Sunday, February 28, 2010

Quilt-Step Three

Disclaimer: I am in no way a quilting expert. I have learned solely from trial and error (emphasis on error) and reading on the internet. I have only made 4 quilt tops and have hand quilted 1 top and machine quilted 4 tops. I am not saying everything I do is the right way to do it, just sharing what I've picked up so far. You'll probably learn best by trial and error too ;-)

With the quilt planned, the pieces cut, and the machine ready, it's time to start piecing the quilt. You typically use 1/4" seams and it's helpful to find out which guideline on your stitch plate is 1/4" from your needle so that you have a straight line to follow. I couldn't stitch (or draw, or paint...) a straight line if my life depended on it, so I have to have a guide. In some instances, it might be nice to piece one block at a time, but with good planning and the more simple designs, you can speed piece and save yourself time and thread. I like speed piecing because it's harder for me to get confused about what I'm working on, I'm just doing the same thing over and over again. Also, on my machine, you use up 5" of thread from the top and 5" from the bobbin each time you stop and start again. For the quilts I'm working on, speed piecing can save me about 3 regular spools of thread.

So what is this speed piecing business? Basically, it amounts to running the next piece of fabric into the machine right behind the last piece without stopping and cutting the thread. On the Scrap Happy quilt, we have 452 pieces of one size and all of those need to be sewn into groups of two. So, Sierra picks out two fabrics she wants together, lays them out, and I feed it into the machine. We repeat this until we have 226 pairs sewn and they are all one big long string. Then I clip them apart. We also have 904 pieces of another size that need the exact same thing done. Rather than working a block and needing pieces of different sizes out and getting it straight in my head which way to sew them, we just do the same thing over and over again, with each step completing some of each block in the quilt.

It gets slightly trickier in the Spindrift quilt I'm working on. There, I need to make 90 pinwheel blocks. I could do that by cutting a bunch of triangles (boo, hiss! that would take me forever), or I could stick to cutting squares. I cut 180 colored squares and 180 "white" (I used an off-white with a sparse print) squares. Because I'm doing so many, and have that whole issue with straight lines, I went ahead and drew a diagonal line across the back of each white square. I use permanent marker because it's easy to see and it's going to be cut later on anyway

Now I have a stack of colored squares and a stack of white squares with lines

I am going to stack one colored and one white square, right sides together, and then sew a line 1/4" from my diagonal, on both sides of my diagonal. Back to my whole straight line issue, I like to give myself a guideline to follow on the machine (I will be covering the stitch plate). It's not necessary, but it's easier to me. So, I put a piece of scotch tape across the machine, figure out where the corner of the square will fall, and draw myself a line that those corners should follow.

Now I start sewing these pairs, without cutting the thread between each pair

And I have a string of squares with one line sewn
Now I just go back (again, without cutting the squares apart) and sew 1/4" on the other side of the line.
With both lines sewn, I cut apart the squares, then get out the handy-dandy rotary cutter and cut along my line I drew

Open both of these up, and I have two triangles pieced together (these will become pinwheels later this week)

Before I go on to piece anything else together, I'm going to have to press my seams. I hate ironing. Really hate it. None of our clothes get ironed. I tried my best to sew without ironing. It doesn't work. If you want to sew accurately, you've got to press the seams. If you don't, you're "losing" fabric in the seams and things start to not line up properly. So, a quick lesson on pressing...

First of all, we are talking pressing here, not ironing. Ironing is running the iron over the fabric--it can stretch your fabric out of shape and make things all wonky. Pressing is just setting the iron on the fabric and letting the weight of the iron do the work. Do not move the iron back and forth over the fabric. Then there is the whole debate about pressing seams to one side, or pressing them open. I press them open if I'm going to be sewing past them again. It takes more time, but I feel like the seam lays flatter and it's easier to line up the seams so the finished quilt looks better. If I won't be sewing over the seam again, I press to one side because it's faster. I started sewing clothes before I ever did any quilts, and you almost always press the seams open on clothes, so that's just what I'm used to. I've read that you should press to one side in quilting to make the seam stronger, but I like this article's rebuttal against that belief.

