Ukulele Bag: Not quite a tutorial. But sort of.

Let me be clear – I’m not a good tutorial writer. Halfway through a project I think maybe I should have taken pictures to blog about it, and other times I think the project isn’t interesting enough to talk about anyway. Then again, it seems anything is fair game for online tutorials. And for the dumbest things – like how to hard boil eggs. I know because I have personally looked this up. Seems my husband and I disagree on the proper way to boil eggs and when I boil them, he feels they become impossible to peel. Yes, he has issues.

In fact, as bad a tutorial writer as I am, my top two posts on this blog happen to be how-tos: bottle cutting and Borax crystal ornaments. Apparently, people really want broken glass all over their kitchen and to do chemistry experiments with their laundry detergent. You’re a bunch of weirdos.

But I digress. Ukulele bag. I’m one happy month into ukulele ownership and in all that time, it’s been kept in a pillowcase when I’m not practicing. I’ve been looking for a sturdier bag to put it in but the “gig bags” out there for pineapple ukes kind of suck. Ugly, flimsy, some costing as much as three times the amount of the uke. I’m clumsy, so I want it in something that has at least a tiny bit of protection when I knock it off the coffee table. I looked at a bunch of online tutorials and I didn’t quite feel I had the skill – and no sewing machine. I had to come up with something simple but effective.

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Enter the sweatpants bag.

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Yup. I took a pair of my sweatpants and chopped them in half so I had two longish tubes. Turned one tube inside out and stuffed it in the other tube. That gives me smooth material against the uke so no fuzz gets caught in the pegs or strings. Sewed first the elastic (ankle) end of the inside tube closed, being sure to put a few stitches on each side to connect it to the outer tube, then sewed the outer tube shut. Sure, you could sew them both together but I did all this with hand stitching so it was easier for me this way.

So I have a basic two layer sleeve of fleece/cotton, wider at the bottom, that I can slide the uke into. It’s not a hard padded case or anything but for my purposes it will do just fine. Next, I shortened the inside tube but left it long enough that I could fold it over the bottom of the uke. Then the outer tube I kind of shaped and folded up over the outer front. Honestly, I kind of feel like I’m diapering it. I had planned to put some elastic loops on the end and two buttons on the outside, about midway up the case. Then I realized I had remnants of a cool silk shirt I had been cutting up for another project. It had sleeves that roll up and a strip of silk buttoned to keep them in place. Those are the two purple strips you see there, using the shirt buttons. I also took the hemmed collar off and sewed it at the top of the case, to make the elastic end look prettier. Then, the pocket for my tuner.

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The little purple pouch with two zipper compartments has been kicking around a long time. I once sewed it into a coat when I went to Paris because I’m a paranoid traveller and wanted a secure inside pocket. Then it was in a light up suit for several Mardi Gras trips, holding money and extra batteries. Just a few stitches on each corner secure it well enough and my Snark tuner fits right in. Last, I wanted a strap.

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This is the only part of the project I actually had to pay for. A whole $2.99 at Goodwill for a duffle bag with the perfect strap and D-rings. The zipper on the cheapo bag was broke so I didn’t even have to feel bad about throwing out the bag. I was just going to stitch the D-rings directly to the bag, when my husband asked if I had any of the purple material left. I did. I folded and refolded two strips for strength and put one around each ring, sewing the silk to the bag instead. Looks much better. That man might have issues with hard boiled eggs, but sometimes he comes up with a good idea.

This might be too hippy dippy for you. You might want something that looks more professional. Then again, you are playing a ukulele. Lighten up.

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Handmade Takes Time but This is Ridiculous

I’m about to go on a rant so quietly make your way out of the room if you aren’t in the mood for it.

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I made the most insanely dumb purchase back in October 2013 at the Carolina Renaissance Festival. I wanted a pair of those awesome-looking leather boots.  Nothing fancy, not real tall, but a sweet burgundy color with copper buttons on the side. When I didn’t pass out at the price quote from Catskill Mountain Moccasins I learned they were made to order and I had to get my feet molded for the perfect fit.  Disappointed that I couldn’t just pick up a pair in my size already made but okay.  It was stupid hot and my friends wanted to go home, but I justified that I was worth a pair of these boots and my friends wouldn’t die by waiting 45 minutes for this whole fitting process to take place.  I wish my friends had been a little bitchier.

