Monday, November 26, 2007

In honor of next month which, unless we have a sudden rush of votes for another theme, will be A Month of Cookies on this blog. For each of the four weeks of December I'll try out a new cookie recipe (or resurrect an old favorite gingersnap recipe - trust me, it's unbelievably good) and share them, as much as I can, with you.

Anyway, to kick off the month a little early here's a great little site that lets you decorate one of 6 sugar cookies and then send them as an ecard to a friend. The best part? For every cookie sent Betty Crocker donates 10c to Toys for Tots. As a military brat I'm trilled that she chose this particular charity. Such a great cause! So go, decorate, and give a little this afternoon!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

A Thanksgiving Plug

It's nice having family nearby. Instead of dealing with the holiday madness that is the airport, hubby and I drove down to see my aunt in Round Top Texas. That little town (and I do mean little - their population is somewhere around 80, not including dogs) is the most interesting, artsy, laid back place I've ever been. I love it! It's the kind of place where guests are housed in neighbor's guest houses, where the soap is made by someone in your church, and where everyone knows everyone else's pets and days are spent alternating between creating and chatting. It has the feel of someplace so idyllic that it's hard to believe it's real. I highly recommend a visit.

While you're there, make sure you check out the shop my aunt runs, Decadence Down and Antique European Linens. There you'll find hand embroidered linens for your every need. The idea of the shop is to collect beautiful work and pass them on to those who will love and use them. Despite the high price tags, these pieces are meant to be used. While I can't indulge in that ideal at the moment, I do like it. My grandmother had a lovely set of dishes which came to me, fifty years after being bought, in perfect condition because my grandmother never found an occasion "good enough" to use the china for. I was there for her 80th birthday and even then she fussed at me for using the good china. Now that it's come to me I like to break it out for the most unlikely of occasions. If I'm not feeling well a bowl of cereal in the china makes me feel better. I treat the pieces with respect - they don't get beat around like my plastic bowls - but I enjoy them as well. I love how Pandora, owner of the store (and a lovely lady as well), uses tea towels as curtains and used a $2000 antique quilt as a table cloth for our Thanksgiving meal. A wonderful way to make every day just a bit more luxurious.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

New Simplicity Project Runway Patterns

Judging by the chatter on sewing boards, these poor patterns just aren't getting any love. The general consensus seems to be "that's it?" I understand where the fuss is coming from - when Simplicity announced they were doing PR patterns they never said what aspect of PR they were inspired by. So many hoped that this would be a new version of Hollywood patterns where experienced sewers everywhere could recreate some of the most memorable looks that we saw on our personal silver screens. Or fuzzy with red bleed screen, if you're at my house. We need a new TV. So when, instead of a flowing Uli beach dress, simple but fab Laura Bennet gown, or fabric version of Austin's corn dress, Simplicity instead delivered these patterns ... yeah, frustration was bound to happen. But you know what? I like them. Yes, Simplicity SHOULD have, from the start, showed their hand and said that they were releasing "be your own designer" patterns whose chief tie to PR is the DIY nature of them. But even so... step back, let go of the preconceptions you had, and approach these patterns as what they are - designs made specifically for the Craftster type who'll make a dress out of a pillowcase and spare ribbons. The type who use a pattern as a template for their own designs, who'll ask "why can't it be done this way" and attempt a crazy alteration without any formal training or even sewing experience.

Looking at it from that perspective - I submit that these patterns are, if not brilliant, at least very, very, bright. These patterns have a "you can do it!" vibe to them that I LOVE. Granted, that's probably because I have an inner craftster so I am part of their target audience. Still, they're good.

I bought this one last week at the $1.99 sale at Joann's. I love it! Neatest of all, they include a design sheet with a croquis and all the pieces you need to design your own dress for her. It reminds me of my childhood when I'd make outfits for my paper dolls. The instructions look very clear and easy to follow without being condescending. There's also some very nice touches, like how they have you face the underarm part of the sleeveless dress with bias tape instead of the standard fabric facing. I also love the inclusion of pockets. I love how this dress could be made up as a first project and worn out that evening. I've never gone for the standard beginner projects of pillowcases, pj bottoms, and the like. My first sewing project was my graduation dress for HS. It had darts and a zipper. I didn't know how to do either but, well, I learned. Anything easier and I wouldn't have cared enough to try. So for those with my learning style this dress is fantastic.

