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Originally published at Velvet Kerfuffle. Please leave any comments there.

Okay, let’s see… what’s going on these days? Well, as you may have noticed if you landed here, I’ve decided to consolidate all my various blogs into one big one. Easier to do now with the spiffy new magazine layouts than it was a few years  back. 2013 done, only a gazillion more years to go I’m taking the opportunity to clean up links, better organize categories and properly tag photos, so who knows when that will be done. Good thing I’m in an especially OCD frame of mind these days. Offline, pretty much the same story. I noticed the …

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Originally published at Velvet Kerfuffle Fashion and Costumery. Please leave any comments there.

Hmm. Apologies for the service interruption – it appears my sites might have been down with the cache.php bug as early as this last Wednesday. Have it somewhat patched up using Perishable Press’ three-file fix, but still am seeing a few odd things happening here and there. I’m gonna back these things up and take a closer look soon. Hopefully, there will still be something left after I’m done :-)

And, in news of the fashion-related, I am considering perming my hair. Yep, the traumatic memories from mother-inflicted high school hairstyles must be starting to fade, hmm? Nothing crazy, just something for body since my roots have a tendency to flatten rapidly… much like our land-whale of a cat Misu. Plus, I hear that they have a much wider and gentler selection these days. Will still have research the offerings here, since it seems the hairdressers of Rauma are not entirely familiar with my type of hair, but hopefully this will happen for the summer. Kinda want to do some color, too, but not sure whether that will be a good thing, health-wise, since my hair will need to be bleached and that might be bad for the perm part. Decisions, decisions…

 

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Originally published at Velvet Kerfuffle. Please leave any comments there.

Since she was young, Misu has had a talent for underestimating her own size. This has led to many occasions where she will wedge in or perch on places that really are not meant to support a creature of her… *cough* stately magnitude. Today, I share with you a collection of such moments caught on camera.

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Originally published at Velvet Kerfuffle. Please leave any comments there.

Our younger cat, Coco, is Siamese on her father’s side. This is especially evident in her very vocal interactions with us. Every morning, Coco gives me a detailed report of the happenings of the night before and the status of the food bowl. Since it seems that she doesn’t get nearly as much camera time on this blog as she should, I thought I’d share some of yesterday’s conversation with you

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Originally published at Velvet Kerfuffle. Please leave any comments there.

In which she does nothing but sleep and twitch New fancy camera, though!

RIP

Oct. 8th, 2011 09:53 pm
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Originally published at Velvet Kerfuffle Fashion and Costumery. Please leave any comments there.

Taking a few minutes from the wedding-planning madness to say a sad farewell to my clunky burgundy Deréon frames — I was very fond of them and sad that they only lasted for two years. Two hard-wearing years, mind you, factoring in the amount of travel and the somewhat reckless manner in which my eyewear sometimes gets tossed into bags. Still, I wasn’t quite expecting them to CRACK IN HALF one morning in the middle of making breakfast. Luckily, they did not fall in the frying pan. Unluckily, it happened a few days before we left for a family trip to Bulgaria, sending me on a crazy last-minute run to the optician for some contact lenses to last me until a new pair of glasses could be made. And to make matters worse, I’d managed to crack my only other wearable pair of frames just a few weeks before. Talk about your weird luck. I’m such a pack rat that it was hard to part with these, even though there was no way to salvage them. So into the trash they go, and this blog post is mostly to soothe the ickiness I feel over having to throw them out.

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Originally published at Velvet Kerfuffle Fashion and Costumery. Please leave any comments there.

I just finished making this. It is my first sweater. It is also the first full thing I’ve ever knit. I’m rather happy with the result. It actually looks more boobtastic on me because I tend to wear my belts a bit higher (short torso and all) and have a bit more curve than this form does.

So my recent crafting timeline looks something like this.

