Monday, January 28, 2013

Ready, Set, GO!!!

Every year about this time, we start preparing for our annual SuperBowl Party.  We've been having people over for a number of years to watch the game and enjoy some great appetizers, followed up with Dave's Texas BBQ Brisket sandwiches at half time. It's a fun time of laughter, shouting and just being with friends and family.  We do watch the game, some with more rapt attention than others, but all are tuned in for the new commercials.

Our hacienda is not huge, so seating is at a premium around game time, so this year I thought I'd go ahead and get that counter level dining table for the kitchen that we have been wanting for quite some time. Why now? Because it comes with 6 bar stool type chairs...I can line them up behind the pool table to form what I'd like to refer to as the "Grand Tier" seats!


To coordinate with my new look, I made a new cover for the pool table...which for Superbowl Sunday becomes the "Buffet".  Everyone brings appetizers and side dishes to serve with the brisket sandwiches. I used this great Waverly print from Jo-ann's -- got it at 60% off!! I used a suede like fabric for the sides, to make it look like I had a table runner over a table cloth.


Now that I had the whole Southwest thing rockin', I decided to refinish the two bar stools that we use in the pool table area.  I checked out Mexican tiles on Google Images and got a general idea of what elements were prevalent on these tiles, then went to work.  I used plain old latex paints from the garage that I had hanging around and picked up a couple of missing colors from Lowe's.

 
Dave sanded the tops of these Cherry stained stools for me.  I used a soft off white for the base coat. As it dried, I noticed that the cherry stain seeped through the white paint. But that was okay with me - it would lend itself to a more rustic look.
 
 
Using the colors in the table runner and the pool table cover, I started to add my pattern - I just made up the design as I went along.
 
 
More pattern, more color...
 
 
I finished them off with two coats of Minwax Polycrylic Protective Finish.
 
 
Voila! Two more seats! I stopped by Sport's Authority to get my team tee shirt (decided that $100 was a bit much for an actual team jersey), and after moving the furniture around a bit, I'll be ready.
 
Laurel. Go Niners
 
 
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Friday, January 25, 2013

Learning to Sew...Part 2

This week was Reyna's big week - tackle Grandma's Viking and the dreaded serger. I was excited to see how she would do, given her success last week at wielding big girl scissors, a needle and thread and straight pins.

We worked in my craft room this week.  I set up the sewing machine, using a plastic bin under the presser foot on the floor so she could reach it.  I did the same set-up with the serger presser foot.

She did not disappoint.  Right out of the gate, she had a very relaxed sewing style - not intimidated in the least by the sewing machine...or the serger. In both cases, her speed was moderate and steady.


I think it took me months before I could sew a seam this straight at her age.  Like I said, she's a natural!! I will say that the hot iron set her back a little, but it is important to learn to "press as you go".

 
Next week she will be on her own to finish all the seams in her gored skirt.
 
 
 
Laurel. Yeah Baby!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Milestones...

Don't ask me why I care - Laurel's Quill is technically a blog for "bliss".  In other words, I'm not trying to sell anything and I don't do ads. I write and blog because I like doing it - it feeds my creative side.

BUT let's keep it real....I don't care who you are or what your reasoning is for blogging, we all throw ourselves out there into cyberspace, with all our scales and vulnerabilities exposed, just so we can be heard.

So this is a blogging milestone for me today.  Pretty cool, huh?




Laurel. Blogger since January, 2010.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Learning to sew...

Is it already half way through January?  Here I promised myself that I would start blogging in earnest in 2013.  I'd been a total slacker in December and though it wasn't like I didn't do anything blog-worthy, I just ran out of hours in the day. January is here and my posting record thus far is not particularly stellar. Enough of me.

I gave one of my granddaughters a sewing kit for Christmas.  She had expressed a desire to learn to sew. Even though I didn't start until I was 10 (that was the entry age for the 4-H program in my community), age 9 is probably not too young, depending on their coordination. She's a rock star soccer player, so I had to assume that her hand eye coordination was probably better than mine. We decided that Tuesday evenings would be a great night to get together. 

I had to think about how to teach a young girl to sew.  In 4-H, your first project is the famous green 4-H collar, after which, you learn to make a simple apron.  The days of girls wearing aprons in the kitchen (if they even know how to cook these days?) is long gone.  I wanted her to make something that she could actually wear - that way, she would see the rewards of learning to sew. In addition, I did not just want to stick her in front of the sewing machine and go at it without some knowledge about fabric, tools, etc. Memories of sewing right through my fingernail at age 10 still haunt me today.

I decided to make her a sewing binder and fill it with some simple information for aspiring seamstresses. In the binder I included a list of concepts that we would learn, a drawing of her first project, an envelope with her pattern piece, a list of simple terms, etc.

