Friday, July 21, 2017

Budget-friendly, Eco-friendly Living Advice for Millennials

I was just reading an exchange about tiny homes.

The logic behind a tiny home has to do with:  the desire to own a home by young people who may not be able to afford a conventional home; the desire to live with less stuff; the idea that a tiny home equates to a "greener" lifestyle (which I don't, necessarily, agree with).

I won't disagree that having less stuff is a better option, but sometimes the "stuff" serves an incredibly valuable purpose and allows an individual to be a bit more self-sufficient.  For instance, my canning supplies take up a lot of room, as do my canned foods.  In a tiny home, there wouldn't be anywhere to store all of that canning apparatus.  Indeed, there wouldn't be anywhere to store all of the food, even I, with my tiny yard, grow and preserve for winter.

So, living in a tiny house does not, necessarily, mean one is greener, as there's not a lot that's much greener than growing one's own food (except maybe foraging one's food).

This isn't a criticism of tiny homes.  Personally, I love them for their aesthetic and for their efficient use of space.  I really love all of the incredibly creative storage options (except for those tiny-house dwellers who just stuff their belongings in a separate storage shed, which seems to negate the whole tiny-house ideology of living with less), and I think, in homes that are more traditional sized, if we had better storage options, we wouldn't need garages (which most people use for storing stuff other than their cars), storage sheds, basements and attics.

Here at Chez Brown, we don't have storage (no basement, no garage, no accessible attic storage space, and no out buildings), and we only have two closets.  So, we use a lot of creative storage ideas, like shelves above the windows and bureaus for kitchen storage.  I was just gifted a buffet for my dining room. It's the perfect addition to the space, and even though we added a piece of furniture, it makes the space feel bigger.  The added bonus is that I was able to almost completely empty one of the cabinets in my kitchen by putting some things in the buffet, AND I was able to fit all of our extra dishes* in the buffet, which gave me some room for extra sheets and blankets that were in a clutter-pile in the office.

*A note about the "extra dishes":  in talking about green living, one point is to make our lives as non-disposable as possible, which means no paper products.  Here at Chez Brown we never buy paper towels or napkins.  I have cloth for both.  We also don't purchase paper plates - even for parties.  In fact, when my oldest child and only boy (henceforth known as Mocob) decided to get married in Maine and entrusted me with the details of the wedding and reception, I purposely purchased plates at the thrift store rather than getting paper.  Extra dishes isn't something someone in a tiny house could even consider, but reusable dishes are much greener than disposable ones.

The thing is, building something new, even if much of what is used to build it are reclaimed or recycled materials, is never as eco-friendly as the home that's already standing - unless that home is in irreparable condition, that is.   In which case, carefully deconstructing the structure so as to save as much of it as possible, and then, reusing those materials and new, energy efficient materials to build a new structure on the same footprint as the old structure might be more eco-friendly.

That's not what this is about though.  This commentary is about exploring options for young people who are looking into home ownership, but wish to be thrifty and eco-friendly, and I submit that the best way to accomplish both is not to build a new, tiny home, but rather to co-habitate - preferably in an older suburban neighborhood that is somewhat walkable, or at least has easy access to employment and other amenities.  My current neighborhood, while not really walkable for several months each year (because of snow, and the fact that there aren't sidewalks and the traffic on the road moves pretty fast), it is accessible.  I'm six miles from the grocery store, two miles from the train station that can take us as far north as Brunswick and as far south as Boston, and a half mile from a biking/walking path that can take us from Kittery to Portland.

The suburb where I lived when I was in junior high is similarly situated, within an easy commute of many amenities, including a military base (about a half hour drive) and a community college.  

The house is over 1700 sq. ft, and the lay-out (an L-shaped configuration), could easily be split into three, small housing units.

The small end of the L could be tiny apartment #1, which would be in the former den (with an attached laundry room) and the huge, eat-in kitchen.  The den (with a fire place) would be the main living space and have a pullout couch, daybed, or futon.  The laundry room would be converted into a bathroom.  It would take minimum work to make it into a livable space for one or two people.    

Apartment # 2 would consist of the former living room and the dining room.  The dining room would be converted into a small bathroom and kitchenette.  The living room would have a daybed or pull-out couch ... or for the very handy, there's a great wall space against which one could construct a Murphy bed.  

