domingo, janeiro 25, 2009

Sewing. It's something I always watched my mom do as a kid. I did it by hand for many many years due to an irrational fear of sewing machines (much like my fear of ovens) and their ability to do some horrible damage to fingers if one wasn't careful. Last June I spent $100 on a 3/4 (easier to transport) sized sewing machine, finally determined to conquer my fear and make good on my comment of "well, why pay for that dress/shirt/shorts/whatever-fill-in-the-blank when I can make it." It sat quietly in a cupboard for the last 6 months, until, finally, with three days left in my vacation, I decided to try to play with it.

It still smelled new, the whole three bobbins it came with were still inside their plastic bag inside the removable arm that allows you access to space where you insert them (the name of which still escapes me). I took it out and then went on a hung for the manual that I had left out next to my computer all those months ago, that I read and reread trying to convince myself that I was perfectly capable of using this machine as it had come highly recommended by a friend who bought the same one for her four year old to begin sewing on (come on, if a four year old can do it, I sure can, I told myself).

Where is it? I searched all over, took books down from the shelves... nowhere is this simple manual, so comforting. Hmmm, now what. Well, if a four year old can do it, it can't be that hard. I just randomly tried to thread it, thinking it seems too simple, I must have missed a spot. Okay, let's try to fill a bobbin instead. I dropped some thread on the spool peg. Now what. Okay, here's a hook and another little peg that look like they make it run strait at the bobbin peg. Oh, I remember I have to pull out this round thing on the side. That I do remember reading. And.... Yes, the bobbin is winding! Success! So I had managed to bungle my way through making a bobbin.

So, let's try threading again. Having given up on finding the manual at home, I tried online - Janome does not even list this machine on their site. The manuals site has nothing either. Hmmm, is this really a Janome? Not sure. But I do see some one has posted on a forum that there are guide arrows on the machine, showing you where to thread. Sure enough, there they are. So I thread according to the guide arrows. Hmmm, this seems too easy. There's a little hook there above the needle, since it's so easy to pass the thread in there, it probably goes there, now through the eye and.... Now how the heck do I get the thread from the bobbin to come up? I know it has to go through that hole on the bottom. I try several things that I now can't remember, and nothing works. I am sure this is the key to making this machine work.

Suddenly my husband finds the manual stuffed in an envelope with other random papers from the desk area. From the manual I see I have to thread the machine (which I did correctly, yeay me!) in order to get the bobbin thread to come up, okay, so far so good... And at last I managed to get the thread through the little hole.

Ju watches me do some practice stitches on some random green fabric (the only scrap fabric I have) and gets extremely interested in how the machine moves, what parts do what, and watches avidly as I sew my first project - a dress I have been sitting on for about 6 months. The more I sewed, the more I got creative about it until what should have just been a quick hemming job turned into a shortened dress with triangular inserts that make it spin out flat to show off your underwear (if you're into that) with puffy pockets and straps. Actually I'm still not sure about the straps. And after discovering that I am not all that hot at sewing strait, I decided to do some "decorative artistic" stitches along the bottom and other raw edges rather than hemming. I'm pleased with the result and eager to do more. I just wish fabric weren't so expensive here.

sexta-feira, janeiro 09, 2009

And wouldn't you know it, but as I finished my massive cleaning fest yesterday, it seems one of Ju's kittens knocked over the same potted plant on the veranda that has been knocked over twice before. The pot is (was) made of a dried coconut shell held together by some steel wire in the middle. It is now splintered beyond repair. The plants are no loss really, since they had been torn from the pot and ripped to shreds several times before, probably by the same mystery kitten. They were just barely hanging on. I guess it's a sign that I have one too many pots up there in the middle of the kitten highway.

In other news, apparently the huge massive snow that I am so sad to miss this year trapped my mom in GRR and then again in Chicago and then she got stuck in Miami because she missed her connection. Anyway, now she's there and we are here, up early but not in a rush anymore to get to the airport. I didn't sleep very well between the kittens bounding in at 2 a.m. and some kind of security alarm going off around 3:30 and continuing to sound for another half an hour, so it will be good to get a nap in too. And I'll have time to clean up the mess on the veranda.

Ju is watching Planet Earth, again. At least if he's glued to the T.V. it's educational, as shown by this conversation we had yesterday:

me - "Ju, it's time for a shower and bed.

Ju - "Why?

me - "Because it's dark out and time for sleeping."

Ju - "Why's it dark out?

me - "Because the sun set and that means it's time for sleeping."

Ju - "It's dark out because the terra esta rodando." (the Earth is turning)

me - "Yes, that is exactly what's going on. The Earth is turning and that's why it's dark out."

quinta-feira, janeiro 08, 2009

This particular vacation, I am spending a much better part of my time (where does that expression come from anyway, it makes no sense!) cleaning up the house and playing housewife. I don't feel particularly deprived of vacation fulfilling these duties because I spend pretty much the rest of the year not doing any of it except an occasional floor sweeping or load of laundry. We give our maid her 30 days of vacation at the same time I have mine, and my husband takes off a few weeks and we get to hang out as a family, go to the beach, and maybe travel for a couple of days somewhere outside the city (leaving lots of food for the cats). As my mom arrives tomorrow for a two week (the remainder of my vacation time) visit, I have been making an extra effort to have a "Brasilian clean" house, rather than just "American clean." This means sweeping daily, walking the floors with a wet rag to pick up spare specks of dust, doing most of the laundry, and cleaning the bathrooms. All of this has taken most of this week to complete and I am much more in the groove of cleaning up.

Our bathroom has a lot of issues. The sink leaks, the toilet has gone through some flushing problems, and now the shower faucet is broken, so the only way to turn it off is to shut off the water completely from the bathroom. Even with this "emergency handle" shut off, there is still a great amount of leaking going on and my bathroom is constantly wet, dripping, and has recently grown a lot of mildew. I just noticed how bad it had gotten and took bleach and a scrub brush to it, hopefully to better my sinus and asthma problems, which have been bothering me for some unknown reason (at least until now). Nearly all rooms here have a drain in the floor - this greatly facilitates cleaning your floors. You can empty the floor of objects, fill up a bucket with bleach water, spread it around and then scrub with a broom. Sweep all the water into the drain, then rinse with clean water, and presto - super clean floors! I spent over an hour in each bathroom that gets daily use today and am now waiting for the floors to dry. (Well, the one in my bathroom won't.)

No matter how often I sweep, the floor looks dirty again about half an hour later. Everything is left open here all the time - doors, windows, and there are no screens to keep bugs, leaves, etc. out. Dust is a constant problem. So is cat hair, now that we have three cats in the house.

These cats of Ju's have taken over. The climb up anything that will support their weight - nets, hammocks, curtains, plants, things hanging on the hat tree - and seem to have no fear or respect for human tendencies. I sweep the floor, and they follow me from room to room, trying to get under my feet, having no fear of the broom. I hang laundry to dry on the veranda and they climb up on top of the rack and take a nap on it, knocking several pairs of underwear and socks down in the process, covering everything with cat hair. I go to open the door to take out garbage or sweep and they sit down right in front of it as invisible forces of resistance and don't even jump up out of the way when it starts to move, but rather resign themselves to "riding" it like little floor dusters, staring at me with bemused expressions, completely unconcerned. When I clean out the cat box, they hop in as I am scooping and dirty it further. I don't blame Lela for being cranky with them - they are like Ju, they seem to respect no limits.

I have no idea how to end this post, since I have been trying to write one for several days, but always seem to be uninspired when I am sitting here at the computer (which is far less frequent than most of you probably think).

Off to put Ju to bed.