Tag: wife

Arts & Crafts

Reading Time: 7 minutes

I don’t watch a good deal of commercial television anymore. We do have a cable connection through Spectrum (the old Time Warner) on one of the boxes in the house, but the 42″ in the den isn’t connected to the system. On that television, I have a ROKU stick and use it to connect through YouTube, Amazon, Netflix, Hulu and a host of other services that cater to that particular streaming option. Since we do still have the Spectrum account, I can even use the logon for the online service to connect to commercial stations like FoxSports, ESPN and even MLB to watch baseball occasionally. So I don’t need to spend the extra $60/month for another cable box.

Lately, I’ve been watching YouTube more than anything else, and my videos have been a collection of wrestling recaps (I may not be watching the WWE in Mondays & Tuesdays anymore, but I’m still keeping up with the gossip and random inanity they generate), how-to videos, and other accumulated pap just to keep myself entertained after working all day. About two weeks ago, I happened upon a video where this fellow from Utah was making a wallet from scratch, from leather. It was pretty fascinating. And intriguing. And I’ll admit, it looked pretty simple the way he was doing it. The caveat is that he’s been doing it for about 8 years now, so his movements are fairly practiced, still precise and he makes it look easy, although something of that quality rarely is. If I were standing next to him at his drafting table, making one right alongside (without coaching or tips) I can imagine my wallet would look very different from his. After watching the first video, I watched another. And then another. I didn’t subscribe to his channel, but I did start looking at other crafters videos, trying to get a handle on my interest. Was it just fleeting, or might there be something here for me? I’ve been looking for something to bring in a little extra money, and a bespoke business, even if it just sells a few somethings might be an interesting side gig. Of course, the initial outlay would be a slight impediment, since leather is a pricey commodity to be working in. The tools, for the most part, aren’t extremely expensive, but if you choose to do your stitching with a machine rather than using needles, nylon thread, and a saddle stitch, then you’re talking something in the thousands of dollars. Certainly way out of the budget of a hobbyist or sometimes crafter.

Unless you already have something on hand that would do the work in the meantime.

As it just so happened, my mother-in-law owned a Singer sewing machine.  As did my own mother, but hers is a 221 Featherweight, which I still have.  It’s definitely not designed for leather work, just mending, or making clothes.   In fabric.  It has a belt drive and the motor is very under-powered, on purpose, because of what it is, and what it was designed for.

My mother-in-law’s on the other hand, is a larger machine, with what’s called a a gear drive.  The wheel on the right side is turned by a gear on the inside, and it’s directly driven by the motor that’s attached (people have coined it the ‘potted motor’ because the housing on the motor looks like a small pot) giving it more torque and the ability to sew through heavier materials like denim, canvas or leather.  It took me a little time to figure out what model it was, as there was nothing on the machine that told me that directly.  Fortunately it still had the serial number plate, and with that I determined that the machine is a Singer 15-91 made in 1941.

Quizzing my wife about the machine, she informed me that her mother bought it new, and used it for all sorts of repairs on clothes, much as anyone that had purchased that model would have done.  It was colloquially referred to as the ‘Farmer’s Wife’ in that it was essentially ‘over-built’ in that it could do just about any repairs or duties that a rural wife would need done on a farm.  No Wal-Marts in those days.

It’s enclosed in what Singer called a #40 cabinet, where it would be attached to a plate and could be dropped down and the work surface folded up and over, making it into a small cabinet when it wasn’t being used.  My mother had one like it for her Singers, but her main ‘go-to’ machine when I was growing up was a little bigger than the 221, and it was partially computerized, in that it had stitches in memory, that could be produced on demand.  Even so, my Mom never got rid of her Featherweight, she’d had it since she had gone to college, and I was glad she kept it, as she taught me how to sew with it, and I still remember her lessons.

