A blog about "nothing"!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

New, only on Twitter!

I'm trying something new, hope some of you will join me.  I am going to start posting a "Photo of the Week", something out of my massive photo archive, but I'm only posting it on Twitter.  If you already follow me, great!  If you don't, and you want to see my photos and join in the fun, I'm @FloHough.  Hope to see you there!

It's Only Been Two Years

I learned how to sew very young.  My mom was a terrific seamstress, she too had learned very young.  When I was little, she sewed on a treadle sewing machine, she made a lot of my clothes on it.  When I was about 6 or 7 she finally ventured into the land of electric sewing machines, purchasing a Singer Golden Touch and Sew machine.  It was a very techy kind of machine for it's day, all sorts of fun features that were rare back in the 70's.  Unfortunately because of all of this technology, it also was very touchy and would go out of adjustment very easily.  I heard my mom swear a lot when she sewed with it.
About 20 years ago it finally went to that big sewing machine graveyard in the sky.  She and I went together and bought a nice Pfaff machine, very simple, all mechanical to share.  I previously had owned a Riccar that I broke making dog toys (don't ask), so this arrangement worked well since neither of us sewed a lot at that point.  Unfortunately she never got the hang of that machine and her eyesight was failing as well, so it more or less became my machine.  I still have it and I don't think I would ever get rid of it only because it is all mechanical and is very sturdily made.  When I had it serviced about three years ago, the guy who worked on it said "they don't make them like this anymore!"

Two years ago I got a bug about getting a machine with more features, primarily more stitches.  I did some research and ended up getting a Singer Superb, got a terrific deal on it and it came with a ton of different specialty feet.  Up until this point I had only done basic stuff on it, straight stitches, zig zag, etc.  I had played with some of the fancy stitches, but that was about it.  Today I decided to work on a project that finally got me trying some other stuff, and I'm so glad I did.

This is what I made:
(Excuse the bad photos, I took these with my iPod and saved them small)  

My old towels like this for in my kitchen are all falling apart.  I've been tossing around the idea of making some, just needed to get motivated to do so.  For some reason that motivation hit me this weekend, yay!  I've still got some tweaking to do on the pattern, but these will work in the meantime.  The best part is that I learned how to use the buttonhole foot on the machine.  It is a lot different than what I was used to and the first attempts didn't go so well, thank heavens for seam rippers.  Once I got the hang of it though, I was thrilled. 

I also learned how to sew the buttons on with the machine using the included button foot.  I had done this with my mom's old machine, but hadn't done it in so long, this was like learning all over again.  I actually cracked the first button, ugh!  But once I got the bugs worked out, it was so easy.  I HATE sewing buttons on by hand, I can see myself using this foot a ton.  I just wish the foot was a little easier to get on the machine. 

Now I need to go digging in my fabric to see what else I can use up with towels to make some more, I have 4 more towels I bought that I can use.  Unfortunately I do have other stuff to do, I would love to be able to play around all day like this.  Maybe tomorrow.  I wanna sew on some more buttons...I have some curtain valances that I don't like...hmmm...if you don't see me around for a while, you know where to look.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Long Weekend Approaches

Memorial Day is almost here, signaling the official start of vacation season/summer for most of us in the US.  It's also a three day weekend for the majority of American's--whoo hoo!!  I've been busy catching up on all sorts of stuff around here since we got back from vacation, so I too am going to use it as a weekend to relax and do stuff outdoors.

Last week was kind of crazy, getting caught up on laundry, putting the house put back together (it was clean before we left, honest!), getting groceries stocked up again.  I even photographed a wedding!  In between all of that I did manage to squeeze in a trip to the nearby Goodwill store and look what I found:
5 small plates, dessert size I guess.  They aren't the same brand as the others, these are Oneida, but as my old boss would say "the man on the galloping horse wouldn't notice!"  49 cents each--now if I could just find some dinner plates or bowls.  I'm thinking I might mix these with something in another color, red or turquoise came to mind.  Here's a shot of the two different plates so you can see the difference, the pattern and color are just slightly different, but not enough to matter.
This week has also been busy, I feel like I'm finally getting caught up from being on vacation.  I've been doing assorted things, yesterday I did some alterations on some dresses I bought, today I need to hem some pants for the hubby (I hate hemming pants), and other odds and ends.  I want to get all this little stuff done so I can get back to some fun projects.  I've got a list of things I want to do written out, just need the time. 

