31 January 2010

good weekend & the mortuary

Great weekend.
Good balance between lazing around and going out & doing stuff.
Some good moments. I swear, the best chemistry.

I really hope I don't come home exhausted every day this week because I bought a new bike seat and I'm excited to do some working out/ riding around.

Oh, I almost forgot- the dead people.

Went to the grand opening of the new mortuary and the owner gave me the 'special tour.' As he opened the door to the embalming room I didn't expect to see customers. First I saw a body under the sheet and I was like, "Ok. Seen that. No biggie." Then I looked to my right and there was just an old guy chillen there on a table, with a sheet over his middle. He looked plastic, almost like a mannequin. I felt strange looking into a dead person's face.

He showed me the instruments they used to embalm, then he took me over to the body with the sheet on it and lifted it up. You could see the stitches on his head and chest where they performed the autopsy, and he had a plastic bag over his face. He had already been embalmed and the owner lifted the bag up to show me.

I didn't really get a great look at his face but for some reason I noticed his chest hairs caught in the stitches. I was going to ask why they keep a bag on the face, but I was a little stunned at the unexpected corpses and just made little "Hm" noises and tried to not act surprised. I don't think I did a great job because as we were walking out of the room he asked if I still wanted to be a medical student, haha.

Either way it was kinda neat to see the flip side of the medical industry. Like I said, I was surprised but oddly not freaked out. Looking back I'm glad it was two old guys and not children or young people. That might have freaked me out.

Another thing I noticed: You know how when you're in a room with someone and you can sense that they're there even when you're not focusing on them? I didn't get that sense when I was in the embalming room. It was like they weren't even people- they were like fake people or hollow shells or something.

Overall an interesting experience and a good weekend.

28 January 2010

salt & inspiration

Recent realization:

Salt is underrated. I never used to use a lot of salt, but lately I've been putting it on most of my food. Salt is good! It makes bland food taste better, and brings out so many other flavors. Me and salt are buddies right now.

I feel insightful and inspired, but I have no idea how to channel that energy. Meh, I'm tired.

Also, wtf is going on with my skin. This blows.

27 January 2010


Stressful day = cooking and baking. Potato soup and blueberry strawberry yogurt muffins (using strawberry yogurt in place of vanilla.)

It got slow today so I got my classmate to draw my blood and I ran some tests on the machine I was using. How disappointing.

High lipids and low iron again. Except this time I looked up the actual ranges. Serum iron is supposed to be 37 at the lowest for women. Mine was 13. Shit, no wonder I've been so tired. Been going to bed at 8:30, falling right to sleep, sleeping the whole night, and waking up at 530 still exhausted.

Transferrin was also high. A few months ago transferrin was in the normal range- not a good sign. It all points to iron deficiency anemia- duh, already knew that from past history, but it sucks to see it for myself and so much worse than it usually is.

I'd like to get my CBC done and check my hemoglobin levels to get a more well-rounded picture though. I'll be on that machine next week so that's easy!

My options are diet change and supplements. I don't see my diet changing that drastically, and the supplements make me feel like I'm on the verge of puking, even the "gentle" ones. I wonder if there is something available that is extra-gentle?

Either way, I love getting free lab tests whenever I want.

26 January 2010


I finally got my financial aid today, earlier than I thought I would. I was pretty happy until I got all pissed off over these fucking stupid coag case studies. I know what's going on in the situation, but I can never seem to answer the questions to her liking. I seriously fucking hate these things. It's like one big trick. Fuck. (I figured one more F-word wouldn't hurt.)

Someone snuck on my computer when I wasn't looking and altered my "sticky note" reminder.

A quick screen shot:

25 January 2010



^ Something new-ish.

Today was one of those days that was hard to get through; where lots of things seem to go wrong, get interrupted, or get lost. It wasn't necessarily a bad day, it was just... trying.
I was glad when it was time to go home.

This is pretty nice, going to "work" for 8 hours, then coming home, doing an assignment, and chilling for the rest of the night. I am not looking forward to "school" starting again, which entails studying for exams on top of assignments. Much more stressful and much less sleep. Gotta keep my eye on the prize. Fuckkk get here already.

