Friday, December 11, 2009

My Best Kid Party Idea To Date.

At my daughter's last birthday (turning 2) we were going to end up having a lot more grown-up guests than kids. It was mainly family. So I wanted a fun activity for the adults. Since the kiddo's favorite phrase at the time was "I do my own!" we had a DIY theme for the party.

I saw some darling dolls from GooseGrease on Etsy.

And I also noticed that they sold kits, and blank dolls that you can paint yourself. Now, my kiddo's love the old wooden "Little People" dolls that my parents saved from when I was a kid. The have named each of the dolls for people in our family. I thought, How cool would it be to make them a set of dolls that really looked like our family?

So I bought a blank set of dolls, and had each person at the party paint themselves as a gift to the Birthday Girl. Everyone seemed to enjoy it, and the dolls are played with almost daily. It really made the day extra special, as cheesy as that sounds.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Android's Dream Sheep Amigurumi

The next few posts will be a little bit of old news, but I still want to share these pictures, even though time has gotten away from me.

When my kiddos entered some items into the local county fair, I decided to contribute as well. I was learning a type of crochet called amigurumi (which is Japanese for a knitted or crocheted stuffed doll). I was also reading a book by John Scalzi called "The Android's Dream". Turns out, the book isn't about sleeping robots like I thought when I picked it up. I won't tell you what it is about, but my fair entry is a hint.


I got a nice red, second-place ribbon, which is amazing considering I misunderstood how to do the decrease stitches on the back of the head. It ain't pretty back there. My theory is that there were only two entries in this category. I also want to credit RoxyCraft and the book "Tiny Yarn Animals" for the pattern for this cute little sheep. I sure couldn't have come up with it on my own. I met Ms. Snow at the Maker Faire last year ans she was uber nice, and there are free patterns on her website, so go check it out. I have more amigurumi to show off soon, most are also from her patterns.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Stuff

My buddy Amanda over at A Fortnight of Mustard nominated me for this Kreativ Blogger thing. Thanks Amanda! So what that apparently means is:

Here are the rules:
1. Thank the person who nominated you for this award.
2. Copy the logo and place it on your blog.
3. Link to the person who nominated you for this award.
4. Name 7 things about yourself that people might find interesting.
5. Nominate 7 Kreativ Bloggers.
6. Post links to the 7 blogs you nominate.
7. Leave a comment on each of the blogs letting them know they have been nominated.

So, 7 interesting things about me. . . humm. . .

1. I'm a horrible packrat, but I hate clutter, so I'm always a little uncomfortable about the state of my house.
2. I cannot stop myself from putting two spaces after a period, no matter how many times I read/hear that one space is now the standard.
3. With my father's help, I once built a wheelchair for a cat.
4. I've been bitten by a cat, a dog, a finch, a monkey, a bat, a hamster, a rat, a budgie, a mouse, a snake, a vulture, a donkey, a macaw, a cockatiel, a pigeon, an iguana, a rabbit, and a gecko, but I still like animals.
5. I felt really, really bad when I saw that my last entry for this blog was in May. I've had about 50 great ideas for posts; why haven't I written any of them?
6. I'm in the middle of reading 3 books right now. No wonder it takes me so long to finish one!
7. I like these games, but I always kill them, 'cause I don't send them on to others. Sorry.


Saturday, May 9, 2009

Star Trek

I'll keep this short because I know the world doesn't need another movie review.

Just have to say that I'm home from the theater and doing a nerdy fan-girl happy dance. They done good with this one.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

A Reason to Hope

I used to be an active member of Writing.com. Now I'm just someone with an account there. It's a great site, but time constraints don't let me hang out there the way I used to. One of the greatest things I've taken from there, however, are a few good writing friends. I didn't know any other writers when I found Writing.com, so just being around like-minded folks was wonderful, even if it was only a virtual kind of hanging out.

Two of those friends have self-published some of their works, and I think it's past time for me to send them a little blog love. I'm starting today with "A Reason to Hope" by Andra Marquardt. It's a Christian Sci-Fi novella with a lesbian protagonist. If that doesn't spark your interest, then there is no help for you. I don't read Christian anything as a rule, but that even got my curiosity going.

I was lucky enough to win one of her book giveaways when the book launched originally, and I got through it in about a week. You could probably get through it in a couple nights if you have more time to sit and read than I do. (I hope you do, my reading time is so sad.)

The story starts of with very intense action, but then quiets down into more of an inner battle for the main character, but we get little bursts of action later on to keep things hopping. My understanding is that this book came as a spin off from another novel or story Andra is writing. I think the well developed world, and characters reflect this. It's clear that there is a bigger story surrounding the events of this story, and we're only seeing a single crisis as part of a bigger conflict. Yet, at the end, I felt well resolved. Maybe still a little curious about other questions beyond the scope of this story, but left satisfied.