The only thing I do want to accomplish over the weekend is getting my vegetables planted.  I picked up some tomato and pepper plants this week while I was out, now it's just a matter of getting them in their homes.  We are so far behind in comparison to last year, I actually shared gardening pictures on May 3, this year the weather has been so uncooperative for any kind of gardening.  I'm still excited to get started though, I loved having my own veggies last year. 

Have a great weekend everyone!  Remember those who gave their lives for our freedom!

Monday, May 19, 2014

The 5 Dresses (or how I saved lots of money at Lands End)

It's no secret that I love Lands End clothing.  I've been shopping their catalog since the 1980's, been with them through all of their ups and downs.  I love their classic/basic styles, the quality is generally very good (I have purchased a clunker or two but not enough to make me quit shopping) and they run awesome sales.  In this post I'm going to explain to you several ways you can save big at Lands End.

The selection of dresses in my closet had become kind of blah and there weren't very many.  There were a couple of factors that had caused this.  The office I used to work in required us to wear hose at all times.  I don't know about you, but in the heat of summer, I'll be darned if I feel like putting on panty hose.  In order to get around the policy and still be comfortable, I ended up buying a lot of really long dresses that I could wear knee highs with.  While they are pretty, they aren't always practical when working in an office, I ruined several skirts and dresses by running them over with my office chair.  It finally just got to the point where I didn't care anymore and I quit buying dresses and just wore pants every day.  Boring.  Two of the four dresses in my closet were thrift store finds and the other two had been in there at least 6 years.  Not that there is anything wrong with that, but it was time for something new.  And now that I'm not working, hose are a thing of the past, no more long dresses!

Earlier this year I was on the Lands End website purchasing some things when I came across a cute dress on clearance.  I ran the calculations and by the time I got all the discounts, it was $8.  I figured what the heck, I would give it a try, if nothing else I could wear it as a nightgown!  It came and I really liked it, so I scored this $50 dress for $8.

Then I found out that the daughter of a good friend would be getting married at the end of May.  I really didn't have anything dressy enough for a wedding, so back to the Lands End website!  They were running a 30% off sale, so I ended up getting this $89 dress for just over $62.  I can't wait to wear it at the end of the month!

While I was looking at potential dresses to wear to the wedding, I came across another one that I really liked, I was really torn.  I kind of put it in the back of my mind.  A couple of weeks later I was in ordering a pair of pants for my husband and thought I might as well give it a try (especially since my dress collection was so lacking!).  I got this $79 dress for $35, it had been reduced and they were offering another 30% off.  I wore it this past weekend while I photographed a wedding and it was incredibly comfortable, I was very glad I purchased it.

The last two I purchased just before we went on vacation.  The brown polka dot is the same exact dress as the floral I bought for the wedding but drastically reduced because it is the wrong color in the wrong season.  The pink polo dress was hugely reduced because it was last years style--I didn't care, I liked it!  I ordered them both and I am so happy with both of them.  The polka dot dress was originally $89, I got it for $25 and the polo dress was $49 originally, I got it for $10.  Both worth the price.
                     

So let's do the math--the original price that I would have paid for these dresses was $356.  I paid $140!  How did I do it?

The first thing you need to do is go in and sign up to receive the Lands End emails.  These will alert you to any discounts they are offering.  They frequently offer discounts ranging from 25% off to 40% off.  Sometimes the discounts will only be on specific categories--for example the last two dresses that I purchased were a 30% off dress sale, the floral and the red dress a 30% off everything sale(and the red one had been reduced in between as well!).  Sometimes it can be pants, home goods, outerwear--it changes at least once a week.  Sometimes it's restricted to only full price items, other times it can include everything and anything, be sure to read the fine print.  The best sales are usually during the Christmas shopping season, I've gotten some truly incredible deals on things at that time of year. 