You've got to be fucking kidding me.

You’ve got to be fucking kidding me.

AFTER I stood still for eternity getting my feet measured and molded in tape, and AFTER the credit card had been run, and AFTER the paperwork was completed, the seller put an estimated completion date on my invoice of November.  That’s cool.  No – NOVEMBER 2014.  Sonofabitch.

WHY WOULD YOU NOT EXPLAIN THIS UP FRONT WITH THE CUSTOMER WHO THINKS THESE WILL BE A NICE CHRISTMAS PRESENT TO THEMSELVES?  Oh, because most customers would probably then say “forget it – I don’t need them that bad”. That’s my guess anyway.  We’re not all leather crafters – we have no idea how many woodland elves you have working from their wee forest cottages on these orders so we don’t assume a 14 month waiting period is normal.  I left the festival pissed and feeling like I’d just been robbed instead of excited for my someday awesome new boots.

I tried to put them out of my mind for the next year or so, although the whole thing would rear it’s ugly little handcrafted head every time I could have really used that money for something more important.  It’s like the boots are always running  through my brain now stomping out “You’re so stupid! You’re so stupid!”  They’ve effectively killed my urge to possess more leather boots of any type, that’s for damn sure.

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So, November 2014 FINALLY rolls around and I’ve not heard anything so I sent a polite e-mail to the artisan to say hello and to reconfirm that they have my correct mailing address.  Yes, I was fishing for any kind of update.  I find out that apparently the person making my boots was in the hospital for a month and orders have been delayed.

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If I didn’t feel robbed before I sure do now because it’s freakin’ February 2015 and I’m still waiting.  The wording on their invoice leads me to believe that even if they haven’t started making the boots, they won’t cancel my order and return my money since they did the work to do my foot moldings.  Which is bullshit but buyer beware.

I find it a bit ethically questionable to not be up front about the waiting period but also to take in so many orders that it creates such a backlog in the first place.  I was hoping by now to be able to give a review of these babies and dreamed that these would be my ultimate boots to end all boots.  But I’ve got nothing.  Has anyone ever ordered and actually RECEIVED boots from this company?

P.S. – I’d be a bigger jackrod than I already am if I didn’t at least put out one more feeler for my boots since I’m publicly bitching about this to everyone else.  So I politely emailed the artisan yesterday and just got this response:   “I am able to be in the shop a bit and I have yours patterned and will be cutting the leather this weekend.   I am so sorry for the delays and I will try and have them completed very soon…. ”   *sigh*

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The Ukulele Report

@Three weeks ago I was waylaid by whimsy and purchased a Groupon for ukulele lessons at the Center Stage Ukulele Academy (online).  I’d been thinking about learning something like ukulele or mandolin for a while now, but you know how those things just go on that mental list of “wouldn’t it be nice to know how to… (play a ukulele, pick locks, drive a standard car, speak fluent Turkish, etc.)” and you never really make an effort to DO those things.  You just sigh and say you wish you knew how.  Well, a $10 Groupon and peer pressure gave me that push.

So here’s what I’ve been up to since then…

My new uke!

My new uke!

Thanks to the instant gratification of a music store close enough to walk to, I found a beautiful pineapple uke (Makala MK-P Soprano).  It was the only one of that kind there, as the rest just looked like mini guitars and I was so not into them.  Never had the slightest desire to play a guitar, don’t want to play something that looks like one.  Downloaded a tuner app which works well, although I’ve also gotten a Snark tuner since then which is more foolproof then listening to the app tone.

I try to find time to play a little everyday.  I’ve completed @30% of the lessons which is awesome but really too fast.  I need to backtrack and master some of the trickier lessons because I tried to do too many the other day and got really frustrated.  NOT GOOD.  I love playing and don’t want to be forcing myself to practice.  But I do really like the Center Stage site and the lessons so far – I have access to them for a year although of course there are plenty of free tutorials around the Interwebz.

