A Creative Sweater FIx

February 27, 2015

A few days ago, I finally had a chance to pick up needle and thread to mend a couple of torn sweaters. I would like to say that when something is ripped or needs a few stitches, I take care of it immediately, but then I would be a liar. Truth be told, such pieces usually sit for a long time, before I find the motivation to patch them up. This time, motivation came in the form of a very persistent teenager. 

Her sweater fix was easy, a torn sleeve cuff, ripped right across the seam, a convenient mishap.

My sweater had bigger problems and even for a relatively experienced seamstress, it presented quite a problem. I can knit in a rudimentary kind of way....like in a straight line. I can make scarves. I do not crochet. Frankly, even if I did know how to do these things, I am not certain they would be useful. This sweater was a mess.

The two rips on the back were easy fixes. The sweater is an open weave. I grabbed a large needle and a matching embroidery thread, because of its thickness and just started sewing the holes up. I was careful as I went along, trying to catch and secure any loosed ends.

The embroidery thread was a perfect substitute for yarn. It matched amazingly well and it was dirt cheap. It was also available at my local drug store. It met all of my criteria.

The finished product is not perfect, but certainly better than it was and honestly, you have to look really, really close to notice my stitches. Success. Now I could move on the the tear in the front.

This hole was more problematic. It is obviously not on a seam and it is not located in the more forgiving open weave area of the sweater. Plus, it is front and center. I really like this sweater, I literally wore it once and am not even sure how the damage was done and while it wasn't expensive (Marshall's), I wasn't ready to toss it.

So I stitched it up the best way I knew how. I had to close that hole, but leaving that giant Frankenstein scar was not acceptable. I had to get creative.

I wear a lot of brown...brown boots, brown belts, brown tees and sweaters. I decided to embellish the sweater with a bit of brown embroidery thread, knowing it would work with my wardrobe. I simply made a few thick X's over the seam to camouflage it.

They are not perfect, but they cover the seam and almost look like they were part of the original design.

When paired with jeans and brown accessories, I think it works! The holes have been mended and even if they were not done the right way, my creative fix sits well with me. It suits my style.

Not your style? That's perfectly fine! Try a patch, stitch up some other pretty pattern over your messy spot, add buttons, iron on some gems or add feathers. I mean I would not be adding feathers, but it's your sweater.

My point is, don't throw it away. Get creative! What have you got to lose?

Well, besides a big nasty hole.

Do you fix or toss?

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How To Fix A Torn Sweater

February 24, 2015

I know that there are a lot very proficient seamstresses, knitters and crochet experts who could fix this sweater in a jiffy. In real life, I know none of them. People are constantly asking me to do very small repairs, because they don't even know where to begin. I am always astonished, sewing is actually very easy, but I guess to some, it is very intimidating.

I used to be the costume mistress for a local children's theater group. I cannot make clothes, but I possessed enough rudimentary sewing skills to rework, refashion and alter items to make them into some pretty fabulous pieces for the shows.

Unfortunately, kids are not careful and small tears happened all the time. Trim fell off during dress rehearsals and basted seams got stepped on and torn. During tech week, I was sewing nonstop, because it was next to impossible to find someone, anyone who felt comfortable enough with a needle and thread to help out and repair their own kid's mess.

With this in mind, last night when I sat down to repair my daughter's sweater (a kid, not careful), I decided to document the steps in case someone could use the tutorial. Again, it is super basic and pretty self explanatory, but if you are terrified of the word sewing, maybe this will take a bit of the fright out of it. Maybe.

There's an obvious tear in the sleeve. Not good because it's torn, but good, because it's on the seam. Now I have no idea how to repair this with yarn. So I opted for a needle and thread. It is a tight enough weave that you will never see it. 

I matched the thread with some I had on hand. Do you see the size of that spool? Yeah, it was included in some tiny pack that I picked up years ago, proof that I am not an expert. This is what they give you in the complimentary hotel pack. No self respecting seamstress would work with this stuff. 

You can bet the thread isn't a great quality, but it's free and it matches and if my growing, fickle teenage daughter gets one more season out of it, I'm good.

Next, I threaded a fat needle with two strands and then I doubled them. I knotted the bottom with a pretty big loop. I essentially used four strands. I needed a thicker weight to hold the heavy yarn together. 

Now, I was ready to go and I just stitched the sleeve up. A basic stitch, up and down, moving along the tear from one opening to the other working on the inside of the cuff.  

