Showing posts with label books. Show all posts
Showing posts with label books. Show all posts

Friday, May 14, 2010

A Just Plain Fun Mother's Day

I always love my Mother's Day gifts, but this year's gifts were especially fun.  Since I have a deep and abiding love of glittery hanging things, one gift was this awesome star with iridescent rays.

It's hanging over my elliptical trainer so I have something attractive to look at while suffering exercising.

Then there is this bright, blingy stained-glass peacock mobile that matches my denim furniture.  So he's at the other end of the sun room.

I also got a new member for the rubber duck collection!

He quacks and gives off a blinding blue light! (I found out about the blinding light the hard way.)  I'm torn.  Part of me wants him with my keys and another part wants him with my collection:

This picture reminds me that, once again, the sewing room clutter is getting out of control.  And thinking about the sewing room reminds me that I got Martha's new book!

(That's my rubber duck on the cover not Martha's.  Somehow I just know she's not a rubber duck collector.)  There are tons of project ideas in the book.  The problem is deciding which I want to do first.  Check it out here.  It is an incredibly nice book for the price.

And last but not least:

Not one but two Dunkin' Donut gift cards!  I love their coffee but feel guilty spending two bucks for a cup of it.  This should keep me in guilt-free coffee for quite a while.

I hope you all had a fun and blingy Mother's Day as well.

Monday, May 3, 2010

A Short Look at a Short Book: Peter Kreeft's "If Einstein Had Been a Surfer"

I wanted to put the book title above in italics or underline it, but Blogger setup does not support that even by cutting and pasting.  If someone knows the trick, I'd appreciate knowing how to work around this.  Oh, but I can do it here!!  If Einstein Had Been A SurferOh, no!  That was supposed to be in italics, but the Amazon link will only let me underline it.   Does this level of focus on italics indicate an obsessive-compulsive disorder?

So, about the book.  I have a love-hate relationship with this beginner's guide to a subject that baffled even Einstein.  It is the author's redaction of conversations by three "friends" relating to what Einstein called the "Unified Field Theory."  Others have since called it the "Theory of Everything," and, in this book, Libby suggests calling it, "The Universal Wave Theory."    The three in conversation are a Christian who is a scientist with a  theology degree, a Muslim philosopher/scientist, and a Christian surfer/poet/psychologist/psychiatric social worker.  Obviously religion plays a large role in their discussions.The conversations introduce some of the hows, whys, and problems of the theory at a very basic level.  My brain would normally quickly send me signals to stop reading this subject matter.  However, the book manages to provide information at a level I could understand and enjoy.

While I found useful, thought-provoking information in the book, I too often found that the interactions of two of the participants (Isa and Libby), were negative to the point of distraction.  Isa whips out his religion constantly in a most unbending manner, using it to rudely bash beliefs and ideas presented by the others.  He appears to have little respect or even liking for Libby.  Libby does, however, often go off on tangents.  The surfing analogy was useful, but overdone to the point of distraction.  Her attempts to be the intellectual laid-back surfer end up making her look like a bit of an airhead.  The list of jobs Kreeft attributes to Libby indicate she has had some trouble deciding what she wants to be when she grows up.  She actually refers to herself as "surfer girl" at one point. [Note to Libby:  You are grown up now!  You are a woman!  If you must define yourself first and foremost as a surfer, fine.  Just drop the girl.  With all the credentials and jobs listed, you've got to be at the very least in your late twenties.]  Libby also has the unattractive feminist habit of attacking what she thinks may be anti-feminist remarks rather than dealing with them in a reasoned manner.  As a result, Evan, the last member of the trio must not only contribute his viewpoint, but also serve as moderator (referee?) for the group.

That said, the book had some significant pluses.  The simplified explanations of concepts and theories offered throughout the book make this difficult subject absolutely approachable. The book introduced me to the idea that the mechanics relating to waves may extend much further than I had imagined.  There are light waves, sound waves, brain waves, etc.  But Isa brings up the idea of thought waves and soul waves.  Libby mentions that emotions come in waves.  The what if's of these ideas inspire me! The waves discussion and the one on synchronicity alone made it a powerful read for me. Throughout the book, however, novices will gain useful information and clearer understandings of some complex issues . 

I now not only know that a unified field theory will require that ordinary physics, quantum physics, ordinary conscious, and unconscious be unified, I care enough to want to know more.
If Einstein Had Been a Surfer: A Surfer, a Scientist, and a Philosopher Discuss a "Universal Wave Theory" or "Theory of Everything"

If anyone else has read it, I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

My Copy of Imagine is Here!