I was severely tempted to buy this one as well, though I managed to resist. Those front pleats are just too much of a 'what not to wear' on me. Still, cute design. Fitting, which frustrates more beginners than anything else, I'd bet, is at a minimum with this, as with all the PR patterns. Very, very smart.

I'll admit, I'm less enamored by this one. That square neckline is simply too harsh. But I'm sure someone who likes that look will take this design and run with it. Good for them.

Honestly this who short, boxy jacket trend has me confused. It's mutual, at least... all the short jackets I've tried look equally confused on me. Oh, well. I like how they give various closure options for those of us who can't do a four-step button hole to save our lives. Great idea. And, according to Lucky, these little hobbit jackets are terribly trendy and you need to get one yesterday. Right. I'll stick with classic jackets that keep me warm, thanks.

They remembered our curvy sisters! And they remembered them with a stunner of a pattern. Look at that - just get the fit right and you've got a whole closet full of looks. A satin evening gown, cute summer halter, little black dress, nice print work dress, it's all there. I'd love to see that slit-neck version done with some lovely hand-worked embroidery along the neckline and sleeves. Great dress!

They remembered our future designers as well. Seriously this pattern could win for most versatile. Look at all those options for dressing it up, dressing it down, embellishing, and just generally rocking this pattern. Fantastic!

Overall a nice collection. My ONLY suggestion for improvement would be to replace that second misses dress with a more fitted garment along the lines of the woman's or girl's. We like showing our figure as well! But really, that's it. As a line of blank canvas patterns waiting for a new designer-in-training to own them these patterns all wins, in my judgment. Disagree if you like, but I'm a fan of this line.

Though I do hope that one of the PR4 challenges is to design a wardrobe for Simplicity. I'd love to see what they could do!

Still alive

The flu symptoms have mostly left but I've been seriously exausted for the past week. Like "sit for a while deciding just how necessary that trip to the bathroom is because it'll use up my energy for the next two hours" exausted. I finally went to the doctor yesterday and he diagnosed me pretty quickly as having a sinus infection. Medication was prescribed and I should be feeling pretty normal in two day. Thank heavens. The people at my church have been very sweet and understanding about my illness but a lot that needed to get done didn't and our children's Sunday morning programs suffered. As has my schoolwork ... I'll probably have to ask for extensions in most of my classes just to get the work done without wearing myself out again. Illnesses are just so annoying. Thanks for all the prayers and well wishes, they're working and I really need and appreciate the encouragement!

On a totally different topic, it looks like I'll be doing Christmas Cookies next month (yum!) and I'd love to hear some favorites. I've got three possibles but I'd like more to choose from!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Filler Post

STILL sick. Actually a little worse than I was yesterday ... Husband and I went out last evening to Half-Price Books in part because that's our bi-weekly event and part because I was dying to get out of the house. Unfortunately that little outing probably knocked my recovery back a few days. I HATE being sick.

Anyway, with how weak I'm feeling it's just too much to do the tour of my sewing corner today (to make up for skipping Friday) so how 'bout I just give you a general rain check and we'll get back to that when I'm on my feet again?

Back to Half-Price, while it wore me out big time, I did find some great gems. Unfortunately they didn't come home with me (even at half off they were too much for my budget) but now I know they exist!

(Click on images to go to their Amazon pages)
Two beautiful books on making tapestries, wall hangings, and other adornments for your medieval or Tutor doll house. Because we ALL have one of those! And now I'm kinda sad that I missed out on this when I went through my doll house phase back in 5th grade. All the furniture and stuff I could find was either Victorian or old west and I really dislikes them both. Why did no one tell me that there's a group of medieval doll-house decorators?

This isn't a hobby I'll be taking up any time soon largely because of the time, money, and care it would take (and, for now, all three of those are well spoken for) but it makes me happy to know these books exist. Also a number of those tapestry patterns looked wonderful for small cross-stitch work. So maybe sometime I'll get one or both and use them for that purpose. Trust me, her work is certainly beautiful enough for people-sized house decorating!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Due to technical difficulties...

Still have the flu. Still have laryngitis. Still too weak to do much. Still that horrible mixture of bored out of my mind and too tired to focus or do anything. Blech.

On the good side I seem to be getting better, so hopefully I'll be back on my feet tomorrow or Monday.

Don't worry, I haven't forgotten about the Friday trips to my sewing corner. Since there's nothing to report on Monday's weekend report (I knitted two more rows in my scarf - does that count?) I figure I'll just give you a look at my patterns on that day and consider everything caught up. Or close. Eh, it's the best I can do now.