As I moved along, every few stitches or so, I flipped to the right side of the sleeved and I used the back of the needle to tuck in any stray pieces of torn yarn. I wanted to make sure they were in the right place to get caught by my stitches.  When the hole was closed, I just knotted the thread and cut it.

That's it. That was the whole repair. It took me about ten minutes to complete. The repair is not noticeable at all and if it were, I could cut it away and start over. No harm, no foul. 

See. Not scary at all. 

Well, until I find it on the floor in the laundry pile tomorrow morning after it wasn't even worn. Then I may get scary! 

Do you sew? 

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I'm Back! Why I Left Wordpress

February 20, 2015

I kid you not, on the morning of the hack, this is what I found on my kitchen table

It all started with an email. "You have been hacked."

I certainly was. My site was gone. Blank screen, fatal error message, bye, bye. Done. The mysterious intruders had gained access though a plug in and destroyed my theme, my files and my posts. "You can probably restore it," they said, "it's so easy."

Um, yeah...it's not.  WordPress was a giant mystery to me. In Blogger, I was able to add HTML code and alter css to change my website.  I moved gadgets around with ease and stylized my font. In WordPress, I couldn't even find the code. I was told that it was in my Cpanel, with my host...but be careful, if you touch the wrong thing, your whole site will come down. You can pretty it up with plug ins, but be careful, if you used too many it will slow down your site and the wrong one can crash your blog. Just back up and you'll be fine!

I have to be honest, I never felt fine. I am not a stupid girl, but I am a creative type, not a techie. WordPress code was seriously technical and I was lost from the get go. Back it up? How? Which plug in is best for that? Like everything else in WordPress, I was told to leave it to the pros, "Pay for it."

Ugh. Not the words a compulsive DIYer wants to hear.

It was, however, the best advice I received during this whole mess. I did back up, for a fee, and after many hours waiting for emails (it's all email customer service...and waiting), I ~ well, not me, my new friend Phyllis ~ was able to access the files and get Exquisitely Unremarkable going again. It was a mess, links didn't work, there was a lot of time spent on the phone, on Facebook messenger and on Google.  I just wanted to go back home to Blogger. Why did I ever leave?

I'll tell you why ~ hype.

I was told that if I wanted to be serious, I had to get off Blogger.  It was a limited platform for design and SEO. I was told that I would never get the kind of traffic I needed to get noticed as a writer if I stayed with Blogger and I needed to get to WordPress, fast, because everyone ends up there eventually anyway and I was just wasting time.

My Blogger site had become glitchy and I was told that Google could in fact take my site down for no reason whatsoever and my blog, all the pretty posts I spent two years creating, would be gone. (Kind of ironic, don't you think?)

I drank the Kool-Aid.

So last September, as the kids went back to school, I got down to business and moved to WordPress. I got a good deal and for about a hundred bucks, I moved over. I was given hosting for a year, a pretty theme that replicated my Blogger site and hearty pat on the back, wishing me luck.

I regretted it immediately.

There were things I didn't like about my set up, things I could not fix on my own. There were security issues and hosting malfunctions I had to tend to and a lot of time was spent figuring out how I could communicate with my old friends. You see in WordPress, there is no way to directly email your commenters back. NONE. On WordPress, everyone is essential no reply.

You want to respond and keep the conversation going, well, it has to be in public on your blog and how will your readers know that you have responded to their comment? Well, they don't...unless they come back...or you have a plug in that let's them know and believe it or not, there aren't a lot of them.

I made a big deal about this lack of communication in a few forums and no one seemed to care. I was told, "Wow, you keep bringing this up, it must be a big deal for you."

Um, yeah!! It was a really big deal for me. I loved the interactions and friendships I built on Blogger. I answered all of my comments, struck up friendships with people, gave tips on my projects and chatted about ideas. That was the best part of blogging and now it was gone. On WordPress, I was relegated to talking at people instead of to them.

Then I found the greatest plug in, called Thank Me Later. It would at least email my commenters letting them know that there was a response on the blog. It was kind of annoying, but it was the best I could find. At least, there was a chance for conversation. Things were looking up. Until...

It was through Thank Me Later that I was hacked. More irony.

The funny thing about the whole situation is that it was an actual relief. Now I had a reason to go back to Blogger. I hated WordPress. I found it constricting, austere and lonely.

Here is what no one told me about WordPress: It is hacked a lot, regardless of the security you have and it's all up to you to mind that security. It is expensive. I got a great deal for the first year, but next year, I would've paid over $150 for my hosting alone. That doesn't include any of the technical help I would be paying for, if I had an issue, or the $60 for back up (which was worth every penny, btw) and if I got tired of blogging and wanted to take a break, or quit, I would still have to pay for hosting forever, if I wanted my site to stay up for posterity sake. Forever.