Their website has different sections, be sure to check out the regular section AND the sale section.  Sometimes items will show up in both sections, sometimes they don't, it just depends on what the sale items are.  In the sale section, there are two unique sections where you can score some MAJOR deals--the first is called NQP which stands for Not Quite Perfect.  These are items that have minor flaws, so they don't want to sell them at full price.  I've bought a couple of things this way and to be honest, I couldn't figure out what was wrong, that was how minor the imperfections were.  I most recently scored a pair of shorts in this section that normally were $25 for $10. 

The other section where you can find some terrific bargains is "On The Counter".  Every Saturday they list approximately 100 items in this section.  They are items that they have very limited quantities and not full size ranges of, sometimes they are from previous seasons.  On Saturday they start out at one price, then on Monday, Wednesday and Friday they reduce what is left further.  It's kind of a gamble to wait it out, but if you can hold out until Friday, you could get a fantastic deal.  That is how I managed to get the dress for $8 and the one for $10.  The best part is if they are running a storewide sale (ie. 30% off everything) it also applies to these items as well, saving you even more money.  The $10 dress was actually $14.50 when I ordered but they were running 30% off select dresses and it was included!  A couple of months ago I got a very expensive all wool Fair Isle sweater for $13 in this section.  You just have to keep checking it out, some weeks I see nothing that I like, other weeks I might see several items with potential.  It's become part of my Saturday morning ritual over coffee.

Another way to save is on shipping--they offer free shipping on all orders over $50.  There have been times that I've been really close but not quite, but I ALWAYS make it by finding something.  Put it this way--if your order is $46 you are going to spend $8 on shipping.  Why not spend that $8 on a t-shirt, a pair of gloves--think about gifts you can use, something!  Because they have such a huge variety of things for sale, it isn't hard to find something to make that $50. 

Worried about sending it back if it doesn't fit?  If you have a full-service Sears store near you, items can be returned there.  Just call your store if you aren't sure and they can tell you if they take Lands End returns.  I love it because we have a Sears store just 5 minutes from my house, I'm sure it has saved me a ton of money in return shipping fees.  I'm hoping this is something that doesn't go away anytime soon either, it is nice knowing that if something just doesn't work out, I can easily return it at no additional expense.

One last way to save money--if you are a regular Sears or Kmart customer, be sure to sign up for a Shop My Way Rewards account.  Sears, Kmart and Lands End are all part of this, so you earn points on purchases at all three stores and they can be redeemed at all three as well.  I generally save up all of my points to use on my Lands End orders, it just makes it easy for me to keep track of.  I've saved as much as $5 with this, if I shopped at Sears and Kmart more I could probably save even more. 

There are several things from Lands End that I just love--their canvas totes (I've mentioned them before), their turtlenecks and their men's pants.  They offer free hemming on most of their pants so you can get them exactly the length you want.  My husband has short legs and it was hard to find pants that fit, it seemed as though we had to hem every pair.  Not anymore, I order them and they fit right every time.  The pants are a couple of bucks more expensive than the ones we used to buy but I think they are better quality and it's so worth that little expense to not have to hem them, I hate to hem pants!  I also swear by their coats and gloves, I have multiples of each and they hold up so well.  I have long fingers and it's hard for me to find gloves sometimes, I've quit looking and just order them from Lands End. 

One of the things about Lands End that has kept them in business for so long is that they have a satisfaction guarantee--if you aren't happy with something, return it.  No questions asked.  I had a real life experience with this a couple of years ago.  A coat I bought turned out to have a major defect in it, but I didn't discover it until after I'd had it several months.  I'd worn it a couple of times, paperwork and packing material was long gone.  I wasn't sure what to do, so I decided to call, the customer service representative was incredibly helpful and before the day was out, my defective coat was returned and my payment for it credited.  I was so impressed, and I'm sure that is one of the things that keeps people coming back. 

