Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Times They Are a-Changin'

It's so weird.

Yesterday was quite possibly the last time I will ever set foot in the house where I have spent the largest portion of my life.

In the fall of 1998 my family moved back to Virginia after having lived in Kansas for the last three and a half years. Why did we live in Kansas for three and a half years? Because that's all we could take.

We had the chance to move back and we took it. Some friends of ours were moving and the house that they were renting was available for a ridiculously good deal. I won't even tell you what my parents paid a month for rent. It was that good. So here we are moving into our friends old house, which happened to be owned by a lady my mom went to school with. My parents also knew the people who lived there before, and one Sunday we ended up visiting a church who's pastor had lived there before them. So yeah, we know the owner and the past three renters. Plus, it was blocks away from the house we lived in before we moved to Kansas in the first place.

I went to college out of state from '06 to '08 but when I got back I moved back in. I moved out again when I got married in 2010. Aside from that, and a couple other sibling marriages, my family has lived in that house from 1998 to 2013. I know that's no record or anything, it's just going to be strange now.

My parents bought a house. My wife and I are looking for a house. My sister and her husband and my brother and his wife are house hunting. I have another sister who will be married soon.

It was so strange walking around the house the other day. I had to collect the last of the stuff that I had left in my parent's attic. (There was a lot of it) Most of my parent's things were gone. The house echoed and the floors creaked, and those creaks echoed too. There are still things all over the place. Old furniture that belonged to the house when we moved in. The estate sale people have already been there. The only reason the owner hasn't sold already is she didn't want to kick my family out. The estate sale people have moved stuff from other estate sales in to sell it along with all of the things in the house. It was really odd seeing all of this unfamiliar furniture in my parent's house.

Whenever they have the estate sale I plan on going. I know it's going to be incredibly strange but I wouldn't miss it. It will be interesting to see what they pull out of the attic. It's always been filled with stuff. Things left by the original owners, and by numerous renters who just didn't feel like taking their stuff with them when they left. My dad tried to clean it out once but eventually gave up. Instead we just had a little corner of it for our things. Mind you a corner in that monstrous attic was still sizable. Of course, I also have my eye on a couple things that might be at the estate sale. There was a ring of skeleton keys that I would love to have. Why? Because that's just cool. There was a huge vice in the basement I would love to have, and an old sword that I've wanted to get my hands on for a while. Who knows what other treasures were hidden in that house.

Whatever treasures there are though, there will be no more Landrum family parties. No more piano music every night. No more drama camp meetings. No props built or costumes sewn. The foyer will not be a place where craftiness happens. The kitchen will no longer be the place where the most delicious coconut cake you have ever tasted in your life comes from.

Thank goodness all that stuff will still happen in a different house though. I think of myself as being the type of person who doesn't get overly sentimental about things. Then I start getting overly sentimental. It's good to remember that what made that house so special wasn't the house itself, but the people in it. Even though they won't be in that house anymore nothing about them will change. We'll get used to having parties in a different house. Piano music will fill a different house every night. And if the most delicious coconut cake I have ever tasted doesn't start coming out of a different kitchen, so help me, we're going to have problems.

Life goes on.

Later Days.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Excuses, Excuses

So, I haven't been giving the ole' blog as much attention lately. I feel a little bad for that but I have reasons too, so I only feel so bad.

When I'm not involved in some exciting project I tend to lose momentum. While occasionally attending to my mend pile is necessary it's not terribly exciting. It's even worse when I don't finish everything I wanted to because then I feel slightly defeated. Not that I'm feeling super depressed or anything! I don't at all want that to be the tone of this post. I'm just kind of in-between projects right now.

I have been working on other things though. My attention often gets split between here and Instructables. The thing I love about that site is that it's a community of people that are there to share what they know and learn from each other. I'm trying to get caught up on posting all of my projects there, especially since they have several contests that I'm looking to enter! (contests are another reason I love that site!) I posted the Penguin Stuffed Animal that I made (I don't think I ever shared that here, but it predates this blog by quite a while) and entered it in the Crafting Speed Challenge. If you're a member of Instructables don't forget to vote for it. If you aren't a member go sign up (it's free) and vote for it.

