Sunday, November 21, 2010

I'm Baaaaaack!

I've been in a blogging funk. I'm not sure why. Perhaps I've gotten sucked into the national sour mood. I'm fortunate to be employed in a job I love, but unless you've been under a rock, you know that education has been a hot topic in the news these days. The message is that public schools are bad, public school teachers are lazy and don't give a shit about kids, charter schools are good and the Teach for America volunteers who agree to teach for 2 years with only 5 weeks training will save America's schools. I read that I my job performance should be evaluated by the gains in test scores of elementary kids who have no incentive to do well on said tests or who face no consequences for not doing well. There are those who feel that my salary should be determined by those same test scores. Given that I teach in a school that is 92% minority, 65% free and reduced lunch, and at least a third who don't speak English, I find the rhetoric to be depressing. Those of us who do what I do understand that this is all about political spin, saving money and ultimately privatizing public education. Hopefully no major changes will occur in my district until I retire in 2016. Our state superintendent, however, has other ideas. Keep in mind that this is a woman who probably hasn't been in a classroom in 40 years. The legislature is keeping her in check however and some major decisions now rely on the governor to make some choices. Hopefully he will use basic common sense and read some research pertaining to the issues he has to decide on.

Enough of my rant! I've been busier than ever at school as I lost a planning period and gained another class which is a new prep. However I have this to look forward to:

Mmmmmm. . . . MadelineTosh!

The green merino light is currently being used for a sweater. The brown on the left will be another sweater. The two singles--blue merino light and red sock will be shawlettes.

Speaking of shawlettes--Here are the two I recently finished:
 The first one is called Fan Dance and it is knit in Sanguine Gryphon Kypria which is a merino/bamboo blend.  It's simply delicious to knit with!  The second one is called Ruffle My Feathers and it is knit in Wollenstudio Sock yarn in Blue Bijou.

Here's another silly little project:
I loved the little iron on transfer so I decided to add it to a basic black tee!  

Other news--the kids have moved in together in the first floor apartment in Ems' building.  Her building is a gorgeous large house built around 1900.  They have the whole first floor and they enjoy some neat architectural details like oak paneled walls, ornate fireplaces, stained glass windows, 12 foot ceilings etc.
Kitty news--Samantha was diagnosed with cancer.  She had a little growth between 2 toes which we had removed.  The biopsy revealed it to be a slow growing cancer in the skin so in order to remove enough clean margin, she had to go back in to have half of her hind foot amputated.  She seems completely back to normal and hopefully we've seen the last of that!

Holiday time is fast approaching and I decided that my furry friends outside needed some help so I hung our squirrel feeder on the tree in the front yard.  The squirrels are rather comical to watch.  Sometimes there are 4 or 5 of them out there but only one at a time can get to the feeder.  They sit on a perch and open the top lid to get the food.  When the food gets low, some of them will go inside the feeder and when they hear a noise, the lid pops up as they poke their head out to investigate.  Well, apparently word has gotten out because the other night, a new friend was visiting:
DH was bothered by our new visitor and thought we should take the feeder down.  You know me--I thought he was cute and I welcomed him.  He cleaned out the feeder but he hasn't returned.  Perhaps he's found a better feast elsewhere.

This will be the first Thanksgiving without Jeremy.  He has to work Wed. night and Friday morning so he can't make it from the Burgh.  Ems is in the same situation so she may not make it either.  We're still waiting to find out.  I do have a good friend coming.  We hope to go see the new Harry Potter movie after dinner Thursday.

I plan on staying in on Black Friday.  I can think of no sale that would be worth putting myself through that madness.  That's what Ebay and are for!

I hope to be better about keeping up here.  I have a new blog project, however.  I was so depressed after the midterm election that I decided to try my hand at political humor.  You can find my alter ego at The Fake American.   Enjoy and be sure to leave comments!

Kitty Cam: The boys have been throwing hints with the weather getting colder.  They love the fireplace.


Tuesday, June 22, 2010

It's been a long time comin' . . .

to quote Stephen Stills! Things got crazy at school. What can I say. This is not a good year to be a teacher--especially one with a lot of experience. We seem to be the cause of all of the problems facing this country--particularly if we belong to a union. Who knew? But I digress . . .