Two months ago, I visited my buddies in Turku. We visited a local yarn store and talked a lot about yarn, crochet, sheep, and general winter craft stuff. I returned home with a deep need to Make Things again. I immediately dug out my yarn stash and crochet hooks, which hadn’t seen the light in nearly a decade, and started churning out small project after project until my hands felt like they were ready to fall off. I also started using my Ravelry account for the first time in months, and ended up with a to-do queue that would probably clothe a small island nation.

A month and a week ago, I went to visit my very first Finnish friend and expressed regrets over never really learning to knit. She, figuring there was no time like the present, whipped out some needles and a ball of yarn and patiently demonstrated Continental knitting for me right there and then. I think she might have had to correct every other stitch I made in those first few agonizingly slow and clumsy minutes, but I finally saw where everything was supposed to go. Something actually clicked and made sense this time around, probably because I’d been scrutinizing stitch structures so closely for the past month. Later that week, I went out and bought my first pair of straight knitting needles. This was quickly followed by a pair of circulars.

After doing a few stitch sampler blocks for my in-progress patchwork afghan, I went for my first project. The first thing you’re supposed to knit is a scarf right? Well, I tried.  It wasn’t meant to be. Figuring it as an all-or-nothing sort of deal, I set my sights instead on the real goal of learning to knit — full-sized garments. Finding the simplest-yet-still-wearable sweater pattern possible, I cast on and tried my luck. The first week of sweater-making went well, right up until I reached the neckline and botched the entire thing by not understanding what “add second ball of yarn” meant. The entire project had to be frogged because my stitches were too tight to pick up after dropping and I learned a hard lesson in monitoring my stitch tension. Some time during all of that, I mail-ordered a cute little kit of KnitPro interchangeable circulars.

Starting over again, the sweater grew a lot faster since I knew what I was doing and my hands had developed enough muscle memory for me not to worry as much with my stitches. I learned to increase and decrease. I learned how to join yarn by felting so I wouldn’t leave a messy knot in my wool garments. I learned how to add a second ball of yarn so that my neck hole could actually fit a head through it. Ten days after my second start, with only a few further fumbles, I had an entire sweater. Sure, there were a few inconsistencies — I used a needle half a size larger than recommended because the store where I shopped didn’t carry the size I needed at the time. I compensated by making the sweater a size smaller. Turns out I could have gone two sizes smaller, but live and learn. I also misread the pattern a bit and ended up with a garter stitch side seam stripe rather than just an edging along the bottom vents. This ended up looking like a nice design detail, actually, and helped hide my less-than stellar handseaming. Chose to not add a garter stitch cuff to the wrists, since the arms were already quite long on their own and I rather liked the rolled edges. I ended up with something closer to a tunic — a few inches more and it could have been a mini-dress, really. Done up with a belt, big necklace and leggings, it actually fits right in with the stuff currently in stores. Go figure.

The real kicker? All the lecturing I got from teachers back in school was right, much as I hate to admit it. Blocking does wonders for smoothing out the details. This was how the sweater looked immediately after finishing. It was all fuzzy and smelled like five different hand lotions plus two cats. The stitches were kinda bumpy and the hems were flipping up in odd places. I’m usually far too impatient to block things neatly, so I tossed the thing in the washing machine on wool setting, figuring it would have to get a taste of what I was going to put it through normally. I put it onto the dressform to block dry and come back in the morning to find a light, comfortable sweater tunic with lovely smooth stitches! This might just be enough to convince me to hand-block my next sweater, if it comes in pieces. Woohoo!

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Originally published at Velvet Kerfuffle. Please leave any comments there.

A video I took of Coco in late August of 2009, playing with her favorite green felted mouse toy. She was a little over half a year old at the time? The toy was actually almost 2 years old at that point, but Misu never really paid much attention to it. One day, the new kitten was rummaging through the toy box, found it at the very bottom, and it was love at first bite. She carried that thing around with her all the time and we’d find it in the strangest places, depending on where she had been sleeping. …

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Originally published at Velvet Kerfuffle Fashion and Costumery. Please leave any comments there.