On a whole different topic DH, bless his heart, rented Meet the Robinsons for us to watch this evening. He knows I'm a huge Disney Dork but hadn't seen it yet (I know, I know, bad Disney Dork) so he rented it. I think he even enjoyed it, despite it all. I love him. :) And absolutely adorable, heartwarming film, by the way. Definitely a cute one.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Sick Day

Now I'm wishing I'd got my flu shot ... today was NOT a happy day.

I've been feeling a little icky the past week - figured it was just a result of not exercising like I should. Today I woke up feeling a little "off" but not horrible. And then I started getting ready. Things went downhill from there. I've spent the day alternating between the couch and the bed and discovering just how boring the internet and tv are. Funny, they seem far more interesting when I have papers to write.

So in light of my day, a few links for your enjoyment:

The first case of bird flu reported in Florida
(though that's actually Paris - but still funny)

Things to do when you're home sick

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

New Buttericks!

I love it when new patterns come out. It's like Christmas with new toys. With the new Buttericks out I just have to drool and dream over some and wonder "what the heck" over others. It's wonderful. :)

My top 5 "what were they thinking"

#5 - B5155

Not doing it for me. Not doing it at all. That curve right over the bust? No. No, no, no. There are five people in the world who can pull off that look and, let's face it, neither you nor I am one of them. If you've got any bust at all that line makes them look bulbourous and droopy at the same time and leaves that as the only hint of your figure. Not good. If you're flat then it looks like a late 80s little girl's dress. Just say no!

#2 - 5161

What's sad is that this pattern will probably find it's way home with me at some point. I have a fundamental issue with fabric crowns - If I'm wearing a crown then it's metal - unless this is a community theater play with no budget at which point I might fudge a little. But I am not in any community plays and so have no need for a faux crown. But even so it attracts even as it repels. I think it's the pic of king-boy trying to look all stern with giant plastic jewels hot glued around his crown.

#3 - 5154

Poor Connie, I'm picking on her patterns terribly. And really this pattern is fine, I can see some good possibilities with some color blocking, lace ... lots of ways to really own it. What I can't see is why that model seems to be pregnant with some alien spawn that grows from the hip. It's really not a good look at all. I so want to take an eraser and just smooth it out a bit ... but I can't. Even if I loved this pattern (which, honestly, I don't) I'd have trouble making it from fear that the hip-bulge came with it.

#2 - 5151

This one's purely personal - diagonals that hit right across the hips and thighs with no waist definition are my kriptonite. There may be nothing else in the world that makes my hourglass/pear figure look worse that these lines. Look, even the model looks a little out of proportion! The thing is I know there's some women out there who pull of this style with panache - I'm just not one of them. So this isn't a misstep on Butterick's part so much as it's just me recoiling in horror from my own traumatic experiences with this style.

#1 - 5143

Nice in concept but the made up garment looks like a home-made jacket gone terribly wrong. The fabric is so not right, dragging down the sides to make for a horribly uneven and dumpy hem and those gathered pockets just make it worse. Then the over all silhouette of a narrow neck with that mandarin collar billowing out to practically a pup tent? Bad, bad, bad. Made up in the right fabric and adjusted to the right hem length it could, conceivably, be very nice. But as they show it? Ick.

Now for the fun part, those patterns that will be speaking their way home with me sometime soon:

#5 - 5130

While empire waists are far from my best line, I've been in love with their knit versions since they first came out. With a little care and the right accessories I've gotten them to work. This one's a jem. I love that cute short sleeve summer version that would be such a cute swimsuit cover-up made from terry (you know, if I ever went swimming) or a fun evening dress in a funky print. Then the longer sleeve one that's just so chic. I love the double gathering going on up at the neckline- very nice and rather high end. I'll have to try this at some point, first for a night gown and then as whatever it next asks to be!

#4 - 5144

I can't imagine wearing something this voluminous but that doesn't keep me from loving it. This is one of those patterns I'd own just to own, like a nice picture. It doesn't have to be anything but what it is to make me happy. Just looking at it is like opening the possibilities of an overblown musical or heart wrenching drama, where the streets are always shiny from rain and beautiful banquets are an everyday event.

#3 -

This is a total jewel of a wardrobe - look, it's got four basics in it, right for the offering; two little black dress patterns, one straight, one a-line, and two skirts, also straight and a-line. This means that once you've gotten the straight skirt or dress fitted then you can just transfer the adjustments over to the flared counterpart and sew up without worry. I love it. But one thing I don't get - what's up with the shell tops they keep including? It's nearly impossible to get any shirt with a zipper up the back either on or, when it's on, to look good. Maybe I'm not shopping in the right stores but a woven shell like that just screams out "home-made" and not in the good way. There's got to be a button-up shirt or some other style that would work far better. But that's my only problem. Love the jacket, though it's probably a little too boxy for me. Still, very, very cute.