Since gay rights is an issue I'm extremely liberally minded about, I wished that issue had gone even further, but that's the biggest complaint I can muster. I don't want to give away too much by saying more. But for anyone like me who may see the word 'Christian' next to Sci-Fi, and be turned away, I can promise that you won't be preached at in this book. Any part that even hints at preachness (and I don't think that is the right word in this case anyway) is never aimed at the reader, and is an itegral part of the story.

Now I've saved the best for last. Recently Andra has started sharing "A Reason to Hope" as a serilized story online. So you can read it for free, but if you read too fast, you'll have to wait for the next chapter. There a a bunch of chapters already posted though to get you started.

Go read it.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Proper Order of the Chronicles of Narnia

Until this week, I had no idea there was controversy surrounding the order of the Chronicles of Narnia books. I discovered this by accident.

While learning about Lions, we picked up The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe book on CD from the Library. We enjoyed it enough, that we decided to get the next book. I thought the next book was Prince Caspian, but the CD box at the library told me it was volume four in the series. I trusted the box over my own memory, and so we went home with the CD that told me it was the first book in the series, The Magician's Nephew.

At this point I was feeling very befuddled because I didn't remember The Magician's Nephew at all, and I would have put money on the fact that The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, was the first book. Everyone knows that, right? And yet the box told me otherwise. Maybe, I thought, it wasn't the first, just the most famous or something like that.

Finally, I had to find a written order to get myself oriented again. This whole experience had left me feeling lost, and my understanding of my little world. I needed grounding again, so I turned to my trusty friend, Google.

And so it is that I learned that there are two schools of thought on the chronology of the Chronicles of Narnia. One puts them is order of publication - this is the order that my set of books (and my own memory) used. The other method puts them in chronological order of the story's time line. This reminds me a little of FOX changing the order of the Firefly episodes - why change the way the creator chose to unfold the story?

While I personally really enjoyed The Magician's Nephew , and highly recommend it to anyone who hasn't read it, I have to say I don't think I would have liked reading it before The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. Part of the appeal of it, is knowing what is to come in the future, and it is written in a way that assumes that the reader has that knowledge. I suppose it would be fine if they didn't, but not quite as fun methinks. In the same vein, I think knowing the extensive backstory before The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe would have been just too much information, and taken away most of the mystery.

This isn't the only change in order, but it's just the one that has affected me personally thus far. Actually the only book the two numbering methods agree on is The Last Battle as the last book. I think I'll go by the author's ordering system and ignore the CD boxes from now on.

Out of curiosity, if you've read any of the Chronicles of Narnia, what order did you rad them in, and do you have an opinion on it?

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Interrobang ‽

Isn't that a great word?

I finally got caught up on all my back episodes of Grammar Girl, and by far my favorite tid bit that I picked up was from an episode on punctuation that introduced me to the Interrobang.

The interrobang apparently is used for punctuating questions that are asked in a "surprised manner". Since technically, using two punctuation marks isn't good grammar, the interrobang is a combination of an exclamation point and a question mark.



Isn't is cool‽

But I have to admit, I mostly just love the name. I think the next pet I get, I'll be very tempted to name it 'Interrobang'.

So is anyone with me? Can we revive the poor forgotten interrobang?

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Quilting Shop Hop, and Bunnies

Wow, I haven't posted anything since January? Yikes. Where did the time go?

Anyway, a week or so ago (at least it feels like a week ago, but obviously my sense of time isn't working too well at present) I visited about 8 local quilt shops during their big March Shop Hop promotion. I had the kids with me for most of the shops I visited, so we didn't wander too far away, although we did get to see some shops I probably wouldn't have gone to otherwise.

One of the first shops we went to was Main Street Quilts in Martinez. The folks there are so friendly (like just about every shop we visited), but were particularly kind to the kids. As we were checking out, they let the girls each pick a fabric scrap from a jar of "fabric candy" they have by the register. These were just small pieces of fabrics, I measured them at 3 inches by 17 or so when we got them home. The little one happily picked out a bright red piece and tried to eat it. Guess she took the 'candy' name a little too literally. The older girl was very thoughtful in her selection, which surprised me since she isn't into fabric, or crafts at all. She even picked out a white piece, when there were all kinds of flashy beautiful colorful choices.


As we walked out to the car, I understood what was in her mind though. "Mama! You can make me a bunny!" She announced, holding her fabric in the air with glee.

I was not all that confident I could make diddly squat out of the small scrap, but agreed to try.

TA DA!
Since I don't normally make plush critters, and I didn't have a pattern, I'm happy with these results. I'd never tried to embroider before either. I'm sure someone who knows what they're doing could find flaws with these, but phooie on them. My kid still thinks I can make anything.

She'll learn better eventually.

