Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Hitting the road + Cards!

2 witty remarks
We're heading out tomorrow morning for Washington, D.C. Very early in the hopes of arriving before 8 p.m. so that I can get to Celeste's bridal shower. It's actually about the same distance from here to McLean, VA (where we'll be staying) as it is from here to Rochester, so it's a pretty manageable drive. Well, as long as we have the DVD player for the kids.

Here's the NCIS cards that I mentioned before; I finally finished them over the weekend. Why NCIS cards? Well, because of NCIS FanFest. (Yes, there's a convention for NCIS. If there's one thing I've learned since subscribing to Netflix, it's that there's a convention for just about everything.) Now, mind you, I'm not actually going to FanFest - even if I had the time, I sure as heck can't afford the plane tickets - but a lot of people that I "know" from the fan community are, and I ended up making these for the Tony booth. It was really fun coming up with quotes from the show either about or by Tony, who is my favorite character on the show (no offense to all you Mark Harmon fans out there). I used the BasicGrey 'Lime Rickey' 6x6 paper pad - it was really hard to find a patterned paper line that was appropriately masculine but still bright and colorful, but I think this fit the bill. I used some American Crafts letter stickers in a font that really reminds me of the show (and the whole huge booklet of them was $2.00 at Tuesday Morning, so that's a huge plus) and raided my stash of computer fonts to round it out.

It was really fun making these, and a good challenge for my card-making skills. (Speaking of cards, I'm having another one published! I just mailed it to Utah on Thursday. Woo hoo!)

Monday, July 20, 2009

Moving right along

3 witty remarks
I mourned Catherine's departure for a little while, but then I had to keep going, because it's a busy summer. (And really, it's not like we won't all be seeing each other soon, when Kevin gets married.) After Betsy's T-ball camp, next on the roster was swimming lessons. Ahh, swimming lessons. I told you there was a story there...

See, back in the eighties, when I showed up for my very first lesson at the YMCA (and unlike most of the kids there, I actually couldn't swim at all) they informed us that first thing, right off the bat, we'd all be jumping into the deep end. And they had diving boards, so it was deep, like twelve feet or something and you could barely see the bottom. Now, I've always been good at math so I could figure out that at four-foot-something, I'd be jumping into water WAY over my head. My objection - and I think this is a valid one - is that maybe they should go ahead and teach me how to SWIM, first, and then I'll consider jumping into water considerably deeper than my short stature. The swim instructor, who I can still remember vividly (and this was the eighties, so there was one instructor for all these kids) told me to do it anyway, that I wouldn't drown. I've always had a hard time ignoring my instinct for self-preservation, so I refused. I did eventually jump in, but it didn't accomplish anything (although I didn't drown, obviously). I was scared and stubborn, and the instructor just didn't know how to handle that. All he ended up doing was making me MORE scared. Anyway, after a couple of summers Mom and Dad got tired of wasting their money so I was spared further torture. (I've actually had a few people since then try to teach me how to swim and I've figured out it's just not in the cards for someone as hopelessly uncoordinated as me. I'd be able to swim just fine if I had gills. Seriously, as soon as I turn my head to breathe, I sink like a stone. Needless to say, given the choice between swimming and continuing to live, I choose the latter.)

The thing I didn't realize until recently is that my experience was pretty much par for the course. The prevailing method of swim instruction for my generation was the whole "Throw 'em in and they'll figure it out." I mean, it was a different time, you know? Reagan was president and we used to walk to school. And being unceremoniously tossed into the water worked just fine for a lot of people - my husband, for example - but not so much for me. Sure, I'll go in the pool with the kids, but it was years before the smell of chlorine didn't make my stomach do flip-flops. (And it goes a long way in explaining this, although it's also possible that I'm just nuts.) But I also decided early on that I didn't want my kids to be non-swimming lame-os like their mom. I informed Matt that if I didn't like the way their swimming lessons were being run, I'd pull them out, even if they're non-refundable.