Getting back to the 15-91, my wife informed me that her mother kept it in good condition, but it really hasn’t seen any action in the last 30 years.  I’d actually completely forgotten that we had it, since it’s been in its ‘storage’ mode ever since we’ve been in this house.  Over the ensuing years, we’ve used the top of the cabinet for that purpose, and a lot of stuff had been piled on and the contents underneath left to the spiders.  It was pretty cobwebby when I finally pulled it up a couple weeks ago.  Even so, 30 years of inactivity hasn’t been unkind to the old girl.  I wiped it down, and did a little inspection on what it might need to be workable again.  Asking my wife again, she informed me that we apparently didn’t move her mothers’ sewing supplies, so all of that was lost to the auction when her parent’s house was sold back around 1999.  A loss to be sure, but not a completely insurmountable one.  The manual I found online, and there are a wealth of websites and videos that talk about this model, and since it is a rather popular model, there are a lot of places where one can get original as well as quality replacement parts.  Even motors, if it came to that.

My initial investigation and inspection informed me that it’s in pretty good shape for being set aside for as long as it’s been.  Its lacking in oil for lubrication and in order to do leather sewing it’s going to require a little assistance in moving the material.  An industrial specific machine would employ what’s colloquially known as a ‘walking foot‘ mechanism, but Singer never made such a thing for their domestic machines.  Fortunately, there’s an aftermarket walking foot available for about $20, and I found a website that caters to the 15-91 (as well as other models) and I can get not only that but the thread spindle that’s missing from the top of the machine.  While I’m at it I went ahead and got some leather specific needles, just to have on hand.

In the intervening week since I started this entry I received the items I ordered, installed the new presser foot, put in the thread spindle and was able to successfully wind a bobbin and thread the machine.  I even put in a leather specific needle and tried sewing on a scrap of old leather from an old restraint that I had laying about.  It worked pretty well overall.  About five minutes into my test the machine started to squeal a bit under load, so it definitely needs a shot of oil in certain spots.  But it was able to sew the leather adequately, and it didn’t shirk when asked to do so, even though I was using cotton thread instead of the nylon that’s recommended for leather work.  I made a side trip to Joann Fabrics last weekend and was able to get the specific oil for Singer machines and will be making use of it in the near future.

Needless to say, unless I lost interest in the near future, I might have something to keep me busy in the interim.

Hello, 54.

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Another birthday, another year older.

My birthdays anymore are either ones when I work, or I have the day off and I don’t necessarily do much of anything. Certainly nothing like a party here at Casa Leathers, or any sort of organized celebration. Another milestone achieved really. I may get a present, I may not, it depends a lot on whether I mention there’s something I’ve desired, and just haven’t gotten around to purchasing for myself, and the wife gets it for me (except for a motorcycle….not going to get one of those. At least life-sized).

This year, we’ve been needing a new wheelbarrow and we’ve been off and on shopping for it both online and locally. It has needed to have certain aspects to make it good for both of us (not too big, not too small, dual wheels and so on) and not cost $500. Believe it or not, we’ve spent over two weeks looking at prospects and dismissing most of them as either being too expensive, too cheaply made too many bad reviews, or a combination of those. Home Depot, Lowes, Amazon, all have nice offerings, but none have really checked off all the correct aspects.

The wife suggested the local Tractor Supply as an option. I went there after work one day and scoured the store, but didn’t find any! How odd. I left without checking with a salesperson (should have known better) and came home to report my findings. Going to the online store presence, I discovered apparently in their ‘stock’ it was listed they had several. So we decided to go back on the ‘day’ of my birthday, to check it out further, instead of ordering one online and having it shipped specially to the store.

Parking outside, we headed towards the door, but my wife stopped us to look at something on the wall, and sure enough, there was the beastie that had eluded me so successfully yet days before. But it was HUUUUGE! Way too big for our purposes. Heading inside, I made my way to the Customer Service counter and spoke to the employee there, informing her that we were in the market, but the one she had outside was too big, and did they having anything similar, but slightly smaller? Looking through her computer terminal, she determined that indeed she did, and someone was in the back assembling them.