I could not find a website for Main Stree Quilts, so the best I can do to plug them is give their address and phone number:

533 MAIN STREET, MARTINEZ, CA 94553, USA
Ph: (925) 372-3700

If anyone from Main Street Quilts is reading this, and there is a website, will you let me know? If there isn't one - you should start one. I like to look at class offerings online. It's 2009 guys. Just sayin.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

I wrote a little while back about the CPSIA and how it affected small businesses and crafters. As I've continued my research I've learned that it goes way beyond just that. Books are included in the new bans. Not just new books for sale (that's bad enough) but ALL books for kids - so we're talking libraries and schools here.

Here is a little background about the book issue from a writer at Forbes.com. http://www.forbes.com/2009/01/22/cpsia-waxman-cpsc-oped-cx_wo_0122olson.html Just click "Skip this welcome screen" and you'll be taken to the article, you don't have to sign in or anything. There are 2 other parts to the Forbes articles. Type CPSIA into the search bar on Forbes.com if you want to read all 3.

At first I really thought congress couldn't be THIS insane. I mean, who is approving closing down children's libraries? That's just stupid. Then I visited the American Librian Association's website. It's real.
http://www.ala.org/ala/mgrps/divs/alsc/issuesadv/cpsia.cfm
http://www.ala.org/ala/newspresscenter/news/pressreleases2009/january2009/wocpsc.cfm
http://www.ala.org/ala/aboutala/offices/wo/woissues/governmentinfo/cpsia/index.cfm

If the librarians of the country are mobilizing, I'm kinda worried. We have a huge stack of children's books checked out right now. We rely on our children's library so much as homeschoolers.

Another aspect of the law that's causing lots of confusion is how it applies to thrift and second hand stores. The CSPC recently exempted thrift shops from testing requirements, but not from any other aspects of the law. So they do not have to test, but if they are caught selling something with lead in it, they will be subject to all the penalties. Since they don't always know where the toys and clothes they get in donations come from, many are choosing not to carry children's items anymore so they won't have this huge risk. I know of at least 2 children's consignment shops being forced to close by their insurance carriers who won't cover them anymore.
In this economy, I hate that people who rely on thrift shops for clothes for their kids are going to be so hurt.

So I urge everyone to write to your representatives in Congress and ask them to postpone implementation of this act until it can be amended and fixed. It just is too far reaching and full of unintended consequences. I don't believe they will have the problems worked out by the Feb 10th deadline.

My optimistic nature really wants to believe that someone in Washington will come to their senses and rework this thing to be logical, but so far they aren't giving me a lot to feed that hope with. So my cautious brain parts wrote this post. And to make things even easier for you to contact your reps., here ya go:
http://www.usa.gov/Contact/Elected.shtml

Thanks all.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

A Little Sci-Fi for Fun

The Geeky Quill asked about my writing. I realize I haven't written much about it here in awhile, so I dug out an old story. I wrote this for a contest over at Writing.com The first paragraph was provided, and we had to finish the scene. I won. I think because I was the only person to put a positive spin on the story.

Aftermath

Roaches. Thousands… no, MILLIONS of roaches came streaming out from under the old refrigerator, the rusty stove, and the broken-down cabinets. They scuttled over the countertops, and from beneath the peeling wallpaper. We looked on in horror and absolute disbelief as the tide of insects swept unerringly in our direction.

Disgusted beyond words, I turned to flee when Greg grabbed my arm, stopping me.
“Sandy, get a grip. Don’t you see what this means?” He actually sounded excited. Was he out of his mind?

I once saw a group of ants attack and kill a live grasshopper. The gruesome scene was very much in my mind as I watched the advancing insects.

“It means we need to get the hell out of here.” I tried to pull my arm away, but he held firm.

“No. There must be water here somewhere.”

That beautiful magic word pushed my fears back just far enough to listen to him.

“There’s no way this many roaches could live here without a water source. Think about it. We’ve seen them before, but nothing like this.”

I knew he was right. He was always right, damn him.

Since the fighting stopped we’d been waiting to find out what happened, and what would happen next. We assumed the government, one of them anyway, would tell us what to do. But no one ever came. We knew by now that no one ever would. Survivors and stragglers, all wandering lost, we found each other.

Every day Greg and I had been scavenging together. Looking for food, supplies, anything we could use, but always, ALWAYS needing water. Our small band of survivors would be even smaller if not for some of Greg’s ideas. As repulsed as I was, I had no choice but to follow him. He felt my resistance drop, and released my arm.

“All right, let’s find it.” He marched into the sea of bugs.

Taking a deep breath and imagining a big glass of cool water in my mind to block out the crunching sounds, I followed.

Greg pulled open the cabinet under the sink, which came off in his hand. There was nothing inside, no pipes, not even any roaches.

