Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Eat Some Real Pumpkin And Get Back to Me

I was at the grocery today and saw this and realized it's time for another rant on "pumpkin" flavored everything.

If you're too lazy to read any further, here's my point:  if you're looking for pumpkin flavor, what you are probably really looking for is pumpkin PIE flavor.  And what you really want is probably cinnamon, nutmeg and maybe cloves.

And, before you leave, if you look at most of the things that are "pumpkin flavored" it says right on it that it's artificial flavor.

So, for those who are too busy to keep reading, think about what you're actually drinking or eating the next time that you buy a pumpkin flavored item.  Take a look at the ingredients.  Think about whether or not that's really something you want to consume or give your growing children.  Toodaloo.

For the rest of you who want to see where this goes, let's get moving.

Have you ever actually had a piece of pumpkin?  Not from a can, I mean from an actual pumpkin.  As in, you took a pumpkin, baked or roasted it, peeled off the skin and then ate it?

Probably not.  Because really, pumpkin itself isn't at all what pumpkin pie tastes like.  Remember, pumpkin is a squash.  Like acorn squash, butternut/winter squash, etc.

And generally, we do not crave a snack and think "ah yes, a nice, plain piece of squash would really hit the spot right now".

I'd love for you pumpkin lovers to try that.  Are you still there?  Eat a piece of cooked pumpkin.  Put a piece in your unflavored coffee, even, and tell me about how much you still LOVE pumpkin flavored stuff.

I would bet your face would tell us all what a grave disappointment you've just experienced.

Pumpkin can be really tasty when you add a little butter or sugar and the proper spices to make it a side dish for supper.  Roast it, bake it, broil it (boil it if you have to but I've stopped boiling vegetables because they lose so much flavor).  It will still be squash like, and maybe a little sweet, depending on what you add in, but it's not something you usually would think would flavor up your latte in the morning and make you think of fall. 

If you're eating it with the  main meal, you aren't expecting it to be super sweet and spiced up.

Now, pumpkin pie?  That's an entirely different story.  Pumpkin pie is make with sugar and spices, sometimes with sweetened, condensed milk, depending on your recipe.  And it's sweet and really good.

And when you want a snack, pumpkin pie probably would hit the spot.

It makes me really sad that mass marketing has so brainwashed people into thinking that a) pumpkin flavor means fall and b) what you're eating and drinking is really pumpkin flavor.

If they admit that it's artificially flavored, then you're not even experiencing the flavors that make a real pumpkin pie!  It just more fakety fake fake stuff that you're putting into your body and missing out on the real stuff.

I mentioned canned pumpkin earlier and probably made it sound like that was also a bad choice.  Since it's rare to find fresh pumpkin in stores, I have no issue with canned pumpkin for pies or breads, but just beware that when you open the can, unless it says "pie ready" or something like that, it has no flavor added in.  It's just boiled pumpkin pureed and canned.   No sugar, no spices.

My family had first hand experience with the plain canned pumpkin in a pie twice when my grandmother completely forgot to put in the spices.  It was such a let down to get ready for a nice piece of pie, wonder why it wasn't really smelling as awesome as it should, and then everyone started doing that slow chew, fork in mid air, what is wrong with this pie dance.

Twice, I tell you.

To finish my little rant, I have to point out that today is August 17th.  AUGUST.  Is August part of fall?

No, I just checked.   August falls distinctly in summer, no matter where you look up seasons in the US.  Yes, in the southern hemisphere it's a different story, I know.  But even you are not looking at fall when you are in August.  You're looking toward spring!

So, why am I seeing this display in AUGUST?  Why are people jumping up and down with glee on social media because various coffee shops are already selling their spiced pumpkin lattes and pumpkin coffees?

We haven't even started school yet in my neck of the woods, and as I type it's 85 degrees and I'm DYING.

I assure you, this is not fall.

So, let's recap.  All of you who run around saying you love pumpkin?  You're going to open a can of canned pumpkin, not pie ready, and try some in your coffee tomorrow.  You're going to report back to us and tell us how wise I am.

