Thursday, July 24, 2008

Self Portrait Challenge: "Skills" Week 4

I have to admit to playing hooky from the SPC this month. Life sometimes gets in the way. I had a lot of ideas for skills that I can easily showcase--the usual ones that I'm known for: Music, sewing, knitting, cooking etc. etc. I wasn't terribly inspired. As I sat in the library of NEHGS (New England Historical Genealogical Society) yesterday, it occurred to me that I had another skill--that of solving puzzles. Genealogical research is awash with puzzle solving. Sometimes the solution is right in front of your face and other times it requires some real digging. I've spent about 20 hours this week pouring over vital records, wills, land records and town records from the 1600's and 1700's. I think my brain is fried, but I solved a lot of puzzles!

For more pictures of skillful people, visit the Self Portrait Challenge.

I think I'm going blind!

I've been hovering over vital records and microfilm and books galore. Yesterday the NEHGS (New England Historical Genealogical Society) library was open until 9 so I spent about 6 or 7 hours there. Genealogical research is like a huge puzzle. You solve one little piece then a bunch more fit in. If you are missing a piece then you cannot solve other mysteries. I was trying to prove a link between 2 generations in the late 1700's. In trying to prove the link, I actually proved that the link did not take me where I wanted to go. I found another person of the same name and proved that link. Basically that undid several years of research because I had taken multiple ancestral lines back from the incorrect link and sourced all their vital records! So I have to do it again. Many of the lines are the same. I am working with Mayflower lineage. Let's face it. When there are only 20 families in an entire geographical area, there will be some marrying among cousins! That always amuses my kids and they start with the West Virginia jokes (no offense to any readers from West Virginia!) Tomorrow I will pick up DH at the airport in Providence and we will visit some ancestral burial grounds in Little Compton Rhode Island. There is a winery there that we hope to visit as well.

I did say that I would show what I bought at Windsor Button:

I don't know how well the facets show up on the buttons. They are Czech glass and gorgeous and I think they are perfect for the coat I want to make. Here are some shots of a few projects from the book that I like:

Today it poured rain all day! On the way back to the hotel, as I was stopping at Starbucks, I noticed a fabric store. It was quite large and looked sort of dumpy. I was quite surprised at what they had. They had a very large interior design section, quilting stuff and some fashion fabric. I was hoping for some cotton/spandex blends but didn't see any. I was very surprised at the bridal/eveningwear fabric they had. I purchased 1/4 yard of a silk that had ribbon embroidered motifs on it. I also got a yard of a sheer organza type silk in a grassy green and a yard of 70/30 cotton/silk voile. I love the voile. I may go back to get enough to make a slip. I bought these pieces to make some lavender sachets since I have a lot o fresh lavender drying.

I brought along my knitting and haven't touched it. The time in the hotel has been spent creating charts and doing online research. I may have to do a few rows.

I leave you with a couple of photos from Boston Common. First is the stage being set up for Shakespeare on the Common. They perform Shakespeare several nights a week in Boston Common and people begin gathering early. The second is the State House.

Bushism of the day:
"I think it's really important for this great state of baseball to reach out to people of all walks of life to make sure that the sport is inclusive. The best way to do it is to convince little kids how to--the beauty of playing baseball." --George W. Bush, Washington, D.C., Feb. 13, 2006

Kitty Cam: The two big lugs --Greg and Mikey--stayed close to me before I left. They always seem to know when I'm getting ready to leave and they become quite clingy. This is the scene when I got up from my computer:

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Life is a bowl of cherries!

I bought two bags of cherries--sweet bing and Ranier --at Weis before I left yesterday. The gadget on the left is my Good Grips cherry pitter. I love that thing! I can pit the cherries and pack them in a zip lock bag for lunch! DH refers to me as the cherry fairy when I put pitted cherries in his lunch! My trip was uneventful. I ended up actually getting on the road about 4 p.m. I was in my hotel at 11:45 p.m. I would have gotten here sooner but I had to stop a few times as I was drowsy. That's very unusual for me when traveling late in the day. I stayed up too late the night before and got up too early. I ended up not being able to go to sleep last night until around 3 a.m. this morning. I got up at 9 so I'm pretty tired. I will actually go to bed at a "reasonable" hour tonight.

First and foremost, I need to share my FO's. First I have one of the sewing variety:

This is Simplicity 4076. I bought enough of this cotton/spandex knit to make another one with long belled sleeves. I was pleased with this. I had to make a couple of modifications. First, I stitched the center front seam about a half inch higher. I tried it on after stitching the side and shoulder seams. The neck was still way too low so I pulled up the shoulder seams about an inch. It was perfect after that! Comfy too!