Apartment #3 would be in the section of the house where the three bedrooms make up the large part of the L.  It would be the largest of the three apartments, and could even be a one-bedroom.  The walls between the two smaller bedrooms and the hall bath would be removed to allow for a large open-concept living room kitchen area.  The master bedroom could remain intact as is, with the bath off the bedroom and the huge closet spaces.

So, how is this better, you ask, than just building tiny houses?  Well, three friends could form a company to purchase this house.  The Zillow value is $136,229, and the estimated mortgage is $504/month.  Imagine that?  Split three ways, the mortgage is less than $200 per person, which is significantly less expensive than rent, not matter where one is renting.

And the living space, even chopped up the way I described, would be twice what one would have in a tiny home, even for the smallest of the spaces.

Further, the house is on a quarter acre lot, which would allow for gardening or some animal husbandry (my family had pet rabbits that lived outside when I lived there).

There's also a carport, which could be converted into living space or storage, or it could be an awesome outdoor living space for all three units to share.  There is also a storage unit onsite at the back end of the carport.  This storage space could be encompassed into Apartment #1's bathroom ... or it could house a washer/dryer that all three units could share.  One washer and dryer shared by all three units is pretty eco-friendly.

For people who don't want big houses and want to be more eco-friendly, purchasing an existing structure with a group of friends and turning it into a co-housing situation with individual living spaces is a much better option than trying to build something brand new.

It's also a lot cheaper, depending on the cost of housing where one lives.

And with the quarter acre, there are a lot of awesome opportunities for the frugal/green-minded to thrive.

=================================


As an aside, I ended up in a conversation yesterday, with a woman who wanted to argue semantics rather than points.  We were saying the same things (ish), but she wanted to nitpick my word choices rather than my point.  Whatever.  I'm sure I've done the same to other people.  Karma's a bitch.

But ...

The conversation starter was a budget that was developed by a company in an attempt to justify their low-wage jobs.  One of the items on the list was a rent payment of $600.  The people who were railing against this budget stated that there's no where that one can find a rent payment that low.

I submit that they are wrong - well, maybe not about the rent payment, but I did find a house one could purchase with a mortgage that was less than the budgeted amount.  It's a nice house, too - three bedrooms, two FULL baths, a den, a formal dining room and living room, an eat-in, recently remodeled kitchen, hardwood floors, and a deck into a fenced yard.

While I really bristle at the motivation behind the budget plan and the notion that an employer has either the right or responsibility to tell employees how to spend their money, I do believe that the budget is not entirely inaccurate.  With careful and conscientious choices, one can live on a lot less money than we are told we need to be both comfortable and happy.

In Alabama, one can find a suburban 1700 square foot, three bedroom, two bath house for less than $600/month, and if one has roommates, or one is willing to split the house into separate housing units, one could live quite comfortably on a minimum wage income, which is fortunate, because from looking at the Google map views, it appears that the area has been built up considerably since I lived there, and many service-industry jobs appear to be within the radius of my ramblings as a child - i.e. within walking or biking distance.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Frugal Floor

I bought a magazine today.  I know, I know.  Buying magazines goes contrary to all of the frugal advice out there, especially when I can (usually) get it from the library for free (at my library, we can borrow last month's edition.  The current month's edition we can read at the library, but we can't borrow it and take it home). 

We were getting some screws at the Tractor Supply Store, and it was next to the register - you know that spot where they know you're going to impulse buy. 

And I did.

Fact is, I don't actually feel guilty for the impulse purchase.  First, because the magazine I bought is Mother Earth News Wiser Living Series, and the edition was titled "Guide to Living on Less and Loving It."  And, second, because even though most of the articles were things I already know or do, there were some tidbits that were valuable to me.

In particular, there's an article about lye soap-making (which, as it turns out, I could have read for free online :( ! ), and while I probably won't follow the author's soap-making advice or technique, it might encourage me to make some more of my own.  I have everything I need to make lye soap, including a great recipe, which I've used before, and it worked out well. 

There's also a great article about pruning standard-sized fruit trees for small spaces.  My peach tree will need to be carefully, but aggressively, pruned this fall, because it is growing too big for the space it occupies.  In the future, using the techniques described in that article, I could even add a few more fruit trees to my landscape - small as it is.

There was an interesting (in a not-useful-to-me way) article about how to save money.  It wasn't useful, because ALL of the tips were, what I've come to refer to, as the low-hanging fruit of the money-saving lifestyle changes.  The article recommended things like, making your coffee at home and putting it in a reusable to-go cup rather than purchasing coffee from a coffee shop, cutting the cable, and line-drying rather than using a clothes dryer.  Those suggestions are so five-years-ago - at least here at Chez Brown.