Just so you know--I am getting no compensation for writing this, I'm just a regular customer.  And hopefully armed with this additional information, you will be a customer too, or if you already are, you've discovered a way to save some additional money.  Everyone likes saving money :)


Thursday, May 15, 2014

Retail Therapy on Oak Island/Southport

Remember how I was behaving myself lately and not going to thrift stores?  That all went out the window while we were on vacation.  Oh well, it was a vacation after all!  The Tuesday that we were there I noticed that I'd gotten a little too much sun the day before and thought it in my best interests to skip a visit to the beach for a day.  We decided to make it a shopping day instead, starting out with the thrift shops we knew about from last year and then spending some time on the mainland in the cute town of Southport. 

We started out by stopping at the Habitat for Humanity Rehab store, they had a lot of stuff, but nothing we needed and we both thought their prices were a bit steep for a thrift store.  We left there and headed on to the Salvation Army store.  It's a small store, but they have a decent variety of stuff.  We were almost done looking when I spotted a set of 5 of these:

They are luncheon size, and I love the basketweave design around the edge.  The funniest part is that I had just been talking with my friend Gwen the week before about dishes and had shown her some that I would like to have that were very similar.  I bought all 5, how could I not, they were all of 59 cents each!

After we got back to the house, I did a little research on them--they are Italian made, I think the company is out of business, but on Ebay these luncheon plates are selling for about $10 each--whoa!  I think I got a good deal, don't you?  Anyone know anything about this company, here's a shot of the back, I'm not at all familiar with Italian glassware/pottery enough to know.  (Dan?!?!?!)


From there we headed on to another thrift store that we did very well at last year, CIS Thrift Shop.  They have been voted "best thrift shop" in the area for multiple years in a row and for good reason, they have awesome stuff at terrific prices.  Proceeds from their sales go to help schools in the area.  We were barely out of the car when I spotted something in the window that I was very interested in--and after looking at it, I had to have it.

Aynsley pottery from England, decent size (close to 12" long), and only $12.  I'm a sucker for anything basket related (if you hadn't already figured that out) and I love the gardening themed design.  Not sure what I'm going to use it for, but I think it would make a nice bread basket or look pretty with fruit in it. 

                               Close up of the inside, love these little gardening images!

I also came across this Lenox snowflake ornament for $1--mine!  I did laugh though, last year I bought a Mt. Vernon ornament at the same store, I told my husband that it's becoming a tradition.  I also got a cute camp shirt (Papagallo) but I am not showing it because it's in the laundry and I don't feel like digging it out ;)  You don't want to see a wrinkled shirt anyways, do you?

Our last thrift store find came from a place called The Hoarders on Oak Island, the same place we found the deal on the VHS tapes of "All Creatures" last year.  We saw some really neat stuff there, but this particular piece caught our eye for $8.  Not sure exactly where we are going to put it, I'm thinking it would look nice in our spare bedroom and would give guests a place to hang things.  As I told the hubby, we couldn't buy the hardware to make one for $8, I thought it was a great deal.



On to Southport!  Southport is a cute small town only a couple of miles from Oak Island, it has been used as the backdrop for quite a few movies and television shows, most recently "Safe Haven" with Josh Duhamel and Julianne Hough.  It has some great restaurants and the shopping area is full of unique shops selling a variety of goods.  We didn't go in to all of them, but found plenty of things that we liked:


The sock monkey decked out in the UNC sweatshirt came from a really fun store called Bullfrog Corner--they had all sorts of stuff ranging from gift items, toys and a great selection of old style candies--I got some Zotz which I haven't had for ages.  The oval magnets came from a gift shop on Oak Island, not sure if they are going to go on the car or the refrigerator.  The dish towel came from a shop in Southport that I wish I could remember the name of because they sold items only made by local artisans, beautiful and unique items ranging from handmade baskets, cards and jewelry.  I could have spent a fortune there, but I was good!
I discovered a great gift shop on Oak Island called Color Me Carolina that sold a nice variety of items too, but what lured me in was that they sold Tervis Tumblers.  If you aren't familiar with this brand, they are a double walled product that can be used for hot or cold beverages, and they make them in a variety of sizes and styles.  I wasn't all that familiar with them until last year when the company my husband works for gave us some with the company logo on, they are expensive compared to others, but they really do work, better than anything else I've tried.  I had been looking for something with the Oak Island Lighthouse on it, and when I saw this, I bought two and purchased lids for them.  They came in very handy on the ride home too.

Last but not least--a store in Southport called Ocean Outfitters looked appealing, so we had to check it out.  A great store with a nice selection of clothing and shoes, but I was especially excited to see that they carried Eliza B sandals.  I first learned of these sandals from The Daily Prep and had been curious ever since.  I don't usually do well with thong/flip flop type sandals, the piece that goes between the toes tends to rub a raw spot, but Eliza B sandals are different, that piece is made of ribbon instead of leather or rubber.  Unfortunately we have no retailers in our area that sell them, so I was thrilled to see these and immediately tried a pair on.  SOLD! 

They are very comfortable, the foot bed molds to your feet (if you look close you can see where my toes have already made an imprint) and I had no issue with the ribbon between the toes.  It worked out great that I bought them early in the week, I could really try them out.  Before we headed home on Friday I went back and bought another pair, as well as a Leatherman key ring--Leatherman is the companion company to Eliza B.


Eliza B has a new regular customer now!  What is really cool is if you go to their website to buy sandals, you can either buy their premade ones, or you can customize a pair at no price difference!  They are American made too, each pair is put together in Essex, CT.  They do run a little small, so you really do need to go up a size, but they are so well made and comfy.  They also sell a number of other unique items, I may be doing a lot of shopping there come Christmas.

Now that we are home I have to be good.  I am trying to talk myself out of making a trip to Red White and Blue next week, maybe I will try and hold off until June.  We'll see if I can resist.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

A trip to the beach!

Sorry to be missing for a little while, had some things keeping me busy and then we were off to Oak Island, NC for a week.  We had a great time and I actually have a little bit of a tan, that's just about unheard of in May when you live in Western PA!  I thought I would share some pictures of the ocean to get everyone in a good humor :)

Oak Island, NC-beach just off 40th St.





We had gorgeous weather the entire time we were there, only one day had a lot of wind.  We were at the beach just about everyday for a little while.

One day we decided to venture further down the island to the next area known as Caswell Beach.  Very nice area, the beach there is quite a bit deeper than it is in the Oak Island sections.  You also get a better view of the lighthouse.



 



 
We spent a lot of time eating at some really good restaurants in the area.  We were sad to see that the Mexican place we liked so much last year was closed, but we discovered another good one on the mainland, we were able to celebrate Cinco De Mayo properly!  In fact we liked it so much, we ate there three times before we came home.  We also went twice to our favorite place, Island Way.  It is right on the beach and we were lucky enough the second night we went to get a table right by the windows.  I didn't take many pics because the view is somewhat obstructed by the sand dunes but you get the general idea:
 


While we were eating our dinner, a man caught a huge fish off the pier, it had to be at least 4 feet long!  Unfortunately I didn't get a photo of that :(  I'm sure he was thrilled to bits, I've never seen anyone catch one that big.

Our last day at the beach I didn't take my camera with me, and wouldn't you know, that was the day the crabs decided to entertain us, digging holes and such.  I did get a couple of pics with my camera phone, but it's not cooperating as far as me getting them transferred.  I did manage to get this one transferred, better than nothing.  It was fun watching them run around and dig holes, they sure can throw that sand!


We also did some thrift store shopping, I will share our "finds" later in the week.

To all of my friends here in the US--HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY!!