The second FO is Labyrinth:

Here are the details:
Pattern: Labyrinth by Wendy Bernard for Stitch Diva, Size XS
Yarn: Handmaiden Double Sea, 3 skeins Topaz, 1 skein Ivory
Needles: Addi Turbo size 6 and size 4 (for sleeve ribbing)
Modifications: I increased the number of hip increases. The pattern called for increases to be done every 8th row 6 times. I did them every 5 rows 8 times. I also added 32 rows to the sleeves and increased the total stitch count by 11 inches. I did the sleeve increases every third row over 18 rows. I then decreased back to the original count for the cuff and knit the ribbing on smaller needles. I also added a couple of rows of ribbing. My intent was to have a loose, blousy sleeve which went to my elbow and it worked out well! Short sleeves are very unflattering on my flabby middle-aged arms! The neck ribbing stretched after blocking so I'm not sure if I'll be able to wear it without a cami. I may try to weave some clear elastic through it for support.

Today, I did some work in the NEHGS library then took a stroll through the city park where I ate my lunch.

The city park is incredibly beautiful and it is always busy! People sit around and read or they lounge in the sun. There are strollers and dogs and street musicians. No roller blading or skateboarding. It is just a pleasant place to spend an afternoon. Sometimes I bring a small knitting project and just sit there and chill for a while.

Next I visited:

I'd heard about this place! It's been open since the 1930's. They have an incredible selection of buttons as well as notions, needlework supplies and knitting stuff. I bought the new Norah Gaughan booklet and some Czech glass buttons for the wool coat I hope to make this winter. I hadn't been able to find any buttons that I loved, settling for some plastic ones that looked vintage. These are much nicer. I will photograph them tomorrow.

I took some other photos of the area which I will share tomorrow. I must share this one. This blouse was in the window of the Chanel store and it took my breath away!

I don't know how well you can see the pointed pleats that cover the front and the sleeves but this blouse is simply spectacular!

Newbury Street in the Back Bay is a fashionista's paradise! In a 4 or 5 block span you have the following boutiques: Chanel, Georgio Armani, Donna Karan, Max Mara, Ralph Lauren, Valentino, Kate Spade, Marc Jacobs, Nanette Lepore, Betsey Johnson, and the list goes on! There are also these specialty stores: Louis Vuitton, Cartier, Bliss, Kiehl, to name just a few. One could spend hours window shopping! There are also a lot of trendy restaurants with outdoor seating. The weather is in the 70's so there were all kinds of people sitting outside enjoying the cool breeze!

More on Beantown tomorrow!

Bushism of the day:
"I tell people, let's don't fear the future, let's shape it." --George W. Bush, Omaha, Neb., June 7, 2006

Kitty cam: Mikey loves to watch when I clean the floors!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Here today . . .

But I'm gone tomorrow! Actually it is tomorrow because it is after midnight! I have had a busy week. First off, I had to work 2 days, which probably doesn't sound like much to most people. For me, though, it is difficult in the middle of the summer. Why? Because I allow my natural body rhythm to take over. That means I go to bed around 3 a.m. and get up around 10 a.m. If I'm working then I have to get up at 6 a.m. The problem is that I cannot go to sleep at 11 which is when I need to go to sleep in order to get up early. So I flood my system with extra caffeine and pray that I won't fall asleep while I'm driving. Tomorrow--or should I say later on today--I'm leaving for Boston. This is my annual week in New England to do genealogical research. It is always too short. I hate to leave there. It would be nice if I could just pick up my life here--home, family, job etc.--and just put it there! I'm going to lunch with Ems and one of her friends at noon, running a couple of errands then leaving. I typically leave around 3 p.m. which gets me into my hotel room by 11. It's a great time to drive as I hit no traffic whatsoever plus I'm well rested.

I'm one of those nut cases who cannot go on a trip until my house is totally cleaned. I'm not sure why except that I feel a lot better when I come home to a clean house. I always feel like I need a vacation after a vacation and the last thing I need is to walk in the door and feel like I have to clean! I got all that done this week--stuff I only do once a year like washing walls and cleaning curtains. Speaking of curtains--here is a shot of the little country curtain I made for the kitchen. It's hard to get a good shot of this window because the sun is always direct there.

Nothing fancy--just some homespun plaid lined with bleached muslin!

Another FO--I finished Labyrinth! I'm very pleased with it. I will try to get some modeled shots in the morning. Here's a little teaser of the sleeve:

I went ahead and cast on for the Dayflower Camisole so that I could bring it with me. Funny thing--the Classic Elite Premier feels like rope after knitting with the Handmaiden Double Sea Silk. That stuff makes it really hard to knit with anything else! It just slides through your fingers and it feels so good! I always thought Premier was a nice soft yarn--particularly for cotton. It just cannot compare to the Handmaiden!

