A Year of Projects: January’s Coasters

Yesterday, I figured out how to use my sewing machine. I’d used one before, in 7th grade sewing class, but since that was 17 years ago… I was a little rusty.

However, once my friend helped me put the bobbin holder thingy back in, I was up and running in what felt like no time at all. I sewed a few straight lines, clapped and squealed while my dog raised her eyebrows at me, and rushed out to the fabric store. My mission: supplies for these coasters.

As far as first projects go, they were simple enough that I could follow the instructions, and the end result was something more than just a piece of fabric with some thread running through it. I felt (and feel) accomplished. I can see the possibilities that this sewing machine has for me. Well, they aren’t the prettiest things in the world, but here’s my favorite part. You can tell which ones I made first and which I made last. I improved significantly as I went along, which is the point of this whole exercise!

My plan for today is to make a larger coaster/hot pad thing for casserole dishes. Every month, if I finish my project early, I can make more or make variations on that project while I plan next month’s.

January: coasters (done 1/5)

February: ?

January Project Update

I sewed a relatively straight line on my machine! My friend Natalie, who is an amazing human being, provided tech/text support and encouragement while I tried to figure out what all of these metal bits were. Important note: the sharp bits face up.

I’m just practicing lines for now, but later today I’m going to the fabric store. Maybe coasters by happy hour?

Over. The. Moon.

New Year’s Resolution(s)

I used to make resolutions that were really hard to keep: “Be nicer.” “Exercise more.” “Keep the house tidy.” For me (and for many others), these sorts of resolutions don’t work. They aren’t concrete enough, and there isn’t enough quantifiable evidence that you’re working on them to track. These are also the sorts of resolutions that you can make every single year because they are just the sorts of things we’d all like to do. They are squishy.

Last year, my resolution was to keep my email inbox clean. I read the emails I needed to, deleted the rest, and unsubscribed from listservs I no longer cared about. It was really, really satisfying. I kept it up all year, and I’m still doing it. I made it a habit, and that habit stuck.

This, I think, is the point of resolutions: to create habits that are (hopefully) life-long. This also rarely happens. It is actually really hard to stick to new habits and get rid of old ones. (Duh.)

My resolution for 2015 is this:

  1. Learn how to use the sewing machine I got from my mother-in-law (a few Xmases ago).
  2. Complete one new project a month. If I mess up, I have to start over again and redo it until it is complete. By the end of the year, I should have at least 12 completed projects.
  3. Start small (coasters) and work to something big (I’d love to make a dress, but we’ll see how the year goes).
  4. I will ask for help when I need it. I’m not allowed to give up. If I end up with twelve months of coasters, pot holders, an apron, and some curtains, it will have been a success.

Obviously, I’m going to share each month’s projects here, even the ugly parts. (Because that’s my other resolution: make more mistakes/let other people see my mistakes. You’re welcome.)

Did you make resolutions for 2014? Did you keep them? Did that influence your resolutions for this year?

Relaxation (and Vanilla Coconut Bath Bombs)

I have been so busy lately that “relax” is actually on my to do list. I’ve found that if I can relax while doing something mildly productive (like getting clean), I don’t feel guilty about it. (And yes, I understand how that statement reveals many of my neuroses.) I found this recipe about a month ago, and I’ve made it twice. In its original form, it’s great, but I tweaked it a little to suit my taste. It smells like coconut cream pie, and it makes your skin glow. I use one of these about 2 to 3 times a week. Grab your classiest plastic wine glass, turn on an audiobook about the history of American regional food, and relax (that’s how everyone does it, right?).

Vanilla Coconut Bath Bombs
adapted from Bakingdom

  • 1C baking soda
  • 1/2C citric acid (I found it at Sprouts, but any sort of crunchy granola store should have it in the bulk area–this is the stuff that makes Sour Patch Kids sour)
  • 1/2C cornstarch
  • 2T Epsom salts (don’t get this at the crunchy granola store–it’s $5 for 4lbs. at Walgreens)
  • 2T coconut oil
  • 5-6t liquid (to make these vanilla bath bombs, I used 3t water and 2t vanilla extract)
  • food coloring (optional, if you want them to look fancy)

Combine the baking soda, citric acid, cornstarch, and Epsom salts. Cut in the coconut oil with a fork (like it was butter in a cookie recipe). Add the liquid one teaspoon at a time. I added 5t this time, but I think I’ll only use 4t next time so they don’t poof so much while they dry. They will probably poof a little.
The desired texture is ever-so-slightly damp sand. Make sure your hands and molds are bone dry or you’ll make everything fizz prematurely. (Beware premature fizz.) Squish this firmly into the mold of your choice (ice cube trays work well, or chocolate molds). Let dry at least 4 hours before using.
To use, draw a nice hot bath and drop one of these in there. It’ll fizz up and dissolve, after which it will not be fizzy. I think it’d be creepy to bathe in fizzy water, but champagne might be okay.
You could add any extract you like. Almond or lemon would be great. These make cute gifts, or just make a batch for yourself. This recipe made about 12 good-sized bombs, each good for one wonderful bath.

Slightly Less Wise (and Hot Sock Magic)

I got my wisdom teeth surgically removed yesterday. It wasn’t that bad! The anesthesia hit me like a ton of bricks; I think I was out within 30 seconds of the IV being placed. I remember sort of waking up during it because my nose was itchy, and a very nice nurse kindly moved my arm back down. I also kind of remember feeling someone poking around in my mouth. I woke up, Mr. Something drove me home, and my pain is fairly easily managed with a touch of hydrocodone (yesterday) and ibuprofen (today). I’ve been living on smoothies, mashed potatoes, and miso soup. Never in my life have I so badly wanted to chew.