Ugh I've been eating nonstop since I got home today. In a strange serious snacking mood no matter how full I get.

Fuck, I love candy and popcorn and ice cream and stir fry and peanut m&ms and pretty much everything else that's tasty and bad for me. Sweet dreams people!

24 January 2010

no se.

I mentioned a few posts ago about how I've been debating on bringing something up.

Well, I finally had the courage to bring it up. I didn't know if I would get an answer that would hurt worse than not knowing, or if the answer would make me feel better. Either way, I know I wanted some insight.

Too bad the answer I got was, "I don't know." No other elaboration, just a shrug of the shoulders. I honestly didn't expect that.
I should have.
I can't help but think the "I don't know" was just a cop-out for an answer I wouldn't like.

Great. Now I have to come to terms with something that I have no closure on and I still have no idea why it happened. I've tried to use my awesome powers of "shrug it off" to make it no big deal, but for some reason it's stuck with me for a long time. Now that I've decided to take a step to get over it, I get halted.

The thing that bugs me the most is not the issue itself, but why the issue bothers me. As I said before, it's easy to shrug things off. Is the fact that it still bugs me some kind of subliminal sign that I made a bad choice? Maybe I'm picking it apart too much.

I guess I'll just leave it in the past where it belongs until I'm reminded of it again, and it will bug me once again.

22 January 2010


I never want to see another little kid's sample on my machine again. It breaks my heart to see babies with cancer.

I also ran into a frail-looking man in the hall who stopped me and could only mouth the word "water." I wanted to hug him and give him all the water in the world.

Makes me forget all about being frustrated because the doctor told me my rash was dry skin. Too bad I've been moisturizing like crazy all week with no improvement. Dry skin my ass.

But, at least it's not cancer.

21 January 2010

What's in your bag?

Absolutely Not Martha asked the question today: What's in your handbag?

I usually carry a small bag and shove as much into it as I can. I think I'm a "big bag" kind of girl at heart, and keeping a small purse keeps that urge in check. My mom always told us to never carry a bag bigger than your butt, but I think that rule is outdated now.

Right now in my bag:

-cell phone
-small hand sanitizer
-fingernail clippers
-emery board
-Burts Bees lemon butter cuticle cream (smells and works great)
-pack of gum
-2 pens- one from PostNet and one from Sterling McCall Toyota
-old altoids tin filled with drugs
-eye glasses cleaning cloth
-Burts Bees chapstick
-pepper spray
-3 lip glosses (It's funny because I never use lipstick or lip gloss)
-powder compact
-a bunch of bobby pins
-a multi-tool
-a mechanical pencil
-3 blister packs of pseudoephedrine

I can't believe I can fit that much stuff in my tiny bag!

What's in your bag? Boys, I know you have random crap in your wallets- tell!

19 January 2010

procrastination & fitness

Urinalysis today! Gotta say, I like it. Strange, but is anyone surprised??

I told myself that I'd come home, eat a little something, and while that digested for an hour I'd study until it was time to work out.

So far I've gotten the eating part done very well, but since then I've managed to fuck off on the internet instead of study.

Suzy just came up to me and said, "I'm going to Maggie Moo's. Do you want me to bring you back some Sweet Cream ice cream with butterfinger?"
Is there any other answer to that but yes?

In procrastination and fitness's best efforts, I'm going to work out now. Maybe that will get my blood flowing enough for my brain to want to work.

That's the plan, anyway.

18 January 2010

More bike adventures!

Oh my gosh.

So I started on the bike right after breakfast. The chain was pretty much rusted so it barely moved. I greased that up really well, then made sure every individual link moved with a pair of pliers. Cleaned up some of the rust with a toothbrush, re-greased, cleaned up excess grease, then finally it seemed to be moving smoothly. That took about an hour and a half.