I've been off for a few days trying to organize all the tasks I have planned for the summer. I'm not taking any classes this summer. I needed a break. I have completed some projects so far:

First I finished DH's Colonial Shirt. This is made out of light weight linen.

Next, I finished Sylvar by Jordana Paige.

Pattern: Sylvar by Jordana Paige
Yarn: Miss Babs Yowza Watta Skein in Vlad's Red
Needles: Addi Turbo size 6
Modifications: I did raglan increases for the sizie 34 on the sleeve but stopped the increases on the body for the size 32. I also increased every 10 rows on the garter section of the sleeve to bell the sleeve slightly.

Over all, I'm pleased with this sweater. I forgot that superwash wools relax and stretch a bit. Next time I use superwash, I'll make a smaller size!

I loved that yarn so much that I got more at Sheep & Wool:

This is the Roasted Pumpkin colorway. This is being stashed for Wisteria. I have to figure out a different gauge for that one to make it smaller as the smallest tize in the pattern is 37! That will be a winter project!

I have finished a sun dress made from some wild vintage Hawaiian print I found at my Mom's! I'll post those photos when I take them!

I hit the pattern sales for the following patterns:

The cotton Jacquard fabric is from Joann's.

Another fun little sewing project:

This little pincushion was made for a swap. I may have to make more of these as they are fun to do!

That's really all I've been up to so far. I have plans for things to do around the house this summer so I will fill you in on that stuff later!

Kitty Cam: Samantha has discovered that my book bag makes a nice bed!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Necessity is the mother of invention!

In case anyone is wondering, I've been busy. It's NHL playoff season and my beloved Caps are in the playoffs. I've been hooked! I've also been watching the Pens as they are the arch rival of the Caps! Anyway--anyone who knows hockey players or hockey fans knows that we have our silly game day superstitions. Mine is that I MUST wear red on game day. After all our motto is "Rock the Red!" I have 3 red shirts that I alternate, but DH got me a nice Caps T-shirt for Christmas. He had gotten it at one of the stands at Verizon Center when we were at a game.

As luck would have it, the shirt, which was a size S (my normal size), was way too tight. It is a thin cotton knit with absolutely no stretch. I finally decided to do something about it!

I simply split the shirt along the side seam and sleeve seam and inserted a strip of black knit! I'm sorry that I didn't have any navy fabric. There wasn't any at Joann's so this was a make shift job! I was pleased with the result!

I've been slacking with the knitting. I need to do the sleeves on Sylvar. That will go quickly. I tried the body on and it is perfect! I also need to do one sleeve on Birgitte but I'm going to let that one hibernate because I want to start Myrtle which is a nice springy lace cardigan!

Anyway--that's it for now. No kitty cam tonight because the game is on!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Size matters!

Yes it does! The last week and a half I've been working on my red gown. It is fitted with a boned corset type foundation so I needed to make sure that it would fit perfectly before cutting into the silk crepe. One thing I've learned is that the body measurements listed on the commercial patterns (with the exception of Burda) are completely off. They leave entirely too much ease for the measurements listed. I've learned that it is best to take your measurements then look at the finished measurements for the pattern and choose the size that has the correct amount of ease. It is helpful to refer to an ease chart like this one. The gown I've been working on is a perfect example. My bust measures 35 inches. According to Vogue's size chart, this would be between a size 12 and 14. I made a size 10 and sized it 1/2 inch smaller than the pattern. The finished bust measurement for the 10 was 36 inches. The foundation of this dress has 10 strips of boning to hold it up since it is an off the shoulder style. If I made the size that corresponded to my measurement, it would have been huge. As it were, I made the muslin using the 10 minus 1/2 inch at the bust, plus 1/2 inch at the waist and plus 4 inches at the hips. The muslin fit perfectly. I was afraid that the added bulk of the foundation might make it tighter than the muslin so I cut the garment with 1 inch seam allowances at the side seams so that I could fine tune the fit.

I tried something new. I bought stainless steel flat chain boning. Typically this comes in precut lengths with little tips on both ends of the boning strips. I purchased a 12 foot roll, cut it with bolt cutters and applied the ends myself using two pairs of needle nose pliers. I needed all different lengths for this and I have several more projects that need boning. I have to say that I love this stuff! The plastic stuff curls and it is uncomfortable. This stuff curves in all directions so it moves with your body. It is typically used in dance and theatre wear. Here is a peek at what the inside of the foundation looked like:

The foundation is covered with drapes that twist together at the left front and get stitched down to the top edge of the foundation layer. I was really pleased with this dress and I think it may be my favorite gown so far. I love the Belville Sassoon styles and I have several of their gown patterns in my queue. Here are the finished photos:

Here is me in the gown!