Horrors! An assembled ‘barrow won’t fit in the new Murano. Would be way too big. Is it possible to get one unassembled? Sure enough, it was. Although admittedly it surprised her that I asked, most of her customers wanted theirs in one piece, not forty. Up stepped the wife (once I corralled her from the far side of the store) and paid for my present. Transported it out to the vehicle, loaded it up and headed for the ice cream stand/greenhouse to celebrate our victory!

I managed a birthday present and ice cream on the same day! I’d say that was a pretty good score. And I had a project to complete when I got home. Which I did. The wheelbarrow is all together, and sitting in the backyard now…with no pieces missing!

I done good. Happy 54th, Leathers.

Let Down

Reading Time: 6 minutes

I’ve been on vacation from work for the last week.  And I’ve been rather purposefully sedate, almost to the point of being lazy.  But then again, I don’t usually do much on my vacations, normally because I work so hard on the weeks when I’m on the job.  Too, neither my wife nor I are big on traveling.  Sure we’ll make little forays out of the house for shopping, going out to eat, appointments and the like, but we don’t normally travel all that far from home base, unless it’s a special or unexpected occasion.  We’re homebodies, for the most part.  Always have been.

Even so, we’ve been discussing off and on about going to Rochester, NY for a shopping trip together.  It’s about 2 hours distant, and there’s an Italian bakery we’ve been going to for many, many years.  It’s the bakery that made our wedding cake 26 years ago, and they make the most delectable butter cookies you could imagine.  On more than one occasion I’ve mentioned that if that place was closer, I’d easily creak the floorboards at 500 lbs (or more).  Yes, they’re that good.  Last year we both bought a Groupon for $30 worth of baked goods for $15.00 (USD).  A nice bargain and we’d done the same thing a couple of years back.  Of course we both spent ours on cookies.  They freeze well, if they make it to the freezer that is.  The deal expires at the end of March, and since I had vacation, we figured “why not?” and decided to make the trip.  The wife checked their website to be sure we’d be there at the right time, and yesterday afternoon we set off for the city.

We’d considered going the day before, but the weather report was saying that it was snowing in the city, even though it was sunny where we were.  Personally I don’t mind driving in the snow at any time, unless it’s really a white-out or blizzard.  Even so, driving with the wife can be a little more problematic, since if the wheels start to slip, she has a tendency to go into full panic mode.  And no one wants someone to have a screaming fit in their ear when they want to concentrate.  So we postponed the trip.

The trip was uneventful, though when we reached the area, we decided to eat at the local Olive Garden, so when we got to the bakery, we wouldn’t have the urge to buy everything not nailed down.  Dinner at OG was very nice, we had a very engaging waitress, enjoyed our meal and tipped her accordingly.  When she asked about dessert, I mentioned casually that we were going to the bakery (mentioning it by name) and she recognized the name and said that she loved their baked goods.  Leaving the restaurant, we continued down the highway looking for a suitable place to turn around, since the bakery was in a plaza on the other side of the road.  As we passed the plaza, I noticed something rather odd….the sign that advertised the bakery was missing on the building.  Or at least I thought it was.  Perhaps I had the wrong plaza?

After turning into a small strip mall and making our way to the right plaza, my worst fears were confirmed.  The sign was indeed missing, and the place looked like it had been closed for several weeks.  The windows weren’t boarded up, but you could easily tell that it was no longer in operation.  There was a computer printed sign on the glass door that announced they were “now in California!” along with a website to check out.   Might as well call it what it was.  We were both dumbfounded that the people who have been operating this bakery for the last 105 years could be so callous with their loyal customer base.  Taking out my phone, I did a quick web search and sure enough, a month back there was some local news coverage of the bakery’s closing and moving to the West Coast.  However, they never bothered to update either their website or social media presence to reflect that.  As a matter of fact, they went so far as to purchase another website to reflect the new location, registered a new Facebook page as well as an Instagram account (all the while leaving the old ones up and not updated) to advertise their new business.  And to add insult to injury, referring to their new bakery as having been opened in 1914.  Um, sorry people, you’re new to California.  While the bakery has been in your family for 105 years, that’s false advertising.  Better to say that you’re starting from square one.