But, I'm happy to report that things have actually changed a lot since I was a kid. My kids are taking lessons down at one of the high schools, where there's one instructor for every two or three kids. And the instructors are a bunch of college-aged girls (they're adorable) who are actually patient and empathetic, and don't view it as a sign of weakness that my kids don't already know how to swim. (That's the thing which has always baffled me about my lessons at the Y: why the heck would my parents be paying for lessons if I already knew how? But I digress, and quite frankly, I'm sure you're all sick of this journey into my wounded and delicate psyche by now) Betsy was pretty intimidated the first day, but she's doing fine now. And Porter displays the usual fearlessness we've come to expect from him. When they were in the thirteen-foor diving well last Thursday, he was hanging on the edge with one hand and dunking his head under like it was nothing. (I have to spend my time talking to the other moms so that I can avoid projecting my fears onto my kids. But I still make them walk as close to the wall as possible when we're alongside the pool. I know, I'm a loser.) I think, with a few more summers like this, they'll be swimming like little fishes.

Unfortunately, we haven't been down to the neighborhood pool for my kids to hone their skills, because it's been in the seventies and low eighties for the last couple of weeks. Not that I'm complaining, mind you. I hate to sweat. But I think we all know what's going to happen... as soon as the kids start school (the second week of August! What the heck, Indiana?!) summer will finally begin in earnest. In the meantime, we've got plenty to keep us busy. Things like...

  • Getting Betsy's back-to-school shopping done. She really needs jeans that don't have gaping holes in the knees. I don't know how she does it. We've also got to get her on a schedule once we get back from our trip, because she tends to sleep in until 8:30 or so. Not going to work once you're in first grade, missy!
  • Preparing for our upcoming trip to Washington, D.C. for Kevin's wedding and a much-needed vacation. We've been walking around the neighborhood to get in shape; Matt's been poring over the Fodor and I've been reading this, which, while not technically a guidebook, is an awfully entertaining read.
  • Alternating between paper-crafting and sewing. Right now I'm working on the NCIS cards (I'll post pictures as soon as I'm finished). Matt got me an actual office chair for the basement (thank you very much, Staples, for having a 50% off sale) and my back is much happier. Next up: some knit dresses for Betsy to wear in the fall. I'm so excited about having a serger, because a serger means I can sew knits, and guess what? Stretchy dresses don't need zippers. So it's an elegant, if expensive, solution to my continued zipper-ineptitude.
  • I finally listed some stuff on Etsy and I had my first sale: a vintage card of tiny pink buttons. (They were featured in my National Pink Day post, and now they're in Colorado someplace.)
  • Cooking out as often as possible, and making S'mores. Oh, the deliciousness. Only we've let the marshmallows go slightly stale since then (I had to hide them, because even on the highest shelf in the pantry Porter could still get them) so I will have to make some Rice Krispy Treats. I know, it's hard, but making sacrifices is part of being a mother.
  • Trying not to drool too much over the CHA new releases (American Crafts, you'll be the death of me yet).
  • Adult conversation! Really! See, since joining Facebook I've gotten back in touch with a lot of my college friends (and it's only eight years since I graduated, so I don't have a good excuse) and some of us decided to gather at Buca di Beppo's last Saturday. Matt graciously volunteered to stay home with the kids, for which he was handsomely rewarded with leftover lasagna.
  • Updating my blog. See?

Monday, July 6, 2009

Blast from the past

6 witty remarks
Way back when I was in college, I had this brilliant idea that I should draw a set of paper dolls for my younger sisters. (I'm pretty sure it was 1999 because I remember working on them while reclining on Jean's pappasan couch.) We always had a thing for paper dolls when we were kids and I thought it would make a nifty - not to mention cheap - Christmas gift for Emily and Catherine. I ordered one of the Patterns from the Past catalogs off the internet (yes, the internet existed in 1999) and faithfully sketched as many of the historical dresses as I could, then copied them onto cardstock and colored them. I worked as a phone operator for Butler then so it was a good way to kill downtime in between calls. And while I can't draw to save my life, I can copy decently, so I was pretty pleased with how they turned out.