In fact, we've been pinching pennies in every place we can, and when the best advice I can get from the money-saving articles is stuff that I've been doing for a really long time, I start to think that I'm pinching my pennies a lot harder than most people. 

But it's not just about pinching pennies, because as every frugalista knows, in most cases, when one saves money, one is also doing something positive for the environment.  Take the above examples.  If I make coffee at home and put it in a reusable cup, I'm not creating more garbage.  If I line dry my clothes, I'm saving electricity. 

Being frugal is also very green.

So, when we started the renovation for our backroom, we talked a lot about how we wanted to do things, and, of course, the answer was as inexpensively as we could without compromising on quality.

Home improvement is expensive, and even just refinishing a room (new walls, ceiling and flooring), can be pretty pricey if one isn't careful.  We had many discussions and took a very long time finding our supplies. 

The first place we saved big was on the wall color.  Mr. Field and Stream has worked as a painter, and he recommended a particular primer, which is really expensive for just regular folks.  Thankfully, I was able to get it at the contractor's price. 

Then, there was the question of the wall color.  I found a great deal on "oopsy" paint at the hardware store.  The color on the lid looked like a beige color, which looked fine to me.  I bought two gallons of it for $10 each, and then, the guy at the hardware store gave me a third gallon of paint (different color) for free.  When we started painting, Deus Ex Machina read the color name.  It's "Golden Retriever."  Perfect for this household of dog lovers! 

Good quality flooring is exceptionally expensive.  We knew we didn't want carpet, and I hate linoleum.  I also didn't want laminate of any kind.  I wanted real floors. 

We knew we wanted tile in front of the door, because our farm is in the backyard - through that door.  Originally, the room was carpeted, and all of those years of coming into the room from the backyard with wet or muddy feet caused the subfloor to rot.  It was replaced and the door was moved.  We decided that to protect the subfloor and hopefully not have to replace it again, we'd tile it.

Deus Ex Machina found some tile for free on Craigslist.  It's my favorite style of tile.  I like the 1' x 1' size, and I love the blue color.  There's enough of it left to tile the small hall area between the kitchen and our office. 

For the rest of the floor, we decided we wanted wood.  Wood flooring is crazy expensive. 

So, instead of spending hundred$ of dollar$ that we don't have on the kind of floor we wanted, we decided to use reclaimed wood from pallets that would have been thrown in the trash.  Imagine all of that perfectly good wood ending up in a landfill somewhere. 

Not only will it look gorgeous once we're finished, but it also appeals to the recycler in me. 


We still have to sand it, seal it, and stain it.  Then, we'll be putting up a tongue-and-groove wood ceiling and building a custom frame for our bed ... and moving back into the room that we starting fixing going on four years ago.

There are a couple of other money-saving choices we made in the room that I'll discuss later - when we get those things put into the room. 

Of course, the absolute best part about moving back into the room will, actually, be discovering how much progress we've made toward decluttering. 

And I can hardly wait to see how empty our nest feels when everything is put into its place. 

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

How to Make Quick-Cooking Rice

Last summer, Deus Ex Machina and Big Little Sister set out on a 100 mile journey to conquer the most difficult and dangerous part of the Appalachian Trail.  A third of the way into the adventure, they had to leave the trail, because the dog was showing signs of distress.

Undeterred, they have decided to set out on this journey again, this time with Big Little Sister's boyfriend, whose blog name is Eye-Tee (IT).

Having experienced it once, Deus Ex Machina and  Big Little Sister are being a lot more careful about the weight of their packs, and they've been enjoying the conversations they've been having with Eye-Tee.  Big Little Sister says she hears their words coming out of his mouth.

On a positive note, he's started listening to them more, and he's starting to adjust his plans.

The whole experience has me thinking a lot about my own preps.  While my goal is never to leave my house, because I have everything I could ever need right here, I know that being forced to evacuate is a possibility. 

It's so hot and dry in the US Southwest this year that huge wildfires are blazing in Arizona, Utah, and California.  Unrelated to each other, but horribly devastating.  A wildfire might force me out of my home.

Weather has wreaked havoc in other areas in the past.  Tornadoes, hurricanes, and flooding have all resulted in evacuations. 

It could happen, and that's why I think about these things.