Needless to say, we came straight home.  What we probably should have done was seek out another Italian bakery in the city.  As it turns out, there are several.  But we were more than a little crestfallen and decided to head for home and call it a day.  Even so, on the 90 minute trip, we discussed the discovery and lamented about how we were going to have less of a reason to go back to the city now, it was pretty much the last reason that either of us ever needed to go there.  Once arriving back at the homestead, I went to my couch and started searching YouTube videos about how to make the cookies myself.  My wife decided a more direct approach was in order and emailed the new bakery, informing them that it would be nice if they had done a little due diligence with their website and inquiring if our Groupons were still good.  Apparently it depends on who you ask.  The new bakery Facebook page suggests that they’re not being honored, as they’re being described as a ‘one time sale’ and since the old bakery closed, the new bakery isn’t going to honor them.  Which is a sucky way of doing business, but given what we’ve learned, I guess we’re not terribly surprised.  Suffice it to say, with the comments on their old Facebook page, we’re not the only people who were caught unawares.

I suppose in retrospect it was a good thing they moved across the country.  Pissing off your client base isn’t the best way to engender repeat business.  No matter how good your product is.

My nightcap

Reading Time: 3 minutes

It could be said that I’m starting to lose my hair.  To be more accurate, I’ve been (over time) losing my hair probably for the past 20 years.  I used to tease a former store manager because he has a bald spot and I started to notice it around 1995.  23 years later, my own bald spot far and away outstrips his.  So much so, at night I’ve been feeling a bit of a breeze on my pate, and it’s been keeping me from getting a good night’s sleep more than once.

A couple of years ago, the wife asked me (as she always does this time of year) what I wanted for Christmas.  I’ve never been the sort that liked accepting Christmas presents, even when I was little, it was a chore to tell my parents what I wanted.  For the most part, my mother had to watch me carefully, see what interested me and then extrapolate from what she had learned what my wish list was.  I just never really go out and away and talk about it.  So, my wife inherited that problem.  Even so, she’s managed ok, with some rather weird exceptions. (Naturally talking about the 1960s model Batmobile, the Quidditch set, and the teddy bear she got me last year)

2 years ago, she asked me what I wanted for Christmas.  I’d been bothered by the breeze on my scalp and had been looking at websites that sold nightcaps.  Obviously I didn’t want an overly festive one, or one that was too sparkly, or had a big pom-pom etc, I wanted something that was subdued, useful and not gaudy at all.  Come Christmas morning, I opened a package and was happily presented with a dark blue night-cap.  I actually discovered it wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be to use.  I have sleep apnea and have been using a CPAP for the last 19 years.  The mask that I use is a bit unwieldy, and when one attempts to wear a night-cap as well, it makes for a little bit of an uncomfortable night.  Almost too much headgear to get a good night’s sleep.

So, for the past 2 years I’ve used the night-cap off and on.  For a time it ended up underneath the bed, and I only discovered it because we were needing to vacuum under the bed, and I stumbled upon it.  I had placed it next to my clock radio, and again forgotten about it.  I found it again last night, since the night before, my head was unusually cold and I thought about it again.  I suppose I was tired enough last night, that the whole headgear and night cap problem basically resolved itself and I slept pretty well…not to mention my head wasn’t cold!  So, it worked!  Just have to make it two for two.

Good night!

The new ride

Reading Time: 4 minutes

My wife and I lease our vehicles.  Well, actually she does the actual leasing, I just drive the vehicle for the next 3 years for the most part.  (And schedule whatever maintenance, it requires)  Probably about 95% of the time when it comes right down to it.  We’ve been doing this since 2000, mainly because before that, we both had our own individual vehicles and basically drove them into the ground.  So when it came time to get a new one, we decided to get one jointly (sort of) and had to decide which way to go.

