Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Urban Cowboy outfit

The annual fundraiser for my work had the theme of "urban cowboy" this year.  I wasn't thrilled when I originally heard this, but after thinking it over for a while I came up with an idea for an outfit that made me excited for the event.  After looking up some inspiration I decided to create a jean skirt that featured the San Francisco skyline.  I used tutorials from Stitch 7 and Rustique Art to convert an old pair of jeans into a skirt. Then I started cutting out rectangles from the bottom in the shape of skyscrapers.  I used the piece of jeans that I cut out as a template for cutting out the piece of sparkly fabric I was using to represent the buildings.

The sparkles in the fabric are supposed to represent the lights at the windows of the buildings, in related news I over-think things
 Then I pinned the fabric into place along with white piping to emphasize the outlines of the buildings.  I noticed a lot of piping in the cowboy outfits I looked at, so I thought it would be appropriate.

Also, buildings have pipes
 After it was all pinned satisfactorily I sewed it into place.  I went around once close to the edge and once a bit farther out to make it extra secure.

I'd make an excellent head of building security
In addition to generic sky scrapers I added a slit up the side to represent the iconic Transamerica Pyramid

A bit of SF flare
Finally, I added some beads above the buildings to represent a starry sky and hemmed the skirt to finish it up.
A sparkly, I mean starry, night
  The finished product:
a skirt for an urban cowboy
 To add the finishing touches to the outfit I sewed some black fringe onto an otherwise normal vest and put it over a striped black button-up to play with the juxtaposition between cowboy and urban aesthetics.  I borrowed a pair of red cowboy boots to add a splash of color and topped it all off with a black bandanna.

Off to the party--now where did I park my horse?
 The people in charge of the event did a great job of adding a cowboy flair to the urban club we met in.  Although I didn't envy the person in charge of vacuuming the hay out of the carpet when it was all over.

I didn't see any farmers at the party though...it's a shame that they're still not friends with the cowmen

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Mini Reviews

I picked this up to read in a park on a rare, sunny Scottish day while visiting my friends this summer.  It was a perfect choice for that moment in time.  The novel itself is a celebration of summer and takes the reader through the summer of 1928 from beginning to end in a series of vignettes.  The novel starts with the young protagonist truly realizing for the first time that he is alive.  The tone of the novel is as changeable as the Scottish weather and the protagonist soon also discovers that to be alive means that one day he must die.  This realization on the part of the semi-autobiographical protagonist felt all the more poignant to me with Bradbury's recent death.  Reading this novel comforted me and reminded me that while everything must end, we can bottle moments up in our memory to uncork and taste again to comfort us in darker days.  Some of the stories made me smile while others led to more serious contemplation and some had me on the edge of my seat.  The copy I was reading was my friend's from when she was a kid and we enjoyed poking fun at which passages she had chosen to underline and laughed at how time had passed and her critical reading skills have, thankfully, improved to the point that she is now an author herself.  But what I will remember most about the book isn't anything that Bradbury actually wrote.  It's the way he reminded me to appreciate the summer while it lasted and the moments I put down the book to do just that.  Whenever I see this book it will remind me of a park in Scotland, and the feel of the sun on my face, the breeze in my hair, the tree at my back, and the friend by my side.  Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury: Buy it or check it out today!

Much Obliged, Jeeves Another example of reading a book with good timing, I picked up this novel in a local shop to read on my plane ride back home.  Of course, as a Wodehouse novel it was light and hilarious and kept my spirits as high as my body.  I've found that after watching the wonderful TV series I can't help picturing Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry while reading.  Normally this type of thing annoys me and is part of why I make such a point of reading a book before seeing an adaptation of it, but Fry and Laurie do such a wonderful job with the characters that in this case I've only found it to enhance my reading experience.  Much Obliged, Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse: Buy it or check it out today!