My copy of Imagine by Norman Messenger has arrived, and it is as wonderful as I have heard.  While this book may be listed as a children's book, it is just as much fun for adults.  Each page is a new and beautifully illustrated piece to fire the imagination or get the brain working.   To add to the fun, the pages also have tiny puzzles to solve in the top corners.  I have it sitting on my coffee table.  I'll let little visitors enjoy it--I'm sure they will, but it is definitely for the adults, too.

Meditation: Day Two - Success At Last!

Yes!  It was a great day.   After last night, I was more than a bit worried about how today's meditation classes would go.  While everyone was still schmoozing at the continental breakfast.  I grabbed a set of cushions in the back row and began the process of figuring out how to sit on them.  The downside to that was that I hadn't eaten and that became quite obvious during silent meditation time.  It's kind of hard to relax your muscles as they suggest AND squeeze stomach muscles to squelch the constant rumbling.  Fortunately the stomach settled down after about a half hour. 

Sitting meditation went well.  I learned that if you don't scratch the itch, it usually just goes away.  I also learned that the Shambhala way of keeping the eyes open and cast down works better for me.  With closed eyes, I tend to start falling asleep.

Shambhala standing meditation is a faster walk than Zen standing meditation and slower than the usual way of walking.  Sounds easy, doesn't it?  Somehow it makes me feel a bit unsteady.  Just when I felt stable, I realized that I was not actually meditating but, rather, taking in all the things in the room.  By day's end, however, I was feeling pretty good about it.  I could probably draw a near perfect picture of the room and everything in it.  Still, there was progress. 

Staff and other participants were all kind and helpful.  There were a few readings from Shambhala:  The Sacred Path of the Warrior by Chogyam Trungpa that were so meaningful and helpful to me I wanted to get the book.  How nice that we each received a copy as a gift just before leaving.

So, tomorrow morning we have another go at practicing before I branch out on my own.  Fortunately, the center has numbers of things going on.  I'm sure I will be stopping in often.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Bedtime book hanger

My niece, Binnie, came up with the idea for this project, and I got to find the embroidery design, and sew it.  There is a plastic sheet usually used for hand embroidery sewn into the back for strength and to keep the shape. The ribbon handle can hang on a door knob, hook, or drawer pull.  For the next one, I will probably use cording instead of ribbon--books can be heavy!

The embroidered section in front is a pocket for small books that sits on top of a larger pocket for bigger ones.  Binnie's idea was for the kids to not only have a place to put the books they have chosen for bedtime reading, but also to give them a sense of  independence and control.

I did the embroidery for the book bag on my Brother Pacesetter. I do love that machine. I had it in for a tune-up recently, and the guy acted as though I had brought in an original Singer pedal machine.  It's not THAT old! It does both regular sewing and embroidery incredibly well.  I will not be replacing it despite the repair person's nasty insinuations.
The Three Pigs

It is rather fitting that I made this since I almost always give Binnie's kids books as gifts. If you are thinking of getting some little person a book, take a look at David Wiesner's Three Little Pigs He does the traditional tale in a whole new and fun way.  It's not your mama's three little pigs tale!  

You all can probably figure out the design if you want to try one.  Give a shout in the comment section if you need any info.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Newest sewing adventure - the slouch bag from Akiko Mano

This is actually a pic of the refinished bag with longer handles.
Using Picnik resulted in the loss of some of the original blog photos
 at some point.   I've gone through and replaced them where I could
or used others when I could not!
My only complaint about Akiko Mano's book, Linen, Wood, Cotton:  25 Simple Projects to Sew with Natural Fabrics is that there was no errata sheet included when I bought it.  Fortunately, I found the errata information here.  The changes needed are simple and clear.  While making the slouch bag, I suspected that the handles were too short and that the directions for putting the top pieces together were not quite right.  Since I tend to be a bit spatially challenged, however, I went with the pattern.  The bag, as you can see from the picture, looks great in any case.  It JUST fits on my shoulder, though.  I'm going to redo it with longer handles next week.  It's a quick project.  I finished it in about two hours.

Quick semi-tutorial on reupholstering the "that's so nineties furniture"

I saw that commercial with the denim furniture designed by Cindy Crawford and loved it--the furniture.  Buying it was not going to happen, though.  So, having tackled reupholstering before, I decided to do it again.  This set used to be a well-worn gray and mauve, stripes and flowers set from around 1995.  The kind everyone is selling on Craigslist.

Reupholstering is time consuming, but not really difficult even if you've never done it before. The sewing required is almost exclusively of the straight line variety.  And, it can be relatively inexpensive.  The fabric for this whole set was around $175 using coupons and sales.  I still had enough to make pillows, the lap quilt on the back of the sofa, Elliot (star of my last post), and further crowd my sewing room stash. This is not an in-depth, step-by-step tutorial, but, rather, an overall guide including information I have gleaned from my many early mistakes.  I hope that this will make the process easier for others who will be taking on the challenge.  There are tons of videos on the web showing the specifics such as sewing on piping. Start with a small chair!