I'm making an instructable for my Leather Top Hat as well. That one is taking a while because it was such an involved process but it should be finished soon. I'm entering that in the UP! Contest. It's probably not the best candidate for a prize in that contest but the grand prize is a 3D printer, and that just makes me drool. There's also a contest for making furniture, so you might see a piece of slapped together hand crafted furniture pop up on here in the not-too-distant future and a request that you vote for it as well.

Aside from my activity on Instructables I feel like this is also just an interesting point in life. My wife and I are looking for a house, parenting a baby who decided he was ready to become a little boy the other day, and just generally trying to strike a balance between being financially responsible and wanting to blow all our money and do something crazy.

I'm not even kidding either about that little boy thing. I'm sure every parent goes through it, but goodness gracious it sneaks up on you! One minute you're carrying him around, the next he only needs to hold your hand to go up stairs, and the minute after that he's jumping off things, telling you when he's tired, drinking all of your coffee in the morning (it was decaf), and a host of other things he's entirely too young to be doing yet. He knows letters, and numbers! He can identify obscure woodland creatures! He knows what kind of car his Nana drives! My wife and I just stand back in awe, while stifling laughter so he doesn't think we're laughing at him. I am by no means trying to say that my kid is any better than anyone else's. I'm not trying to start a bragging war. I know each and every child is incredible in so many different ways. I'm just saying that I'm constantly amazed at the ways that my son chooses to express how incredible he is.

Well, hopefully I'll be giving a little more attention here in the near future. I'm hoping to get a small project finished in the next few days that I can post. Something simple.

Later Days.

Friday, February 15, 2013

The Pile

I seem to always have this pile. It follows me around. I had it when I lived with my parents. I had it when I was in college. I have it now that I'm married.

It's my mending pile.

I know that doesn't sound terribly manly but sometimes there are things that develop holes, or get little tears, or lose buttons, etc. and I am just not willing to let go that easy.

So this week, rather than do some cool project like make a sword, or build furniture, or what have you, I decided to work on this pile.

This time the pile included two pairs of pants, two pairs of shorts, a heel that fell off its shoe, a set of sheets that we bought to turn into curtains, a second unfinished Chewbacca pillow, and at the very last minute... the shirt off my back.

Now before I go any further I should mention that two of those items are projects in their own right... and that I didn't finish everything.

The first thing I went for was the heel that fell of the shoe. I figured I might as well start with the item that would have to dry. I basically just smeared some glue on there, stuck the heel back on, applied a lot of pressure, and wiped off the excess.

I used this construction adhesive that I got from work 
because it was damaged and they were going to throw
it out. It's a really strong adhesive but I wouldn't
recommend it because it takes forever to set up.

The next was a pair of shorts that I made from a pair of pants. You may remember that I didn't do the hem the way it should have been done so I had to go back and fix it.

Here's the before.

Here's the after. Much cleaner and tucked away.

Next I moved on to a pair of shorts I got from a cousin (why did I do the shorts first when it's winter?!).

Awkward hole...

Wrong color thread, but meh, no one should be looking that closely.

Next up was this super comfy pair of cords.

They have clearly seen better days.

This strip of cloth brings it right together!

As good as new!

My mom found these really nice grey jeans for me... that flair so much they look like bell bottoms.

I've drawn a line where I'll be sewing them.


I was pretty happy with the seam.

I tried to work on the curtains...

I got the sheets all cut and ready to be sewn, but something
wonky was going on that I couldn't figure out how to fix.
I think this fabric was just plain too thin.

This morning I had an excellent stretch that felt wonderful but apparently was a bit too stressful to my shirt. A loose button fell off. As soon as it did I put a paperclip in the exact spot so I would be able to find it later.

Yeah, I'm a genius.

The closest thread I had was black. Apparently I need to stock up on more color varieties.

My complete mending table.

So I didn't finish my black pants (which have oddly enough been in the pile the longest), the Chewbacca pillow, or the curtains. I might just let it spill over into next week, but I do have something else I want to work on too that I'm kind of excited about and hope it works out.

Later days.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Leather Top Hat: Stage 5

So the next step in the process was to make this hat look less "western". All I had to do was trim the brim down and it looked a lot better.

I measured in from the edge of the brim, drew a nice line around with a pencil, and used my handy-dandy heavy duty scissors to trim it off. Let me just say, if you thought it was hard to cut through leather, holy bananas is it hard to cut through two layers of it.