Ideally, I would be able to pack up my car and head out (and come back, eventually), which means I wouldn't need to worry about things like the weight of what I was carrying ... or even about losing too much of what I left behind.

But what if I couldn't drive my car?  What if I had to head out on foot with only what I could carry on my back?

Through listening to Deus Ex Machina and Big Little Sister, I'm learning that those packing list recommendations for Bug Out Bags are often misguided.  For one thing, they are too heavy, and they recommend a lot of stuff that would be nice, but isn't really very necessary.

It's funny listening to Deus Ex Machina talking about which shoes to carry.  The pair of boots weighs two pounds, but the pair of hiking shoes weighs only a half of a pound.  Guess which pair is going.  What I've learned is that when one is carrying it on one's back, one is counting weight by the ounce - and every single one of them matter. 

Sometimes it's validating, for me.  A few years ago, on one of those survival forums, one of the recommendations for the TEOTWAWKI medicine bag was an anti-diarrheal.  I commented that taking an anti-diarrheal on the trail might not be such a good idea, especially if one didn't know what caused the diarrhea.  Diarrhea is a symptom - not a disease - and stopping it without knowing what caused it could be very dangerous.  The best thing to do would be to pound liquids and suffer through the loose bowels.  Drinking lots of fluids would help stave off dehydration, which is, really, why diarrhea is dangerous. 

Instead of using a diarrheal, I suggested just regular, old black tea, which also has anti-diarrheal properties, but it also does a lot more.  Plus, it would force one to boil the water - which may have been the reason for the diarrhea in the first place.  If one carries a loose leaf tea mixture that includes both black tea and mint, for instance, there are a whole bunch of health and medicinal benefits. 

Plus, dried herbs used to make tea weigh a lot less than diarrhea medication.  So, there's that.

The other people on the forum yelled at me, basically, telling me that I didn't know what I was talking about, and if they had to suffer with diarrhea in a powered-down scenario, they'd be clutching their bottles of Pepto with both hands. 

Personally, I'd rather save the weight for something more awesome than the pink stuff, and I'll just pack a big, baggy of herbal tea - which is delicious and soothing whether I'm sick or healthy. 

When I was planning food to pack in my BOB, one of the items I always added to my list was rice.  For all of the good having rice on the trail would be, uncooked rice is actually not a great choice.  Aside from the fact that it's pretty heavy and the weight to calorie ratio isn't that great (the recommendation for backpackers is to carry food that yields 100 calories per ounce), it takes a really long time to cook, and it requires dishes, which can also be heavy.

So, I started thinking about alternatives, and I decided that I still liked the idea of having rice, but that I just needed to modify it a little, and I figured out:

How to Make Homemade Quick-Cooking Rice

1.  Cook rice.
2.  Put cooked rice in dehydrator.
3.  Process until it is dry and crumbly.

To Use:

1.  Put rice into a container that has a lid or can be covered in some way.
2.  Add an equal amount of boiling water.
3.  Cover and let sit for ten minutes.

If one adds other dehydrated vegetables or meats, plus spices, it would be the same thing as those packages of dried food that cost a week's pay at the hiking store.  

But even if one isn't going to go hiking or bug out, ever, having cheap convenience foods is not a bad thing.  The homemade quick rice doesn't take up any more storage space than regular rice, but on those days when dinner is going to be late anyway, it's nice to have something super quick and easy to prepare.

What's better is that the first time I made quick rice, it was because we had a bunch of rice leftover after dinner one evening.  We were already dehydrating stuff.  So, I just added the rice to the dehydrator.  It was a no-waste solution and gave us an option for a super quick meal.





Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Staying Cool


The last two days here in Maine were pretty hot, and while I know it's all relative, when one lives in a place where the average high temperature during the summer is in the 70s, and the mercury rises above 90°, it's hot. 

It got me thinking that I've spent a lot of time here talking about ways to stay warm, but I've neglected to address - in a post all by itself - how to stay cool.

For us, here at Chez Brown, it's opposite sides of the same coin.  We don't have central heat, which means we can't simply set our thermostat to keep our house at a regular 68°F during the winter.  We also don't have central air conditioning (or any artificial cooling for that matter), and so we can't set our thermostat to 78° during the summer.

In fact, while we do have a thermostat attached to our furnace, those who read here regularly know that it's just a thermometer.  The furnace hasn't been used since 2008.  We heat with wood, and so there's no thermostat. 