A simple gored skirt is a great first project, and certainly more fun than making an apron or a square pillow.  The pattern has only one piece - you cut out as many panels as you need top fit your waist, and then a couple extra to make sur it will slide over her hips.  The panels are sewn together and serged. The waist will have a casing with elastic and the hem will be serged, turned and machine sewn.

Since fit is key to sewing clothing, I wanted Reyna to know her "measurements".  Because she is just learning to sew and won't be making things that are too complex in the beginning, I took only 5 measurements: Bust, waist, hips, skirt length and pants length.


I was pleased how quickly she learned to find the grain of the fabric and how to place the pattern on the fabric using the grain arrows.
 She got the hang of pinning the pattern and she was a whiz at cutting out the skirt panels.

 
 
 
 
Cotton fabric used for quilting is a good choice for a first project - it's easy to sew and it's relatively inexpensive. 
 I chose four different purple prints. I knew she would like purple, but next project we will take a field trip to the fabric store and learn a little about picking out fabrics and patterns.
 
After cutting a number of panels, I laid them out on the table so she could see
what her skirt might look like. 
 

 
It's important to learn the basics about handling a needle and thread as well.  I learned to baste as a little girl by making yo-yos: those cute little round puffy circles that you can sew together to make a quilt, or even clothing.  In the summer, my cousins and I would wake up
from our outdoor camp out on the lawn and start sewing yo-yos.
 
 
I taught Reyna how to thread a needle and cut her circle using a 4" square of fabric, folded into quarters and trimming the corners off.  We then learned how to sew a button to the middle of the yo-yo. These little embellishments will be added to her gored skirt after it is sewn together.
 
This Tuesday is the big day - we learn to use Grandma's Viking and her serger - hey, why not just jump in, even though I never learned to serge anything before I was 40!!! Her Mom and I decided an hour and a half is a good session time (we still are easily distracted and subject to boredom). Two other granddaughters will be joining us this week.  Lexi has already sewn a little bit at home, so I am anxious to see where she is at with her abilities - then we'll go from there!
 
Laurel. Getting Reyna ready for the Dress a Girl Sewfests...ya think??
 
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Friday, January 11, 2013

Visiting Paradise...

I used to live in Paradise for a time. I migrated there from the cement jungles of Oakland back in the 70s. My son was born in Paradise, which is a little ironic since he's been in "paradise" for almost 20 years. But I digress..

The other day I picked up my Mom and we headed for this little mountain community in Northern California. She needed an outing and I knew Paradise boasted a couple of yarn shops that I wanted to explore.  It was a gray day and the drive up the Skyway brought back a lot of memories of trips back down the hill to Chico, aka civilization. Paradise is known to be a retirement community, so living there in my young adult years was less than ideal. But on this day with my Mom, we found it rather charming. The town has grown up...Safeway, CVS (go figure), loads of antique shops, and of course two yarns shops. But again , I digress...

As I drove through town, I wondered why the name Paradise - perhaps the city fathers thought the countryside was a little slice of Heaven. At the time that I lived there as a young mother with a toddler, a newborn and sporting a bad marriage, it was not paradise or anything close to Heaven. I wonder, was it the first snowfall in the winter, the Fall color of the poplars, or the soft mountain breeze in the pines that made it heaven on earth for the first settlers of Paradise?

It's funny how we humans conjure up ideas and images about what Heaven might be. It seems there is a never ending stream of people with near death experiences. Just yesterday Katie had some guy (Eben Alexander) who wrote a best selling book Proof of Heaven, so just like everyone else, I was sucked into watching the show just to see what his "proof" actually was. He had been in a coma for many months with meningitis and though he remembered nothing of his illness, he remembered every detail about his trip to Heaven.  His version involved flying on a giant butterfly with a mysterious youg woman whom he did not know. Later, when he finally hooked up with his biological mother after recovering from his illness, he saw a photo of his biological sister, now deceased, and recognized her as the woman on the butterfly with him soaring around in Heaven. He had never seen her in life  nor even knew that she existed. And that was his "proof".  I guess I will have to read his book to make sure I have that summary right, but that's what I got out of the short segment on Katie's show.

As a Christian, I have my own ideas about Heaven, but most of my conjured images don't involve flying around on a butterfly.  The Bible teaches us that we can't even imagine the riches that are in store for us in the hereafter, but we are taught that all of them involve being with God - "absent from the body, present with the Lord". 

Jesus was big on eating, so in my world, Heaven involves a marvelous feast where everyone I know is seated around a gigantic table filled with sumptuous foods, sharing laughter and love. They have saved a place for me at the table. My senses are heightened and I am perpetually in awe of the beauty surrounding me. I'm never cold. I walk with Jesus and we chat. I win at golf. I can sing like Celine. I am never afraid.

But let's be real - no one knows...really! So if Eben is indeed correct, Jesus, then I want a giant Cecropia Moth to ride, or one of those Avatar flying thingies...you know how I love roller coasters.  But if my version is right, then make sure You bring that special wedding feast wine. Now that's a Paradise I can hang my hat on!!