So here's how I do it:
Lay my fabric flat on the board, open it up and press (this presses the seam to one side)


Turn the fabric over, open the seam and press
Turn it back to the right side and press again

Seems like a lot, but you get a little assembly line going with 5 or 6 pieces on the ironing board at a time and get through it fairly quickly.

It'll be a while before I get to borders, sashing, quilting and binding, but I'll post updates as we work through the piecing!



Quilt Step One: Planning
Quilt Step Two: Cutting Fabric, Preparing Machine
Quilt Step Three: Piecing The Quilt
Quilt: Piecing, Continued
Quilt: More Piecing
Quilt: Scrap Happy Blocks Pieced
Quilt: Spindrift Pieced
Quilt Step Four: Sashing
Quilt Step Five: Border
Quilt: Choosing Batting
Quilt Step Six: The Quilt Sandwich
Quilt Step Seven: Hand Quilting
Quilt Step Eight: Binding

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Texas Snow Day

We had a snow day this week, a true rarity in our part of Texas! Even better, we had already purchased some of our Montana outer-wear AND we had just gotten a new camera.






That was Tuesday. By Thursday, the snow was gone, temps were in the 60's and it was bright and sunny. Craziness.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The swag bucks birthday

If you signed up with SwagBucks earlier in the week, you probably want to take advantage of all the swagcodes coming up today for their birthday. They have changed the point system (everything is multiplied by 10, so what used to 2 swagbucks is now 20). They seem to not be quite prepared for the traffic and the site is slow today, but I've come up with over 100 swag bucks (10 under the old system) from codes and searches. A good site to keep an eye on to find codes easily is we-love-swag-bucks.com

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Quilt-Step Two

Disclaimer: I am in no way a quilting expert. I have learn solely from trial and error (emphasis on error) and reading on the internet. I have only made 4 quilt tops and have hand quilted 1 top and machine quilted 4 tops. I am not saying everything I do is the right way to do it, just sharing what I've picked up so far. You'll probably learn best by trial and error too ;-)

After deciding what quilt to make, it's time to get all the materials together and cut fabric. I usually start picking fabric by looking through what I have. In the case of the two quilts we're making, I literally went through my scrap bin and started cutting up anything that was big enough to give me the size pieces I needed. If I'm starting with newly purchased fabric though, it works best to first wash and then iron everything. Before you wash, it helps to sew a quick, regular stitch across cut ends to keep them from unraveling (the sides of the fabric, which feel a little different are called the selvage, those won't unravel).

Also remember that darker fabrics will probably run, so you don't want to mix them with lighter fabrics. I'm not sure of the proper procedure, but I always wash on the hottest setting. My reasoning is that I want something to shrink now instead of after I cut it. Once the fabric has been washed and dried, I cut off those ends I sewed and then iron the fabric. I used to hate ironing and avoided it all the time, but it's hard as heck to accurately cut wrinkled fabric. So taking the time to do the ironing saves me grief later on.

When it's time to cut the fabric, it's extremely helpful to have a rotary cutter, acrylic ruler and self-healing mat.