Buy or lease?  We opted to lease, since if you purchase a vehicle outright, sure you’re going to pay the loan on the vehicle, but you’re also going to pay for repairs, keep full insurance coverage for at least the first 5-7 years, and then pay for more repairs as the vehicle ages.  If you lease…you get a new vehicle every 3-4 years, providing you don’t drive it as much.  If you have a job whereby you put 50,000 miles on it every year, then leasing is less of a likelihood, because leases have upper limits on how many miles you can drive during the course of the contract.  Exceed this and you have to pay probably .08 to .15 per mile after that.  And that can add up.  A lot.

Since we both lived within a mile of our respective workplaces, I worked 3rd shift and she worked 1st, I could ostensibly work most of my shift, then come home on a break and take her to work.  Go back to work myself and then finish out my shift later in the morning.  It worked out really well for us, and we ended up with some really nice vehicles in the process.  Starting in 2000, we’ve leased a Ford Ranger (short-box), 2 Subaru Foresters, a Jeep Compass (first year they were out), a GMC Terrain and the current Ford Edge.  Next year our lease is up and we have to decide what vehicle we’re going to opt for this time.

What we used to do was, we alternated choices.  I’d pick, then she would and so on.  Starting with the Terrain, my wife decided she didn’t want to pick anymore.  She would leave the choice up to me, we’d go over the specs, test drive a few and decide which one we both liked best.  I’d spend a few months going over the possibilities, we’d visit a few dealerships and compare what they looked like (whether they’d fit in our small garage) and if they rode well, and drove well, then when the old lease was up, we’d generally go to the same dealership that we’ve been working with for the last 20 years and say hello to the new ride.

As you can tell from the list, we’re not necessarily faithful to any one particular make/model.  For the most part, we stay away from sedans or trucks, though the Ranger did come in handy when we were moving from the lake to the ‘city’ back in 2001.  We did discover that a short-box without a cap and a standard two seat cabin was a bit of a pain for traveling, since we couldn’t easily store anything in the truck while we were away on vacation.  We ended up starting to lease SUVs at that point, since it was like having a station wagon from the 1970s.

I’ve been doing some research and tentatively have it narrowed down to 6 possibles.  In no particular order they are:

  • Subaru Ascent
  • Toyota Highlander
  • Hyundai SantaFe
  • Dodge Durango
  • Nissan Murano
  • Chevy Traverse

Granted I’ve been looking at the 2018 models, since most, if not all of the manufacturers aren’t showing the 2019 models as of yet.  Come the new year, there might be additions or subtractions to the list, but at least I have a starting point.  It will be interesting doing the research as well as testing out the possibles.  Come June 2019, we’ll have a new vehicle!

The other shoe..

Reading Time: 3 minutes

On Wednesday we had our gas-fired furnace cleaned, something that we do once a year before the heating season.  After the fellow finished his cleaning regimen, he came upstairs and placed a little handheld meter on one of the heating vents and cranked the thermostat to its highest level.  Checking for carbon monoxide he said, something that he started to do on his own initiative last year, since CO can be a silent killer and he thought it would be a good public service (of course, it would also be a good way to drum up business if he could sell furnaces for customers that have problems, that wasn’t lost on me).  After about 10 minutes he stated quite plainly “uh-oh, looks like there’s a problem.”  When I asked him what it was, he said that the meter was reading about 30 ppm (parts per million) and still climbing.

Now certainly, I don’t know what that all means, except that he’s finding it to be a major issue.  So just nonchalantly, I ask what he thinks the problem is.  We had a CO occurrence about 15 years ago, but at the time it turned out to be a blocked chimney, and not something that required replacing the furnace.  Had the chimney cleaned, clean bill of health, bim-bam-boom done.   Can’t be quite certain that this fellow has the right idea of what all is amiss. He said that he was ‘pretty sure’ it was the heat exchanger (had to look it up after he left to find out what it did!), and that they’re neither repairable or replaceable, they’re so deep in the working of the furnace that it would be cheaper just to replace the unit. Of course when I asked about a price tag, another nonchalant reply of $3000-$5000 made me blink a few times.  That’s a big outlay.  Now granted the furnace was in the house when we moved in, and then bought it, but before we purchased the house we had one of those businesses go through it with a fine toothed comb.  The inspector gave us some issues that he discovered that the sellers hadn’t mentioned, but none of them really had to do with the heating system.