Among the mistakes I made with earlier pieces was avoiding things that I thought would make the job more difficult such as the piping and skirting.  Those things turn out to be far easier that I thought they would be and are the very things that make the furniture look like professionals did it.  Check out the front of the arms and cushions here!

and here:

I am NOT a great seamstress.  I sew very little clothing because it more often than not doesn't turn out so well.  Doing the piping actually makes my corners which are not always so great look much better. Skirting is little more than some folds of fabric, filled with stiff fabric, and stapled in place.

As for the how-to part, most of what you need to know you will learn in the process of deconstructing the original fabric.  I take apart the pieces and use that fabric as a pattern.   Use a seam ripper to take apart the cushions AND LABEL EACH PIECE.  You can write right on the old fabric.   Use a narrow screwdriver to dig out the fabric stapled to the wood frame AND LABEL IT.  Can you see what one of my early mistakes was from those caps? 

Take pictures of the construction prior to deconstruction.  Take pictures of seams on cushions near the zippers, any pleats in the fabric around the arms or cushions, the fabric UNDER the cushions, the back of the furniture pieces.  Note what pieces of wood the arm and base seat fabrics are stapled to and whether the base seat fabric goes on first or the arm fabric.

Careful deconstruction is as time consuming as construction, but it is well worth it. It's a great activity to do while watching television or listening to books on CD.   I listened to Christopher Moore's Fool on CD while deconstructing this set.  It is without a doubt one of the funniest (in a very bawdy and wild way) I've listened to and the reader is perfect for the book.

Iron your "pattern" pieces so they will lie flat.  In order to have a more symmetrical piece, fold the "pattern" pieces at the center--almost everything will be the same on both sides aside from, possibly the zipper sections-- and place the center on a fold of the new fabric.  Sometimes the original fabric has stretched through use or in deconstruction so that they are no longer symmetrical.

Label each newly cut pattern piece as well.  You might want to use small pieces of paper and pin them on for this.  Remember that the fabric needs to be taut in the cushions and to pull firmly when stapling pieces on.  Fabric has some stretch and will loosen with time.  If the cushions are loose, resew a seam or two. 

Supplies and materials:
  • First, if at all possible reuse the original piping material, zippers, stiff materials in the skirting, cardboard strips in the edges (you will find them in the process of deconstructing),  the fabric under the seat cushions, and, of course, the cushions.  It is likely that they are a better quality than what you will get at the store, they are free, and you're recycling! So, be careful with the deconstruction.  I haven't had luck reusing the nail strips (again, you will find them if you don't know what they are), but you can buy them at Joann-kinds of stores, online, or maybe use upholstery tacks from the same sources.  Tacks look great on some pieces.
  • Use a heavy fabric and plain old thread.  Joann's often has upholstery fabric on sale.  I've had good luck, though, with  the heavyweight denim from the regular fabric section for this set and for cushions on an old church pew.  In my first attempt at reupholstering, I used fabric on sale that was a style already on the way out.  My "new" furniture was out of style at birth.  I try to find fabrics with staying power in the style department--something that will not make you think of eras gone by as in, "that's so eighties."  You might also need some batting if your furniture is well worn to smooth out cushions, arms, etc. 
  • You will need a seam ripper, heavy-duty stapler, staples long enough to get well into the wood of your furniture, thin screwdriver to get out the old staples (and misplaced new ones), and a hammer for the staples that need a little extra help getting in tightly.  
  • You need a sewing machine that will handle fairly heavy fabric. I have found that most of them do just fine.  I have used an old Kenmore and some newer Brother machines that were all fine.  If you don't have one check with friends.  So many people have machines they are no longer using.  They might be willing to let you use it, sell it cheap, or even given it away. 
My final advice:  don't be a perfectionist.  No one is going to pull out cushions to see how well your zippers are sewn in.   If they do, they are either not friends or very insecure.  And if you are the insecure one, stifle the need to point out what you feel are flaws when people are complimenting you on a job well done.  I have found mistakes during deconstruction by the professionals that are comparable to mine such as pieces of fabric sewn together to compensate for fabric cut too short.  Do be willing to use the seam ripper (carefully), however, if you think it is worthwhile to resew something.  Take your time, don't rush it.

I'm new at this sharing by blogging.  If there is something that needs to be stated more clearly or corrected, please feel free to let me know.  I'd be glad to clarify anything, and someone else may benefit from the correction. 