You can get these on sale if you watch the local JoAnn or Hancock Fabric ads and they are a must have if you're planning on doing any amount of sewing. I have Fiskars and Fons and Porter brand sets. I honestly like the cheaper, Fiskars set a little better. I'd suggest a self-healing mat that's at least 17"x24". I also have a 24"x36" mat and it's nice to have the bigger area to work on, but sometimes it's just easier to get out and find a space for the smaller mat. If you're looking for storage space, you can hang your mats up using those hangers with the clips on them to hold pants and skirts. Another consideration with mats is whether you want grid lines running all across the mat or not. My Fiskars mat has grid lines, my Fons and Porter mats don't. The Fons and Porter mats use the lack of grid lines as a selling point, but I actually like having them. Perhaps I'm doing something wrong, but it helps me out when I'm cutting. An acrylic ruler is pretty much an acrylic ruler, you need one. for the most part, bigger is better. Mine is 6"x24". Then you get down to rotary cutters. I have a Fons and Porter rotary cutter that I just haven't gotten used to yet, probably because I don't use it much. The nice thing about it though is that anytime you aren't cutting, the blade is protected. You have to push down for the blade to be exposed. This is nice with little kids around because if they reach up on the table, there's not an exposed blade. Unfortunately, because of this, I forget to flip the switch to actually lock the blade, so they only have to push on the side to get cut. The Fiskars rotary cutter has a little button that needs to be pushed to retract the blade, but it is always locked in whatever position you put it in. Once you get in the habit of pushing that button every single time you're done making a cut, I think it's a little safer around little kids. Both cutters are theoretically left or right handed. The Fons and Porter takes no effort to use with the opposite hand. The Fiskars, you can take the blade off and switch it to the other side, but then the retract button is against your hand all the time and you accidentally hit it (I think of these things because Josh and Sierra are both lefties). You can buy replacement blades and I think in 5 years, I've probably switched blades 3 or 4 times. They last quite a while, but as soon as they stop cutting cleanly, just switch them out. I didn't at first, and ruined my first cutter (the blade was "dragging" and eventually the metal cut into the post the blade goes on, so then it wouldn't work quite right and steadily got worse until I had to just get a new cutter).

With fabric washed and iron, and cutting supplies assembled, you want to start cutting. It takes practice. A few key tips: cut your selvages off, plus a little extra. When you look closely at these edges, you'll see they're more tightly woven than the rest of the fabric. Not always, but sometimes this can wreak havoc, break needles, etc... So even if it'll be hidden when you sew, cut the selvage off. To save time, I always stack my fabric when I can. If I'm going to be cutting 100 squares the same size, I fold the fabric over several times until I have about 8 layers. Here's where we get into my self-taught, trial and error methods, so I suspect it may be technically wrong (because when I sew clothes I pay attention to grain line and I don't at all with quilting)...fair warning ;-) I lay my fabric so the edges over lap grid lines on my self healing mat on two adjacent sides, then I line up my acrylic ruler (using the grid lines to be sure it's straight) to cut those two sides and to give me two straight sides and a squared off corner: (I just grabbed a piece of muslin to take pictures, I didn't iron it or fold it over)


From this point on, DO NOT MEASURE FROM GRID LINES ON THE MAT, measure from the edge of your fabric to be sure you get the right size. When at all possible, you move around the fabric, or move the mat, do not pick up the fabric and move it until you are done cutting. Use the lines on the acrylic ruler to cut the size pieces you need. To speed things up, you may want to cut many pieces at once. For the scrap happy quilt, I needed a lot of 1.5"x2.5" rectangles, so I would line up the 6" line on my ruler with the cut edge of the fabric and cut, then slide it over to the 4.5" line and cut, then the 3" line and cut, then the 1.5" line and cut:






Now I have four 1.5" wide strips (without moving the fabric). Now I walk to the other side (to cross-cut) and line up the 5" line on my ruler with the other cut edge and cut, then slide it to the 2.5" line and cut again. Now I have 8 rectangles cut, but since I folded my fabric to begin with, each of those is a stack of 8, so I really have 64 pieces cut in about 2 minutes (at the most):






Continue, continue, continue until all your pieces are cut. As I cut, I sort the pieces into labeled sandwich bags and then put all the bags for one quilt into a gallon ziploc so everything is together in one spot.

The other thing to do is make sure your machine is working. Your needle should be replaced with each new project you start. If you keep using the same needle, it gets dull and "punchy"...your machine will sound really loud and you can kind of tell the needle is punching through the fabric instead of neatly sliding through. Needles are cheap, buy 5 packs when they're on sale and change them liberally. If you aren't sure what kind to get, ask the nice sales lady to explain them to you, there are different kinds for different fabrics. I also like to prepare lots of bobbins ahead of time. I tend to piece quilts with just white (for lights) or black (for darks) thread. I always use Gutermann thread because when my mother-in-law gave me the sewing machine she told me to always use good thread because it's easier to work with and your project lasts longer. If you look at Gutermann or Sulky thread it does look smoother, where as the cheapie threads are bumpy looking. So, makes sense to me that good thread will cause me less frustration while sewing. I buy the giant 1000m spools of Gutermann thread whenever it's 50% off at JoAnn's. Before I start any project that's going to use a lot of the same thread, I sit down and fill about 5 bobbins (to start with) with that thread. This way, when my bobbin runs out (my machine has an awesome feature that beeps to warn me this is about to happen), I can just switch it out with a new one and keep right on sewing where I left off without stopping and restarting anything. Whenever I run out of bobbins, I make 3 or 4 new ones at a time unless I'm near the end of the project.