Never having played a stringed instrument of any kind, it’s weird to have to tune something all the time and my fingertips are killing me!  My friends send me YouTube links of people playing so effortlessly, but I can’t imagine ever being able to play without looking at my fingers or singing while playing.  Strumming patterns totally confuse me for some reason, and I just end up strumming how I like it.  I think I need a strap instead of trying to keep the poor thing in a right arm headlock.  Playing a B chord of any kind correctly seems more unlikely than sighting a unicorn, and I’ve been driving my husband crazy playing (badly) the intro of Stairway to Heaven.  That’s my jam, yo.

Reviews of most ukuleles insist you have to immediately change out the strings for better quality, but I don’t have any issues with the sound of mine.  I guess I don’t know any different.  I’ve noticed my pineapple sounds a little different than the ones the online instructors use.  Deeper maybe, less twangy.  Definitely better.  I don’t need to fool with the strings for now (or rather, pay someone else to fool with the strings).

Don’t tell my ukulele, but I played a Kala banjolele (banjo ukulele) at the music store last week and I’ve been thinking about it ever since…

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Why I’m A Business Failure (this week) – The Identity Crisis

Regular readers or people who peruse my Nosy Details page know I have an etsy store because making jewelry is one of my hobbies, and I just can’t stop myself from making shit so I might as well sell it. Sort of.

You hear about those stores where all of a sudden, the thing someone is selling just takes off because it’s mentioned by Martha Stewart or featured in a magazine. There are also some craftsmen who are incredibly gifted and manage to make a living out of what they create and can be their own boss. Then there are rest the rest of us. The vast majority of us. I love etsy because it’s such an affordable way to get what I do out to the world but I am always struggling with my “presence”.

I can’t tell you how many times over the years I’ve retaken photos of all my items, trying to find the perfect look. But my mind keeps changing about what I want that look to be and I never seem to get it quite right.

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Do I want a bright background – does that say my jewelry is youthful?

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Do I want a black or white background – does that say clean and minimalist?

I love/hate looking at other people’s items and wondering how they got them looking so good. At first I set everything on a piece of clear glass over grass outside, for a clean nature girl feel. Hated it. Reshot everything on a mirror. Got bored with it. Most things now are outdoor shots on a piece of slate but I hate lugging everything outside. I recently got a little light box set-up, thinking I could get my pics to be more professional looking and I haven’t been totally thrilled with the results. So I’ve been practicing with different items and backgrounds and at some point, professional lost out to goofy. Because yes, This happened:

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I started using LEGOs for props. So much for professional. I give up; I can’t be one of those swanky sites where you desire all the pretty things because they look unnaturally perfect. Instead, I seem to be obsessed with distracting customers from what I make by the displays. WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH ME?

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I May Have a LEGO Problem

I’ve been meaning to write this since Christmas, when it became obvious that I was developing an attachment to LEGOs which is probably inappropriate for my age.  It came out of nowhere on an innocent Tuesday, while window shopping at a giant mall with my sister-in-law.  I thought “oh, let’s go in the LEGO store and play with minifigs”.  I have a deep hatred of all those expensive kits with too many instructions, and reminisce about the good old days of having the chunky, mismatched blocks where nobody told you what you could build with them.  I mean, have you  looked at the pieces in those kits?  Just like everything else, most have been downsized to a third of what they used to be.  A third!  Getting those suckers apart will ruin your manicure immediately.

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What I didn’t realize was that there is an entire back wall where I could pick and choose my pieces!  Even better, you fill up the container with as many pieces as you can possibly stuff into it.  Oh LEGO, I thought, you are ON!  If this had been an Olympic sport, my SIL and I would have medaled in it.  Not a gold – the cashier did some cup shaking and showed me where I missed shoving in a few teeny pieces, but definitely a silver.  I appreciated his letting us getting away with all we did.  In any case, I was planning at first to get a cup for my niece and nephew.  Shortly into the cup filling, it became obvious to me that I couldn’t part with them.  Then I decided I could justify the purchase by putting the cup in my office for students to fool with when they come in to talk to me.  Then I decided there was no way in hell students were touching my precious LEGOs.  Ever.

