Monday, August 31, 2009

An Open Discussion::The Poisonwood Bible

Last week I mentioned that I was finishing up reading The Poisonwood Bible and while I love it, I just don't know if I could write about it here. At almost 550 pages, there is a lot that goes on in this book and to put it bluntly, I don't feel as if my book reviewing skills are up to the challenge. But there is so much about the book that I would like to talk about, and some of you expressed some interest in "talking" about it with me. So I thought it might be fun to discuss it as if we were at a book club meeting. Here's how it's going to work:

I'll start the discussion out with a few questions or topics for conversation. These may be my own opinions or questions, or they may be taken from somewhere else, in which case I'll specifically note where I got it from. When you comment, you can choose to either address one of those topics/questions, or just go off on a complete tangent of your own and say whatever you want pertaining to the book. Did you love it? Hate it? Read one chapter and give up? Have no interest in reading it at all? Whatever the case may be, I want to know why. As the conversation progresses, as I'm hoping it does, I would love it if you would check back within the following days, possibly commenting again addressing someone else's opinion. You know, like a conversation at a book club meeting.

If you haven't read The Poisonwood Bible and may want to, keep in mind that there is a distinct possibility that certain details about the book will be revealed within our discussion. So proceed with caution. Also, as you know I welcome dissenting opinions. In fact, I love them, but lets keep it nice. I think that this book in particular has the potential to cause a political discussion, which I'm fine with, but let's just be respectful. If this goes well, as I'm hoping it does, maybe we'll do it again sometime. (Am I putting too much pressure on you people?)

Let the fun begin!

*Did you enjoy this book? Why or why not?

*When I was reading reviews of this book on Goodreads, a lot of the readers who hated the book felt that Kingsolver had a political agenda that she was trying to push, particularly her views on Americas involvement in the Congo, or they felt as if she was being anti-Christian. While I understand these opinions, I just don't feel the same way. Possibly I'm naive, or maybe it's because I have some of the same beliefs as Kingsolver, but whatever the case, no political or religious message really jumped out at me. Obviously the book is very political, but when reading it, I focused mainly on the family members and how their relationships disintegrated over time. What are your thoughts? Do you feel that Barabara Kingsolver "manipulated her characters" to further her own beliefs?

*Ruth May, the youngest daughter in the Price family, dies by a snake bite. This event seems to be the final straw for the mother (Orleana) and it motivates her to get her daughters out of the village. Personally, I felt so many emotions when Ruth May died because she reminded me so much of my own daughter. I was angry at Orleana for not putting her foot down sooner and protecting her daughters. I hated the father (Nathan Price) even more than before for maintaining his (as I see it) foolish belief that this was all god's plan. Who, if anyone, do you blame for the death of Ruth May?

*To go along with the previous question, How much do you blame Orleana for everything that went on in the Congo? Do you believe that considering the time in history the book took place, and her own personal circumstances, that she did everything in her power and that she, like her daughters, was a victim? How would you have handled things differently?

*Leah ends up marrying Anatole, a school teacher from the village, and they have children. They spend some time in America only to return to Africa because America just doesn't feel like home to them and they feel out of place. Once in Africa, they deal with inadequate health care, food is at times scarce, and Anatole is unjustly prisoned, yet they stay. I thought that Leah was one of the more complex and likable characters, but I felt her decision to return to Africa was a huge mistake and a very selfish move. I believe that, even though her motives were different, this decision was not unlike the one her father made when he moved his family to the Congo. Any thoughts on this?

*Why do you suppose that Reverend Nathan Price is not given a voice of his own? Do we learn from his wife and daughters enough information to formulate an adequate explanation for his beliefs and behavior? Does such an explanation matter? (Question courtesy of Book Browse Reading Guide.)

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Random Thoughts

Clearing my head:

*I'm slowly adjusting to my new schedule, learning to better manage my time, and resigning myself to the fact that sometimes some things are just not going to get done in the time frame I'm used to (I'm looking at you breakfast dishes still in the sink.) I think that the hardest part of this new normal, is that, throughout the day I find myself really missing my son. Now that he's in middle school, he doesn't get home until almost 4 PM and then has at least an hour of homework. School is really cutting into our family time. This will be another adjustment we'll have to make.

