homeschooling, homemaking, homesteading...home.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Quilted for Softness

This week's apron is pretty basic.

And objectively, there's nothing wrong with it. It's a classic butcher shape--plenty of protective coverage. Simple lines. Adjustable straps. And nice detailing, in the form of contrasting piping.

It's just...quilted. And as a general rule, I try not to dress in things that add puffiness.

That and the pocket is positioned too low. There, I said it.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Fat. Yeah. AND...?

Mike and Molly. I made reference to this new sitcom a few posts back and claimed to have an opinion on it. Here it is.

The early episodes left me very torn. Yes, it's a show about an obese couple who met at Overeaters Anonymous. We get it. They're fat. It's silly to pretend that the elephant isn't in the room; sometimes we're going to have to acknowledge that they're fat. It's also silly to pretend that they aren't human. Humans often exhibit a self-deprecating (or gently teasing amongst friends) humor. Fat people (gasp!) sometimes comment on their own fatness. And sometimes they laugh about it.

So I'm not going to be one of those people who is horrified that *being fat* is a topic of conversation or a target for humor. As long as it isn't mean-spirited, I don't see that "fat" is a problem. (And the few early examples of mean-spirited comments have been handled gracefully with either retaliatory humor or gentle but firm protest.) I don't think the fat jokes are the problem.

What could, and just may, kill this show is the reliance on the fat jokes. The other most outstanding aspect of fat people is, um, they are people. There is much, much more to a person than this one dimension. I worried early on that they'd quickly run out of jokes and plot tricks involving girth and there would be nothing left to fall back on.

The analogy I most commonly make is to Ellen Degeneres' show. Not her current talk show, but her sitcom. Not long after the actress--and her character--came out as a lesbian, the show was taken off the air.

I cannot speak for the networks' decision; I realize that at the time the show was pulled, they were under pressure from many protesting groups. I can speak for myself, however, and the reason I eventually stopped watching that show was because after that episode, the writing fixated on that one element of her character's story. The coming-out episode was the turning point between two shows which had the same setting and characters but a completely different tone. As much as I applaud the honesty of dealing frankly with a real issue, I feel that this was the day that show jumped the shark. Ellen's gay! OMG, did you know Ellen's gay? Hey Ellen, what's it like being gay? Hey Ellen's mom, what do you think about Ellen being gay? Gaygaygaygaygaygaygaygaygay...

OMG I get it already. Ellen's gay. AND...? Did the rest of the world stop turning? Did she stop being a businessperson/friend/consumer/etc? Apparently being gay is so much of a burden that she didn't have the energy to deal with anything else.

According to the writers, it seems. And that's the trap that Mike and Molly fell into almost instantly. Fell, hell. They started there. They're fat! OMG, he's fat! She's fat! They're fat together! Look, they're fat! Fatfatfatfatfatfatfatfat...

Again, I get it already. I don't expect a gay person to never mention her orientation or for a fat person to never acknowledge her weight, and I don't expect those aspects of a character to never work into a plot. But in real life, NO ONE I know focuses on one aspect of their makeup almost to the exclusion of everything else. Anyone who does act in such a self-involved, one-dimensional way is boring at best, annoying at worst. They tend to lose friends. Obsessive behavior may be a curiosity in the short term, but after a while it's just not that interesting.

And frankly, this problem also plagues Mike and Molly's supporting cast, whose characters are almost all offensive one-dimensional stereotypes. This can work in a show that's meant to be ironic--like Married With Children--but I don't get that vibe and think that a few of the script writers need to spend more time trying to write characters instead of characteristics.

Like Ellen, the lead actors in Mike and Molly are charming and deeply relatable and have an excellent sense of comic timing and delivery. They deserve infinitely better material than what the writers have been giving them to work with.  I truly hope that once the powers that be reassure themselves that they've hooked the viewers who tuned in out of curiosity, they will start producing scripts that play to the strengths of the actors and their chemistry. As it stands now, this show has equal potential to be either a really sweet romantic comedy, or a really tragic freak show. I like the characters, and the actors who portray them. They deserve better than this.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Mama's Holiday Wish List (Meme)

TodaysMama and GameStop are giving away a sleighful of gifts this holiday season and to enter I’m sharing this meme with you.

1. What is your holiday wish for your family?

A minimum of drama and stress.

2. What is your Christmas morning tradition?

My parents come over to watch the kids open gifts, and my husband and I prepare a big brunch. We're becoming "famous" for our Eggs Benedict. Yummmm.

3. If you could ask Santa for one, completely decadent wish for yourself, what would it be?

an all-expenses paid vacation!

4. How do you make the holidays special without spending any money?

We share traditions like reading holiday-themed books, watching Christmas specials, and driving around to look at light displays. I also make sure that the kids are involved with the holiday baking and crafting; we have many handmade memories decorating our home every year!