Speaking of reading books before seeing movies, this is something I've been meaning to read for a while because I had several friends in high school who listed it among their favorites.  I'm glad the movie opening finally pushed it to the top of my TBR list.  I love the premise of the novel: that our wall-flower lead is writing letters using a disguised identity to someone he barely knows but who he thinks will  understand.  By addressing the reader directly and carefully avoiding giving any details about the letter recipient, it creates a sense of intimacy and puts readers in the middle of difficult situations that most people would normally distance themselves from.  It made me feel complicit in the secrets I was being told and I had to remind myself that this was not a real person whose identity I could puzzle out and try to help.  On the other hand, Charlie admits to using fake names and changing details to remain hidden, which makes it all the easier to imagine that he is someone that you've met in passing.  Charlie may be fictional but his story is true for many people.  Chbosky certainly doesn't shy away from truth, which is why this novel has been banned and challenged so often.  Not because it misinforms teens or tells them things they don't already know, but because it tells the uncomfortable truth that adults would rather ignore and uselessly try to shield their children from, even if this novel may be exactly what they need.  So in trying to protect their children they may harm them by blocking their access to resources that can help.  Ah, the eternal irony of banned books.  Perhaps one day society will be more afraid of ignorance than knowledge, until then I'm proud to be a member of a profession that fights for the right to read. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky: Buy it or check it out today!

This novel started out slowly, following the life of Shutov, a Russian writer living in Paris who goes back to Russia for the first time in twenty years.  I didn't actually care much about Shutov, so it took me a while to get through his story.  He was amusing at times and it was interesting seeing the changes that have occurred in Russia through his eyes, but I didn't care what happened to him.  Then Shutov gets put in charge of watching over an old Russian man on his last night before he gets sent to live in a retirement home.  The story switches over to the past of this man, Volsky.  He lived through the siege of Leningrad, fought in WWII, was tortured into a false confession and sent to a communist prison camp, the whole nine yards.  Once we got to his part of the story I finished the book in a night.  This might have been related to the fact that at the time I was staying in a questionable motel room with my sister.  I was glad for anything that distracted me from my surroundings--especially something that made them seem downright delightful by comparison.  Sure Holden Caulfield was in the next room screaming at his girlfriend for being a "phony" at midnight and the sheets were stained with what I hope was ink, but at least we weren't boiling shoe leather to eat!  I wish that less time had been spent on the modern-day Russian in the beginning and more time spent describing the past, but overall I enjoyed the novel.  If you're looking for a quick and compelling overview of modern Russian history told through the life of a single man, or if you're having difficulty thinking of something to be thankful for this Thanksgiving, this is the novel for you!  The Life of an Unknown Man by Andrei Makine (translated by Geoffrey Strachan): Buy it or check it out today!

 I like the idea of presenting the research that backs up the utility of mindfulness along with information on how to practice it.  I think it could have been edited down a lot though.  Because it tried to appeal to rational and irrational parts of the mind it included a lot of examples of scientific studies and anecdotes that covered the same ground.  I also felt that there was a bit too much of both.  Studies were often described even if the author admitted that they were not rigorous enough to suggest anything other than the need for further research in that area.  I felt that a lot of these could have been cut--this is for lay people and not a grad paper after all.  The writing also could have been clearer and better worded at times.  For example: "Today the remnants of these readily made fears are evident by the disproportionate number of phobias that people have toward snakes and spiders compared with things to which they are exposed far more often, such as kittens or toothbrushes"  (p.103 in the paperback edition).  I believe the real reason people are more afraid of snakes than toothbrushes is because one is possibly poisonous and one is a freakin' toothbrush!  It would have made far more sense if they had said cars or hamburgers, which both actually have a chance at killing you yet are less likely to scare people.  I suppose it's possible they were trying to be funny, but it really didn't seem like that.  It's disappointing that the book isn't better written because I think it contains a lot of great information and there's several practices from this book that I found helpful and am implementing in my life.  I do recommend this book because it does have great nuggets of information in it, but I'd also recommend skimming through a lot of it and just focusing on the parts that you think will be useful.  Fully Present: The Science, Art, and Practice of Mindfulness by Susan L. Smalley, PhD and Diana Winston: buy it or check it out today!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

People say that life is the thing...