That brings me to the Secret Pal Question #6.
What is your favorite type of project to take along on holiday/vacation?
I bring whatever I happen to be working on which is usually a sweater of some sort. I will often throw a small project in my bag. When I am visiting research libraries, I carry my laptop and I like to be able to throw a small project in my laptop bag. Sometimes I just need a break and it is nice to be able to pull out a hat or scarf to work on!

I will have another FO in the morning as well. I decided at the last minute to make this top:

I wanted to use a cotton spandex to make the sleeveless knot front top but I didn't have any in my stash. I went to Joann's and the selection wasn't great. They did have some in red, so I bought the rest of the bolt which was about 2 and 3/4 yards. I figured I'd make the sleeveless one to see how the pattern fit, then I'd make the same one with the long belled sleeves. I'm doing this one on my sewing machine in case I have to rip anything out. I'll serge the next one. I'm almost done. From start to finish, including cutting, this should take no more than 90 minutes total. I did stitch the center front seam about a half in higher to make the neckline opening a little higher. Other than that, so far there have been no modifications.

We've had some visitors lately:

This family of deer has been frequenting the blackberry bushes at the edge of the woods. I would go back there to pick some berries, but knowing that there have been deer there means that there are probably deer ticks there. I've had a couple of friends/relatives that have had Lyme disease and it has been brutal. One has Rheumatoid Arthritis now as a result. She's been on intravenous antibiotics for about a year. It's nasty stuff! I don't want to risk that!

I guess I better go so I can finish up my top!

I'll post from Boston and I will share some more nostalgia then!

Bushism of the day:
You never know what your history is going to be like until long after you're gone." --George W. Bush, Washington, D.C., May 5, 2006

Kitty Cam: I decided to reload the kitties' turbo scratcher. Here are the boys waiting in line to get their catnip fix:

Here they are after. An intoxicated kitty is a happy kitty!

Friday, July 11, 2008

It really annoys me . . .

that I have had to spend so much time trying to make my skeins of Handmaiden yarn match! At $38 per skein, I should not have to do this. I ordered all these skeins together so I wasn't prepared for the color issues that I have been having. Take a look at the finished sweater body. The top has more color variation with a lot of dark spots whereas the bottom is almost solid and lighter.

I knit a swatch last night and steam blocked it to eliminate the rolling. Fortunately I had some teal Procion MX dye. I found and article on silk painting using Procion MX so I mixed a small batch of teal dye using that recipe. I had to substitute vinegar for the citric acid as I was out of that. I played around and dye painted the swatch. It was a little greener than the yarn, but it was certainly closer than the near solid color of the second skein.

I decided that I would go ahead and do the rest of the sweater and while it didn't match exactly, it was better than leaving the bottom of the sweater plain. Here is the front and the back:

My plan was to knit the plain part of the sleeves and see if they need some dye painting but I'm thinking that I'm done with the painting. I'm just going to finish it up. I wound the last skein of yarn and it looks like it will be lighter and more solid like the second skein in the sweater. I just want to finish this up.

I did a little shopping yesterday. First I replaced my ratty old sunflowers. My hydrangea is in bloom so I cut some of those and bought some calla lilies to mix with them.

I was also thrilled to find this at Trader Joe's:

Fresh lavender! I think I may go back and get some more. I am drying this and using it to make moth repellent sachets!

I also went to Joann's to get some Butterick patterns that were on sale.

I particularly like the first one. I think it will be very easy to fit with all the extra seams.

I hope to finish my curtain tomorrow. I did get it started today. I also hope to finish Labyrinth before the end of next week. Sorry I don't have anything more interesting to show off!

A bit of nostalgia

Yesterday's photo of the little girlies made me want to revisit that time again. Having a daughter gave me the opportunity to play dolls with a real little person! I love classic, traditional children's clothes and I enjoyed making them for Ems. I hate seeing little girls with miniature adult garments. I particularly hate it when they are sleezy garments like spandex pants with "Hottie" written across the butt! How tacky is that!! One thing I have always loved are traditional dress coats. I made Ems' first coat when she was 6 months old. Unfortunately that coat is packed away, but I have a photo of her in it:

This coat was made of navy polished cotton poplin with a white collar which was trimmed in white tatted lace. The cuffs and bonnet had the same trim. The coat was also lined. I made her a winter coat about a year later:

This coat was made of heavy wool felt in taupe with brown velveteen collar, cuffs and buttons. It was lined with fleece backed satin lining for warmth.