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But the cup wasn’t enough.  I needed more.  By then I was out of town and not near a LEGO store but like I said before, I detest the kits.  They are too expensive and come with all these stupid little specialized pieces.  What to do?  Sales and gift cards.  I tried to use every gift card I had to wrangle LEGOs.  I was pleasantly surprised to find some $2.99 LEGO Friends kits at TJ Maxx, even though LEGO Friends are dumb (except the one with the bear and salmon run).  I struck out at Sears because our Sears sucks.  No kids toys at all.  I found Ollie’s having a 50% off sale after the holidays and their prices are cheaper than normal already.  I bought minifigs on eBay.  I trolled Craigslist but everyone wanted too much money or were willing to trade for things I didn’t have.  I did pay full price at Wal-Mart for the Batman/Penguin kit because I had to have the Rubber duck boat and the bitty penguins holding dynamite.

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Crazed.  I’ve been crazed I tell you.  But I have found building ridiculous vehicles and houses I will never live in to be rather de-stressing.  Not for my husband of course, because nothing’s more annoying than the sound of someone pawing through a plastic box of LEGO pieces, but for me it’s pretty awesome.

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Guilty Pleasure: Solo Hike

I’m probably the only person working in higher ed. that didn’t participate in a service project today. With deepest apologies to MLK Jr., I know I’m a horrible person. I wanted a day off and away from work/home/students/co-workers. It was a beautiful day for a hike.

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I need to get back into hiking. I loathe the elliptical and would rather cut my feet off than run. Yoga and Pilates classes on campus aren’t bad when I can make myself go, but they get kind of boring and I have to worry about being fashionable. Nobody cares what you look like hiking. Trekking up and down hills is great for your butt, I can geocache (okay so I’m usually too lazy to fight with the gps), and there ‘s that extra dose of adrenaline when you just miss stepping on a sunning copperhead. Seriously – that was my top concern today because it seems to happen almost every time.

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Don’t hold me to this but I’m really going to try doing more hiking. I’ve got so many places around my area with trails and I have great Ahnu boots to walk in (which is what happens when your old favorites crap out in Gatlinburg and your only shoe options are at the most expensive sporting goods store EVER.). Two things I need to change to be more successful at this : 1. Get the hiking clothes out from under everything in the cedar chest and 2. Don’t blow all that hard work by stopping at a general store on the way home for a moon pie and RC.

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So there I am – horribly selfish American, needing alone time and running off to hike.

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It’s a Driver! Kind Of. In Which I Learn About Fuel Filters…

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See that? THAT, my friends, is Freddie’s fuel filter. I realize now I’m going to need to buy them by the dozens until: regular driving flushes out all the rust from the gas tank OR we find a good deal on a replacement gas tank. My realistic side knows we’ll need to buy a gas tank. It’s one of those old car things that I didn’t know about but am not surprised by. Add that to the list of things to worry about after I come up with $1500 for new whitewalls.

We took FM to a little “coffee and cars” event yesterday which was supercool because people oooh and ahhh over his original flathead V8 motor and how pretty he is. I feel guilty, but I was secretly pleased to see some other cars that were in worse shape. After, we tooled around town a bit and I was feeling better about how he’s getting closer to being a daily driver (once I can afford to burn through that much gas). Until Freddie wouldn’t start and we were in the middle of an Ollie’s parking lot with no tools.

Today’s problem? The little fuel filter was plugged full of rust from the gas tank. This is when it’s good to have your very own personal mechanic sitting in the driver’s seat who knew enough to have two spare filters and a screwdriver in the trunk. Unfortunately he also needed a 2mm allen wrench for something under the hood and some spare gas (hey, I know how to change a fuel filter in under 15 minutes but I didn’t catch everything), but after getting a mouthful of fuel, the problem was solved. Until the new filter fills up with rust. We’ve caught some already just driving home @5 miles.

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I’m told that it’s important to drive him on the regular to catch all the problems that come up so they can be added to the long list of problems. A bit depressing. In other car news, there is a waterproof cover on the way so he doesn’t have to go to our friend’s car port every time rain is threatening. A quick fix to the window seal problems.

But he’s pretty!!!

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