I'd love to hear from others who do this.  Feel free to add advice in the comments. If you are encouraged to give it a try, I'd love to hear how it worked out, too.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

My version of John Murphy's monster plushie

In the fall I watched John Murphy's video tutorial on making monster plushies at Threadbanger's site.  By the winter holidays, I had the time and courage to attempt my own.  These are the first two I did.

Since the fabric used for the arms and part of each one's ears was called cheetah fabric, I  named them Tiger and Elliot.  I guess everyone can figure out how Tiger got his name.  If you are from New York State or really into politics, you may understand where Elliot got his.  Since these were not for little kids I went with button eyes.  Elliot had bloodshot eyes (much as he namesake's) as you can see here.  Yes, he is a blue blood.

I decided to birth some more of these for newly arrived grandchildren of my book club members, and Tattletales were born.  I do consider that my monsters are born rather than made.  They take on personalities.  I swear they do.  These new sweet things tattle on the new owners like Addison's below:

Yes, that says, "Addison did it.  Babies have it way too easy.  These little monsters will toughen them up.  I gave this one embroidered button eyes for safety purposes.   I think they look just as nice as the real buttons.  There is the added advantage of using the little beast to help with learning colors.  The nest came from a pattern by Michael Miller that you can find here.  THEY call it a soft basket rather than a nest.  There are a number of  great tutorials on the right side of the website.  Just scroll down to the "soft basket" one that I think should be called a nest. 

This tattletale was for Reid:

He has felt eyes sewn on that give him a bit of a condescending attitude with those droopy eyelids.  I decided to make his feet the same as the hands.  I like that three-fingered and toed look best.  Actually his feet tuck quick nicely into the basket, but I wanted to show his adorable toes.  Eli's tattletale sneaked out before I got his picture.  I'll have to see if I can get the family to take a picture.  If he behaves as badly as Elliot, they have probably thrown him out on the street.

Elliot is still with me.  My nephew, Randy, takes him home occasionally, but he tells me that Elliot behaves so badly he has to keep bringing him back.  Randy has, however, been teaching Elliot how to play lacrosse.  Or perhaps Elliot stole the equipment from Randy.  I'm not quite sure.  That is Elliot's mother in the background, the couch.  They are indeed cut from the same cloth.  Stay tuned for the story of the reupholstered furniture coming to this blog soon.

I got John Murphy's, "Stupid Sock Creatures:  Making Quirky, Lovable Figures from Cast-off Socks.  I'll post my first creation soon. I've had a bit of trouble gathering socks.   It's amazing how attached people are to their socks.  People react badly when asked to part with their them, especially the striped ones.

Monday, April 26, 2010


I finally did it!! I have a blog! I have continually said to my husband, "I really want to start a blog." He has continually responded, "Great idea. You should do that." The prospect of starting, however, always seemed sooo overwhelming. I'm a bit of a perfectionist. Everything has to be researched in depth before I can begin. What if I wrote something that had errors in it? What if no one cared about what I had to say? It would be all out there for EVERYONE to see! But yesterday I was reading Gretchen Rubin's book, The Happiness Project. Not only did she admit to sharing some of my doubts, but she really did start a blog. Thanks to Gretchen there will be no more blog procrastinating. This may not look exciting right now, but I am determined to learn as I go with this.

Why do I have a blog? There are a number of reasons. First, I like to write even though, as I said, I am a bit of a perfectionist. I edit to distraction and agonize over any errors that still manage to get through. One of my goals is to write and just let it go. I will try to do it as well as I can and will accept the errors as gracefully as possible.

I also want to find kindred souls that share my interests in sewing, crafts, books, home maintenance, writing, photography, and life in general. I love my family, but they really don’t want to talk about how difficult it is to gather appropriate fabrics for a quilt. I love my book club members, too. We can only get together once a month, though.

In addition, I really appreciate other bloggers who have taken the time to share. They have given me so much inspiration. Sometimes the simplest ideas have helped me make life easier, create something beautiful, find the perfect solution to a dilemma, even be a better person.

Last, I sometimes forget how much I really do accomplish. This blog will serve as a record of all the successes and even failures I have in the course of just living. I’m hoping that someone out in the vast web world might benefit from them as well.

Consider reading The Happiness Project. While I am only a quarter of the way through, I have already found interesting ideas, encouragement, justification for some of the ideas I have long held, and greater understanding of how we, as human beings, interact with one another. I am going to read this though quickly because I hate putting it down. Then I am going to read it again with a highlighter and a notebook in hand (more likely a laptop in hand) so that I can go check out at some of the many resources Gretchen mentions. There are few—very, very few—books that I willingly read twice. The only other one that comes to mind right now is Neil Gaiman’s American Gods. Look at that! Two book suggestions in my first blog entry.