Monday, December 23, 2013

Holidays, Family, and Sewing

     I know it has been a while since I posted a blog--things have been really crazy around here! I promise I'll try to be better about it. I have a job now, so that obviously takes up quite a bit of time. I got hired as a Pet Training Instructor at the local Petsmart and started there in August. I finished up my accreditation in November and so far have started teaching two of my own classes (instead of student teaching/shadowing). I absolutely love it! I love working with animals and seeing how happy people are as a result of class. They really do see a difference in their dogs' behavior after these classes. Not only is my job incredibly fun, it is one that is going to be 'move-able' which is incredibly helpful for a military spouse. I also love that the classes themselves appeal to military members and their families since they are consistent across all Petsmarts--meaning if you take a beginner class at one and end up moving you won't end up with some overlap or anything if you take an intermediate class at a Petsmart elsewhere. It is all part of the same program. I am also taking a class with another one of the trainers with Amos so that I can experience the entire six-week training course as a student. Not only that, but because we have basically started over with Amos since he became a stubborn butt-head when I broke my leg.

    In my free time I have been working on training these goofballs. Eventually I'd like to be able to use them as example 'students' for my classes. Amos is finally calming down and is almost two years old. Bruce still gets those spurts of crazy energy that make us wonder if he has found some caffeine, but it is because he is still a puppy. We think he was born somewhere between February and March. Amos has also gotten quite large. He seems to have stopped growing, but it took him about 18 months to get there. He is up to 75 pounds! All of his features have filled out and we think he is a Heeler/Greyhound mix based on his markings, shape and personality. Bruce is a bit of a mystery since he was about 35 pounds when we got him around 5-6 months old and now that he is almost a year he hasn't even hit 45 pounds. We originally thought he was a lab mix but with his small size and fluffy body he is a mystery.

     I have finally gotten around to decorating the house! It only took me about a year, but as my mom pointed out that is pretty quick considering it took her five years to decorate their house after buying it. I took advantage of a sale at Michael's that had all picture frames at 40% off plus a 20% off your entire purchase including sales items coupon to stock up on all the picture frames I needed. So now our house looks a bit more like a home and less like a hospital--but not quite. I wish I could repaint all the horribly white walls (whoever thought it was a good idea to have white floors, white walls, white ceilings, white doors, and white blinds throughout the house needs a lesson from an interior decorator). If we were going to be living here for a few years I would have done some painting but we could be here for as little as 18 months so it is not worth having to paint them back to white. I have family and wedding photos hung up in the living room as well as some prints from artists that regularly visited DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge back home, a beautiful piece that Renee made for us, and a clock that TJ's mom gave us for Christmas this year. When they were visiting for Thanksgiving she noticed we had no clocks except for the microwave and stove because we always just checked our phones. Now that it is up, I use it a lot!

    This year we hosted TJ's family for Thanksgiving, he also had them visit for Thanksgiving while he was in tech school. It seems to be becoming a tradition, which works out for me. It was my first time hosting a Thanksgiving dinner, so I was a bit nervous. We had nine people total in our tiny house (TJ's family + two airmen from his work + us). We had everybody contribute something, but it was a bit chaotic with our tiny kitchen. We picked up a folding table from Big Lots and we already happened to have enough chairs. We did discover that we were a bit low on the amount of serving utensils we own for large dishes. I used the holiday as a chance to use all of the place-mats that my grandma made for our wedding centerpiece setups.

    'The boys,' TJ and his brother Ryan, were in charge of the turkey and it turned out amazing. Turkey is my favorite meat--so I am always looking forward to Thanksgiving and its leftovers. I put together the cranberry sauce, fruit salad, mashed potatoes, and gravy.

     We had a lot of fun with the family while they were in town. We took them down to the boardwalk, played quite a few board games, and TJ went Black Friday shopping with his sister. They also seemed to enjoy the warm weather!

