted them all to .jpg and uploaded them to Flickr, so she could download them if she wanted.

If those photos had not been recovered, I would have been sad, but not devastated, because I still have boxes and albums full of pictures of Sarah. A greater treasure was found this week, while we were visiting John's grandmother.

As far as we know, all the albums containing pictures of John that were in his childhood home were destroyed - intentionally. The only pictures we have of John as a child are three (kind of crappy) copies, plus another that was roughly chopped out of a background. I honestly can't imagine how hard it has been for John to see the wealth of photographs that I have, not only hundreds of pictures from my childhood, but of other generations as well. I got it in my head to take a page out of Hagrid's book, and write to some other family members, but haven't gotten a chance yet.

John - 1979We were finally able to connect with one of John's grandmothers on Friday. We'd tried to get with her before Christmas to explain why we weren't coming, but things didn't work out. I've missed her - she's in her late 80s, fiercely independent and funny. We chatted for a while, then went for lunch. On a whim, I took a peek inside her "picture room" to see if there were any of John, and we spotted a couple (including the one to the left). She agreed to let me take them off the wall, scan them and then return them. I'm returning them one day this week, after work, with some brownies (like these brownies, but fresh). I scanned them at the highest resolution possible, and popped them back in their frames immediately.

In the near future, we're going to go back and sift through the tons of boxes she has to find more. I'm toying with the idea of taking the scanner and laptop with us, so she doesn't have to feel anxious about parting with her images, even temporarily.

Forget the buried gold doubloons. I'll take this kind of treasure any time! (Okay, I wouldn't turn down a chest full of gold...)

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Sunday, January 11, 2009

Recycling Yarn - Back at Home

Back at home, pick apart the seams (there is a kind of trick to it, so if you snip the right spot it will unzip, bam!). Find the cast off spot (usually nearest the neck) and pick that apart, then unravel. I still strongly recommend that you check out more expansive tutorials, but here are some tips that may help. Edited to add note: this makes quite a mess of snipped threads, binding edges and broken strands. Be prepared to vacuum/sweep!

recycled big cotton sweater greenJust for this blog entry, I went to a thrift store and picked up a couple of sweaters to rip apart "on camera." The one that had the best potential was this green turtlneck, a 100% cotton J Crew men's LT. (See part one for info. on how I pick out sweaters.) This sweater had HUGE seams, which made it perfect for show & tell.

You need: your sweater and a pair of small, sharp scissors. As you unravel the yarn, you can simply manually roll it into a ball, or you can use a tool: a swift, yarn/ball winder or a niddy noddy. You can make a niddy noddy by hammering 2 nails on a plank, a set distance apart. I think the nails on my "poor man's niddy noddy" were either 36 or 52 inches apart. (Helpful if you want to know approximately how many yards are in your skein.) I only have partial pics of mine in action, like this one or Charlie trying to "help."

IDing where to snipCarefully snip the seam threads. If you can find the right spot in a seam, you can snip one thread, then much of the seam (if not all) will just zip! right out.

On either side of the seam you'll find a row of stitches. Sometimes they're in a slightly different thread type or color, which is very helpful, but don't count on it. One side looks like a row of Vs and one looks like a row of vertical dashes. The first arrow is pointing to the "dashes."

IDing where to snip2The second arrow is pointing to a less than ideal image of the row of Vs.

snip seamAlign the sweater with an end of a seam nearest you, so the dashes are on the right and cut as close to the end as you can. (Sometimes cuffs are sewn slightly differently.) Snip the thread in one or two places, as shown.

starting to unzipTug the seam apart a little. Pull on the string to the right and it should just unzip. If it doesn't, try picking out a couple more stitches. If that doesn't work, the seam may have been sewn in a non-standard way.

unzipI'm sure it makes me a total geek when I admit that this gives me a bit of a high: finding a cooperative seam, making one or two snips, and then pulling one string to have the whole thing come apart. There are always the ends to work out, but this method speeds things up a bit.

recycling piecesContinue snipping and zipping until you've disassembled the sweater. (Obviously a different sweater!)

Next, find the cast-off edge (should always be the top, since garments are traditionally knit bottom up). You may need to pick apart the first row -- factory-made garments are often bound off with thread. Then start unraveling.

recycled yarn basket full capacity2Most of the sweaters I buy for unraveling are hand-wash only, so I don't bother with that until after it's unraveled. If the yarn isn't stinky, I just ball it up and work from there. If I need to know the yardage (I hope to buy a yarn meter soon) or wash it, I wind it into loops (you can use a swift, a niddy noddy, or a plank with a nail in either end), and tie it off in 2-3 places. In loop form, the yarn can be soaked for awhile, then hung up to dry. This also removes the kinks. Once it's dry, I twist it into skeins and store it until I need to use it. At that time, I wind it back into balls.

This picture shows most of the balls (a couple are missing) from less than $20 worth of thrift store sweaters.