....but I prefer reading.  I decided that I liked this quote by Logan Pearsall Smith so much that I needed to put it on a headband.  For the basic background I used this tutorial from Sew, Mama, Sew!  I just used scrap fabric I had lying around--some muslin and leftovers from a dress I made.
The blank canvas
 Then I cut up rectangles from other scraps--fabric from old projects, old clothes, etc and ironed these on to some fusible interfacing.
Always keep some interfacing on hand--you never know when you'll run into a robot
Next I cut the pieces into more book-spine shaped rectangles, going back and trimming them until I felt I had a nice variety.  I peeled the backing of the interfacing off and arranged them in a way that looked like a stack of books (hopefully).  When I was satisfied with the way everything looked, I ironed them onto the headband.  
I had plenty of models of book stacks to reference around my apt
 Even though I already fused them on, I sewed them on around the edges using a running stitch in contrasting thread to make the outlines of each book pop.

That's right--I did it for aesthetics, not because I'm paranoid and wanted them extra attached
All that was left was for me to add the words of the quote using embroidery floss.  I typed it up for reference using a decorative font because I didn't want it to be immediately obvious what the quote was.  I was going for a certain look more than anything else.  I probably should have written the quote on using some sort of fabric pen first and embroidered over it but instead I decided to free-hand it.  Because apparently I like driving myself crazy by having to embroider, rip out, and re-embroider things.  
Perhaps I would prefer life to reading if I didn't always insist on making life so difficult for myself
Voila: the finished product! 
A precarious book stack proclaiming a precarious philosophy
 ...and a shot of how it looks like on me to wrap things up.

People say that designer labels are the thing, but I prefer DIY

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Addie on the Inside Review

Book talk:  Who are you?  Are you who they say you are?  Or are you someone else?  Or perhaps a combination of the two: the public and the private you?  Addie has been called many things by many people: to her fellow misfits she's a friend, to her classmates she's a know-it-all, to her boyfriend she's beautiful but infuriating, to her boyfriend's friends she's a loser social-climber, to her ex-best friend Becca she's badly in need of a makeover, to her grandmother she's a reminder of how times have changed, and to herself she's...a  girl who is trying to figure out who she is.

Rocks my socks:  I love the intimacy the format of a novel in verse provided.  I felt like I was reading the journal of a precocious middle-school girl and I got a good look into her psyche   It reminded me of how glad I am not to be in middle-school anymore.  At the same time it gave me some hope by reminding me of how idealistic and passionate youth can be.  Addie worries about her boyfriend and her social status, but she also worries about stories she reads in the newspaper about women who are beaten and written off by society or fellow teens who are bullied and end up committing suicide.  The poems range from haikus about her cats to long, loosely structured ones about her grandmother and each format fit the subject and told me more about it.   A lot of them begged to be read aloud, which I did as I read them, even though I live alone.  I'm sure my cat appreciated the entertainment.

Rocks in my socks:  I felt like the ending wrapped things up a bit too quickly and easily.  Addie goes through a lot and seems to get through it with relative ease.  Perhaps that's just due to the novel in verse structure making it less clear how much time has passed, though.

Every book its reader: Don't let the novel in verse format foll you--this is a quick and easy read and even though it is economical with its words the descriptions of the plot, character, and setting shine through just as strong as in a more conventional novel.  Technically it's the third book in a series but I haven't read the other two and was able to enjoy this one just fine.  I'd give it to fans of poetry, but I'd also give it to anyone looking for an outsider school story grades 5 and up.  I read it as part of a faculty and staff book club and even those who said that they were originally turned off by the poetry format said that they came around to like it.  We all agreed that as adults working at a K-8 school it was a great reminder of what it can be like to be that age.


Simon &; Schuster have pages for Addie on the Inside, James Howe, and No Name Calling week that has a video featuring James Howe

The main No Name-Calling Week site is a great resource as well which fans of the book may be interested in

There's an interview with James Howe over at We Are the Youth

Source: copy provided as part of faculty and staff book club

Addie on the Inside by James Howe: Buy it or check it out today!