Nope, none of this was for me. I was ready to go home. Unfortunately, getting back to Blogger is not something most people do, so the how to information on Google, is limited at best and when you ask others about it, they laugh. Seriously. Apparently, Brenda from Cozy Little House and I are the only two people in the whole world who have ever done it.

Of course, I'm just kidding. A few people commented on Facebook that they had gone back and actually, lots of people quietly emailed me saying that they too missed Blogger and would love to go back, but couldn't. I get it. Once you spend the money and make the commitment to go, it's hard to turn around. I don't care. I look at it as a learning experience. I can say that I went, I saw and I didn't like it.

Same tulips with a little water. I was able to revive my site, too. Do you believe in signs? 

So I'm back, thanks to the amazing Phyllis at Blogger Connections. Phyllis was one of the only people that reached out to me in one of the Facebook groups I posted in. She was super kind, extremely knowledgeable and never gave up during the crazy process. She got me un-hacked! She walked me through the process to get my site up and running again, and trust me, it was not easy. There were a ton of roadblocks in the way and Phyllis navigated around all of them with grace and kindness. She was awesome.

If you need a tech girl, blogging help, a virtual assistant, you want to move to WordPress (no judgement!) or back, like me, I highly recommend her. I was hanging in the breeze and Phyllis was fabulous. She never left me waiting and when something is wrong with your website, you don't want to wait. She is a blogger herself, so she totally gets that. If she could get me out of my WordPress tangle and back to Blogger, I'm pretty certain she can do anything!

I also want to thank Brenda, who not surprisingly, answered my email call for help right away and held my virtual hand throughout the hacking. She was there with advice, resources and offers to help me get up and running again, if I had to start all over. Thank you, Brenda!

Lastly, Natalie reached out, too. Thank you, Natalie. She answered a few of my email questions and let me know she could help me out if needed.

Thanks to all these ladies and a lot of Googling on my own part, I am a Blogger blogger again. My site looks exactly the same as it did on WordPress, all done by me with a little bit of code ~ no plug in, no help! Who says that a Blogger blog can't look as slick as a WordPress one?

I am not sure if I will show up in your email or in your blogroll automatically or if you'll have to resubscribe, if you're interested. You may not. Some things are still a bit fuzzy...like I said, the how to on moving back, a little sketchy!

Of course, if you don't have a Google account, it is harder to comment here. You will come up as no reply and I won't be able to email you back, but rest assured, your comment will be answered here on the blog.

Well, it's been a long week and I have bored you with my Exquisitely Unremarkable tale long enough. I am off to putter around my site and make myself comfortable again.

I told you I was the ultimate homebody...

...and it's good to be home!

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How Do You Measure Love?

February 13, 2015

Yesterday was my anniversary. I have been married for twenty one years and I got two bushels of tulips and a box of Mallowmars. I posted a picture of my wedded treasure on the Exquisitely Unremarkable Facebook page and received tons of likes and lovely comments from people wishing us a fabulous day. It was nice.

Then one of my friends asked me, "But what are you really doing for your anniversary?"

Huh. Until she said it, it never dawned on me that there should be more.  Now, as I revisited the comments, I found myself wondering how many other people were really thinking, "That's it?  She all excited about fourteen tulips and a box of cookies for twenty one years together?"

I know, I'm a cynic. It's terrible, but after all I'm used to watching grand gestures of love scroll by in my personal feed. Flowery declarations from husbands to wives and vice versa, photos from sandy destinations both near and far and of course, the big sparkle. Grand celebrations of adoration for all to see. In comparison, I'm sure that my grocery store offerings don't seem like much. They don't measure up.

Or do they? I guess the answer depends on how you measure love?

I remember being on the nursery school playground when the talk was about whose husband showed up with a car or giant diamond for some occasion. Well, they fight a lot, we were told, so this is his way of making up for it. It was apparently a very common story in my neck of the woods. The argument was that they had a good marriage, because regardless of his behavior the rest of the year, that gift proved that he loved her. Really? I would just rather have a guy who is nice to me every day, instead of angst filled months punctuated by some annual mea culpa and I have always told my husband that...even though truth be told, it was never necessary. He's a nice guy.

We met at thirteen at a roller skating rink. We were just friends, albeit smitten with each other, until we were twenty one. Over the years, we both dated other people. I went to black tie affairs and stellar restaurants with guys in fancy cars. I received expensive bouquets, delivered to my office, making all my coworkers swoon...and I was generally very unimpressed.