#2 - 5143

I am in love with this coat. I swear, someday I'll actually make a coat (probably when I'm living somewhere with the need for one) and when I do this pattern will easily be in the finalists as I pick which of my dozen coats to make up. I want to sew up that pink version in a nubby dark sage/black fabric with large black buttons. Or maybe a teal blue wool. Or a lush black. So many ideas ...

#1 - 5236

That dress is pure, undiluted glamor captured in tissue. It requires confident shoulders, bright red lipstick (but not the wrong bright red), and a lush fur stole. I have neither the figure for this nor any occasions - but I WILL have the pattern. It will probably spend it's time in my pattern drawers alternately ignoring the other patterns as being beneath it and giving lessons on how to saunter just right into the room. I love it.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Greek Geekery - A little about variants

The end goal of textual criticism (that is, of looking at all the differences between the copies we have of a text) is to discover the reading of the original text. Granted, there's a new bunch of New Testament textual critics like Fee and Ehrman who say it's about charting the history and seeing how scribes corrupted the text (or, as some would have it, edit the text under divine inspiration) but that begs the question - how can you see where the scribes have changed the text to fit their interpretations if you don't know what the original was? I can argue until I'm blue that Shakespeare enlarged the roles of Beatrix and Benedict in Much Ado About Nothing but until I have some sort of proof that they were originally smaller roles then there's something seriously lacking in my logic.

But then, having read Ehrman's work, I have a high view of his writing abilities and a very, very low view of both his ability to think logically and his integrity. He's still a fundamentalist at heart (of the sort that would make a staunch KJV-only-ist quell from his fervor) without a god to believe in besides liberalism. It's really quite sad.

But enough about Ehrman (who is, I believe, still a redeemable scholar and a poster boy for why Christians, especially Christians in leadership must be intellectually honest - he is what happens to those who are told not to question their faith - read his "testimony" sometime), this post is supposed to be about variants and how many there are and of what type.

So back to that.

As I said, the goal of textual critics is to rediscover the original wording of the text, whether they're looking at Shakespeare, Plato, or the Gospel of John. This is made difficult by the variants - no two texts are exactly the same. Each has some variant from another. Hearing this is, at first, enough to shake some people's faith. It was enough to break Ehrman's. So do we have a reliable NT? After all, as some have pointed out there are three times as many variants as there are words in the New Testament. Which is a rather disturbing number, right? At first blush, yes, it is. But let's look at that statistic. Out of all those variants a vast majority of them (exact numbers pending for me to get my notebook) are completely and totally inconsequential. They're either spelling variants (for example, John verses Jon) or very clear nonsense errors. For exampe, if your a ntive englich speeker u shuld hvae no problm reeding thiis senntence evan tho its fuul ov full ov mispellings nd noncents errs. Things like that show up a lot in our known Greek NTs - not surprising when you realize that the dictionary had yet to be invented and monks sometimes worked on these manuscripts long after they should have retired. Just think about how many times, when typing, you need to go back and change because you keyed something in wrong. Same with these scribes only the backspace key was far in the future for them. So there's something like 80% of variants in the NT - ones that don't cause us to question what the original text said, though it might cause us to wonder how it was spelled. On a side note, I am ever so grateful for spell checker.

So that's 80% of the variants. How about that other 20? Most of those are variants which do call the meaning of the text into question but aren't really viable. That is, they're changes that announce themselves with big red flags. A common one is changing the pronoun "he" to "Christ" or "Jesus," particularly at the beginning of a lectionary reading. After all, when you're reading the text for the day what works better, "He went into the town" (when the referent, "Jesus" is stuck back in the previous day's reading) or "Jesus went into the town." Yeah, thought so. There are some that wave red flags because the ONLY place you find the variant is in a 14th century manuscript. How likely is it that, of all the manuscripts we have, that's the ONLY one that got the reading right? Um hm. Possible ... but very, very unlikely. Kinda like my undergrad beating Ohio State in football. My undergrad doesn't have a football team. When it did it suffered one of the largest losses in collegiate history. Two hundred something to zero. Against a teacher's college. About that likely. Then there's the variants that are just crazy, like the one in "my" manuscript (mine in the sense that I'm working through it - I don't actually have any claim to it beyond that, unfortunately) that says that Jesus was given a road mixed with gall to drink. Somehow I don't think that's what Matthew originally wrote.