To me it looked like most were coming from behind the fridge. I opened the door, and fought down the bile that rose into my chest.

“Over here.” I managed to squeak out, turning away from the sight of cockroaches in various stages of development coating all the shelves of…well, who knows what it used to be. There was a powerful smell of rot and decay. Beyond all that I’d seen a large hole rusted through the back of the fridge, exposing a mossy pipe with a slow drip.

Rushing to my side, Greg gaped at it, and whispered, “We’re saved.”

________________________________________________________________________

And this isn't A Sci-Fi piece, but I'm proud of it because someone else liked it enough to publish it:
A Thief in the Night

Now writing this entry has inspired me to do some work on my sad, neglected alien cuttlefish story. I'll let you know how that goes if I ever finish it.

Monday, January 26, 2009

A pocket quilt



This is a project that I'd wanted to make for a long time and never seemed to get around to. I decided to make it a Christmas gift to force myself into a deadline. Luckily the kiddo loves it.

For awhile we were spending every morning searching for some tiny lost plastic animal. I'm not a morning person, so moving furniture is not what I'm hoping to do as soon as I roll out of bed. So I made the rule that only stuffed animals are allowed in bed at night. Then we started a ritual of carefully lining the "hard critters" as they are affectionately called up on the dresser at bedtime where they could be seen from bed.

The pocket quilt has saved the day!

Now it hags next to the bed. Each critter gets happily tucked into their own pocket at bedtime, and they are still there in the morning. No searching through blankets. No dragging the bed far enough from the wall to get an arm down there. Yea!

Plus, it's cute - if I do say so myself. Decoration and storage all in one. Maybe I need one for my room now. . .

It's super simple. I did it without a pattern, but I could probably write instructions up if anyone is interested. I just figured out how big I wanted it to be and worked backward from there for the size of each block and pocket. I know I've seen more elaborate versions out there too.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

More on Making a Quilt from Baby Clothes

The friendly quilters over at TheQuiltShow.com gave me wonderful advice about how to begin my quilt made from baby clothes. I was concerned because almost all the baby clothes are knits, and will be easy to stretch during sewing. Their advice: Use a fusible interfacing as a stabilizer to prevent stretching.

It's worked wonderfully so far. Here's the first block I made:



I wanted the quilt to use a variety of traditional star blocks. I picked this block to start with because it had a nice big center square where I could fit one of the cute applique embellishments from a toddler shirt. A lot of the clothing has appliques like this that I want to include, and I can this way. The fusible interfacing worked great. I bought the lightest weight interfacing I could find. The clothes are already a heaver fabric than the normal 100% quilting cotton I normally use, so I didn't want to add any more weight than necessary.

I bet this will be a very nice soft, warm quilt by the time it's done. I still can't quite close the drawer that I'm storing old baby clothes in, plus the little one is about ready to go up a clothing size again, so I'd better get going on this project!

Have you ever made a quilt from baby clothes? If so, share your tip in the comments. I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Foundation Paper Piecing Quilts

I've recently started learning how to use foundation paper piecing to make quilt blocks. I can see why it would be really helpful for making some kinds of blocks, very complex ones, or ones with very tiny pieces especially. However, I think I still enjoy traditional piecing. I haven't done a ton yet, so maybe more experience with the technique will change my mind, but I don't think so. When I started traditional quilting and piecing, I fell in love with it right away. That didn't happen with foundation piecing.



I did a few tries on my own with only online tutorials for help and they had some problems. In some cases, I didn't use big enough scraps so I didn't have enough seam allowances. Also I had problems with my stitching getting torn out when I tore the paper off the back.

Then I followed the instructions from Sue Garman for the 2009 Block of the Month Project over at The Quilt Show, and I did a lot better. This little house is made from her tutorial that she recommended before beginning the bigger, more complex feathered star block. The best advice was to use a super-short stitch length. My stitching didn't tear out when I tore the paper off at the end, and that makes a big difference.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Rick Woldenberg and the CPSIA

Regarding my previous post about the implications of the new act on small manufactures: I found this other blog post by Rick Woldenberg that says everything so much better than I can. He doesn't think the act should be amended, he believes it should be repealed altogether, and makes some damn fine points as to why.

The main point he makes is that lead paint was already illegal. So the problem was never that we didn't have laws preventing the problems with the lead contaminated toys of 2007, it was that we didn't enforce those laws. A new, more complicated, vague law that will be even more difficult to enforce and put thousand of American manufactures out of business even though not one American manufacturer caused a problem makes no sense.

To read his wonderful post on the subject, please see here:
http://learningresourcesinc.blogspot.com/2009/01/cpsia-emperor-has-no-clothes.html

Also, to help bring this issue to the attention of the Obama administration, please take a moment to vote here:
http://www.change.org/ideas/view/save_handmade_toys_from_the_cpsia

Thank you.