There was a photographer at the banquet who took some lovely photos of our group of six and I will post them when I get those copies. Of course we DAR-lings all had our proper white gloves on in the photos taken there! We must always be prim and proper at our DAR functions!

Kitty Cam: This one is from Ems--Chelsea takes a snooze on the window sill.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

New projects!

I've been really lazy. I should be finishing up my 2 lace sweaters for the SKC KAL. I have one sleeve to do on the red mohair Birgitte and I'm ready to divide the sleeves and body on my top down Sylvar. I need to get them done in time to wear them before the weather gets hot! I have a couple of spring sweaters to make and my nephew's wife is pregnant with a girl so I have to plan that project! I think I will knit wool stuff in the summer. I have several sweaters I wanted to make for the winter that I didn't get to. I really don't wear summer sweaters so I'm thinking that I will work on them in the summer to have them ready. I will also try to tackle the Gail shawl which will be nice for summer.

Right now, I am focused on sewing. I've made a wool skirt but I need to line it before it can be modeled. I received the lining in the mail 2 days ago and I'll work on finishing that up after I make my new project which has a deadline. I had shown this pattern before:

I ordered the fire engine red silk crepe and from Golden Silks. It is simply gorgeous! I also ordered matching Bemberg rayon lining and sew in interfacing from Vogue Fabrics. I had ordered a color card for Ambiance lining from them a while back and it has been a real time saver. I have swatches of all 35 colors which I can use to match my garment fabric so now I just go online and order the lining. It sure beats driving to Rockville! I am now waiting for the stainless steel boning as this gown has a boned foundation.

I have to say that these more recent gown patterns by Belville Sassoon are crazy. I've always been good at reading the directions and knowing what to do but I had to literally study the instructions for this pattern 3 times in order to digest how it is constructed. The other thing is that there are 20 pattern pieces! Each piece is cut on a single layer of fabric as the gown in asymmetrical so there are separate side pieces for each side of the bodice front and back as well as bodice center front and back pieces. The skirt is the same way. The drape pieces are bizarrely shaped. Anyway I cut out the basic bodice and skirt pieces in muslin after carefully taking my measurements and redrafting some of the pieces. I will be fitting the muslin today.

Once that is done, I figure it will take me two nights to cut out the fabric. I have to cut it out on the floor since the fabric is opened to the full width. I dug out my gardening knee pads in order to do that comfortably. I don't know why I hadn't thought of that years ago!

I love evening gowns and I'm tickled that now I have occasions to wear them. It was with that knowledge that I picked up another pattern at the Vogue sale:

This is another tricky one! My problem with this is the way the pattern is sized. Sizes 4-6-8 or sizes 10-12-14 were my choices. I bought the larger size but a 10 is too big at the bodice and will need to be sized down. This dress has no side seams and the zipper runs diagonally. It is going to be a tricky one to alter. I love it though. I like the color shown and think a muted olive green would be gorgeous!

I also picked up another Vogue dress pattern and a McCall's pattern:

I included the line drawing of the Vogue dress to show the details which are quite interesting. I love the McCall's dress. It is the type of style that is really flattering on my body type. I have stash fabric that will work for that one!

That's it for now. I have to do my Sunday facial and get sewing!

Kitty Cam: Harley is in his favorite morning sunny spot!

Monday, February 8, 2010

More on the way!

I wouldn't mind all this snow if MD had the manpower to keep up with it! Here are two pix from this morning. First the front porch (with is covered) after I shoveled 12 - 18 inches of snow off of it:

The snow on the ground is level with the porch which is 3 large steps up! It has melted a couple of inches because the snow stick is snowing a couple of inches!

Next is Big Green--our huge 1978 Mercury Marquis which sits at the back of the driveway. The raised deck is even with the snow.

One of my work colleagues posted this photo of our school:

The area to the left of the building is our parking lot--only you can't see it! Another storm is in the forecast starting tomorrow which is supposed to bring us 10 - 20 inches! Apparently it will bring blizzard conditions as well! Honestly I don't know why my school system doesn't just say that school will be closed the rest of the week. The neighborhoods aren't plowed yet! It's insane!