Most of the tips we use to stay warm during the winter can be used, in reverse, to stay cool in the summer.

Shade is your friend. 

Many years ago my family participated in a class where we learned all sorts of awesome outdoor "survival" skills.  The class wasn't about survival, though.  It was about reintroducing skills that our ancestors knew and used on a daily basis and helping us find ways to incorporate those skills back into our lives.

On one particularly hot day, our instructor moved us to the side of a granite-bedded stream in an area that was thickly shaded by deciduous trees.  Beside the stream bed in the deep shade of those lovely oaks and maples, we made birch bark baskets, staying cool and comfortable.

As modern folks, we've forgotten how to use shade to our advantage.

Inside my house - even without any artificial cooling - stays 5° to 10° cooler than the outside, and it's because we've learned to take advantage of the sun.

At night, we open the windows and turn on the window fans to draw in the cool, night air.  It's wonderful, because not only do we have this lovely cool air blowing over us at night while we sleep, but the white noise also drowns out the sounds of traffic on the road outside.

In the morning, when the sun is on the easterly side of the house, we close the heavy drapes and turn off the fan. 

As the sun moves around the house, we close and open windows and blinds or curtains, taking advantage of the shady sides of the house to help keep things cool.

Nothing Like Water.

One of the best ways for your body to regulate its own temperature is adequate hydration.  During the summer, we drink a lot of water and iced tea.  Yes, I do actually sweat a lot, but sweating is a good thing, as it's our body's natural cooling mechanism. 

Water is excellent for drinking, but it's also amazing for keeping us cool in other ways. 

Back to that class, we were sitting next to a stream, and we were able to put our feet in the stream.  One of the best ways I've found to cool myself quickly is to splash water on my feet and ankles, hands and forearms and face.  It's actually pretty amazing how much better I feel just from that very simple act.  

It's even better if I'm in an area where I can get a cool breeze and let the draft dry me.  It's like sweating, only without all of the salt. 

Cooling herbs.

One summer, we had a really awful hot day, and our power went out.  Not that it mattered to me, much, because having electricity didn't change the temperature inside my house. 

My neighbors, however, were an elderly couple and not having power WAS an issue for them.  I had ice packs in my freezer, which we put around their shoulders and neck to help them keep their bodies cooler.

I also filled a pan with cool water and added a few drops of peppermint essential oil. 

Several years ago, I switched to using Dr. Bonner's soaps, and one of the first flavors that we purchased was peppermint.  The first time I took a shower with it, my whole body tingled ... and felt cool. 

One day, I decided to take a bath, and I was using this soap.  It's hard to describe the feeling, but here I sat in this tub of warm water, but my body felt chilled, because of the soap.  That's when I discovered the power of peppermint to cool.

So, by the time my neighbors' power went out on that scorching day, I already knew how to help them stay cool, and putting their bare feet into a pan of peppermint water did the trick ... and the smell was lovely.

There's a reason those Southerners invented a mint-based drink for their summer cocktails - and it wasn't just an opportunity to showcase their Kentucky Bourbon.

Ice, Ice Baby

After living her entire life with a mom who is kind of over-the-top about creating a lower-energy lifestyle, Precious has learned a few tricks on staying cool when the mercury fills the thermometer.

The other day, when it was super hot here, I saw her walking around the house with a rice pack around her shoulders. 

We call them cold things and they stay in our freezer - all of the time.  When my children were younger, and they suffered a bump or bruise, they used the cold thing.  It's almost more effective than a kiss-to-make-it-better. 

In our non-AC home, we know that cooling off with a cold thing works.  So, she was putting the cold thing around her shoulders.  When I was still doing transcription, I would put a cold thing in my lap or at my feet while I typed.  On particularly sultry nights, someone is usually sleeping with a cold thing.


None of this is secret knowledge.  Most of what I know or have learned about staying warm or cool, I discovered by observing animals in nature.  When it's hot, the animals hunker down, usually in the shade.  A dog will dig a little shallow in the cool dirt and lay with his belly against the ground.  The chipmunk will dig a little burrow where he stays in the heat of the day.  A moose will find a nice stream or pond and get into the water.  The animals' techniques for staying cool work for us, too.

Humans have managed to survive and thrive in every climate on the earth for tens of thousands of years.  It's only been in the last hundred that we can no longer manage even the slightest fluctuation in our comfortable temperature range.

But if we learned to work with nature, instead of against her, our lives can be a whole lot more comfortable - even without all of our modern conveniences. 