5. What games did you play with your family growing up?

UNO, Atari, and tons of board games.

6. What holiday tradition have you carried on from your own childhood?

Having grandma spend the night Christmas Eve. <3

7. Where would you go for a Christmas-away-from-home trip?

If someone else is paying? Walt Disney World, with the kids! :)

8. Check out GameStop and tell us, what are the three top items on your GameStop Wish List this year?

Nintendo DSi XL Top Sellers Bundle, for my 7yo
The same, for my 4yo!
and a Kinect, for their parents. ;) with the Fitness Bundle, since Mom's the one dreaming.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Clemson Cocktail Hour?

I don't have anything against clashing colors per se. In fact, I love bright neon green paired with dark purple--the logo colors of my once-employer MediaSite, now absorbed by another company (alas). But orange and purple? Really?

And yet, it kinda works. The fact that the shades are muted pastels keeps the garish factor down to manageable proportions.

I haven't really had much call to wear this. The fabric makes it impractical for cooking use; it's definitely a hostess item. What I do love though, is yet again construction. The seams were pressed with a professional attention, and the hand-stitching is tiny and even and so perfect it makes me want to cry in frustration at the thought of my own clumsy skills in that area.

And look at this immaculate enclosed seam.

This thing is practically coture, the construction is done so well!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

In Which My Perfectionist Tendencies Pay Off

My name is Heather and I am a self-critical perfectionist. This can be good, as I constantly push myself to improve and excel. It's frequently bad, though, because I pressure myself, often unrealistically. I cripple myself from even tackling certain projects (ahem, writing) and frustrate myself over the minutia of the projects I do embrace (crafting). I've done a lot of growing with the whole self-acceptance thing. I'm still working on the performance-acceptance issues.

To wit: My best friend and my husband are constantly teasing me about the fact that I often spend more time un-knitting and re-knitting projects than actually producing permanent stitches. It's well-deserved. Sometimes a flaw might be noticeable only to the creator, but damn it--it bugs me, knowing it's there! If nothing else, I'm becoming quite adept at spot-frogging (probably not a term, but maybe I just coined it). And I'd much rather spend extra time on a piece I can take pride in, than to hand over something that I feel is shoddy work.


Letting go of that is HARD.

A week ago, I stopped in my favorite LYS (Natural Stitches! Have I not mentioned this place enough?) and found, in the orphan bin, a hank of kettle-dyed Malabrigo merino worsted. I love the idea of shade variation, but prefer a more random look than the pooling patterns one usually gets with machine-produced variegated dye lots. Kettle-dyed and tonal...I'm thinking that these are the way to go. I'd never tried Malabrigo before (cough-cough, price) but this skein was marked down and calling my name.

First and foremost: Holy Textiles, this yarn is wonderful! I'm a frugal person, but I am feeling myself shifting into Yarn Snob territory. YES it is worth paying more for quality. Not only will your finished product look, hang, wear, and feel better, but the process of working with better materials is a tactile joy. This yarn is soft and lofty, but not at all splitty. Even after frogging, it behaved the same as fresh-off-the-skein. It has a single ply with enough "tooth" to gently meld each stitch with its neighbors and yet not so much that it grabs at the needles. And ohhhhhhhh man is it soft. Love!

I took a break from my holiday gift-knitting and decided to make something for myself for a change. I only had the one skein, so I chose a hat. I wanted a beret, but not. I don't like the look (on me) of a traditional flat tam, or the jaunty assymetric slant of a beret. I wanted something with more fullness than a beanie and a little slouch, but not quite to Rasta proportions. I wanted, in short, this hat...or this one. (Yes, they're on the same actress. And yes I have opinions on that show, but let's stay on topic for now, m'kay?) I figured with my mad skilz at top-down, swatchless hat knitting, it should be no problem.

And...the anticlimax.


Oh, it's a hat all right, but it's not right. The fullness isn't wide enough to look anything more than "poorly fitted beanie", and the depth isn't helping either. The band is roomy, but the hat is long enough that the whole thing just stretches south. It would keep my head dry and nominally warm, but I was not loving it.

And what is the point of using uncharacteristically fancy yarn to make yourself a hat you'd never wear!?

Yup. I frogged it.

I don't usually let so much slack accumulate,
but it made for a more interesting visual story.
I regretted this. You bet your sweet stitch markers that got tangled. Ay!
As a concession to trying to let go of perfectionism, I only frogged back to the crown--even though there was a point where I changed the way I was doing my increases. (note to fellow knitters: if you get a small hole on a lifted increase, try knitting into the *back* of the lifted stitch. It produces an increase that looks more like a check mark than a V, but that can be pretty too...and I like using directional increases as part of the design. The holes just looked like sloppy work to me.) So there is an imperfection in this which I have determined to accept.