Plus, I don't consider myself overprotective, but I'm the type of mom that can't fully relax unless I know exactly where my children are and what they are doing. So this longer day is stressful for me.

*This afternoon on the way to pick up the girl from Pre-K, I saw a dead cat on the side of the road. I hate seeing that kind of stuff to begin with because it breaks my heart, but I was listening to Carly Simon at the time and pms-ing, so I started crying in the car. I really wish I could plan my life around my menstrual cycle. Everything would be so much more bearable.

*This morning I went and got my haircut. My usual gal wasn't there, only an older woman I had never seen before. I sat down and she asked me what I wanted. I told her what I tell everyone, "A pixie cut, short and tight." Then she said, "Oh, like Mia Farrow in Rosemary's Baby." I nearly jumped out of my seat, because that exact phrase used to be how I would describe what I wanted to hairdressers, but I stopped because I got tired of being met with blank stares. She went on to tell me that she had actually been working for Vidal Sassoon at the time that he had given Mia Farrow her famous haircut. I found this fascinating, but maybe that's because I don't get out much.

*Right now I'm reading The Poisonwood Bible. When I wrote about wanting to read all the books on NPR's List of 100 Beach Books, so many of you suggested I start with this one. I'm loving it but it's definitely one of the saddest books I've ever read. As much as I'm enjoying it, it may end up being one of those books that I just want to run from and can't write about here. We'll see though, because I would like to "talk" about it with others who have read it.

*Speaking of books, CT tagged me a few weeks back. Here are the rules:
1. Collect the book you have most handy.
2. Turn to page 161.
3. Find the 5th complete sentence.
4. Cite the sentence on your blog.
5. Pass it on to five other blog friends.

Now technically, the book I have most handy is The Poisonwood Bible, but the fifth sentence on page 161 wasn't all that interesting on it's own so I went over to my "To Be Read" stack and pulled out Eccentric Glamour-Creating an Insanely More Fabulous You by Simon Doonan.

The fifth sentence on page 161 reads:
When young ladies-especially those attending the nation's most prestigious colleges-are growing sideburns and having double mastectomies, is it only reasonable that one should be able to confront this issue head on by asking, "Are you Arthur or Martha?"

I'm going to break the rules a bit by posting the next two sentences as well. They're just too good.

I personally would welcome this revision to social etiquette. Being on the petit side, I am constantly being mistaken for a woman, especially if I wear a tightly belted trench coat and over sized dark glasses.

You gotta love Simon Doonan.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

I'm In Love

Yesterday I mentioned that Jay and I've spent the last two mornings hitting the thrift stores. Thrifting here in Gainesville tends to be hit or miss, more often a miss. When I first moved here I thought college town=wasteful students=thrift store heaven. For things like furniture or housewares, it's great because college kids think nothing of buying that stuff and then just leaving it behind when they graduate or flunk out. But clothes are another story. Oh, college kids buy nice clothes, they just don't properly take care of them. I can't tell you how many times I've come across things I love that are my size, only to see that they've been shrunken to Cabbage Patch Kid proportions. So disappointing. So whenever I head to a thrift store on a clothes finding mission, I go in with low expectations. Which, I suppose, is why this week has been so exciting.

Monday I went to the Goodwill closest to my house and saw this dress immediately:It was in mint condition and I loved everything about it. The shape, the style, the fact that it's casual enough for everyday but could easily be dressed up, the dainty flowers, the colors, the green ribbon tie and trim throughout....sigh. It was the dress made for me. Except, that the size tag puts it at about three sizes larger than what I would normally wear. Now I tend to be (ahem) lenient when it comes to clothes sizing. If I like something enough, I try to make it work. But three sizes? There was just no way. So I put it back and sadly walked away.

Well needless to say everything else in the crappy Goodwill paled in comparison to my dress. So after a few minutes of looking at shrunken Forever 21 clothes, I went back to the dress. I held it up to my body...it looked my size. So I tried it on and it fit perfectly! I was ecstatic and have been on a little high ever since bringing it home. Sometimes I go in my closet and just stare at it.