Seems everything around me at the moment is half finished. Probably because I’ve thrown myself into a pile of larger projects with no instant gratification in sight. Boo.

First, the saga of the purple yarn. I bought a few skeins of this pretty lavender wool to make my first full-sized knit project with, y’see. Then I started working on what should have been a simple eternity scarf pattern which went horribly wrong. Wrong beyond the possibility of fixing — as in, there were checkerboard spots where there were suppose to be stripes wrong. Luckily, I had only done perhaps 10 rows at that point, so it was frogged.

Upon starting over, I decided that I might as well dive right in and do the one thing that I’d learned knitting to do — make clothing. It took a while to track down a pattern simple enough for an utter beginner to try, but that was accomplished. The thing is, I know myself well enough to understand that this huge burst of obsessive energy at the beginning of learning something new will only last for so long. So why not use it for a big project that would otherwise inch along for months, buried beneath a pile of fifty other projects, once the shiny novelty of knitting wears off?

To my delight, this time the pattern actually worked. After just a couple inches of the front panel, it was obvious that all the measurements would work out just fine. Sure, this sweater will probably end up rather lumpy and homely due to my irregular n00b stitching, but it’ll be wearable and it’ll be MINE.

As of Monday morning, I have 1/3 of the front done and should reach the sleeves by tonight. I’m having some tension problems, it seems, because I’m rowing out here and there. It’s sporadic, though, so I’ll have to observe more closely to see what’s triggering it. It’s exciting to see a garment grow in such a neat and orderly manner, though — unlike the scary malignant tumor-type growth that the first attempt with this yarn turned out.

In other news, I stole a cardboard box from the cats’ play pile and blocked my afghan squares this weekend. This is news because I have not blocked anything since my first week of design school, when we were required to by a teacher peering over our shoulders. So the fact that my lazy butt is actually starting to block things again probably is a good sign that I might be taking this stuff seriously. Woohoo!

Neat little stack of 10 6-inch afghan sampler squares. Of course, I’ll need another 90 of these things to make the blanket I’m planning, but it’s a good start. It should be ready by next winter :-P

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Originally published at Velvet Kerfuffle Fashion and Costumery. Please leave any comments there.

This past week, I tried to use up leftover bits and pieces from my yarn stash by doing smaller projects.

Leftover maroon sock yarn made a fun little hairband!

And leftover yellow scarf yarn made a nifty little roll-up crochet hook mat.

Another multi-purpose project started this weekend was a stitch sampler afghan — it’s using up my leftover yarns, refreshing my rather rusty technique, teaching me new stitches, and making us a colorful blanket all at the same time! Here are my squares so far — some of them are so classically “granny” in style that I giggle looking at them.

I got the patterns for this set of blocks from HalfKnits, since they had a nice selection of less intimidating-looking squares to start with. Since I want every 6-inch square of this rather large blanket to be different, I’ll have to move on to another site soon enough, though.

In addition to learning new crochet moves, I also started knitting (for real this time!) this weekend. Making just one square with knit takes about two to three times as long as a crocheted one, gack. But really, I’m just dreading trying to figure out how to purl Continental style — I fumbled it several times without any success the first time it was demonstrated to me, so hopefully studying diagrams for a week will wedge it into my head. Fingers crossed!

 

 

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Originally published at Velvet Kerfuffle Fashion and Costumery. Please leave any comments there.

I mentioned in my last post that I started making sweaters for our Siamese mix, Coco, because she seemed to be perpetually cold for most of this past fall and winter. Despite having very efficient indoor heating and piles of blankets to snuggle into, she’s a California kitty at heart and is having a hard time adjusting to our new Nordic environment. Having a pathetic-looking furball with ice-cold extremities trying to burrow into your armpit at 2AM every night is both sad and extremely annoying. Cat sweaters it was.