The dark spot on the front is where I was fixing a spot where
it had formed wrong. I just wet it and wore it for a little bit.

Ta-Da! Significantly less western. Here's a before shot for comparison:

So with the brim formed, glued, and trimmed all that was left was to burnish the edge.

That tool with the wooden handle is an edge trimmer, and the blindingly white disk next to it is an edge burnisher. It's just a plastic disk with a smooth groove all the way around it. Basically you use the trimmer to round the edge. Then you wet the edge of the leather and rub that groove along it really hard and fast and it smooths out the edge really nicely.

This dye is the flavor color of chocolate. I have another one called cherry chocolate.
I think someone at the leather dye factory has a sweet tooth.

The next step was to dye it. I happened to already have this dye on hand. It's a little darker than I wanted but I figured I'd go for it and see what I ended up with.

I have tried everything to get this picture to orient itself
properly, but apparently it wants to be up on its side like
this has decided it wants to be squished and there's
nothing I can do about.

Rubber gloves are an absolute necessity, unless you don't care about having stained hands for days and days. I used these little daubers but you can use a sponge or a rag or whatever you have lying around that you don't care about completely ruining.

There's a trick I learned the first time I stained leather. When I say that, I mean that someone told me to do it a certain way, I ignored their advice, and surprise surprise it turned out they were completely right and I felt stupid. Keep a rag or some paper towels on hand when you're dying leather. As you spread it, use the rag to wipe the excess off and kind of buff it as you go. This helps keep a nice even stain and avoid streak marks. For my first project I thought it looked fine and I wouldn't need to do it, but as it dried streak marks that I hadn't even realized were there suddenly became apparent. I will never make that mistake again.

Dun da da daaa! (that supposed to be one of those trumpet announcement sounds, just go with it)

Isn't it beautiful?!

I think so.

I left the inside undyed.

Technically it's not finished. It still needs to be sealed, but that's all. The sealer is a clear coat that you put on once it's stained to protect the leather from being damaged. It also helps keep the stain from rubbing off onto other things (thankfully our old apartment never noticed the spot where I hung my pauldron in the closet and it left a mark on the wall). You can get leather stain that is supposed to have a sealer in it but I've used that kind before and it's not really all that good. You apply a couple coats just like the stain. I'm planning on doing a matte coat because I don't want my hat to look really glossy.

There you have it!

For parts 1-4:
The Beginnings: A Top Hat
Leather Top Hat: Stage 2
Leather Top Hat: Stage 3
Leather Top Hat: Stage 4

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Perception Isn't Key

I'm going to get a little philosophical today.

I've been thinking a lot about perceptions recently, what other people think about us and what we can do about it, and I've come to some personal conclusions that I want to discuss here.

I have an almost constant running dialogue with myself in the back of my mind. It's where I discuss what people think of me and the impact of what I say on how they view me. I'll let you in on a little secret, one of my best talents is not letting on how insecure I am and how much I actually care about what people think of me. Once I passed on some interesting information I saw on the Oprah show with the immediate disclaimer of "I wasn't watching it or anything! I just happened to be flipping channels when it was on and something caught my attention." While my disclaimer was true, my need to share that disclaimer was obviously because I didn't want anyone to think that I might be the type of guy who watched the Oprah show. Frankly, I don't know what type of guy that is, but I didn't want to be thought of as him. (Side note: notice I still felt it necessary to point out that the disclaimer was true?)

The funny thing is that no matter what I do, I cannot control what other people think of the things I say and do. In fact I can't really control half of what I think of the things others say and do. I don't mean that in some sort of "I'm helpless against my own prejudices and opinions" kind of way. I mean that in the way that the tiniest of things contribute to how I think and perceive people. For instance, you now know that I have seen at least some of the Oprah show and thought it was valid enough to not only form my own opinion on, but also share it with other people. Chances are, without you even meaning to let it, that bit of information will change the way you think about me in at least some small way. Maybe not a lot, but little bits of information here and there are all that's needed.

So, as guardians of our persons, how do we deal with the issue of what people think and perceive about us? To my mind there are only three things to be done about this problem and only one of them is actually a viable option.