Also found on our thrifting trips: clothing items for Jay and the girl and a skirt and shirt for myself. Honestly though, nothing else nearly exciting as the dress.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

New School Year

In case the complete lack of posting lately didn't tip you off, let me announce that I'm having trouble adjusting to my new schedule. School started on Monday and the boy is in middle school and the girl is in preschool until about 1 PM. I'm spending a lot of my time in the car going to and from schools. (My kids are so far apart in age that they will never be in the same school.) It's such a change from last year when the boy rode his bike to school and the girl only went to preschool twice a week. Now I have different places to be at certain times everyday and it's taking some getting used to. I really think that I'm going to have to sit and write down a schedule (at least a loose one), if I ever plan on getting anything done. For example, it's 3 PM and my bed probably isn't going to get made today. (edited to add: my bed didn't get made today.)

I think part of my problem is that I had this huge mental list of things to do as soon as the kids went to school-sewing projects, books to read, general house stuff I wanted to accomplish, etc... but the list got too long and I've ended up doing none of it. Plus, Jay's finally had some time off of work and we've been enjoying not having kids around. We've gone thrifting together and out for coffee. The last two mornings have been quite relaxing.

As for school, yesterday my son announced that he hates middle school. He doesn't know his way around the buildings and he has a hard time finding his different classes. Not to mention the fact that, as a sixth grader, he's the little guy on campus again. Such a change from being a fifth grader who ruled the elementary school. He came home today in better spirits though so I'm hoping it will all get easier for him. He's made some new friends and he says he likes his teachers so I'm keeping my fingers crossed that things will improve.

So........thats about it. Hopefully I'll have my heinie in gear well enough to write about something interesting soon. Well, maybe semi-interesting.

Friday, August 21, 2009

The Winner Is.......

Random.org chose comment number 10, which was left by Nowheymama. Contact me at irregulartammie@yahoo.com with your shipping info and I'll pass it on to the appropriate people.

Thanks to everyone for playing and I wish I had prizes for all of you. I promise if I ever become massively wealthy, you are all getting wine glasses.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Book Review:: A Wolf at the Table

I chose this book for two reasons. One, I'm a fan of Augusten Burroughs and have read most of what he's written. Two, this book is about his father, who was played by Alec Baldwin in the Running with Scissors movie so I figured that while enjoying the book I could picture Alec the whole time. Well, number two didn't work out all that well, because Augusten Burroughs father was pure evil.

After reading Running with Scissors, the first book in the story of Augusten Burrough's horribly traumatic formative years, I always assumed that his mom was the evil parent. She was the one who seemed selfish and disinterested. She was the one who sent Augusten to live with her kooky doctor and his even kookier family. I mean, the father was clearly neglectful and probably an alcoholic but it wasn't until reading this book that I realized how harmful he was. As Augusten puts it, his father was "missing something"-some part that made him human.

When I first began reading A Wolf at the Table, I almost felt sorry for the father. He was abused by his own parents and clearly had a lot of emotional problems. Plus, because of an incurable case of psoriasis, his skin peeled and bled to the point of it ruining his clothes. He had arthritis that left him in constant pain, and his married life was completely miserable. Certainly that doesn't give him (or anyone) the right to emotional abuse a child, but it puts his behaviour in perspective....to a point.

When Augusten was younger, his father was simply distant. But as he grew, his father began to play mind games that tormented his son and kept him in a constant state of frightened anticipation. For instance, when Mom has a breakdown and enters a hospital for what turns out to be weeks on end, Dad says, "Well, son, it's just the two of us now. I hope we'll be okay." Then smiled. Or there was the time a bit later when he stayed up all night long drinking and sharpening all the knives in the house. (I don't want to list all the atrocities committed by this man or give away too much, but just be warned: beloved pets die.)

The story flows really well and despite the dark subject matter, it's a very quick read. I read it in two days. I hated having to put it down. I truly believe that Augusten Burroughs is one of the best writers of my time. I suppose my only (ever so slight) problem with the book is that I don't know if I believe it all. The descriptions of his father portray him as some sort of monster, not a human being. And I'm still bothered somewhat by the fact that in the previous memoir it was never even mentioned that his father was this homicidal maniac. Is it true? Was it all just a case of repressed memories? To me, it doesn't matter. And I highly recommend you read the book and form your own opinions. It's worth the time.