There was a matching tailored bonnet with brown velveteen piping in the back seam, brown velveteen brim and brown velvet ribbon ties.

I wish I had a photo of Ems in this ensemble. She looked like a little Victorian doll when she first wore it! If I were making this today, I would have added bound buttonholes. I much prefer them on a wool coat--I must have figured that a child's coat just wasn't worth the extra effort at that time!

Bushism of the day:
"You know, one of the hardest parts of my job is to connect Iraq to the war on terror." --George W. Bush, interview with CBS News' Katie Couric, Sept. 6, 2006

Kitty Cam: This is how Greg spent his summer vacation:

And now for the aerial view:

What a rough life!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Secret Pal 12 Question #5

1) Where is your favorite place to go for vacation/holiday?
My favorite place to go is Boston and the surrounding area. I love the Cape and the North Shore for my beach fix and the city, with all the Revolutionary history, is fascinating to me.
2) Where is one place you’d like to go?
I would love to go to Ireland and Scotland as well as Paris and all of Italy! I would love to do additional family research in Ireland and Scotland. Italy and Paris--well, the art history and music history are too fabulous there for me not to want to go!

Take time to smell the flowers!

I love fresh flowers in the house! I particularly love it when I have flowers that last!

These sunflowers are into their second week! They don't look quite this nice anymore and I think I will replace them today. I like to buy different flowers each time I replace them for this spot in the house. I also have a variety of vases that I use depending on the flowers. For the dining room, I like to stick with Alstromeria lillies.

As you can see, Samantha loves these as well. I get 15 stems in a bunch and use 2 in each of the 5 vessels on this epergne. I use the remaining stems in a mini vase in the living room and in an antique bottle in the powder room. I get a big bang for my buck with these! This week I cut some lovely hydrangea blooms for these other vases. I simply love hydrangea. I am particularly fond of blue flowers. I cannot wait to see all the hydrangeas when I go to Rhode Island in a couple of weeks. They grow everywhere! There are hedges of them spilling all along the roadside and the sight of them takes my breath away! I even passed a hydrangea farm there!

I finished knitting the body of my Labyrinth last night so now I have to knit a swatch to experiment with some dye painting! I am using Procion MX dye this time so I have to experiment with different formulas to get the right match! While Labyrinth dries, I will start swatching for the Dayflower Camisole. I have this exact yarn in a lovely soft spring green in my stash and I've always loved this pattern.

Sewing--I've been procrastinating on my kitchen curtain. I didn't get it done yesterday. I did sew some darling project bags to replace the zip locs in my knitting tote. I would show photos, but I've made some for my secret pal so I have to keep them secret!

I am currently in the process of finding a pet sitter for the weekend that DH meets me in New England. Typically, I would get a dry food dispenser to go next to the water dispenser and the kitties would be fine. Mikey, however, needs insulin shots twice a day so he cannot be left for 3 days with no shots. Even Elvis is pretty trouble free! If I give him some fresh aquarium plants and feeder fish, he can go with without his turtle sticks. He just has to work to catch his dinner! Here's a pic of Elvis doing the "foot thing."

He basks and shakes his feet in the air to dry them off. When he was a baby, he would bask on his tummy and hold his feet in the air! It was very strange looking!

A bit of nostalgia
I came across this dress that I made in the early 90's to wear to a summer wedding. It is either a Vogue or Burda pattern--most likely Burda because that was pretty much what I used back them. This dress features a shaped, fitted bodice which is boned. It has wide gathered shoulder straps and two ruffle tiers for the skirt. There is a large layered bow stitched to one side of the back zipper that fastens to the other side with a large hook and eye. What I love particularly is the fabric this dress is made of. It is a silk/cotton blend with a jacquard type floral design. The color is a soft buttery yellow. I have never found this fabric since then. If I could, I would snatch it up! It is lightweight with the crisp, sticky feel and sheen of silk. The cotton seems to add softness so there isn't the crunchy feel that silk typically has. The bodice is lined with China Silk. I couldn't find a photo of me in the dress. I do remember that it hit in the middle or right above the knee. I couldn't fasten the top of the zipper because I can't make Racquel small enough!

Since I don't have an old photo of me, I will share this one for my niece who regularly reads this blog. She is pictured on the left, with her younger sister, now known as "Mrs. Beers" in the middle and Ems on the right. I had given my nieces the outfits, called Wibbies, for Christmas that year! Please check out her blog at the above link. It is quite entertaining and you may learn some interesting bar review facts!

Bushism of the day:
"The only way we can win is to leave before the job is done." --George W. Bush, Greeley, Colo., Nov. 4, 2006

Kitty Cam: Mikey and Samantha enjoy napping on the dining room table.