The problem I found with most crocheted cat sweaters I tried, however, was that they seemed to be made for medium-sized cats of stockier builds — I had to make lots of adjustments to get them to fit Coco, who falls somewhere between the oriental and foreign body types. That means long and lanky, with much more surface area than mass, legs like a deer and a tubular torso. By the time I finished sizing a typical garment down for her, she’d look like she was wearing an early-career Britney crop top. This pattern is my first attempt at making something more suited to the needs of all those long cats out there.

Note — Alas, I do not yet knit, so cannot avail myself of the many adorable knit patterns for sweaters. I am an avid crocheter, though, and I’m guessing you are as well if you’re reading this.

Special features:

* Ribbed mock turtleneck expands and contracts, making it easier to slip on and off the cat while still maintaining its shape when worn. It also provides more coverage for cats with long necks.

* A bit of shaping in the first rows of the back provides widening to accommodate shoulder movement when cat is in different positions.

* One large armhole instead of individual sleeves allows more freedom of movement for the front legs. It also makes it tons easier to put on the cat. This seems to be the only style of sweater that Coco will tolerate for long periods of time.

* A bit of shaping in the lower half of the sweater widens the “belt” to better accommodate full bellies ;-)

* The uniform single crochet background is great for attaching decorative appliqués, should the mood hit you.

Sizing:

This was made to fit an 11-pound long cat. Will probably work for a 10-14 pounder of similar body type. Adjust according to your animal — I find that the top-down approach makes it easier to try on the cat as you go so you end up with fewer sizing errors at the end. Larger hook for a bigger cat, smaller for a wee one, etc.

Materials:

* around 164 yards (150 meters) of Aran-weight yarn (10 ply/8wpi) — or, y’know, whatever you want as long as you adjust the pattern accordingly. I used a 75% Wool, 25% Nylon blend, since I figure she’ll probably ingest some of the fibers at some point and I’d prefer they be mostly of animal origin.

* size G-6 (4mm) crochet hook — or whatever you need for the size of your animal and your personal gauge.

* yarn needle for finishing

Gauge:

I did 19 sc = 4″ with the 4mm hook. I crocheted on the tighter side for this sweater, since I wanted it to be thick, sturdy, and insulating. However, since I typically run towards loose, my idea of “tighter” probably isn’t quite as extreme as some other people’s.

Abbreviations:

Standard stuff. ch = chain, sc = single crochet, ss = slip stitch. All instructions are in US terms.

SWEATER

Ribbing

Chain 11.

Row 1: Sc in 2nd ch from hook, sc in each chain across (10 sc total). Ch 1, turn.

Rows 2-42: Sc in back loops only, working in each sc (10 sc total). Ch 1, turn.

Row 43: Align beginning and end edges to make seam and sc through both loops of both layers to attach them (10 sc total). Ch 1. Do not finish.

Body

Row 44: Turn piece 90 degrees clockwise so you are now working perpendicular to the ribbing. Sc at the end of each row for the next 34 rows (34 sc total). Ch 1, turn.

Row 45: Sc in the first 15 sc, 2 sc in the middle 4 sc, sc in the last 15 sc (38 sc total). Ch 1, turn.

Rows 46-48: Sc in each sc across (38 sc total). Ch 1, turn.

Row 49: Sc in first 18 sc, 2 sc in the middle 2 sc, sc in the last 18 sc (40 sc total). Ch 1, turn.

Rows 50-60: Sc in each sc across (40 sc total). Ch 1, turn.

Row 61: Sc in each sc across, ch 15, ss to connect with beginning of round on other side of arm hole. Ch 1, turn.

Row 62: Sc in each of 15 ch, sc in each of 40 sc, ss closed (55 sc total). Ch 1, turn.

Rows 63-67: Sc in each sc across (55 sc total). Ch 1, turn.

Row 68: Sc in first 47 sc, 2 sc in the next sc, sc in the next 7 sc, ss closed (56 sc total). Ch 1, turn.