Next: I loaded the bike up in Luke's car to take it to the gas station to get air in the tires. For some reason the back tire's nozzle was hard to position just right to get air into it, and it took several tries. Magically though, I got air in it.

When I got home I was so excited to take it for a test ride in the park. The seat's kinda jacked up and torn so it absorbs water and would make your butt wet if you sat on it, so I put a plastic bag over it. I was riding in the park, picking up speed. The wind was in my hair, the sun was shining, birds were singing... it felt glorious. Then, without warning, *KLUNK* the entire pedal fell off!

I went back to pick it up and noticed it was missing a nut. Searched around for that for a bit, then gave up.

Off to Home Depot. Got home with some nuts. They were too small. Back to Home Depot. Finally, one fit. Yay for ghetto-rigging! I also tightened the kickstand while I was messing around with it.

Stuck a random basket I found it the shed on the front of the bike, found a padlock, and I was off to Walgreens to run an errand. Mapquest said it was 1.6 miles from my house. Piece of cake!

I set off, happy as a clam, and got to about a block away from Walgreens when the sidewalk just ended. It was a busy street and I didn't feel comfortable riding on it, so I had to turn around. I was so close!

By that time I was getting kinda tired and I was no longer happy as a clam riding my bike. I was huffing and gasping and sweating, and my legs were aching. I finally made it home tired and thirsty. Oh, and the gear shifter is broken so it's permanently stuck on 7, but you can change the big gear so it's not that bad except when you get tired and then pedaling takes SO much energy!

I also need to get a decent seat or get some padding on my ass. I feel like my crotch is bruised. It was like riding on a freaking rock!

Now, I have to take a shower and drive to Walgreens. At least I got some exercise- about 3 miles on the bike. And I have a bike! A fixer-upper, but a bike nonetheless. :o)

bike excitement!

I've been wanting to get a cheap bike just to ride around. Maybe get a basket on it and go all Zooey Deschanel and take it for quick trips to the store and stuff. I've been looking on Craigslist for something, but it's all either too expensive or kid's bikes.

This morning I asked my dad if we had any bikes or if my uncle had any (my uncle usually tries to give us bikes. Don't know where he gets them), and he said there was one in the back of the shed. I was thinking there was an ancient one with no working parts, but I walked over there and found a perfectly modern looking bike! Just sitting there! I can't believe it's been sitting there all this time.

I'm not sure if it's actually ours or a bike that one of the kids' friends left here, but my dad said he thinks it's Suzy's old bike and either way it's been here a long time and I'm totally claiming it. It's got flat tires and the chain needs oiling, and I'm not sure about the brakes yet, but it looks totally ride-able.

So excited!

Oh, by the way, I think I have a girl-crush on Zooey Deschanel. She's so freaking cute!

17 January 2010


I spent the night alternating between bouts of itching that kept me up and crazy deep sleep.

Cinnamon rolls w/ cream cheese icing for breakfast + Reading the paper and clipping Sunday coupons leisurely with a big cup of steaming coffee = the reason I'm still sane.

I have a big underground zit on the tip of my chin that hurts. Don't you hate it when that happens?

Think I'll work out before I take a shower to get all this calamine lotion off of me.

Been contemplating whether or not to bring up something that's been bothering me from like a year ago, or just letting it go instead of stirring things up. Still haven't decided if I even want to know the answer...

That's all for this Sunday edition of Random Things From Jen's Life.

16 January 2010

PJ pants

So, since I'm broke and couldn't really afford a gift, I thought I'd make Jen's birthday gift. She mentioned she needed pj pants. I've never actually successfully made an article of clothing before, but for some reason I felt ambitious enough to do it. I chose a very simple pattern, Simplicity 2503.

It took me about 5 hours, but I actually managed to do it! The only thing- I just figured a small would work, but it turned out to be more like a medium. I hope they can shrink!

Anyway, it was sooo cool to see something go from fabric and start to take shape as a recognizable piece of clothing! And not even a ghetto-rigged piece of clothing! I was very excited! It was a lot of work but I think now that I've done it, if I make it again it will go much quicker.