Note: For those interested, here is a really great Q&A with Augusten Burroughs about this book.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Listing

Watching:: Doubt. AMAZING movie. Phillip Seymour Hoffman. Meryl Streep. Even if you aren't interested in the plot, it's worth watching this movie just to see the back and forth between these two incredibly skilled actors.

Finding:: Backyard wildlife. Frogs and toads, birds nests, a pregnant snake, and creepy crawly bugs of all kinds.
Plus, a critter of some type has been picking the last of my tomatoes off the vine. My plants aren't looking all that great to begin with and my own personal growing season is almost over so I was anxiously awaiting those last few tomatoes. Imagine my disappointment when I went to pick them and they were gone. I have been able to get a few organic limes off the tree though. If only I could learn to distill my own vodka, I'd never have to leave the house.

Reading:: Women Who Eat. Eh, it was lackluster and I probably won't be reviewing it here. I didn't like it or dislike it enough to bother writing about it. I also just finished A Wolf at the Table by Augusten Burroughs, which I couldn't put down. I'll definitely be writing about that one soon. As a side note, I just reached my reading goal of thirty five books. I'm thinking I set my goal much too low but I'm interested in seeing how much more reading I do now that the pressure to reach a goal is off. As always, what I read can be found on Goodreads.

Loving:: The gap toothed grin on this girl and the enjoyment she got from a visit from the tooth fairy. It's going to be a sad day when she no longer gets excited by shiny quarters.

Tightly Holding Onto:: Moments of summer silliness. For various reasons this has been a difficult summer for our family. Probably my worst season ever. But something that always made me chuckle was my son and his backyard movies.

School starts next Monday. There will be no more quick wardrobe changes in the backyard. I'm going to miss being his camera woman.

Anxiously Awaiting:: Fall and cooler weather. I'm starting to find acorns on the ground so that means fall is right around the corner. Right? Humor me with this one.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Alrighty....Who Wants to Win Something?

Last week I was approached by the folks over at CSN Stores about working together on a giveaway. I was a bit leery and freaked out at first because I had never done a giveaway on a professional level. And by "professional" I don't mean to imply that I'm getting any money for this giveaway (I'm not). What I mean is that this giveaway is going to be held in a more sophisticated manner than the one where I sent a dollar to the person who could tell me the name of the lead singer of Right Said Fred.

The representative that I dealt with was super helpful and patient enough to put up with all of my emails. The store I finally decided on is called Just Wine Racks because I am so loving all of their bar accessories. (How cute is this wine stopper?) Anyway, they are generously giving away this set of four Lenox wine glasses:If you don't drink wine, enter anyway. There is no law that says you can't use these for soy milk, coconut milk, or Dr. Pepper. I won't judge.

Here are the rules.

First, with apologies to my friends in other places, the contest is only open to those in the US and Canada.

Next, pop on over to Just Wine Racks and snoop around. Take your time because there is a lot to look at. Then return here and leave a comment telling me about what product/products caught your eye.

If you'd like another entry, become a follower of mine and leave me a comment telling me you've done so. If you already do follow me, Thank you! You're awesome. Just leave me a comment bragging about your awesomeness because the comment gets you the entry.

If you want yet another entry, then take a moment to copy and paste the paragraph below onto your blog, leave me a comment mentioning you've done so, and you've got entry number three:

Irregular Tammie is hosting an awesome giveaway sponsored by Just Wine Racks , a store that carries tons of bar accessories, everything from bar glasses to wine racks. Stop by and enter for a chance to win! Hurry though, the giveaway ends Friday August 21 at 8:00 AM (EST).

So there you have it. Shortly after 8 on Friday morning, I'll kick my husband off the computer, close out comments, and then go over to Random.org to pick a winner, which I'll announce sometime before 9 AM. Good luck to everyone and Happy Drinking.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

NPR's Top 100 Beach Books

In an act of blatant thievery, I just stole this list off of Daphne's blog. Books highlighted in green are ones that I've read.