Row 69: Sc in first 7 sc, 2 sc in next 2 sc, sc in next 47 sc, ss closed (58 sc total). Ch 1, turn.

Row 70: Sc in first 44 sc, 2 sc in next sc, sc in next 8 sc, 2 sc in next sc, sc in last 4 sc (60 sc total). Ch 1, turn.

Rows 71-75: Sc in each sc across (60 sc total). Ch 1, turn.

Row 76: Ss in each sc across (60 ss total). Fasten off and weave in ends.

© 2011 Angela Lai and Velvet Kerfuffle, all rights reserved. The content of this pattern is copyrighted. You may print out pages for your own use or to share as long as appropriate credit is included on each page. You may sell items handmade (but not mass-produced) with this pattern, but if you sell them online, you must link to this pattern.  You may not sell, publish in any form, or otherwise claim this pattern as your own.

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Originally published at Velvet Kerfuffle Fashion and Costumery. Please leave any comments there.

And this post concludes my recent spate of crochet spamming on various social networking platforms :-) I am now caught up so my project posts will come at a slightly more manageable pace.

Socks! Really big ones!

And a pretty flowered earwarmer. Yes, I have a glass lampshade the size and shape of a human head. Doesn’t everybody?

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Originally published at Velvet Kerfuffle Fashion and Costumery. Please leave any comments there.

I started crocheting again last week. Picking it up again reminds me of many things — crazy times as a senior at UCLA (the last time I went on a huge crocheting binge), how tired my fingers can get, and and how much I love yarn. Also, that I need to keep a much closer eye on my gauge/tension! These were the first two projects I completed. Click on picture for a Ravelry link that will take you to more details.

A scarf done in T’s favorite hockey team colors.

A hat and glittens set dedicated to our favorite giant ball of orange fluff.

 

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Raveled.

Mar. 1st, 2011 12:34 pm
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Originally published at Velvet Kerfuffle Fashion and Costumery. Please leave any comments there.

So I started an account on Ravelry late last October but didn’t really bother to delve too deeply into it until recently, when a local friend mentioned that she had found several very interested patterns from just flipping through pages there. Decided it was time to give it a closer look and have now updated my profile and added all the old projects that have been floating around on my computer. It’s nice to have everything all orderly! Now I can start posting about the new projects I’ve been working on, which are hopefully the beginning of a productive streak. It’s been a while since I’ve felt settled enough to start making stuff again, and I think this is a good beginning. Besides, yarn is soft, fuzzy and addictive :-) I miss my giant yarn closet back in Cali and will probably try to recreate it here.

Does anybody else out there have a Ravelry account I can add to my friendslist?

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Originally published at Velvet Kerfuffle. Please leave any comments there.

Eeep! I just discovered that I can subscribe to RSS feeds on my Thunderbird. Which, y’know, I’d been using for years. Yes, all that time that I was grumbling over Google reader, I could have just been getting my friendslists and blogrolls sent to me with my email. *facepalm* However, I have remedied this in one fell swoop today. Okay, a two hour fell swoop, but now I’ve got all my LJ friends on digest and I can finally keep track of all my reading in a much neater and more efficient way. VERY excited, since clicking on ten million …

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Originally published at Velvet Kerfuffle. Please leave any comments there.

If this works, Wordbooker will post to my Facebook and I’ll never have to do this stuff manually again! Whee!

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Originally published at Velvet Kerfuffle Fashion and Costumery. Please leave any comments there.

So, talk about living in a land that balances new technology with the Old World. Moving to a new place meant buying new appliances, and I was finally able to get my mitts on one of those fabulous steam washing machines that’s been featured in so many ads over the last few years. This more than helped to soothe my disappointment over having to leave behind my steamers due to electrical incompatibility issues.