So, look what I made and praise me. :o)

playing house

Jen's party is scheduled to start in exactly 5 minutes, but I'm waiting for the cake to cool so I can ice it. For some reason I thought the party started at 2 instead of 123o, so I got a bit of a late start.

In the meantime, I want a kitchen with open shelves instead of cabinets. When I buy my cute little old-fashioned house this is what I want. I think it would look great with my (purposely) mismatched dishes. I think I want a fancy chandelier in the kitchen too.

Ok, enough playing "future house." I think it's time to ice a birthday cake!!

15 January 2010

itchy & broke

Ugh, itchy. But totally happy about my newest project. More on that tomorrow.

Thinking of trying out one of those Walgreens clinics for this skin thing. Don't know anyone that has gone, though. At the very least, I will go grab some calamine lotion with my Prilosec tomorrow and be all polka dotted under my clothes.

Don't know how I'm going to pay for it... credit card I guess. My big grant doesn't go through until Jan 25th, which means I probably won't get the check in the mail until some time in February. My car payment is coming up too. *sigh* balls. I think I can work for madre in the evenings and get some cash.

I know this sounds like a downer post, but for the record I'm still in a good mood. Being poor is just another thing that happens.

Time for late night tv. I miss it! I've been catching My Name is Earl reruns when I can't sleep during the week. That show is so white trash and hilarious.

14 January 2010

when it rains... get on the treadmill

Rain = a great excuse to not go running.

Too bad we have a treadmill.

1 mile, 1/2 running. Not bad. I was sweating and gasping.

Still, when I finished I did abs and some arms. Go me!

Don't knock it just because it's country- it's a good song.

13 January 2010

bacon for dinner.

Bacon for dinner.

Went and walked 3/4 mile, jogged 1/4. Needed to work off some frustrations (and bacon grease) and I figured exercise would give me endorphins and shit. Black eyed peas totally jamming on the mp3 player.

I want: cinnamon mike n ikes and/or peanut m&ms. Fortunately I am much too lazy to find change, then drive to Walgreens to buy some.

I make such a terrible healthy person.

I just had to explain to my dad all the strange quirks that my old computer has to get it to run with the least problems. It was like having a junker old car and letting someone borrow it, "Now, if it makes this noise *clunk clunk* you have to pop the clutch, count to 10, and then floor it for 100 yards or else it will break down." I won't be surprised if he punches the damn thing after a week. Lord knows it wouldn't be the first time, and it just keeps on chuggin.

That stupid rash is kinda spreading to my arms, but it's not unbearable- it randomly itches and looks bad. I just don't have the money to go to the doctor right now, even if I wasn't anti-doctor at the moment.

Time to finish an assignment. Tomorrow is Friday Eve! I like what I'm doing but I'm always excited when the weekend nears.

11 January 2010

Monday Update

So what's new in the life of me...

-Got to fully run a machine today, verifying patient results and everything! It was the Xpand, a machine that measures tacrolimus, which is an immunosuppressant drug used with things like bone marrow transplants. It has a narrow therapeutic range and has to be monitored pretty closely. The machine also measures urine protein, but that was less cool. To use it you have to open the tubes of blood, and I haven't mastered the art of removing the top without getting blood droplets everywhere. I only spilled one tube of blood, but thankfully I had enough without needing a re-draw.

-I've been paying close attention to what I eat, making sure that each meal has enough protein and fiber to keep me from getting too hungry. I have found that peanut butter on an english muffin and yogurt with granola are light enough for me to eat so early, but they stick with me long enough until I get a break (and another nutritious snack). I'm so broke right now that I think I'm going to raid the piggy bank for cash to get a small amount of groceries.

-Realistically, I'm going to start my jogging photography group on Saturday, Jan 23, at 9am!! Still haven't worked out the best place.

-I am TOTALLY digging the cold weather, but it makes it like TEN times harder to get out of my warm cozy bed at 5am. Boooo.