Yet, sitting on the curb outside my home, on a random Wednesday evening, with my future husband, then just my friend, laughing and tossing pebbles into the street, I could barely catch my breath. The moon was brighter, the air was clearer and no ballroom could have been more elegant. When it was time for him to go, however, the magic went with him and I was just alone in my dirty driveway. Had he left me with some expensive gift, I am sure I would've been thrilled, but I still would've preferred to have him back with me. It wasn't gifts that made me love him.

I said yes, to a proposal that did not include a ring. Neither one of us had a dime and after four years of dating and a million years of friendship, we didn't want to wait for a diamond to start our life together. My mom gave us my grandmother's rings. They were tiny, dull, worn and, while fashionable in the 1920's and considered vintage today, they were definitely not in style back in the early 90's. Most of my girlfriends just smiled at me, almost in sympathy. It was not the 1-2 carat Tiffany setting they had. My rings did not measure up and clearly, I was not marrying very well.

As the years have passed, my husband has presented me with other rings, gorgeous rings for random anniversaries and such. Never once have I thought of replacing my original bands. They represent our beginning, our commitment. However, I also wear them all, old and new, with the understanding that they are not us. They don't represent how well I married or what we have together. They are merely things and no matter how big or small they are, they do not measure our love.

So how do I measure our love? Well, the fact that my husband gets up every day at the crack of dawn, to go to work to provide for us and keep me home with our kids is love. The fact that he comes home to me every night is love. The way he dotes on his children is love, the way warms up my car, makes me dinner on the weekends, rubs my feet when I plop them on his lap every single evening without a groan, that is love.

They way that my husband, who had no interest in flowers, knows that cheap tulips (because they'll all be dead in week anyway) are my favorite is love...

...and the fact that he stopped at the grocery store on the way home from driving eight hours in one day for a business trip, when I told him in no uncertain terms that I did not need anything for my anniversary, to pick me up a box of Mallowmars ~ "the greatest cookie of all time" according to me and Billy Crystal in When Harry Met Sally ~ that is love.

And recognizing all of those little things, no matter how unglamorous they may seem to others, is how I measure it.

Well, that and whatever the scale says next week after I finish that entire box of cookies.

There's no way I'm sharing.

How do you measure love?

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Easy Recipe ~ Stuffed Yam

February 10, 2015

We are always trying to eat "healthier" in our house. What that really means, I am never sure. We are not strictly eating whole foods, but we don't eat a lot of processed foods or things with preservatives. If I had to list what we do eat, I'd say that I munch on yogurt and cheese and I really like bagels. I have hungry teens, but luckily they are fruit snackers and if they do eat something out of a bag, it's usually pretzels or a granola bar. I serve up veggies with each meal and never, ever deep fry. I think we're eating well.

Of course, that's where the "healthy" debate comes in. Is there too much added sugar in the granola bar? Are the pretzels made with or without gluten and are they GMO free? Is the fruit organic and if it is, how do we know for sure? There's a lot of fat in cheese and yogurt which is not good for your heart and bagels are bad carbs, white flour, no whole grain. Apparently, no one should ever eat a bagel.

So are we in fact eating healthy? I feel like I never know.

I grew up in house, where cold cuts were the everyday lunch choice and my snack was either a Twinkie or a Ring Ding ~ foods my kids have never even tasted. We drank soda with every meal and we went to McDonald's and Burger King often. I haven't been to one in over 15 years now, no one here drinks soda and the only thing my kids have ever eaten from either franchise is fries and before you tell me to wait until they're teens, remember they are, deep into their teens.

I guess, in comparison to what used to be the norm, we're healthy eaters...healthy enough.

It's way too hard to keep up with all the latest research (that will be debunked in 5 years anyway), so we eat what we want in moderation.

This is a new "healthy" (my own definition) favorite of mine, an easy recipe for a stuffed yam. I hate to cook, so this makes an awesome meal, because it's so simple and requires very little prep.

I throw a yam in the microwave for a few minutes, then I cut it open and toss in whatever veggies I have in the fridge. I also add some kind of protein to fill us up.

This particular yam is stuffed with a tablespoon of 95% lean cooked ground beef, broccoli and a slice of muenster cheese just plopped on top. I let it all sit for a minute to melt into each other and then dig in.

I know, beef and cheese...fat and cholesterol. I don't care. There's not a lot of it and it's what we like. It feeds the need for a juicy, fat cheeseburger, but in a much better for us kind of way.