I also make sure the machine is clean. You probably have a way of looking under the presser foot, where the needle goes down in the machine and the feed dogs (those things that move your fabric along) are located...find out how to do that and be sure it's not packed with lint. Especially if you've been sewing fleece.

The insides of my poor machine before cleaning


All the lint I cleaned out


Happy machine



WHEW........that's a long post. It's not nearly as complicated as it sounds when you set out to put it all in words ;-)



Quilt Step One: Planning
Quilt Step Two: Cutting Fabric, Preparing Machine
Quilt Step Three: Piecing The Quilt
Quilt: Piecing, Continued
Quilt: More Piecing
Quilt: Scrap Happy Blocks Pieced
Quilt: Spindrift Pieced
Quilt Step Four: Sashing
Quilt Step Five: Border
Quilt: Choosing Batting
Quilt Step Six: The Quilt Sandwich
Quilt Step Seven: Hand Quilting
Quilt Step Eight: Binding

Monday, February 22, 2010

Quilt-Step One

I've had so many people ask for posts and pictures of our quilt making process, that I'm going to do a series of posts showing everything step by step. Unfortunately, my camera is very nearly dead, so I can't really get started just yet. We got a new (and much better!) camera today that will be ready to use as soon as the battery charges, so I'll be able to catch up soon. I wanted to start with two particular things though. One Acre Homestead mentioned sewing machine tension. I found this very long, but very informative article about diagnosing and fixing tension problems.

The other is deciding what to make. I'd suggest using a pattern for the first quilt you do unless you just want to put squares together in a checker board pattern. This eliminates an awful lot of math and a whole slew of steps where things could go wrong. You might find something in a quilting magazine that you like or sometimes there are quilt patterns in the store you can follow. Something like what Me and My Sister Designs offers will give you detailed information about how much fabric you need and how to cut it and piece it, while letting you choose the fabrics you like. Look for something that's labeled "easy" or "beginner". Then pick out fabrics you like. I haven't made a well coordinated quilt that would show up in a magazine somewhere, I just put together what seems okay at the time. Maybe next time I'll actually plan out colors....eh, maybe not.

The first quilt we're making is from American Patchwork and Quilting magazine and is called scrap happy. You can see a finished picture on their website, along with a wall hanging made the same way, but with a different color scheme. Our quilt will probably come out more like the wall hanging, only it's still bed-size (roughly 94"x94"). Directions for the wall hanging are on the site and everything is exactly the same as what we're doing except that the wall hanging is made up of 25 squares and our quilt will be 113 squares.

The other quilt is from Quick Quilts and there aren't great pictures online, but it's the cover picture from this issue of the magazine.

And I'll end with what I plan to start each post with:

Disclaimer: I am in no way a quilting expert. I have learn solely from trial and error (emphasis on error) and reading on the internet. I have only made 4 quilt tops and have hand quilted 1 top and machine quilted 4 tops. I am not saying everything I do is the right way to do it, just sharing what I've picked up so far. You'll probably learn best by trial and error too ;-)



Quilt Step One: Planning
Quilt Step Two: Cutting Fabric, Preparing Machine
Quilt Step Three: Piecing The Quilt
Quilt: Piecing, Continued
Quilt: More Piecing
Quilt: Scrap Happy Blocks Pieced
Quilt: Spindrift Pieced
Quilt Step Four: Sashing
Quilt Step Five: Border
Quilt: Choosing Batting
Quilt Step Six: The Quilt Sandwich
Quilt Step Seven: Hand Quilting
Quilt Step Eight: Binding