-This might be TMI, but I'm getting this strange itchy rash on my stomach, chest, and neck. I thought it was some eczema from the cold weather, but it's not really following that kind of pattern. Slightly nervous and paranoid that I managed to pick up a crazy disease in the lab...

Ok, time to do some assignments.

09 January 2010

computer & coldness

I am typing this on my NEW LAPTOP yay!!

My dad gets my old one, so I'm working on cleaning everything off of it. I'm still getting used to the new one- it has Windows 7 on it and I hate the new Microsoft Office. It's a little different from what I'm used to- Microsoft 2003! I've used the Vista/2007 version before and hated it, but I can manage. The spacebar is a little shorter on this keyboard than on my old one, so I'm constantly pushing ALT on accident, and the touchpad is so sensitive and I have to get used to typing so I don't graze it and end up with the cursor in some random place. It does have a 10-key number pad, which I LOVE.

Overall it's pretty awesome having a computer that doesn't make funny noises, freeze, or lose internet connection every 5 minutes. It's bigger than my old one but so much lighter! It's going to be awesome not lugging around a heavy laptop to school. I'm sure I'll get used to it. :o)

It's pretty cold outside. My mom took a picture of this frozen fountain- cool huh??

07 January 2010


So it's Thursday and it's been a long week. I'm tired and have spent every evening this week trying to teach myself ABO blood groups and secretor test interpretations and a bunch of other blood bank stuff. I could bitch on for a whole page about a bunch of other stuff that's happened this week, but I'm totally not in the mood.

In fact, I'm in a great mood. The days are long and problems keep coming up. I hate getting up early and can't fall asleep at a decent hour yet. Yet, the shit that's going wrong is not even bothering me.

Pipetting patient samples into 10 uL wells seems so simple, but for some reason that I can't explain, I'm in a seriously good mood. Troubleshooting a malfunctioning BN2 nephelometer, prepping and examining fluorescent microscopy images of circulating breast cancer tumor cells and being happy when we don't see any, sorting tube after tube of gel-separated centrifuged blood, concentrating urine for protein electrophoresis and actually knowing what to expect when a patient has Multiple Myeloma...

Really? I'm happy because of that? It's freaking bad ass, and some day I'm going to get PAID to do this stuff.

Okay, I'm tired and there's blood bank stuff to learn. I think I'm going to make rice pudding first, though.

04 January 2010

shit. day.

What a shitty day man.

I couldn't sleep last night because I had a stomach ache. I finally fell asleep at around 230, and slept on & off until my alarm went off at 530. I got up and drove to school, with about 3 minutes to scarf down half a breakfast burrito until it was time to start.

The lady we'll be working with is super nice, as are most of the lab people. I can tell it's going to be a good experience.

Anyway, we got into the lab and I was standing there feeling kind of hungry when I got that feeling that starts like a tingling, then the whole cold sweat, blacked-out stuff took over. I tried to shake it off and wait for it to pass, but I seriously felt like I was going to pass out- I couldn't see anything. So I tapped my classmate's shoulder and she turned around and said, "Wow, you're pale!" Then they found me a chair and helped me take off my jacket kuz I couldn't move right. I was drenched in cold sweat, couldn't see, and couldn't breathe. All in front of this lady that I just met who is the supervisor for med techs- aka she could be my possible future employer. Greeeaaatt first impression.

It passed, but I still felt kinda dizzy and tired, so I went to go get some water from the water fountain. On the way, I encountered a nurse who said, "Ooh, honey are you feeling ok? You look kinda pale." I said I was feeling a little shaky, then she asked if I'd eaten anything that morning and told me to cough (to get more air flow) and to go get myself some orange juice or a soda. Then she tried to take me to the emergency room, but I wasn't going to do that, haha.

I did get some orange juice but my stomach was feeling upset. I managed to hang in there the rest of the day, but holy crap I felt bad. Then since I was over by the parking office, I decided to go pay for January's parking. It's like a 20-minute walk from my locker. I waited in line for 15 minutes or so, only for the lady to tell me I needed a certain form. The same form that I asked about in December if I would need, but was assured I wouldn't. Fuckers. To get the form would require walking 20 minutes to the Dean's office and 20 minutes back, just to stand in line again. There was no way dude.