1. The Harry Potter series, by J.K. Rowling(technically I've only read the first four but I sort of feel that if I've read one, I've read them all)

2. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee

3. The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini

4. Bridget Jones's Diary, by Helen Fielding

5. Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen

6. Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, by Rebecca Wells

7. The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald

8. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams

9. Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe, by Fannie Flagg

10. The Poisonwood Bible, by Barbara Kingsolver

11. The Time Traveler's Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger

12. Life of Pi, by Yann Martel

13. The Joy Luck Club, by Amy Tan

14. The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien

15. The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger (Love this book.)

16. Gone with the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell

17. Bel Canto, by Ann Patchett

18. The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien

19. Middlesex, by Jeffrey Eugenides

20. Water for Elephants, by Sara Gruen

21. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain

22. The Bean Trees, by Barbara Kingsolver

23. The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, by Alexander McCall Smith

24. The World According to Garp, by John Irving

25. Catch-22, by Joseph Heller

26. The Prince of Tides, by Pat Conroy

27. Like Water for Chocolate, by Laura Esquivel

28. The Princess Bride, by William Goldman

29. The Accidental Tourist, by Anne Tyler

30. Twilight, by Stephenie Meyer

31. A Confederacy of Dunces, by John Kennedy Toole

32. East of Eden, by John Steinbeck

33. The Red Tent, by Anita Diamant

34. Beach Music, by Pat Conroy

35. One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

36. Rebecca, by Daphne Du Maurier

37. Ender's Game, by Orson Scott Card

38. Lonesome Dove, by Larry McMurtry

39. The Thorn Birds, by Colleen McCullough

40. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, by Michael Chabon

41. Pillars of the Earth, by Ken Follett

42. Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy

43. Interview with the Vampire, by Anne Rice

44. Cold Mountain, by Charles Frazier

45. Empire Falls, by Richard Russo

46. Under the Tuscan Sun, by Frances Mayes

47. The Count of Monte Cristo, by Alexandre Dumas

48. Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, by Tom Robbins

49. I Know This Much Is True, by Wally Lamb

50. Murder on the Orient Express, by Agatha Christie

51. Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott

52. The Stand, by Stephen King

53. She's Come Undone, by Wally Lamb

54. Dune, by Frank Herbert

55. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

56. Love in the Time of Cholera, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

57. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll

58. Lolita, by Vladimir Nabokov

59. The Godfather, by Mario Puzo

60. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith

61. Animal Dreams, by Barbara Kingsolver

62. Jaws, by Peter Benchley

63. Good in Bed, by Jennifer Weiner

64. Angle of Repose, by Wallace Stegner

65. Snow Falling on Cedars, by David Guterson

66. The Old Man and the Sea, by Ernest Hemingway

67. The Fountainhead, by Ayn Rand

68. Breakfast of Champions, by Kurt Vonnegut

69. Cat's Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut

70. The Big Sleep, by Raymond Chandler

71. The Sun Also Rises, by Ernest Hemingway

72. The Hunt for Red October, by Tom Clancy

73. Cold Sassy Tree, by Olive Ann Burns

74. The Lord of the Flies, by William Golding

74. Bonfire of the Vanities, by Tom Wolfe [tie]

76. Wuthering Heights, by Emily Bronte

77. Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon

78. The Shell Seekers, by Rosamunde Pilcher

79. Prodigal Summer, by Barbara Kingsolver

80. Eye of the Needle, by Ken Follett

81. Cannery Row, by John Steinbeck (Although this one was read in high school and I couldn't tell you a single thing about it.)

81. The Pilot's Wife, by Anita Shreve [tie]

83. All the Pretty Horses, by Cormac McCarthy

84. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, by Stieg Larsson

85. The Little Prince, by Antoine De Saint-Exupery

86. The Road, by Cormac McCarthy

87. One for the Money, by Janet Evanovich

88. Shogun, by James Clavell

89. Dracula, by Bram Stoker

90. The Unbearable Lightness of Being, by Milan Kundera

91. Presumed Innocent, by Scott Turow

92. Franny and Zooey, by J.D. Salinger

93. The Secret History, by Donna Tartt

94. Dead Until Dark, by Charlaine Harris

95. Summer Sisters, by Judy Blume

96. The Shining, by Stephen King

97. How Stella Got Her Groove Back, by Terry McMillan

98. Lamb, by Christopher Moore

99. Sick Puppy, by Carl Hiaasen

100. Treasure Island, by Robert Louis Stevenson

I'd always considered myself fairly well read, but that fact that I've only read 20 books out of this list of 100 is quite eye opening. Clearly I have work to do. (Mari: Isn't #84 the book you mentioned the other day? I think the fact that it's been brought to my attention twice in one week means I need to get off my butt and get myself a copy.)