Meanwhile, I made it out to Trader Joe's to get more soy milk and cold cuts. I also picked up stuff to make broccoli cheese soup and managed to get another pound of espresso at Starbucks where the manager spotted me my venti latte for free!

We've held off on building fires during all this bad weather because we don't have a lot of wood left. There were a lot of power outages during the last storm on the weekend, many of which are still not fixed. We've been lucky but we figured we'd save the wood in case we lose power and need to heat our home with it. The wood burning stove insert in our fireplace puts out a lot of heat!

Let's keep our fingers crossed!

Kitty Cam: Samantha discovered my duffle bag before I could put it away.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

The things we Caps fans will do to get to a game!

DH spent about 10 hours shoveling. Our driveway is 140 feet long and he shoveled a crapload of snow! There is no place to put it. Since the Caps-Pens game was the NBC game of the week, they weren't going to change it and it went on at noon as originally scheduled. We carefully went through the neighborhood, to Rt. 32, Rt. 95 and the Capital beltway to Bethesda. I was amazed at how bad Wisconsin Avenue in Bethesda was! The metro was swamped and I think everyone on there was going to the game. It was quite a party atmosphere. We were packed on like Sardines and we got to Verizon Center a few minutes after the puck drop. I was bummed during the game because the Caps were down 2 - 0 then Ovie scored 1. Then were were down 3 - 1. They must have decided that they weren't ready to break their winning streak and they came back third period to tie it up 4 - 4. So on to sudden death overtime and we won! It would've sucked royally to go to such effort to get there only to lose! We now have a 14 game winning streak. If we can win the next three games (right up to the Olympic break) we will tie the NHL record of a 17 game winning streak--held by (who else) the Pens!

Here's what the wall of snow looks like in our driveway:

Dug out just in time for the next storm coming on Tuesday! They are now saying 6 - 12 inches! I'm so glad that I have a sense of humor!

Kitty cam: Meanwhile, the boys enjoyed a spot of sun while hinting for a fire!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Snowcopalypse 2010

Remind me to stop wishing for snow. My wish was granted. In fact it was granted retroactively for the last 10 years or so. We got about 4 inches last weekend which was pretty. They've been calling for a big storm and in anticipation of that the area schools closed 2 1/2 hours early yesterday to make sure everyone got home safely. The snow was expected to start late morning. It actually began around noon but the temp was above freezing so the roads were just wet. Here's what things looked like Friday afternoon:

I put a snow stick out to measure the coming snow. The marks only went up to 12 inches so I put marks up to 25 inches on the back. The whole stick is about 28 inches tall.

Last night around 6 pm it looked like this:

I got up in the middle of the night and looked out but the screens in the windows were covered. It had gotten really windy and I just couldn't see anything!
Got up

At 10 am Saturday morning we had this:

The last photos were at 11 am. Note that a meter stick shows 27 inches at that time. We will probably end up with about 36 inches!


We stayed in Friday night and rocked the red! That means we watched the Caps game. I decided to rock the red and knit a red hat. I needed a break from my Brigitte sweater which happens also to be red. I had bought this Teva Durham pattern and the yarn for her assymetrical hat about 3 years ago. The yarn was all wrong though. I knew when I took it out. The pattern calls for bulky yarn with a gauge of 12 st. /4 in. on size 11 needles. I got gauge but the pattern really needed a thick single ply yarn like Rowan Biggie. My hat is too lacy--the stitches are too open. I haven't decided if I will wear it or not. I don't think it will be that warm. The yarn was really nice though. It was Tahki Torino Bulky. It's a lot like Berroco Pure Merino. It has a lovely twist!

I am concerned though. We have tickets for the Caps - Pens game Sunday at noon. There is no word as to whether or not the game is still on. The Pens are playing in Montreal as I type this and I wonder if they can even fly into the city! I hope they will do a ticket exchange if the game is still on because I really don't know if we can make it. We had figured we'd drive the highways into Bethesda and take the red line, which is underground, down to the Verizon Center. I hope I didn't throw away $250!

I'll keep you posted!

Kitty Cam: Meanwhile, Greg has the right idea of how to spend a snowy day!