Plus, like I said, it's a super easy recipe and I am all about that. I serve it up with a side salad and everyone is happy.

Well, except me. I like salad, but I'd really rather have that bagel. Or a Ring Ding.

Old habits die hard.

What's your definition of healthy?

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Because You Can't Kill A Lemon

February 6, 2015

Nothing warms up a space and turns a house into a home faster than adding life. Living things have the power to transform a room simply by being present. There's something about the natural exchange of oxygen that's palpable; no such energy exists around silk foliage.

Of course, there are many ways to add life to a room, some are easy and some are decidedly more complicated ~ kids and pets fall into the latter category!

Now in the interest of full disclosure, I would like to state that I have kids and pets and they certainly liven up the place, but the Exquisitely Unremarkable decorating mantra is easy, easy, easy, so I don't recommend keeping them around solely for that purpose. I prefer that my decorating be done without the endless requests for snacks, rides, money or dander.

So I opt for plants.


You see, I do not have a green thumb. My husband has lovingly nicknamed me a plant murderer, although I think that is a gross mischaracterization. I don't kill them on purpose. I am just not good with the watering and the feeding. And the watering.

I try, really, I do, but it's enough work to keep those kids and pets watered, the plants just fall by the wayside. If only they could yell out that they're thirsty or bark or meow. Uh, I'm a terrible plant mother, which is precisely why I love lemons and cut flowers!

I know, I know, technically they are not alive, but they still manage to breathe the same sense of life into a room that plants do and since their days are already numbered, I am in the clear. It's guilt free decorating, no dried up little, leafy corpses on my conscience. It makes for a much happier home all the way around. Trust me.

I am all about cheap decorating ideas, so I usually purchase the least expensive bouquets I can find. Tulips are my absolute favorite flowers and lucky for me, I can find them in my area for $3.99 a bunch from about late December until May.

After that, I cut from the garden. Those flowers are always free! I love that. Once the fall tumbles in, I replace flowers with pumpkins and gourds....

...and then we're back to tulips again!

Lemons and limes are in season all the time, they're inexpensive and they pack a powerful punch of color. I always have them around. I put them on cake stands, under cloches, in fruit bowls and on plates. I just love to see their cheery little pops of yellow and green. It makes any time of the year feel like spring.

My dirty little confession is that I do occasionally buy a plant. Right now, I have ivy in my kitchen and it seems to be doing quite well. I am trying not to get too attached, because, well, you know, but it's very sweet and I do talk to it often and I really am hoping for the best this time.

My husband said, "Welcome to death row, buddy." I'd like to prove him wrong.

I'm pretty sure the plant would like that too.

What color is your thumb?

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Easy DIY Valentine Decor Ideas

February 2, 2015

It's almost Valentine's Day! Are you ready? Here are a few super easy DIY Valentine decor ideas to help you add a little bit of holiday flair to your home in no time at all and each one is super simple! No fancy crafty experience is necessary to complete these pretty projects. Cross my heart!

Love is in the air with this dainty Valentine. I am a big fan of printable decor. This one is a bit different than the quotes I have created in the past. Instead of using a solid, plain background, this time I decided to start with one of my own photos.

Then I chose the lined paper overly and faded it about 90%, so the image would show through. I added text, printed it out in a 5x7 size to fit my frame and my work was done!

Another way I decorate for the holidays is with banners. I like an elegant finished product, but I am not into complicated or expensive. These two fit the bill!

My Puzzle Piece Love Garland is one of my all time holiday favorites. It's super simple to make, all you need is a few old puzzle pieces, a bit of paint and a lot of glue.

If you are looking for an even easier bunting, try my Note Card Valentine Banner.

I love this one ~ once Valentine's Day is over and I've lost that lovin' feeling, I can remove the hearts and leave the banner up to decorate my kitchen or fireplace mantle indefinitely.

Are you into flowers? It is the season of red roses after all. You have to drop a lot of dough for the real thing, but the dollar store variety can be ripped apart without any guilt and reconstructed to add a pop of color if you're not into hearts.

These Easy Candle Floral Rings dress up my plain pillars...

...and looped together, they create an elegant Valentine Triple Wreath for my front door.

Red is a powerful color, just a little bit goes a long way, so even the addition of one of these pretties to your home will make a festive difference. If you are looking for even more inspiration you can check out my Valentine Pinterest board.

Of course, if you're not into decor, how about a good laugh at my expense? It's my Valentine present to you! It could happen to anyone. Really.

Do you decorate for Valentine's Day?

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