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Friday, January 9, 2009

Recycling Yarn - Part One

"Anonymous" asked a good question, and I thought I'd answer it as a blog entry.

How do you know a sweater would be good to do this with? Where do you get the yarn-winder-thingy?
Most straightforward one first: I got my yarn/ball-winder from It's a Royal brand ball-winder - the first one shown (I don't know what the difference is between that and the second one shown). Saved my sanity more than once. (Some people very much enjoy winding balls by hand -- I am not one of them.) I think they're also available via Wal-mart, Michael's, etc. I used Joann's site because I had a 40%-off coupon. Coupons rule. (The other thing shown there is a swift, which also comes in handy.)

There are some good tutorials online -- here's one to get you started. If you're on Ravelry, there is a group called Thrifty Knitters that has a small collection of tutes listed - for recycling yarn, building your own swifts, etc. - as well as fairly regular discussion on the recycling. You can also enter yarn into your stash as "recycled," which I love.

How I look for sweaters to unravel:
I also look for sweaters to felt, but will not include info. about that, because it makes things a little too convoluted.

cotton cashmere shrug labelMy method is really not very scientific. I want to end up with colors I can use, fiber I like to knit with, and a reasonable gauge/weight. They're all sorted by color in most of the stores I go into, so I can skip the colors I don't like much if I'm in a hurry. Here's a typical process:

1. Run my hand along the sweaters in a particular color, pausing to feel the fabric. If it's not too pilly and appeals to me, I'll pull the collar back to check the fiber content.

100% wool may be good, if it's soft. Again, I want to end up with yarn I want to use. For knitting, I have no use for scratchy yarn. I usually skip 100% acrylic, preferring blends, but will consider 100% if it's a great color, soft and in good shape. I pray for something with merino wool, cashmere or silk in the blend.

2. Check the weight of the yarn. Look for stitch definition - if it's really thin, I don't bother with it. You can do really well with laceweights if you like that kind of thing, but I'm not into that now, so I look for at least DK weight yarns.

3. Check the seams. If they're serged together, it's out of the running for unraveling, because it's been cut to fit and is simply a series of short strings sewn together at the sides. If the seams are actually seamed (see the tute linked above), it's in the running for going home.

4. Check the price. Some of the thrift stores around here have crazy prices. I typically won't pay more than $4-$5 for a sweater; bonus if it's under $2 (I like to look for the tag color of week or day in the shops that have half-off specials).

Part two: Back at home, coming soon

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Thursday, January 8, 2009

my Halloween Links

We have Comcast to thank for the disappearance of the site. (So much for their "smooth transition" for movers!) I'm working on getting the space reactivated and the content restored.

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Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Hats in Action

R's Hat in ActionLast week, I received a photo text message from my pal Jdub, with a pic of her stepdaughter, R, modeling her new hat. (All images used with permission.) Later that day, R called me to tell me, first of all, how "impressed" she was with the packaging (she IS her father's daughter; he was fascinated and I had to explain how I did it), and of course to thank me for the hat. I'm glad I took off the braid!

Pattern: Meathead Hat by Larissa Brown, from the book Knitalong.
Yarn: Lion Brand Jiffy Thick & Quick in Raspberry

Thorpe Hats in ActionOver the weekend, I received a message with this picture in it, and was so very relieved to find out that R's brothers liked their hats! (Tween & teen boys are not easy to predict.)

Pattern: Thorpe by Kirsten Kapur. Since I can't crochet at all I didn't do the crochet edging, but instead picked-up-and-knit all the way around, then cast off.

Yarn: Lion Brand Jiffy Solid in Red, Orange & Silver.

What the future holds
Since '08 was the year of handcrafted gifts for the kids, '09 will be store bought (as long as finances allow (I found out yesterday that I got a 20% pay cut)). After that, I figure I'll only do knitted (or sewn) gifts for the older kids by request. (My goddaugher, who is 20, asks for things now.)

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Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Little Toy Drawer

toy drawerSince I decided to give all 3 commenters a prize for last week's Seek n Find "contest," I figured I needed to get all the little toys together. (Every time I needed them, I couldn't find the darn bag.) Now they all live in a drawer together. Colorful, but most important, I know where they are!

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Monday, January 5, 2009

Recycling My Way

04jan09 recycled yarnFour thrift store sweaters = ~$10. That's a lot yarn for ten bucks!

1. Gray cotton/cashmere (60/40) shrug
2. Beige linen/cotton (55/45) women's 1X sweater
3. Peachy/orange sweater (acrylic/cotton/wool/nylon/mohair/spandex)
4. Red/orange sweater (acrylic/wool/something)

The last two will become a shawl -- just need another yarn to separate the colors a little.

We've had quite the adventures attempting to thrift over my vacation. We thought it would be fun to map out any of the thrift stores within a reasonable driving distance and hit a particular area each time. Day 1 was pretty good; I already wrote about that. While we were out that day, I noticed signs on at least one shop's door about a New Year's Day sale, so I figured that meant other thrift stores would be open. That day, we drove all over Ann Arbor, where I found that I never want to make that drive alone (convoluted much?), but nothing else because every store was closed (if it existed).