Thinking ahead to next years reading goal, maybe I'll try to read all the (unread) books on the list. Any thoughts on where I should begin? I know a lot of you are fans of Barbara Kingsolver. I've only read Animal Vegetable Miracle. She has quite a few books listed. Any recommendations?

Friday, August 14, 2009

Gratitude Friday

I'm thankful I didn't have to clean up vomit today.

Sometimes you just have to keep the expectations low.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Bad, The Good, and The Ugly

I feel like my blog has taken a strange turn lately. There have been a few times when it's gotten very personal, but mostly it's been a lot of impersonal book reviews and cooking or sewing projects. While I don't think there is anything wrong with the less personal topics, I honestly believe that what keeps you people coming back, is that you know a little dirt about me and I don't mind occasionally opening up my closet for you folks to get a glimpse at the skeletons that reside there.

There has been so much going on in my life the last few months and I've wanted to write about it here but it's difficult for me to write about events as they are happening around me. I like for things to settle down a bit before I put my spin on it and send it out onto the internet. So, for those of you wondering, here's a small glimpse at what's been going on for the last few months.

The Bad
*Most of you know my mom lives with me and that earlier in the year she kicked her husband out. Most of you also probably know that Jay and I bought this house because it was big enough for our family and the extended family. What you don't know is that my mom has spent most of the last three months at her new boyfriends house. That, coupled with the fact that since the separation she's had a hard time getting her personal finances in order, has left a lot of things up in the air concerning our house. Jay and I have been in a state of confusion for the last 6-8 weeks trying to figure out what our next step would be.

*While all this was happening, I was also feeling a serious amount of resentment towards my mom. I really felt as if she was making her problems, our problems. While she's out with her boyfriend, I had to deal with her stupid ex calling all hours of the day and night. Not to mention trying to put on a happy face and keep most of the white trash soap opera drama away from the children. For me, one of the hardest parts about being a parent is how I always have to be "on." I've never been a good actress and I don't have the ability to put on a happy face when I'm not happy.

*Summers are always difficult for us financially because our utility bill tends to go up about $200. Florida summers are brutal.

*For the last six weeks or so, Jay has been working a lot. A few weeks ago he worked 11 straight days without a day off and he's about to do at least 14 days without a day off. He's sick of being at work and I'm sick of being at home. We are both stretched incredibly thin.

The Good
*My mom and I had a long talk this past weekend and we worked out most of our problems. We literally talked until both of our phone batteries were dead. It felt good to get it all out. I'm a firm believer in the power of communication and I hate carrying around weight brought on by life's drama. (My mom, on the other hand, has never liked confrontation and she always hopes problems will go away on their own. Does that ever happen?)

*Financially, we should be back on track within the next month or two. There are plans in the works to lighten my mom's financial load and hopefully things will settle down soon. Plus, I got my electric bill and it's $100 less than last month. Hooray for small victories.

*Somehow through all of this, Jay and I have gotten closer. The other day I thanked him for really being here for me for the last few months. In his typical, casual way he replied, "Babe, I've always been here." I said, "Yeah, well, I guess it took me twelve years to see that." He laughed and said, "Wow-twelve years! That was one grueling job interview." He really is my best friend. I don't know if I'd leave him even for Alec Baldwin. I can't wait for his work load to lighten up a bit so I can actually spend an entire day with him.

So there you have it--a small snapshot of my life for the last three months. I didn't go into as much detail as I normally would, because since things are getting better, I feel like I'd be dredging up the past and I really want to just put it all behind me. As for 29 Gifts, I still want to do this project, but now is just not the best time for me. I started out strong, but when my life got too hectic, I just couldn't keep up with it and it totally slipped my mind. Or I'd just get bummed out and not be motivated to do anything kind. For instance, I watched my neighbors house for them while they were away on vacation and my plan was to surprise them by leaving brownies on their kitchen counter. Well, I made the brownies but then ate them myself before my neighbors returned. I want to revisit 29 Gifts sometime after school starts. Hopefully by then I'll be in a more positive mood and my kindness journal will include acts better than, "I didn't punch anyone in the face today."

