Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Winter Reading

Wintergirls, by Laurie Halse Anderson (Speak, Twisted, Catalyst) settled right in and took over my life for a bit.  The book is both disturbing and engrossing...much like anything that portrays adolescents honestly.

As a pre-teen and early teen, I read a lot of novels about girls with eating disorders, and really felt like there was nothing new to be said on the topic.  Because the author includes myriad other "issues," and this is not a typical anorexia/bulemia novel. 

Halse-Anderson wraps the package with appealing text tricks that consistently fit the narrative.  There's intrigue, mystery, and a lot less whining than I expected.  The fears, the longing, the determination, and the affection among characters feels real.  The inner dialogue is effective, and must have been fatiguing to write.

It's fascinating how some authors are able to make me relate to characters with whom I share no common ground. Halse-Anderson has that gift. 

I'm wishing some of my seniors hadn't graduated this month.  I'd love to pass this book along to one who's found her way out of eating issues, near-death scenarios, and the related hospitalizations.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Look What I Made Today

Behold Heather Ross' summer blouse pattern v. 2. This is the fabric that needed to become a blouse!

Now I just need to wait for weather warm enough to wear a thin cotton blouse.

Not Worth the Climb

I am a Roland Smith fan. I am interested in the outdoors, and adventure sports. I wanted to enjoy this book. Maybe I was expecting too much.

I found many elements of the plot implausible and seemingly unplanned. I also spotted five or six editorial errors (grammar and typo issues) which was annoying, and made the book feel like a rushed project.

The book had its moments, most often filtered through Vincent or Zopa, but I doubt I would have finished this book as a teen or pre-teen intrigued by My Side of the Mountain, Avalanche!, Cady Woodlawn, and other tales where characters pushed themselves beyond the expectations of others, and reveled in the outdoors.

I was happy with the final chapters, however.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Weekend Sewing, by Heather Ross, is filled with projects I've been planning to get around to sewing for a long time. Today, I traced a couple of patterns and used one for a trial run. I read through all of the errata on her site, and on her Flickr group and made adjustments accordingly.
I made the blouse from an unusual fabric: stretchy, ribbed linen. It's a fabric I had a lot of, and I wanted to test the pattern on excess fabric because it would break my heart to make mistakes with the beautiful prints I have set aside for this blouse. Here is a detail shot of the fabric.

My comments on the pattern:
  • Unlike others, I did not cut a larger neckline.
  • I did hem the sleeves four inches, and they're still lengthy.
  • I lengthened the shirt by two and a half inches, made a tiny hem, and it's just the right length.
  • I made the medium, but might just try the small. If not, I will narrow the shirt body by an inch and a half next time. It's not as maternity-looking as I feared, but it's a bit trapezey.
  • I shortened the placket, but not quite enough. Like others, I see no need to cut that far only to sew it up again.
  • I sewed the sleeves to the shoulder pieces, then sewed straight up from the wrist to the armpit to the bottom hem. It seemed quicker and I can see no reason not to. It was easy to press the seams this way, too.

Friday, December 25, 2009


It's Christmas Day, and snow is falling at our house.
Whether your celebration of Hanukkah ended a week ago, your Solstice table was set earlier this week, or your Christmas festivities are now drawing to a close, I hope your celebration was filled with love and joy.
The chill darkness of winter has settled in, but I'm looking forward to each incremental increase in daylight as we creep toward spring.

Friday, December 18, 2009

An Awakening

The novel Awake, by Elizabeth Graver, holds power in its knowledge, its awareness of maternal nature. Graver takes on the trepidatious theme of lost self when absorbed by wifehood and motherhood.

Her prose is brimming with insight about our choices, relationships, and defeat in a tone of moderated confession, neither remorseful nor boastful. "We're just animals with noisy minds," the narrator muses after an intoxicating, escapist, adulturous encounter. "For the first time in years, I wasn't looking or attending, protecting, feeding, prodding or keeping track. Gone. It was my greatest fear, but at that moment it meant nothing to me. I was no longer a mother, scarcely a human. I knew nothing of family or love or sickness or death or the long, hard work it takes to live even the most ordinary life. I knew nothing."

I remain moved by this book, which made me appreciate my insomnia and gave me much to think about and even abashedly relate to.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

What I said, Bunny bread

Interesting NYT piece on Etsy and the "Quit your day job!" hobby/business concept.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Everything is a Choice

Craft show vending has really been fun, but it's time for the business phase of my hobby to end. The income from a business-minded venture is nice, but it's not my primary motivation. That's why my Etsy shop has been shuttered for a while.

One conviction I hold is that I am responsible for my own happiness. Therefore, I must recognize and change any aspects of life that impede joy. Cutting back on sewing to create only what interests me (right now that's clothing, decor, and gifts) will allow me to feel less like a factory, and to pursue other interests:

  • I'm taking classes next semester (yeah!) for the first time since becoming a parent (yikes!).
  • I'm writing. (Any volunteers to critique me along the way?)
  • I'm reviving some fitness goals now that my knee is allowing moderately regular poundings again. (Running and riding partners are welcome.)

Recently, I bundled much of my "merchandise" to give away, which feels great--I'm shedding a skin and ready for something new.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Books and more books

Michelle Wildgen, author of You're Not You, is senior editor for Tin House magazine, which impressed me before I even began to read. The book is a slow read, but not in a bad way. The pace of this novel appeals to me in the same way that the slow food, slow living, and slow bicycle movements appeal to me.
Although I'm not the narrator's age, I was easily able to identify with her, and to root for her. I was also enamoured with Kate, her employer, and enjoyed dissecting the dynamics among characters. The segments written about food and cooking were mouth-watering!
Wildgen neither shies away from nor sensationalizes sex scenes, recreational drug use, or masturbation. These matters are a part of the novel just like they are a part of life.
5 reasons I love Shift, by Jennifer Bradbury:
1. I love bicycles as art, as machinery, as transportation, as recreation, and as conversation.
2. I have been to many of the locations along the journey taken by the characters.
3. I have always yearned to undertake a coast to coast ride.
4. It's written by an English teacher.
5. The characters are real, and just plain likable. The parents are great, and I especially like the characters the boys meet on their travels--reminiscent of Travels with Charley in Search of America.

Right behind You was SUCH a swift read, I can barely remember it and I only read it yesterday. Engaging, psychologically interesting, and fast-paced, I'll be recommending it to my students.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Earth, Wind, and Fire

Months after making this scarf, I've taken a picture of it. It's soft and comfy to wear, and dresses up a tee-shirt really well.
Today, I made an orange scarf as a gift for a friend who complimented my brown one. The tutorial I followed is found here.
This part can be worn with the ruffly scarf, or on its own. It's simply two braided strands of the same fabric.
Here's the scarf I made for a friend.
And here's the mass all together.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Speak the Truth

Speak Softly, She Can Hear, by Pam Lewis is capably written, but a disappointment after her other novel, Perfect Family.

Portions of the book were rivetting, suspenseful, and filled with dread. After a certain point, though, I had figured out the reality of the main character's situation, and grew impatient for the conclusion.
Eddie was not enough of a study, and plain evil. Naomi had depth. Will captured my heart. Carole was entirely believable.
I do enjoy the author's fixation on secrets, and how so often the only harm comes from keeping them. It's a rich trope to mine, and fascinating fodder for thought.