Day 3 we had a little more luck. Only because we found an unlisted store on our way to another one that didn't exist anymore. I found sweaters 2 & 3 in the list above; and, at the one store on our list that was open, John found a practically new vacuum designed for homes with pets for $9. A $3.99 belt later, and it works like a charm. (It's a current model and retails for $199.) That was it for our adventures.

On Saturday, I met up with Anita, halfway between our homes to catch up, and hit a couple of thrift stores while we were at it. Store #1: I’ve joked before about pricers in some of these places being on crack, but this place gave me sticker shock! The first thing I saw was a sleeveless sweater for $8. I checked a few more, and they were just as insane. It sucked the will of digging through the rack right out of me! I asked Anita if she knew the Value World that wasn’t too far away, and she did. She also knew of another store near it, so we headed there first.

It was the weirdest thrift store I think I’ve ever been in. They had a big “half off everything” sign in the window...except that it’s half off everything all the time. So they price everything for twice what they want and people think they’re getting a deal. I did manage to find a couple of things I wanted: a bread box (I’m getting tired of keeping the bread in the fridge, but Maggie has recently decided that bread is the best thing ever) for $1.50 (real price); a really nice wooden bowl, priced too high, really, but I collect them and liked the shape; and a pumpkin carving book.

We got to the register, and there was quite a delay. I was really annoyed at first, but ended up being so relieved because I glanced around and spotted a display on the counter selling calendars. I flipped it over, and there was the address of the charity I used to work for, with their new name. They apparently have branched out and added new stores, but with different names, to their enterprise. I asked the clerk if this was the company that owned the store, and they said yes. I said, “Oh, no. I don’t give them any of my money.” And walked out. (Anita hadn’t found anything.)

At our third and final stop, I did finally find a couple of things! Another sweater to unravel (#4); a nice small, green platter and a tablecloth with an acorn print that Anita spotted for me, which may remain a tablecloth, but may also be turned into throw pillows.

All in all, a mixed bag of experiences.

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Sunday, January 4, 2009

Laundry Day

laundry day ikea bagNo picture of my actual laundry, but here is my ingenious transportation: IKEA bags. 69¢ ea. (or was it 59¢?). Three fit in the back of my car, and carry 1-2 weeks' worth of laundry. (I have the smaller bag for the detergent, dryers sheets and quarters.) The long straps make it a breeze to carry at least two bags in, and they fit squarely in the carts for easy packing after everything is folded.

Until this move, I don't remember ever using a laundromat, although I did love doing laundry at the dorm when I was in Grand Rapids. See, we were required to go to church, but I couldn't find a church I liked. So I volunteered to work Sunday mornings at the nursing home (my part-time job), and hid in the laundry room during the evening services. It was ideal: I could use every machine if I needed to, and no one ever looked in there. (They determined whether or not you were at church by seeing if your room was empty. Love the logic, but it made avoiding church simple.) I'd fill all the machines I needed, then sit down against the wall and read until it was time to transfer to the dryer, and then back to the book. Only problem was getting all my laundry back up the the third floor at once, but it was a small price to pay.

Now that I'm in the position to need a laundromat for a while, it's been an interesting adventure. First, I checked online, and saw that the closest coin-op had a low rating (but just one review). The next closest place had a higher rating, but by the same person (suspicious); however, it was in an area that we wanted to check out, so we made the drive. We discovered a fantastic grocery store, but an over-priced laundry with a way-too friendly owner/attendant. (He would not leave us alone the entire time.)

The next time, I opted to try the closer place with the lower rating, and found a bunch of older machines, but $1 a load cheaper and quite clean. My only complaint, as usual: the other customers. The first time, the non-smoking side was practically empty, with just myself and a woman ranting on her cell phone at full volume. This time, I went on Sunday morning, hoping to find the place empty. Surprise -- not so much. But not too terrible, either. A few minutes after I arrived, my least favorite kind of person (or one of them) arrived: Mr. Nextel, who got directions on how to do laundry via his push-to-talk phone at full volume. Not long after, a family arrived, just to use the dryers;* both parents with books to read, and one of two children with nothing to do except circle the place and ask when they'd be leaving.

Note to self: make sure your iPod is in your bag next time!

*I like to try and guess why people do this kind of thing. Either their dryer is broken or they line dry clothes in better weather. (I can't wait to get a clothes line, at least for things like towels.) When we went into the first place, the attendant asked us if we were just there to dry, so I guess it's a common occurrence.

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Thursday, January 1, 2009

Seek n' Find Bottles Drawing Results

Seek n Find - PrizeAw, heck. All three of you win. Send me addresses (I know I have gwensmom's). Contents will vary - one of you will get the bag pictured, and I'm off to make two more. (Technically, gwensmom won, because that's the # John picked.)

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