The Ugly
This morning my daughter came into my bed, plopped herself over my body and told me her tummy hurt. Moments later she vomited chocolate milk puke all over herself, me, and my bed.

Deep breaths. Tomorrow is a new day.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Dress Refashion

Two weekends ago the folks that live in the first house of my subdivision had a garage sale. This weekend they had the remnants out at the curb with a giant FREE sign. I'm sure by now most of you know how I get when I see people giving away junk. It makes me positively giddy.

The box ended up being a six on the excitement scale. It had about two yards of heavy weight, striped fabric in it that I'm not loving, but I'll still play around with and a bunch of kids clothes in various sizes-most of which I'll probably just wash up and give away on Freecycle. I like to keep the free trash cycle going.

One item that caught my eye was a little girls dress. It caught my eye because it was one of the ugliest dresses I had ever seen. It was sailor style---but not cute sailor, tacky sailor. Plus, it had giant puffy sleeves and it was ankle length, which made the dress far too dressy for the chambray it's made of. Simply put, everything about it was just too much. (Think The Duggars.) I kept the dress though because it looked as if it had never been worn and I thought at the very least I could use it for scraps.

Later on that day I looked at it a bit closer and thought that just maybe I could refashion it into something I wouldn't be embarrassed to have my daughter wear. So I set to work first by getting my seam ripper out and removing the offending areas. Bye-bye giant collar and puffy sleeves:
Taking off the collar was by far the easiest part. It was a separate piece sewn between two layers of fabric. All I had to do was take it out and then sew the neckline up again. From start to finish, it took less than five minutes.

After removing the giant sleeves, I was stuck. I had no idea what to do and the dress sat for a couple of days. Then, this morning it was as if a light bulb had lit up over my head and I knew how I wanted to finish it.

Do you remember the pink floral fabric that I used when making this apron and the lining for last weeks bag? Well, I still had some of it left and I decided to use it to make trim for the arm holes.Then I cut three inches(!) off the dress and trimmed the bottom with the floral fabric as well.
Here are some full length shots of the dress, but I must apologize. At the time they were taken my model was being quite whiny and unwilling so, bad lighting and all, they are what they are.As you can see, even after slicing off three inches, it still comes well below her knees. This was a freakishly long dress.

The waistline. I'm not loving it. (Is it called a princess waistline? Anyone?) Whatever it's called, it's not my favorite. But because the dress ties in the back, I didn't attempt to change it. I thought of slicing and dicing, but didn't want to cause problems I couldn't fix.

All in all, she loves the dress and I like it so I consider the hour or so it took to make it, time well spent. I'm hoping I can convince her to wear it with her pink Converse sneakers instead of the green Crocs she wants to wear with everything.

Note: I attempt these refashions fairly often, but most of the time they end up as failures either because I don't have the skills to make it work, or what I had planned to do just wasn't possible. Would any of you be interested in reading about some of the failures as well? I've thought about doing it a few times because I would love feedback about the projects from not only those of you who sew, but everyone. The way I see it, even if you don't sew, you probably have an idea of what looks good. So, if you leave a comment, let me know if you'd occasionally enjoy reading about my screw ups or if it would bore you.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Book Review:: Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life

I actually finished reading this book a few weeks ago, but I've put off writing about it because I didn't really know how I felt about it then, and in all honesty, even now I'm not so sure.

It, as the title states, is an Encyclopedia of the life of Amy Krouse Rosenthal. Most of it is set up in alphabetical order but there are also charts and diagrams and a timeline of her life from birth until the book was published. The timeline, while only 20 pages, took me three nights to read. It literally kept boring me to sleep. I don't give a rats ass that in 1976 she discovered Ziggy and it remained an obsession throughout her teen years.

Next up is Alphabetized Existence. This section takes up the majority of the book and is filled with Amy's thoughts on various things. Some entries are just one or two sentence snippets, others are lengthier. Here are some examples found under F:

FEMINIST

Can you be a feminist yet still do a double take when you see a woman UPS driver?

or:

FIFTY STATES

I can rattle off the fifty states in alphabetical order in seventeen seconds.