I always intended to keep the original drawings so that I could maybe make up another set for any future daughters I might have (and Betsy was born only three years later so that was oddly prescient) but somehow, in the five times I've moved in the last ten years, they got lost. I was pretty bummed about that because there is no way I'm investing that kind of time and energy all over again. Lucky for me, my sister Catherine decided to come for a visit, and even luckier, she brought the paper dolls with her! I figured they'd been long ago destroyed but every dress I remembered drawing was there.

I remember working particularly hard on this Civil War-era ballgown: all that ruching was crazy-difficult, not to mention all the roses. I think it turned out pretty awesome, if I do say so myself.

Notice that what I'm not showing you is any of Cath's work. See, she's an art major and next to hers, my stuff looks like it was drawn by a blind monkey, or perhaps a drunk toddler. So, let's keep my ego intact and move on to the next subject.

Something I'm actually pretty skilled at is making dresses, which Cath thought would be a lark to do when she came out here. So I let her paw through my stash of vintage patterns and she found this beauty:

Which is one of the ones I swiped from my mom in the first place, so it's kind of funny that it will end up back in Rochester eventually. Anyway, after checking to make sure that all the pieces were present (they were), we headed out to JoAnn's to score some fabric. Now, JoAnn's is much maligned by serious sewers, but I've always found lots of neat-o fabric, within my price range, and the employees are for the most part helpful (the older ladies at the cutting counter love to chat about dresses). Anyway, I had a couple of coupons and Catherine couldn't decide between two different fabrics (both of which were around $3/yard). Because I am evil, I convinced her to go ahead and get both, and make up the dress in both views.

We used my awesome new rhymes-with-merger to overcast the edges of each piece, to prevent ravelling, and then stitched it up on the conventional sewing machine. I helped with some things and gave as many pointers as I could from my vast three years of sewing experience. Like, it's important to press the seams. And understitch facings. I still had her do as most of the work, though, because they're her dresses (also I am lazy). I didn't even touch the zippers. Mom will have to help with that when Cath gets back to Rochester!

Anyway, speaking of sewing, here's what I've been up to:

The pattern was yet another freebie-by-way-of Mom; the fabric is actually a vintage sheet (really!) that I picked up for $3 at a church sale (the tag - which I kept - says 'Inger McCabe Elliot for Martex', 1976. Does that ring any bells for anyone?); and the buttons came in a huge bag of vintage goodies that I got for like two bucks at the Goodwill. So the whole dress cost me almost nothing. Which is good, because I'm not totally enamored of how it came out.

I shortened the sleeves quite a bit, because elbow-length sleeves drive me batty. I should have lengthened the bodice; that high-waisted sixties look actually doesn’t work so great on a five-foot-seven gal like me. Also, I had a really hard time matching the print because it wasn’t actually a straight horizontal stripe; the bands of pattern undulate up and down like waves of grain or a field of flowers. Still, the colors make me happy (and the buttons match so perfectly I can only assume the universe intended it that way) and for a really cheap dress, it’s not so bad. I love that the sheet it was made from is that no-iron percale (basically a poly-cotton blend) so I can wear it right straight out of the laundry, which is a huge bonus for a lazy pants like myself. I wore it the other day with a white cardigan sweater ($3 at Goodwill and it’s J. Crew) and I think that helped the style a lot, so maybe I will just save it for cooler weather.

Cath and I have been having a fine time. In addition to sewing not one but two dresses, we've been to the art museum (one never realizes just how much nudity there is in art until one pays attention); traumatized my children with the movie Spirited Away; been thrift-store-shopping (Cath didn't find anything but I scored some sweet red peep-toe pumps); saw Easy Virtue (swoon); visited Mike and Mandy's new place (Miles is a fine little host); and made our contribution to the unfortunately neglected literary sub-genre of overwrought Victorian melodrama. Fun times.

I've also been papercrafting:

Next project (after Catherine goes home, which mercifully isn't for a few days yet): a set of NCIS-themed notecards. Should be interesting!

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