The rest of it, I redid. I kept absolutely no notes, but basically I added a few more increase rows, eliminated the rows between the decrease rows, made the band an inch or so smaller, and changed the ribbing to 2x2. Results?

Did I mention LOVE?
This, I will wear. Not because it's handy and functional. Not because I made it. But because it's a cute freaking hat that looks good on me and feels really awesome.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

I swear this was not staged

I knit. You've picked up on that by now, I trust. Last week I returned from Natural Stitches with several hanks of yarn. After petting them and gazing at them lovingly for a while, I got out the yarn swift and ball winder and got to work turning those loose hanks into portable "cakes".

It's big fun, and the kids sometimes join in. (And I'm eternally grateful to my neighbor for her open-ended loaner of those two pieces of equipment. They are indispensable!)

A few days later, C was working on one of his projects, and asked for some yarn. I gave him a leftover skein of acrylic and went about my chores. Periodically, he would find me and deliver a small and loosely-wound hank of yarn. It was cute, but I didn't really think too much about it. Until he asked me to come and see his invention in action.

I swear to you, I did not help with this. At all. My four year old made it, completely on his own.


Yup. A yarn swift and ball winder.

I'm so geeked. And touched. And awestruck.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Apron Monday: Sheer Beauty

I'll be honest; the sheer fabrics are not my thing. They're a little too "boudoir" for me, and while I'm all for kitsch, I prefer to keep things practical. I don't cook in the bedroom; let's keep the whore out of the kitchen, hm?


That aside, I still wish to applaud the creator of this week's apron for her (I'm assuming) patience and skill. What makes this item so delightful is the intricately cut appliqué, all hand-stitched in a tiny, exquisitely done blanket stitch.

It's even echoed in an appliqué patch pocket, which is utterly useless but lovely nonetheless.

Friday, November 12, 2010

{this moment} - 11/12/10

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. 

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Sample Conversation

4yo: "Hey Mom? Two plus six is eight."
Me: "That's nice honey" (suddenly paying attention) "Wait, what?"
4yo: "Two pus six is eight."
Me: "Yes, that's right!"
4yo: "I know. I knew that because I did some math."
Me: "Oh really?"
4yo: "Yeah. Hey Mom? I want to live in Hot Pocket land."

Monday, November 8, 2010

Beloved Unusable

Today's apron is just wonderful. It has a number of appealing features.

Let's start with the overall cut. It's my favorite basic style: fitted bib and skirt with a little fullness. And it has (not apparent from the photo, alas) crisscross straps. This is a fantastic invention for those of us (ahem) who have sloped shoulders. Halter necks are functional, too...but a crisscross strap allows for wider strap placement (more flattering on larger busts, again ahem) without compromising fit/comfort.

It also incorporates some interesting design elements. The skirt itself is cut on the bias, with the ruffle cut on the grain. It breaks the rules, and it doesn't even care. Now it's an apron with attitude!

There's also the requisite patch pocket that echoes the cut and yet is completely useless because of size and/or shape. Ah well, I'm getting used to that. I like me a functional pocket, but it seems that in the world of aprons, look trumps function most of the time.

And finally, the bias binding is used on both sides; as decorative trim on the front, but also to enclose seams on the reverse.

Fine respect to the seamstress. (Oh, and this is definitely a handmade item, so it gets major points there as well.)

So what's wrong?

Well, it's freakishly small. And I don't just mean that I can't fit my ample self into it. I mean that it fits my seven year old almost perfectly. But he refused to pose for a picture. ;) This is another apron that I keep for appreciative nostalgia and potential future inspiration...but it's yet another one that doesn't see actual use.

Friday, November 5, 2010

{this moment} - 11/05/10

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. 

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Week in Review, Crafting Edition

Many of you have asked why I flaked out on the apron post last week. And by "many", I mean "absolutely no one", but I thought it was a good opener. See? I'm so crafty I make stuff up!


Anyway. Last week was a whirlwind of activity, between preparations for Halloween and for--oh yeah, did I forget to mention?--T's seventh birthday.

Woohoo! Celebrating with C, best bud cousin, and the birthday boy.
Naturally, there was birthday cake.

It's not one of my better decorating jobs, but it was made with love and under a tight "whoops, I'm out of time" crunch. And it tasted good. ;)
T's piece. He asked me to photograph this.
Something tells me he would easily adapt to blogging. LOL
Also on the birthday front, there was decor. First, let me admit that I have no idea what to call this. The trendy tutorial-publishing, craft-blogging moms seem to be pretty evenly split on whether it is a bunting or a garland. Frankly, I always thought that buntings were the flags gathered into a fan shape (as might be seen adorning a caboose from which a politician gives a photo-opportunity speech) and that garland was the sparkly boa that you wrap around the Christmas tree. So what do I know? Obviously not the finer points of "flair". (Insert your own memories of "Office Space" here, as I failed to locate the appropriate video clip on YouTube. Sigh.)