My LG 8kg direct drive steam washing machine! It has a rather intimidating control panel with all kinds of colored lights and switches, and it makes little bleeps every time you select an option. When you turn it on or when you finish a load, it dings out a cute little jingle to alert you. It’s quiet and smooth running enough to not startle the cats, and watching the window as it does its thing is rather hypnotic. And then, there’s the steam refresh option where I can toss in a few clothes or an entire comforter and have it freshly steamed in around 15 minutes. Just hang to dry for a few and wrinkles are gone! Given that a careful hand-steaming can often take as long (or longer, in the case of a huge item like a comforter), this option is possibly my new best friend.

Then, there’s the drying situation. Sigh. Now, I know that there are many benefits to line drying. We’re saving TONS of cash on electricity and doing a favor to the environment. The clothes smell fab when it’s sunny, they fold beautifully with much less wrinkling if hung properly, and drying inside during the winter gives the place much-needed humidity. Points taken.

However, I also grew up in Orange County, where the homeowners’ organizations are so strict that showing any bit of clothesline is likely to get you fined into infinity. (Which is actually a shame, because the constant dry and sunny weather is perfect for that sort of thing.) Between that, having lived mostly in apartment complexes that offer both machines in the washroom, and having immigrant parents who view line drying as an step backwards in social progression, I’ve used tumble dryers for my personal laundry all my life.

Not that I don’t know my way around a line — I can hand wash and stain remove with the best of them, and often have in the many last-minute situations that arise when on location for a project. I can string up a rope that would make a sailor proud and everybody knows that I’ve got clothespins veritably sprouting out of my ears. Still, going from occasional emergency procedure to full-time use led to all kinds of bumps in the road.

First of all, because of the space issues. Up until this week, I was using a zig zag line strung across the entirety of our balcony (as seen above), which could hold a good load and a half. Then we got a foldable rack or two which happily saves more room and can be more easily stowed to make room for chairs, a table and my balcony garden as the weather gets nicer. I also learned that we have a dedicated drying room, but who really wants to lug loads of clothes up and down flights of stairs just to dry them?

Second, there was the issue of fickle weather. It’s still spring here, and it can go from dry and sunny to thunderstorms in the blink of an eye. Having to keep an eye on the skies and rush out to save the clothes, then have them stuck on hangers all around the house and blocking doorways? Not so awesome.

Third, I get a lot more anal about amounts of fabric softener. I also develop exacting methods of pinning for crease/wrinkle prevention and placement of every garment on the line for maximum surface area exposure in relation to wind movement. The OCD in me spends way more time adjusting items than I would if I just tossed them into the dryer. But at least I’m getting some fresh air while I tweak, eh?

Fourth, the annoying smoking neighbors, whose downdraft goes by our balcony and leaves both the clothes and me (while hanging the clothes) covered in their stench. Ugh. We are going to ask management about that one, though, because… gross. I apparently should be watching out for dust in the air on designated rug-and-bedding-beating days in the mornings, too. Who knew?

So yes, anybody else out there doing it old school? Any stories or hints for a relative newb to the scene?

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Originally published at Velvet Kerfuffle. Please leave any comments there.

Am backing up my computer in anticipation of upgrading to Windows 7. Have nearly filled a 2TB external with all my crap. Am forced to ask myself, “Do I really have enough junk in my life that I need 2TB?” Am then forced to ask myself a more damning question — “And how much of that is in cat photos?” Things you don’t want to know about yourself surface at 5AM when you’re suffering from jetlag. Oh, boy.

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Originally published at Velvet Kerfuffle Fashion and Costumery. Please leave any comments there.

Just a friendly reminder, as we head into rainy, slushy days ahead, to regularly waterproof your leather footwear and accessories for longevity. I myself have just finished nearly choking on the fumes from spraying down two pairs of sheepskin boots which I probably should have treated last month. Alas, I didn’t remember until my poor black Emus had been through the entire past week doing exteriors in flood conditions, and now they’re looking a bit sickly and off-colored as a result. :-(

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