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Swag

Let's take a moment from our regularly scheduled programming to discuss SwagBucks. If you haven't heard of it yet, it's a site where you can earn free prizes just by doing your usual internet searches. Signing up is free and easy (and I get referral points if you use the link above). I just joined about a week ago and have already earned enough for a $5 amazon gift card. Once you join you can use the search bar at the SwagBucks website, or you can download the SwagBucks toolbar (which is what I did) and use it just like you'd use google. You'll randomly win SwagBucks for some of your searches. Most of the time when I win, it's 1 SwagBuck, but I've gotten up to 5 so far. You can also become a fan of SwagBucks on facebook and check in at the SwagBucks blog to find SwagCodes. These can be entered on the SwagBucks website (on the right hand side) and automatically give you SwagBucks. SwagBucks 2nd anniversary is coming up and it sounds like there will be SwagCodes for the taking in celebration, so now would be a good time to get started!

The one downside is that when you search through SwagBucks, it says the searches are powered by google and ask.com, but you do get a few "sponsored site" things coming up first. I don't have a problem scrolling through those in return for earning free stuff though. I like free stuff!

Quilting as Homeschooling

I will start a series of "quilting 101" posts very soon that follow along as Sierra and I work on our quilts, but today I wanted to take a moment to point out all the things you can teach a child with an activity that might seem little more than hobby:
  • Obviously, there's the practical skill of learning how to sew. Everything from learning what a selvage is to how to use and maintain a sewing machine.
  • Planning and organization. It is very helpful to gather all your fabrics and cut them all out at the same time, before you start sewing and it can be good for a kid to get started with the habit of organizing their project and workspace.
  • Colors: a younger toddler might be able to sit next to you and practice their colors ("hand me the red square") or help find the color of thread that matches a fabric, while an older child can begin to learn about a color wheel and creating color harmonies with their fabric choices (fair warning, we are NOT doing this with our scrap quilt!)
  • Shapes: With all these pieces of fabric around, it's a perfect opportunity to learn the differences between a rectangle, square, triangle or circle
  • Measurement: in the process of cutting fabric, you can teach how to read and use a ruler.
  • Math: a younger child might stand close by and count squares on a ruler or cutting mat or count fabric pieces and sort them into stacks of 10 to help you keep a total count. An older child can begin to learn what fractions are and start adding and multiplying them to make cutting go faster. They may learn to figure area and how much fabric they need to get a certain number of squares. They can learn how many inches are in a yard, multiply the price per yard by the number of yards being purchased and count out money to pay for the fabric.
  • "Real World" practice: they may ask a question of the sales clerk at the fabric shop, ask for the amount of fabric they need to be cut, handle the check out process on their own
  • And every question in between: plugging in the sewing machine might lead to discussion about how electricity works, ironing might lead to a history lesson of what the original irons were and how they were used or a lesson about how an electric iron gets hot or how it removes wrinkles from fabric, looking at fabrics can spur a discussion about cotton vs. polyester and then how cotton is grown and turned into fabric. Kids will come up with an amazing assortment of questions from one seemingly simple task. Don't worry if you don't know the answers, those are good opportunities to teach them how to find information on their own and you can both learn together.


Happy learning!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Q is for Quilt



This is my great-granny (holding Sierra almost 5 years ago). She lived to be 100 years old, which means she was an adult with children during the Depression. That fact alone meant we heard plenty of interesting stories from Granny. Once a person lives through a time when things we consider as basic as food and shelter are not guaranteed, it seems they always appreciate things just a little bit more. They really take that "waste not, want not" phrase to heart. As such, Granny's quilts served a purpose and that purpose was not to hang in a gallery somewhere. I like looking at pretty quilts, I'm just not interested in spending the time and resources to make one. I'll keep my eye out for pretty fabric scraps on sale and take my friends up on offers to go through their scrap bins, but I just can't bring myself to pay $16/yd (or more!) for fabric...it feels like I'm betraying my granny. Several years ago, I was very generously gifted a great sewing machine by my mother-in-law and ever since then, I have been saving my fabric scraps. Anything bigger than a 2"x2" square has gone in a bin for a future quilt. Since I am starting to think about packing up, plus we are moving to a much colder climate, I decided it was time to get those out and get to quilting. Turns out I have enough scraps for two (maybe even three, but I'm not that ambitious) quilts. I found two patterns I'm following, but they are the epitomy of a scrap quilt--all sorts of different fabrics. Sierra is helping me by picking out the two pieces of fabric she wants next to each other and just generally looking over my shoulder and asking "why do you do that?" ten million times.