     I have also done some decorating for Christmas. We got a four foot tree from the Airman's attic since we hadn't had a tree with our pets before. I put it on a table covered in foil to prevent the cat from messing with it, and so far the dogs have ignored it. The stockings in the photo were mailed (full) from my mom. She sewed those two. We are going to be opening up stockings with my family over Skype since it is a tradition we've always had to open them all at the same time, usually while watching movies that we received as gifts that year.

     I also made some stockings for our furbabies. These definitely helped with my learning to sew that is still definitely in progress and gave me practice. Sewing around curves was a bit of challenge for me, but I am happy with how they turned out. I definitely can tell that by the third one I was improving greatly. It is definitely the most symmetrical and has the least bunching. Once they are full of gifts the imperfections won't be noticeable anyways. I made two bones--one for each dog, and one fish for Agent Zero. I think they are adorable! I may embroider their names on the fleece as well.

        I found the dog and fish templates here, a website that I will likely be visiting again since they have quite a few free projects.  

     My other project that I finished recently was actually a Secret Santa gift for a co-worker. I drew the only guy participating, so it took me a while to figure out what to get him. Shopping for men can be so difficult. I knew he wanted to be a firefighter--so I decided a blanket would be perfect if I could find any firefighter fabric. I was originally looking for something a bit more 'grown-up.' Who knew it would be so difficult to find fabric! I didn't want to order any since I wanted to make sure it had time to get here with time for me to sew it. I had no luck at Hancock or Jo-Ann even though they both had massive amounts of fleece. I ended up finding firetruck fleece at Hobby Lobby. I am not particularly happy with how it turned out, but my co-worker loves it and it definitely works as a blanket.
     The only reason I am unhappy with it is because it is obvious that I am new to sewing. The blanket is not perfectly rectangular (it does not fold neatly in half). This is because I have never cut such a large piece and basically just need practice and possibly a larger cutting mat or cutting table. It isn't horribly noticeable or anything. The 'opening'--the section that has to be sewn at the end is also noticeably not sewn straight and you can really see the stitching on the back, but again that is something that just improves with practice. 

     I have been trying to get more sewing practice in so that I can start doing more difficult projects and get faster at sewing. I was joking with my mom that the part I hate is ironing and she hates cutting so we really need to live near each other so we can do projects together and do the part that the other hates. 

      My current project is Bree's baby quilt. It is almost entirely done, though! It is all sewn, but I am hand-quilting it. I normally wouldn't hand quilt a gift for a co-worker but I really need to learn how to do it and am enjoying the practice. It is really relaxing--except when I sit and do it for five hours and then notice that my arms, shoulder, and neck are sore. The stitches obviously aren't all the exact same length or spaced perfectly, but that is why I need the practice. I think the fact that I have done a lot of cross-stitch has helped. I am also quilting every block with a different pattern so that I can get some experience doing different things. I figure a baby quilt is the perfect quilt to do that with since babies love to touch things. I will post another blog with pictures when the quilt is finished. I was hoping to have it done by Christmas but my shoulders are telling me I need a break. I would not be seeing her by then anyways, but it will be done very soon! I only have about 6 more blocks (there are 16 total) and the binding. My mom helped teach me how to sew when she visited this fall. She flew down and taught me how to use my new sewing machine (a birthday present) as well as set up two baby quilts. Bree's is one and the other that we have cut-out and ready to start is for TJ's cousin. 

 My upcoming projects, and hopefully corresponding blogs, are:
  • Kathi's baby quilt
  • Jessica's baby quilt
  • A quilt for TJ's mom
  • A lunchbox and pillowcases for Jeanna
  • Pillowcases for Renee 
  • A pincushion for my mom
  • Digital scrapbooks for my wedding, Dargo, trip(s) to San Antonio, and TJ's first marathon, along with printing the Raider one I have completed to give as gifts and to keep in my home
  • finishing up some cross-stitch projects and decorating a bit more with those and my art/nature photos
  • posting about my weight loss, getting into shape, and some of the delicious recipes I've been making
  • Possibly posting some mini-review blogs where I talk about site-seeing and visiting local attractions and restaurants
  • I am also planning on making some time to volunteer-contribute to since I use that site a TON when doing ancestry research