Anyway. I made this fabric pennant-hangy-thing like you see at used car lots. Only way prettier and more durable. Instant party happiness.

Unfortunately, it *totally* clashes with my dining room. Alas. But then again, so did the red crepe paper streamers and the rainbow assortment of balloons, so I'm not going to lose too much sleep over it. 
OMG the colors! So bright! So obnoxious! LOVE.
And no, I have no idea what fabric that is. People who spend a lot on designer fabrics and then remember, and announce, the designer and print name...well, they are not me. I bought this cut of fabric years ago. I don't remember where. I'm sure it was discounted. The fact that I found it visually appealing was enough. Snobbery? Humbug!!

Honorable mention on the birthday front: I started these socks...
Yes, THESE socks.
...with the intention of giving them to T as a birthday gift, but I didn't finish them in time. In fact, I just completed them this morning. I do know that the yarn is Premier Yarns' Serenity/Deborah Norville sock yarn, but that's mostly because I still have the ball band for washing instructions. The colorway is Picasso Marble.

They're hideous. I'm not a huge fan of self-striping yarns, as your project still needs to be just the perfect circumference for it to stripe and not produce this half-pooled, zigzag mess. But I took a chance, and the colors will match most of his wardrobe, which is growing less "little boy" and more "big boy" every day. Lots of dark, somber colors. Sob.

Anyway, T likes knee socks but only has one pair, and black dress socks at that. It's actually damn near impossible to find knee socks for little boys, at least in my limited searching, so I rolled up my sleeves and made him some. I'm sure they will look much better *on*...hand-knit socks with ribbed cuffs always look a little freakish in pictures, but they do stretch out nicely on the wearer's leg. I've tucked these away to be given at Christmas. I hope he likes them.

Within a few days, birthday segued into Halloween. T enjoyed his first sleepover, with the favorite cousin pictured earlier. We carved Jack-o-Lanterns

and then I brought out the Super Happy Fun Craft: black T-shirts and glowing fabric paint (Tulip brand).

My intention was to have the kids make handprint spiders, but while they enjoyed making the practice spiders (tempera paint on paper), they asked me if they could just paint on the T-shirts instead.

Why not!? We dumped out some paint and grabbed some brushes.
Shut up about that laundry in the background. At least it's clean. :p
Here's what they came up with:
I added the caption, per C's request.The ghost is in jail, by the way.

The kids had a GREAT time doing this project. Unfortunately, the paint seemed to soak in to the fabric (and lose its "glow" power), no matter how thickly they painted it on. I finally "fixed" things after bedtime with a good squeeze of thick outlines using the applicator on the bottle. I should have let them scribble that way from the get-go. Oh well, live and learn. And then tell everyone on your blog, so they can do it better.

There was a family party at my sister-in-law's for Halloween, and that called for another cake.

No, those are not boobs. Or sunflowers! I meant to say they are not sunflowers...
(And yes, I was lazy and left them in the pans,
because they were easier to transport that way.)
This clever little concoction is a Wilton design called "How Candy Corn is Born". It required the purchase of a specialty pan, which I raced out to do the same day my friend L sent me the link. Yes, I get that easily excited about some things.

The cake, after cutting:

Lovely! And it got enough raves at the cute visual to totally justify the purchase and cooking/decorating effort.

And finally, the pièce de résistance...this year's Halloween costume. T opted yet again for a store-bought costume (sigh), but then again I was not feeling up to tackling a muscle suit (Iron Man), and he was much happier than he would have been if I'd tried. C, however, wanted to be a kangaroo.

Considering that I couldn't find a kangaroo pattern, I think I did pretty well. :) He was in his four-year-old glory, hopping and skipping, and using the pouch to hold treats. Definite win.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Gawd Bless Amurrika

The idea of what it means to be patriotic, and how those feelings might be best expressed, seems to be rather fluid, especially lately. So I could be wrong. This could be exactly what I'm missing. But somehow I think it falls more under the heading of "You're Doing it Wrong".

Sing with me now! "The only one who'll hang out with me / Is my dear old GrandDad..."
True, this apron-slash-billboard does lack a U.S. flag. But the sentiment...oh, the sentiment. It's the spirit of America!! When I think of America, you can be damn sure that the first emotion that's stirred in my heart requires the liberal celebration of (and with) some Kentucky bourbon. Woo!

I should totally wear this more often.