So the first order of business was cut out 2,392 pieces of fabric. I learned the hard way that quilting is much easier if I cut all the fabric first and sort it into baggies, so I can just grab what I need when I'm sewing instead of stopping to iron and cut first, or searching for a square I need. Then last night, we sewed the first 226 seams. Speed piecing is a wonderful thing...I was sewing 452 rectangles together in groups of two, so you sew one, then feed the next in right after it without cutting the thread. Saves time and saves thread. Sierra also though it was very cool to stretch out the string of squares before we cut them apart. It went all the way from one end of the house to the other!

Here's a picture of about 1/4 of my scraps from the scraps (everything I couldn't get a 1.5"x2.5" rectangle out of).

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Same Ol', Same Ol'

Not a whole lot going on around here. The house we were hoping to rent in Montana isn't going to work out. The owner was pretty wishy washy about some things and it was just getting weird, so we decided it was probably better not to be dependent on him for things like heater repairs or something like that. We're still looking and there are lots of promising options. It'd be nice to put off committing to something (and possibly paying before we move up), so we're not in a rush yet. Other moving plans are falling into place though. Looks like moving day with be May 24th. We're gonna have some help driving up, which is awesome. It's 2,000 miles, so it will be several days (especially with the girls, they can't tolerate 15 hour days or anything like that).

We're having some issues with Sedona again...some trouble with her old GI issues that we took her back to the doctor for, but it's looking like we've gotten that straightened out again. She also appears to have mild asthma. I was recently put back on my asthma meds, and it was again labeled as "exercise and cold-induced" asthma. Looks like Sedona has the same thing. She is not needing daily meds at this point, but she starts wheezing when she runs and sometimes starts in with the coughing. She got another box of albuterol (the nebulizer form is a lot cheaper than the inhaler and she's mild enough that I'm not worried about not having an inhaler on hand every second of the day), but it's really not a big deal at all.

The girls both had "work night" at school this week, where we get to go see what they're learning. Sierra's just chugging along, learning everything she can and Sedona seems to be following in her footsteps (though I think she's more interested in math, whereas Sierra's all about reading).

Sierra's writing has caught up to her reading. In the last few months, her handwriting has really improved--she's sizing her letters appropriately and they are of course messy, but legible to anyone. Her spelling has also improved greatly. She still mixes up her lower case d's and b's, but I think that might have something to do with being left handed (every other kid in class has learned the b points toward the hand they're writing with and she's had to learn the opposite). Sedona finally decided to start talking (a bit late, just like sister) and boy does she have A LOT to say. She chatters all day long and most of the time we understand her. This weekend, she has decided she's 5 years old. She was being particularly ornery and I said, "man, you're two!" and she held up 5 fingers (see? a numbers girl!) and said, "no! I five!" She has stuck with it all weekend. If anyone tells her she's two, she tries to correct them. She's also decided to become a little comedian. She'll say something and then cover her mouth and laugh like she's just the funniest thing ever.

Not much else to report. We celebrated Valentine's by getting a heart shaped pizza, making heart shaped cupcakes (which the girls decorated with heart-shaped sprinkles) and drinking pink lemonade while we watched a couple kid's movies we'd rented. Who needs a fancy dinner out when you've got two kids covered in chocolate frosting to love on?!?