I paid my $12 for parking in the visitor's lot, which I will have to do again tomorrow because of the stupid form, didn't print out anything I needed to, drove home, and took a 2-hour nap. I had to wake up to call the financial aid office about disbursement dates, and I found out I have to wait 10 business days to get my federal grants. Which means I have to come up with $400 somehow to avoid late fees- by the end of today.

I feel a little better but my head and neck hurts. I just want to go back to bed and I certainly want to feel better and redeem myself tomorrow. I also need to make a doctors appointment about these strange dizzy spells. I know they're just going to try and diagnose right away without running tests, and probably prescribe me anxiety pills or something. I should have had the lab draw blood after it happened and we could have ran some tests ourselves. Low iron? Low blood sugar? Blood pressure? I dunno but I can tell you right now it's not anxiety. I bitch about a lot of stuff, but then I feel better about it and let it be.

Let's hope tomorrow goes better...

03 January 2010

I resolve!

Haven't really had time to sit and think about them until now.
This is the first year that I haven't looked forward to the new year with optimistic feelings.

It seems like since I've turned 25, a switch has been flipped. It was acceptable for me to be still in school, living in my mama's garage while I was 24, but once I turned 25 I began to feel even more restless to be an adult. Like I've had enough time to figure shit out and make it happen, and now it's just pathetic to be borrowing time against whatever biological clock I've all of a sudden got ticking.

It's 2010- the year that's been next to University of Houston as my projected graduation date on facebook for a long time. It's finally 2010, and I'm even more restless. I've got 8 very long months to go. I still feel excitement when I mentally fast-forward to August. I'm so ready to be done.

I feel burnt out with school. I think I've simply taken too many exams and studied too many Saturday nights to really care about it anymore. Now I'm just going through the motions and hoping most of the information sticks or is reinforced by repetition or actual use. That's the good thing about this stuff I've been learning- we actually use it. I think that's what's keeping me going.

We start rotations tomorrow and I have no idea what that will be like. At least so far in my college career I've had a good idea what the coming semester will be like. Here, it's completely new. I can't make any mental plans yet; I just have to go in and see what it's like. I know it will probably be good, but the unknown is making me anxious.

That, and Chris is leaving in a week and it's kinda putting a damper on my mood. I'm used to him being around, especially when I need some comfort after a particularly stressful day. That's another unknown being thrown on to the pile of anxious.

It's like all these things are hitting me at once and making it hard to think positive. Once things start rolling I know I'll feel better.

So, my resolutions.

1. I want to exercise- no really. I always say this, and I always go through spurts of exercising and not exercising throughout the year. It's better than nothing, I guess. I can't afford a gym membership or anything like that, so I've been looking for a cheap bike on Craigslist and I guess I can always run or do workout tapes. My goal is to make it through school to graduation and not have any extra weight. If I lose the 5 pounds I've gained this past semester, that's cool, but I'm not too worried about it. I kinda like that extra curvage. I need to find a workout buddy, because I really do keep on track when someone's doing it with me. Takers?
Recap: Graduate without gaining weight. Vicky has that on tape from New Year's Eve, haha.

2. Cook more. Picture this: I come home from school starving, and while I'm thinking about what to eat for dinner I grab a granola bar, some cookies, a pickle, piece of cheese, and some popcorn left on the counter from last night. Then I'm not even hungry and I've eaten a random assortment of crap for dinner. I need to have self-control and patience. Ooh, those are big ones to tackle.

3. Since August I've slowly stopped caring so much about how I look. I used to never walk out of the house with frizzy hair. I'd figure out some way to make it look presentable, and then I'd worry that it had gotten frizzy once I'd left the house. If I had a zit, you can bet it was covered up with makeup. I usually wore mascara and a little blush every single day. Nothing crazy, but it was my routine.
As the semester got busier and I got more tired, I'd leave for school sans makeup (zit or no zit), and if my hair got frizzy it was the least of my worries. Most of my classmates did the same. I don't know if it was the fact that I was too busy and tired to care about my looks, or if I was growing up and abandoning the last of my adolescent self-consciousness, but either way I can walk out of the house in any state and not worry about what people think of me. Of course I'm not going to neglect my personal hygiene or start looking like Broom Hilda, but I like this unplanned change in attitude. It feels free. I plan to keep it this way.