Sunday, June 11, 2017

T-Shirt to Skirt



The older I get, the more I realize my Grandmother had the right idea.  She didn't go clothes shopping.  I guess she did some mail-order for undergarments and socks, but for her outerwear, she had this pattern for a dress, and she made them herself.  Depending on what the dress was to be used for, she might add a fancy lace collar or some big apron-style pockets. 

When I was little, I never really noticed it.  It's only after thinking about all of her dresses (and she had a lot of them) that I realized they were all the same ... except for some small embellishments.

And she used different fabrics for different times of year.  Like she had this really, lovely, heavy polyester dress with a color and gold buttons that she wore to church in the winter.  She had a very light weight cotton in a pastel stripped pattern that she wore at home on her farm during the summer.   She snapped a lot of peas in that dress.

In my quest to find my style I've gone through a lot of clothes - most of which are ill-fitting and not terribly flattering.  I just don't have the body type that today's clothes are made for. 

A few years ago, I stumbled upon the Little Brown Dress project.  A Seattle woman (Alex Martin) made a brown dress, which she wore for an entire year.  That's it.  The Brown Dress was her uniform for that entire year (she actually had two dresses ... maybe more ... but that brown dress, paired with sweaters, leggings, and other accessories, was all she wore).  I guess some people would get twitchy thinking about wearing the same thing every. single. day, but I was intrigued. 

How simple would it be to get up every day and just grab your clothes, without having to worry about what one is going to wear?  It's always the same ... with, perhaps, a few embellishments. 

While I haven't (and won't) take it to the extreme that Alex Martin did, I do really like the idea of having just a very few articles of clothing that fit well, are flattering to my shape and size, and are comfortable.

I bought this pattern two years ago.  I actually bought it for the pants, because I was looking for something that would be flowing and comfortable, and this pattern looked easy enough for my limited sewing skill. It took me almost two months to finally make something.  I decided on the skirt, which I loved, but it was a bit more snug than I liked.  The cotton fabric doesn't have any give.

Then, I decided to make a second skirt out a couple of my old shirts.  Upcycling ... you know?  

I love that skirt.  I dyed it (poorly), and it ended up being this crazy-looking batik pattern.  It also developed these little holes, which polo-style shirts will do with age. 

I wear it as a work-around-the-house skirt.  It's comfortable and flowing. 

I made a third skirt with that same pattern not long ago.  This one is my favorite, AND I can wear it places.  I've gotten a few complements on it and more than one request to make one for someone else. 

Today, it's hot here.  My work-at-home skirt is in the wash.  I try not to wear my go-out-in-public clothes when I might be in the garden or just lounging around the house. 

I don't wear shorts.  It's too hot for jeans or sweatpants.

So, I decided to pull out my pattern and dig through my old clothes and scrap material box and see what I could make.  

I found this extra large men's shirt.  I'm not sure where it came from, but since it was in the bin, I figured it probably wasn't something Deus Ex Machina had been missing from his closet.    





 
 
 
I cut off the arms, and then, using my skirt pattern as a guide, I cut across the shirt using the bottom half (from the pectoral area and down) for the skirt body.  The sleeves are the waistband.  The leftovers (and there wasn't much) are in the rag-bag.  If I end up making enough of these skirts, I might start saving the excess for reusable menstrual pads - although at risk of sharing a little too much, I shouldn't need them much longer ;)). 
 
If I get really ambitious, maybe I could make the scraps into a rug, or a bowl, or a quilt.  The possibilities are only limited by my own imagination ... and whether or not my family can be convinced to use cloth wipes instead of toilet paper.
 
What's really cool about having used this t-shirt is that I didn't have to do any hemming, and so from start to finish (including taking a shower), it took about an hour. 

It's a cute little skirt.  It's one of those pieces of clothing that can be appropriate at any function depending on the shirt and shoes.  With just my camisole and a pair of flip-flops, it's good for working in the yard or lounging in the hammock.  Paired with some leggings and a fitted tee-shirt, it's a nice casual wear for shopping or hanging out with my daughters.  If I wanted to be fancier, I could add a suit coat or a nice cardigan.  It's just one of those styles that can be dressed up or down.

And to think, only a few short hours ago, it was a red t-shirt, hiding in the bottom of my scrap material bin.

I'm thinking, maybe, I should go find some more men's t-shirts.  Extra large.  With no logos.