Monday, February 8, 2010

Baffled

I understand having a prepared speech. I understand having notes to refer to. I have a little trouble understanding anyone past high school keeping those notes on their hand, but hey, if professionalism isn't high on the priority list, whatever. What completely baffles me though is apparently writing some of your core beliefs/platforms on your hand. By definition, those things should be pretty ingrained and hard to forget, I'd think? If stage fright is an issue (but still, wow) at least get a note card, right? And for the record, yes, I'm biased. I cannot stand Sarah Palin. Aside from Cheney, I think she's my least favorite Republican or Tea Partian, or whatever. (For the record, my least favorite Democrats are currently Hillary Clinton and Harry Reid)

The Huffington Post Article: Palin's Tea Party Crib Notes

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Okay, A little Excited


We went shopping last night for winter outerwear. I'll admit, that was fun and exciting. Especially since I've already budgeted money, so I wasn't stressing over every price tag. I've planned on $750 initially to outfit us for Montana winters. The girls will need more as they get bigger, but I figured if I shopped for ski clothes in Texas in the spring, I'd be able to find some really good deals and avoid scrambling at the last minute, and paying a lot more, once our first winter hits. I've been watching online sales, but things were selling out a lot sooner than I anticipated. So yesterday, I looked up the stores at our closest outlet mall and there's a Columbia there. I spent some time checking out Columbia prices on different websites (because outlet stores aren't always cheaper), and after dinner last night, we made the drive to the store. As a background, the cheapest I've been seeing kid's snowbibs (on clearance) was $20 and kid's jackets were typically $40 and up. I wasn't finding any adult jackets available for less than $100. So here's what we got:

Men's 3 in 1 jacket (fleece liner that zips in and out of a breathable, waterproof shell, with hood) $56
Women's long sleeve thermal (I just had to have it because it's cute and the sleeves are LONG and usually sleeves are too short for me) $20
Two Women's hats (for the girls, they have big heads) $7.50/each
Neck gaiter (I know, easy to make, but it was cheaper than my time) $5
Women's ski gloves with fleece liners $20
Men's ski gloves with fleece liners $20
Women's 3 in 1 jacket $45
Girl's ski jacket and snow-bib matching set $35
Toddler's ski jacket and snow-bib matching set $17.50

We ended up paying $233. The suggested retail price on the tags totaled $865 and the outlet price on the tags totaled $590. Even if you assume outlet prices are artificially jacked up (and yes they are, a lot of times) we saved several hundred dollars based on the prices I had been seeing while shopping online. Not to mention the fact that the act of going to the store and trying on new things and building a large pile of purchases (which we just don't do in this family) got all of us a little more excited about moving, and that's priceless.

I think this is a pretty good start on our outerwear. Josh and I already have down jackets and Sierra has another heavy Columbia jacket that was passed down from a cousin. Both girls have Montana-worthy gloves. Josh has some ski pants already and Sedona will be growing into some of Sierra's stuff while we're there. For outerwear, I think we need at least one more set of pants or bibs for each of the girls, snow boots for everyone (maybe? Josh and I both have gortex hiking boots already), and a pair of snow pants for me. We'll all definitely want a few sets of long underwear too.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Cold Hard Truth

image from utexas.edu I added a circle around the town we're moving to

Everyone keeps asking me if I'm excited to move to Montana. It's a little socially awkward when I answer truthfully (no, I'm not). It seems everyone is waiting for it to "click", for me to get excited. The truth is that I'm not, it doesn't look like that's going to change, and more importantly, I don't have to be. For one thing, it's temporary. This is a post-doc, not a long-term job, so we will only be there for a few years. I don't have to feel the same way about it as I'd feel about going somewhere for a "real" job. Second, it's a fabulous post-doc offer. No one else would be able to match the pay, benefits and research resources available--it's too good to pass up, no matter the location.

So am I excited? No. Am I willing and able to make the best of it? Absolutely. I just have to put in a little more effort to do so.

And for the record, if you ask me the other big question ("So, you ready to move?!") the answer is also likely to be "nope". I will move, and it will be fine, and we'll make the most of it and experience as many new things as possible while there, but I just can't mentally psych myself up to the point of being excited and ready for a place as far away and cold as Montana. So unless you want that honest conversation, you're better off waiting until I've actually been IN Montana for a couple of months (but before winter hits) and then asking me how I like it.

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