 
 

 
 Laurel.  "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived
what God has prepared for those who love him." 1Cor 2:9

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Sewing for a purpose...

Saturday was my third Dress a Girl Around the World SEWFEST at Bayside, and I am hooked - hooked on this ministry, hooked on the people who come to sew, hooked on creating these little dresses for girls everywhere! We learn a little more about this amazing organization each time we come and how it actually benefits young children in some of the worst countries in the world...places where women and little girls are routinely abused.

I hadn't really thought about the notion that when predators see a little girl in torn and dirty clothing, they assume that no one cares about her and thus she is a prime target for potential abuse. I, along with thousands of women around the country who care, want to change that.  And if a new little dress puts a smile on a girl and lifts her self image, then I am ALL IN!

I love the hearts of the ladies who come to the sewfests.  They love to sew, of course, but you can't help but feel like you are part of something special amidst the humming of machines, the laughter, the oohs and ahhs as women show their newest creations. I love is that you don't have to be an expert seamstress to join in...you just have to care.  I love seeing young teenagers show up to help - they iron, assemble, organize and seem to have a ball doing it.

Yesterday, we had several "newbies" at the monthly sewfest. 
It was my pleasure to come alongside Teddy to guide her through the simple pattern.

 
She heard about the Dress a Girl sewfest through a knitting friend and headed right for the store to get a new sewing machine...just for this ministry...you have to love that!
 
 
Teddy's first dress...I hate to sound all schmaltzy, but it gave me more joy just to watch her.
She may be blessing a little girl with her work, but I was so blessed by her joyful spirit .
 
 
My table mate Sue also helped a women who had come for the first time...
she was just learning to sew.
 
 
 
Our Bayside coordinator Sue spends a lot of time cutting,
sorting and generally getting the fabrics ready for the kit assembly.
There are piles and piles of little "soon to be dresses" in all stages of readiness. 
I volunteered to bring home a whole bin of fabrics to serge up the back seams,
before they are put in kits.
 
 
 
My homework...
 
 
I have added to my running total of dresses this month.
When I sew a dress I try to imagine what my own granddaughters might like to wear. 
The creativity that you are allowed in this simple dress pattern is limitless!
 
 
I had to add some red trim to this one...it was starting to look like a
University of Michigan cheerleader outfit with all that bright blue and yellow!! 
 
 
I love making the tiny dresses....
 
 
Details, details...
 
  
Who DOESN'T like Mary Englebright???
 
 
 
 
 
I tell you sincerely, it makes my heart sing!
 
 
Laurel. Dressing Girls Around the World, one little dress at a time:)

Friday, January 4, 2013

Technology Hell...

A test for you...

Which is more frustrating: a malfunctioning software or "chatting" with the technology support call center to fix it? I can't decide which has tried my patience more in the last week: Photoshop Elements 11 or the Adobe Call Center. I downloaded a trial version of this software that I have been using for years. I tried it out over a period of 30 days then decided to purchase it and download the "real" version online.

I should mention that I have used Photoshop Elements since PSE3.  It doesn't do every thing the giant Photo$hop does, but on the whole, I have been satisfied.  I can also say that I'm not a novice with the computer or this software.  So when it won't download my photos into the Organizer from either my camera or my iPhone after working perfectly in the trial version, Laurel is a tiny bit frustrated.

You can never actually talk to a human being when you have a technology problem.  Or you can wait for an hour just to connect to a breather in Outer Ubeckastan. The "CHAT NOW WITH A TECHNICIAN" feature available from all the software giants always seems like a viable alternative. However, your last raw nerve left from the harrowing "I can fix this problem myself" marathon is summarily smashed when you start chatting with the online Help Center.

I would like to be the person who invented the communication program that these representatives use.  There must be a whole keyboard of F1, F2 and so on buttons that instantaneously deliver such helpful phrases as:

Thank you for waiting.
 
I am still checking on this. Please be online.
 
Larel, as you are being able to import the files when moved to the desktop, the software is working fine as expected

Is he kidding??? And my very favorite (after an hour and half "chat" AND they have NOT fixed your problem):

Is there anything else I can help you with?

After that last catchy question, they slam the door on the chat. Left to my own devices, I have monkeyed around with my phone, my camera, the software...I've uninstalled, re-installed, poked and prodded, etc. and was finally able to get the Photo Downloader in PSE11 to recognize my camera, but it only downloaded the photos from my iPhone after about an hour of waiting. Now I ask you...would you be happy with this product? But then again, I must be too picky because "the software is working fine as expected".

Oh well...so much for this rant!! I'll post a pretty photo now...

Oh, but wait...It seems that my Blogger software has decided NOT to let me upload a photo directly from my computer...where did the "Browse" button disappear to?  I have to bring it in from "My Picasa Web Album?" Good grief. 

Laurel. Just shoot me.

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