Anyway, that grouping of variants that change the meaning but aren't possible make up a good 18% of the whole.

And that remaining 1-2% which are both changes to the meaning and possible? Well, that's a post for another time!

Monday - Weekend Report (just a little late)

Sorry, I realized after I got in bed last night that I'd forgotten that I'd forgotten to do my Monday report. Granted, it's not like I have much to report anyway, so it wasn't like you were missing much ... but still, I like keeping deadlines. Especially self-appointed ones.

So what did I do this weekend?

Not all that much. As far as fabric and thread goes, it was all just mending and alterating, my two least favorite parts of sewing. My hubby needed his new cassock's hem shortened by a good three inches (not a standard alteration for my 6'1" husband - I'm not sure what giant they designed this thing for) and then he popped a button on his pants so that got sewn back on. So things that needed to get done but nothing really fun and nothing for me. This was mostly due to how full Sunday suddenly became - we went out to lunch with friends from Church, kept chatting until mid afternoon, and then were invited over to our neighbors' apartment for dinner. And, because we forgot to reset our kitchen clocks for daylight savings time, we showed up an hour early. It turned out great because that gave us more time to chat but when it was all said and done we had a whole two hours at most at home that day. Not enough to get started on sewing, not when a warm bath was calling. So for my first weekend report I get to report very, very little. Next time I hope will be far better!

Friday, November 02, 2007

Nov Series - Sewing Corner Part 1

Y'all asked for it so here it is!

My little sewing corner of bliss:

I'm still working out a few kinks but on a whole I like it. What you're looking at is the corner of our study - which SHOULD be the master bedroom in this teeny two bedroom apartment but, before moving in, my husband and I decided that we use far more room studying and sewing than sleeping so our bed's in the tiny room and our desks and all this stuff is here. I like it!

And for the tour part 1 - A General Overview

We bought the shelves specifically for this odd little nook. They're IKEA MALM shelves and I already had a good collection of MALM stuff from previous apartments (I love the flexibility) so we just worked out what would fit, figured out how much of that I already had, and bought the rest for less than $50. The white boxes are also from IKEA and are PERFECT for pattern storage. And the wooden drawer unit, guess where it's from? Yep, IKEA. I love that store.

On the top you can see my inkle loom, jar of thread, my two little girls Kit and Samantha (Samantha wearing a test garment from my own pattern) and a couple storage boxes. Below that is general sewing stuff storage - books, ribbons, lace, patterns, odds and ends, more patterns, sewing machines, and fabric.

Over to the left is my sewing table. It is NOT from IKEA and is, in fact, a piece of junk. Its only saving graces are that it's the right width and it was free. Even so, I keep hoping to replace it soon, not least because I really dislike sewing with the presser foot up on that ledge. But it is what it is for now ... one major expenditure at at time.

On the right is the ironing corner - to save space I have one of the over-the-door ironing boards. It's not ideal and no where near as nice as a standard free standing board but it's exactly what I need right now - small, out of the way, with a very small footprint.

Anyway, there's your preview of my sewing corner! I took a virtual roll of pictures and will load you up over the next few weeks on them but figured this week would be a good introduction/teaser for the later installments.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Thursday Randomness - Grammar quiz

You Scored an A

You got 10/10 questions correct.

It's pretty obvious that you don't make basic grammatical errors.
If anything, you're annoyed when people make simple mistakes on their blogs.
As far as people with bad grammar go, you know they're only human.
And it's humanity and its current condition that truly disturb you sometimes.

W00t! Thanks, mom, for pounding in those grammar lessons.

Thanks, even more, Microsoft Word for putting stupid green squiggles under things until I got them right (and even after, more often than not).

And yes, I'm excited about doing well on a stupid little internet quiz. Hey, at least I got an A in SOMETHING... and it's nice to know that all that time that this baby geek spent reading grammar books paid off. I'm not good (er, decent) at grammar because I have any natural talent at all ... I'm good (er, once again, decent) because I'm about as good with grammar as I am with spelling ... and there's a reason I don't type without a spell checker keeping me within the bounds of English. :)

Queen of the spelling bee I certainly wasn't ... I was just fortunate when I wasn't the first eliminated. Thank heavens for computers!

Ok, back to collating manuscripts, ignoring my Hebrew word study, and looking up info on Colosae.