4. Spend more time with friends. Sometimes I get so overwhelmed and caught up in schoolwork that I forget to take a break. I need to step away from school and clear my head. I managed to do this fairly often last semester, and I want to keep it up. I'm thinking of organizing a weekly or bi-weekly event, like game night & potluck dinner, redbox night, or jogging photography. Something cheap for sure, but scheduled so I can plan for it.

Well, that's it for now. They're pretty standard resolutions, but I feel like that's what I need to get me over this New Year's funk.

02 January 2010


hmmm, not so much.

The special effects were great, but the plot didn't capture me. I was fidgeting and bored by the halfway point.

Yet another reason why I purposely don't try things everyone raves about- nine times out of ten they're overrated!

If my internet stays on with old dinosaur lappy, I shall get some school-related stuff done tonight. It's been on and off all day. Can't wait till the new one arrives!!

01 January 2010

Fabric coaster tutorial

I -hate- water rings on tables. I have a ton of random fabric scraps laying around, and they are perfect for making a quick coaster. The way I figure, the more coasters laying around, the less water rings I will see. And, since I'm using materials I already have lying around, the cost is zero.

Cut 2 squares of fabric equal in size- about 4 inches.
Cut a slightly smaller square of old absorbent cloth- I used one of those chamois things you use to dry cars with.
If desired, cut a small piece of plastic approximately the same size as the absorbent square. I used an old plastic party tablecloth. I figured this would serve as backup to prevent seepage.

Later the fabric, absorbent cloth, plastic, and fabric into a sandwich- patterened side out.

Pin the 'sandwich' shut on the edges, and sew the outer edge closed around the absorbent cloth. I used a zig-zag stitch to resist fraying and also because it looks neat.

To prevent the inside absorbent cloth and plastic from bunching or moving around, sew another border inside of the first one, making sure to sew through all the layers. Trim the excess fabric close to the outer border, and you're done.

These will eventually fray, but I'm kinda going for that shabby look.

To make a more polished finished product, sew the two fabric squares together on three sides with the patterns facing in. Turn it right-side-out, insert the absorbent cloth and plastic, then sew shut with two borders as before.

Homemade ornaments and inexpensive gifts

Yeah, this is posted after Christmas because if I posted before, everyone would know what they were getting!

I was pretty broke this holiday season, so I made a lot of gifts. I made ornaments using an easy and inexpensive salt-dough recipe, also used to make these beads. Many of my friends are celebrating their first Christmases in a home they don't share with parents, with husbands and/or children, and many are starting from scratch with their decorations and ornaments. I thought this would be a nice idea.

1 c. corn starch
1/2 c. salt
1 c. baking soda
1 c. water

Mix all of the ingredients in a pot, and set it to medium heat. Stir constantly while the mixture starts to thicken. This will happen quickly. Once it is about halfway thickened, turn off the heat and keep stirring until a thick paste is formed. Spoon it on to waxed paper until it is cool enough to touch. This whole process only takes a few minutes.

Just roll it out like cookie dough, cut shapes with cookie cutters, poke a hole for hanging, let them dry, and paint.

I made a few ball ornaments using this tutorial, but instead of 20 circles I used 8. I have a ton of leftover scrapbook paper from years back and it worked great. They were perfect for my little 2-foot tree.

I also made biscotti, hot cocoa mix, chocolate peanut butter cookies, and cinnamon rolls and packaged them in cute bags with the ornaments and gave them as gifts.

I think they went over well, and even though they were similar, I tried to personalize each gift package for each person. Making gifts does take more time, but I was able to give my friends gifts without spending money that I don't really have.