My face is pretty swollen. I sort of look like Quagmire, which is really unfortunate.

photo (31)


We used to have a rice-filled hot pad that we would heat up and stick under the covers in the winter when it was really cold out. I couldn’t find it today, so I made my own little hot sock to ease my swollen cheeks.

Hot Sock Magic

  • clean sock (I used one whose mate is long lost)
  • uncooked rice

Fill the sock with rice so it’s just up to the heel. Tie a knot in it, leaving some room so the rice can move around. When you need a fairly long-lasting hot compress, stick it in the microwave for around 45 seconds. It’ll be really hot, so watch out!

Craft Time: Making Pasties

I did burlesque for about two years back in the Midwest. I made all my own pasties (the nipple cover, not the food). They’re easy to make, fun to wear, and make a cute bachelorette gift!

Making pasties | Gainfully Something

The materials you need.

Burlesque Pasties

You’ll need:

  • stiff felt or cotton embroidery backing
  • scissors
  • a Sharpie
  • Fabri-Tac glue (this stuff takes off your nail polish, so be careful!)
  • baking powder tin to use as a stencil
  • two bobby pins
  • gems, sequins, and/or other embellishments
  • to wear: I use liquid latex to adhere pasties to myself; some people like medical adhesive, or you could use electrical tape in a pinch.
Making pasties | Gainfully Something

Make a circle on your felt.

First, make a circle on your felt with the Sharpie, using the baking powder tin as a stencil. Baking powder tins are the perfect size for making pasties. I used to use a paper pattern, but this is so much easier. Cut out the circle.

Making Pasties | Gainfully Something

Make a Pac-Man.

Next, cut out a little wedge in your circle. Cut to the center, then eyeball a pie-shaped wedge. It should look like Pac-Man.

Making Pasties | Gainfully Something

Cut out your second circle and lay it under the first circle so they match.

Make another circle, then match up the edges so you can cut out an identical wedge from the second circle.

Making Pasties | Gainfully Something

Matching Pac-Men.

You should have two matching Pac-Men friends. Wokka wokka wokka.

Making Pasties | Gainfully Something

Glue triangle.

Spread some Fabri-Tac on one edge of Pac-Man’s mouth. Bring the non-glued side over the glued side, making sure you match the circle’s edges. It’ll take some wiggling. Secure with a bobby pin.

Making Pasties | Gainfully Something

Little boob hats.

Essentially, you are making little boob hats. This is what they look like from the side. When you make your second one, check the angle of the first one and make sure they match. You might need to readjust.

Let these dry for 10-15 minutes with the bobby pins on. You can get your embellishments ready while you’re waiting.

I got a tub of loose, assorted gems from the craft store, and then I picked out the ones I wanted to use. You can make pasties look like ANYTHING. I made a pair that look like cheeseburgers; I made a pair with dreidels instead of tassels; I made star-shaped ones. The only limit is your creativity!

To glue on the gems, spread a thin layer of glue on your pastie (start from the outer edge), and firmly place each gem on the glue. It is pretty time-consuming to make a pair of gem-covered pasties, but let me tell you: they have major stage impact. Also, they are really versatile. Super sparkly pasties can go with nearly any kind of music or dance style, so having a pair of these around is really smart. Again, they make great bachelorette gifts, too! For my friend’s bachelorette party, I actually led a pastie-making workshop. Super fun. These amazing ladies who had never even thought about wearing pasties before ended up making two or three pairs. Pasties make you feel powerful.

Making Pasties | Gainfully Something

Super sparkle!

This photo doesn’t even do these pasties justice. They are gorgeous. Imagine stage lights hitting those gems during a sassy shimmy!

Dirty Dogs and Making Etched Glass

We went to the dog park yesterday, which always tires our pup out. Towards the end of our time there, a woman and her teenage daughter arrived with their dog, a little terrier. The woman was one of those people who thinks dogs are weird and gross, unless it’s her little angel. She climbed on top one of the benches in the park and pulled her knees up, like she was on a dock and afraid that fish were going to bite her toes. Dogs kept running under and past the bench (it’s a dog park). She thought that all dog behavior was the weirdest thing she’d ever seen: “Why are they doing that? Why are they running around? They’re hurting each other! [They were not.] Should they be wrestling? [to me] Your dog’s going to get dirty!”

Lady. Seriously. I understand that dog parks can be kind of overwhelming for small children and the elderly, but you own a dog. Not a puppy. You own an adult dog. It’s not like you got her yesterday and this is your first time out. I feel like you should not be as confused about general, normal dog behavior as you were. You know what happens when dogs play? They get dirty. And then, like magic, you give them a bath and all that dirt goes down the drain.

I kept trying to tell this woman that if their tails are up and wagging, everything’s fine. No one’s seriously mad at anyone else; they are playing. This is how dogs play. And if our dog, Puppy K, was actually hurting this Other Dog (not even hers), Other Dog wouldn’t keep coming back for more. I tried to kindly explain all of this, and explain that we can give her a bath. I don’t know what her deal was, but people: if you have a dog, try to understand the basics of how dogs work. Never thought I’d have to say that.

She also refused to pet a puppy that had come over to the bench. Her daughter said, “Mom, pet this puppy. It’s so cute and soft!” The mom said, “No, ew, I don’t want to pet it. I’m not touching it.” You know your dog is a dog, right?



I love personalizing generic house stuff. Everyone has plain Pyrex bowls, or a plain glass casserole dish, or plain pint glasses–with just a little magic etching cream and a few stencils, you can make awesome, one-of-a-kind housewares that are pretty and functional.