Okay. See, as I was reading entries such as this, I found myself repeatedly thinking, "I really don't care." And I hate not caring about a book I'm reading.

There were times it was more interesting though. For instance under D she writes a paragraph titled Dishwasher and it's all about how it's impossible to load someone else's dishwasher because everyone has their own system. Clearly this isn't thought provoking stuff here, but it's true, cute, and mildly entertaining, which is how I viewed most of this book.

Another example of true, cute, and mildly entertaining would be this entry titled Right Foot:

When Paris {the authors daughter} was little, she would ask me "Mommy is this shoe on the right foot?" and I would glance over and say "Yes, Paris that's the right foot." But then a few seconds later, she would ask about the other shoe, "and is this the right foot?" as if there were another option. Depending on my mood, it would be either really irritating or really charming.

I think that the author seems very cool and that we have a lot of the same opinions about things. If I were to know her in real life, we'd probably get along. If I were to know her in real life, this book would probably be much more interesting. Since I don't know her in real life, it just seems like undeveloped randomness from a stranger. Which isn't bad, just not necessarily what I want from a book. I would liken it to blog reading. Sometimes when I read a blog post, I'm moved and inspired. Other times, I've forgotten what the post was about five seconds after X-ing out of the screen.

So. The question I've been having trouble with: Would I recommend this book? Well, I paid 75 cents for an 'acceptable' used copy off of half.com. It's definitely well worth that. It's a great book to read in small moments of time throughout the day but if you want something meatier, you'll need to look elsewhere.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Phoebe Bags (Sort Of)

Last week, on my worst day ever, I made numerous attempts at making this bag. Aside from (and possibly because of) all the crap I was dealing with that day, it just wasn't a good time. I couldn't concentrate at all and I incorrectly cut my fabric pieces not once, but twice. I was quickly getting close to not having a large enough cut of fabric to make a bag at all, so I threw down my scissors and called it a day.

The next day, life wasn't so hectic so I had another go at it. A few hours later, I had a Phoebe bag. Sort of.I say "sort of" because I didn't follow the pattern exactly.

For one thing, I didn't put the darts on the bottom. I wanted to, because I really like the shape that the darts give the bag, but having never done them before I was a little scared. Secondly, I didn't use a magnetic snap. Snaps, along with darts, zippers, and proper button holes, are things I haven't bothered to learn yet. It's not that I don't want to learn them, it's just that I'm not quite there yet, if you know what I mean. As I've been teaching myself to sew, I've learned that I really can't put a lot of pressure on myself or rush the process because I'll inevitably end up stressed out and accomplishing nothing. Plus, at the time I was making this bag, I really wasn't in the mood to learn anything. I just wanted to expel some creative energy.

It ended up being a learning experience anyway, because I had some major problems attaching the handle.My first attempt resulted with the handle being sewn inside the bag between the outside and the lining. Not good. So I had to rip out some stitches and work out a new way to attach the handle. All ended well and I'm pretty sure you can't even tell that I had to improvise a bit with it.

At this point I became unstoppable. I wanted to make more and master the handle. Even though the last bag turned out fine, I was a little pissed that the handle had gotten the better of me. But I didn't have any large enough cuts of handbag appropriate fabric. So I Frankensewed a bunch of scraps together to make a big hunk of fabric and the following day I had this:I tried to choose fabrics that matched, even if it was in a mismatched sort of way. As you can see, I didn't add the darts on this one either, but I did come closer to adding the darts. I held the pattern up to my fabric and marked where they should be, but then chickened out. (Baby steps.) I actually like this one better than the first, I think because I had to get more creative with it to make it work. The lining is the only thing that isn't patchworked together, it's just a small floral print that matches some of the outside pieces:My favorite part by far is the handle.I had large enough scraps to make it out of one type of fabric, but I took some extra time and patchworked it as well and I really think it makes a difference. Oh, and attaching said handle? Mastered it!Now about those darts.

(If you want to make your own Phoebe bag um....the right way, the pattern can be found over at artsy-crafty babe.)

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

29 Gifts

Don't forget I'm over at Kraft Kash today, writing about a project I'm anxious to start. Let me know what you think.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Just a Reminder......

I'm writing over at Krafty Kash today and tomorrow. Follow me over there, won't you?