Certainly of course this is now 18 years later, and the typical furnace is supposedly only scheduled to last about 20 years.  How long it was in the house before that, not really sure, of all the owners manuals and such that came with the house, none seemed to have anything to do with the main furnace.  So we’re a little in the dark about that.

After talking to the wife and my pet about it, I decided to get a second opinion.  The company that I called seemed to think it was a heat exchanger as well, but they didn’t recommend replacing the furnace, their recommendation was to try to replace the possible affected part.  Which to me sounds like a MUCH better idea.  And cheaper!  So this coming Monday, they’re coming out to the house and we’re going to have it tested again.  Hopefully, it can be fixed.  Hopefully!

In the meantime, we’re keeping cross-ventilation going in the house so that it’s not going to be a breathing problem.  We also do have CO detectors in the house, and I purchased from Home Depot a couple new ones that have digital displays.  Can’t be too careful.

Out of mothballs

Reading Time: 4 minutes

I’ve been having intermittent computer issues over the last several months.  It pretty much started when I discovered that my laptop wasn’t performing the way I needed it to, and I’ve always been lacking in storage on it anyway.  It came with a woefully undersized hard drive (100 gigs) and I’ve been backing it up and using an external 4 HDD enclosure in an attempt to keep the warnings about lack of space on the laptop at bay.  Have to admit, it hasn’t been working as well as I’d hoped.  Of course, were we to go back about 2 years ago, I would have been working on my desktop computer that I built myself, but I blew a power supply on that and then got lazy.  After purchasing a replacement, I didn’t just put everything back together, I let it sit and used the laptop in the interim.

About a month ago I got the brilliant idea of upgrading the hard drive on the laptop.  I figured it’d be a quick fix.  Get a 2 TB hard drive, back up the current small one, clone it to the new one, pop the top, drop it in and put everything back together.  Fire up the laptop, -bingbamboom- done.  Only….not so much.  After firing it up, there continued to be problems.  Plenty of space, but for whatever reason the laptop didn’t seem to like the new drive.  Granted the old one was a solid state (basically a bigger flash drive) and the new one was a HDD with moving parts, the whole nine yards.  Everything slowed to a crawl, it was nearly impossible to do anything, I was just having a hell of a time.

Walking through one of the bedrooms upstairs one morning, I tripped over the old desktop for the umpteenth time since I squirreled it away up there.  Then it hit me.  Why not just put that back together?  It had a new power supply, the processing chip was still good, and I’d been meaning to put Windows 10 (the 64 bit version) on it ever since I discovered only using 32 bit was allowing me to only use half of the memory it had on board.  Instead of buying a whole NEW computer (probably an outlay of $600-800) and having another tower et al cluttering up the house (the wife would thank me, surely) I’d resurrect the old beast and be back in business.

So, I went ahead with that plan.  Of course, being me it took a little while and more than a few headaches to accomplish.  As of this morning, it culminated with me having the old box slid under my computer desk, an older 15″ monitor in place of the 27″ widescreen I’ve been using for 3 years (they’re not communicating for some reason) and only about a tenth of the programs that I’ve counted on using on the laptop at any given time.  But it works!  And it’s speedy.  Boots up immediately, connects to the ‘Net and I can bring up a browser and don’t have to wait forever for things to come to me.  Bliss!  And it doesn’t even smell like mothballs.

[Update 8/16]  I swapped out an HDMI cable and now the widescreen monitor is working with the computer, and this afternoon I installed 2 120mm exhaust fans (LED purple…squee!) in the case for further cooling needs.  I’m rather surprised nothing has exploded while getting this whole thing going again.  But for the time being, I’m content.