Option #1: Languish over what people might think of you.
No really, this is an option that many people choose. You can torture yourself thinking of what you did and what you could have done differently, or what the other person might think of you because of what you did. You can go over endless options of ways it could have gone better and then go over how that better option would make the person think better of you. (I've done this) Or you might stew over the fact that people don't see you for "who you really are". Regardless of the exact method of "languishing" the point is you'll get depressed and waste a lot of time doing nothing but wallowing in self pity. The problem with this method is it doesn't change anything.

Option #2: Close all of your doors.
Erect high walls. Don't let anyone know anything about you, or at least not anything that might be "damaging" to your desired image. Of course this will also result in zero real relationships. No one will really know you or who you are. Your true self will never really feel validated (which is what we all really want right?). You'll just feel a false sense of validation for this fake self you've created. The other problem with this method is that regardless of how many doors you close or walls you erect you still can't actually control how people choose to perceive this closed off, fake you. You can create a terrific mask that portrays exactly what you want people to see and nothing that you want to hide, and people will still manage to make assumptions about you that you don't like.

Option# 3: Get over it.
I don't mean this in that way where I insist that you immediately change the way you think, feel, and act. That's just not realistic. It definitely takes time. I don't mean like a couple tries. I mean a long time. I know this because I'm currently on this journey myself. I haven't finished it by a long shot, but I do know that I have a much better handle on it now than I used to. I know that when I'm tempted to fret and worry about what others think of me I at least realize that is what's happening. I know when I'm goaded into arguments to try and validate that my thoughts and opinions are "right" I realize (if not before than at least after) that is what's happening. I also realize that I don't need to argue with someone and lose my peace just so they see things my way and don't think I'm crazy for believing what I believe. I don't mean to say you should never debate or discuss things, but there is definitely a line (for me anyway) where I'm arguing because I am personally wrapped up in the outcome, because I want the other person to see it my way and perceive me "correctly".

The key for me is thinking, "how does someone else's perception of me affect me?" Let me give you a real life example:
I'm driving down the road. I'm going the speed limit. The person behind me decides I'm not going fast enough and crosses yellow lines to pass me.

Option #1: My reaction is something like: What the heck?! I'm going the speed limit douche bag! Of course my reason for this reaction is because now I think that guy thinks I'm just some dumb slow driver who doesn't belong on the road. Now, I'm annoyed that he thinks that.

Option #2: When I see that it looks like he's going to pass me I speed up so he can't/doesn't need to. Ha! That showed him. Now he knows I'm not some granny driver! (Except his actual perception of me is probably that I'm the douche bag)

Option #3: Huh. <- That's it. Why does there need to be anything more? Who cares if that guy passed me? Who cares what he thinks of me? He seems like a dangerous driver and I'm probably better off with him zipping off far away from me. It's definitely better than having him tailgating me. Who cares if he thinks I'm a granny behind the wheel? Besides, aren't I assigning my own perceptions to him by assuming he's being a jerk? Maybe he's rushing to the hospital, trying to get home quickly because his kids are home alone after school, or any number of other reasons.

I know there are far more personal examples, but I think this one was one of the first realizations that I had on this topic and it seems much easier to work up from impersonal situations to the more personal ones.

Well, those are my thoughts. I'd love to hear yours...

Friday, February 1, 2013

Leather Top Hat: Stage 4

Now to the wet forming!

I tried the hat on again to check how it felt. The brim is kind of huge, but I know I'll be trimming that down anyway. Aside from that it's pretty good. I decided to try and form the brim first and then glue the two sides together. I'm not sure if that's the best way to do it but it's the decision I made so, ONWARD! Once it's formed and glued I will trim it down. It might be hard to cut in that form, but it's already going to be hard enough to keep it shaped correctly anyway.

I set it in some water again, this time only submerged just past the brim, and set to building something to hold it in place so it would take the right form.

I had to make a box to get the right size. I folded the sides one way and the front and back the other way. Then I used my travel mug and some paper towels to keep the crown from buckling where I was forming the brim. That's the most use that mug has gotten in months.

Trying it on again. It's still drying in the picture as you can see by the different shades of leather. I waited for it to dry and then glued the brim layers together. I didn't take another picture because frankly it doesn't look much different.

*thinks about it. snaps a picture*

Okay, fine. Here's a picture of the hat with the brim glued.

I had hoped to have the whole thing done this week, but that clearly didn't happen so I'm moving my expected completion date to the end of next week.

Until then, maybe I'll come up with some other things to talk about... Have a great weekend!