Or even better you're going to find out that you end up liking actual pumpkin (even from a can) and you can't even imagine what that crap is they have been selling you and you'll start a new trend of adding canned pumpkin to everything and call it "pumpkin" flavored whatever.

But you'll be telling the truth.  And then it will spread and all of the pumpkin farmers will see a boom in demand and there will be pumpkins growing everywhere.

I just ask you to PLEASE wait until the end of September, when fall really starts.

Monday, August 15, 2016

The Summer The Chino Bug Bit Me

So, I've been a little busy this summer with the Chitown Chinos shorts and skirt pattern from Alina Design Co.  I first saw something about it on instagram when someone was pattern testing and the look of the shorts was exactly what I like in a pair of shorts, so I bought the pattern as soon as it was available.  It was a little lengthy and my first foray into the world of pants.  I quickly figured out the length of the directions was just the great wording of the details and why each step was necessary for great results.  I really like how Alina wrote the directions because just when I wondered why I would do something, the next paragraph told me why!

The zippper was my biggest fear but the pattern explains how to do it so well, it's completely painless.

In case zippers really scare you, I'll tell you that in this pattern, you do it way before you've joined the front to the back, so you're only dealing with the two pieces of the front.  No bulk, nothing to move out of the way.

This pattern is something you should try if you have done some sewing.  If you have never sewn, I would not suggest starting here because it can look overwhelming with all of the many steps and details for the finished product.

I thought I had been posting all about these shorts and skirts all summer until I realized the only one I posted was this one, my muslin pair. I explain a lot about the actual making of them there.  I really liked this pattern right from the beginning, so after I made this pair and realized my ridiculous mistake with the darts, I went to Joann fabrics and bought several pieces of material to make some shorts and skirts.

And I bought the zippers to go with them which meant it was real.  No buying fabric and leaving it in a pile for later.

The best part of this pattern is that it takes so little fabric.  And for someone on the short side, even less fabric.  I think if I buy a yard, I have plenty leftover, especially if I use different fabric for the pockets and facings and if there is not right or wrong direction.  Directional patterns or pattern matching would take more fabric, I would imagine.

So, I give you my vast collection of Chitown Chinos shorts and skirts.

I saved my favorite skirt and shorts for the end, so if I'm boring you, just skip right down.  I'll have lots of anecdotes along the way, so you might miss out if you jump right to the bottom!

My muslin turned out very wearable and I have worn them several times even though the zipper became velcro and the darts don't exist.  I have enough of that fabric that I could probably make more, and maybe even a skirt, but enough's enough, right?

Plus, I'm holding out for a potential pants version which I could make into capris and that fabric would be great for capris, right?  Especially a wearable muslin capri.

I wore these to a "paint night" at the Cultural Center and one of the artists saw me in the parking lot and said "Oh, I see you've got your paint shorts on!"  I didn't know what she meant, so I kind of smiled and then later she said "oh, those are FLOWERS.  I thought they were paint smudges"

Not even sure how to deal with that comment.  I laugh every time I wear them now.

On with the show.  You can click on any picture to enlarge it so you can see some of the details.  That's especially helpful if you are thinking you want to make them but you aren't sure about some things. 


This was supposed to be a cute, whimsical skirt that I was going to make this way and then make another with the other side of the fabric because it was hard to tell which way was the right way.  It turned out to be a total beeeeyotch and would not hold a crease.  It's deceptively thick but also rolls, my machine wasn't a fan of it and when I couldn't get the creases to stay, I was furious.


I was even more furious when I went down a size, realized this fabric had NO GIVE WHATSOEVER and had to put it on my etsy to save my sanity.

I made another one in my actual size but I'm still not loving the fit.  I love the fabric color and it's cute but I will NOT use what I have left for anything in the near future.

I'm showing the inside and outside of each because I used different fabric for all of the pockets and on one skirt, I used different fabric for the facings too.  I love how the inside fabrics are a surprise and I feel so professional every time I see it!

On instagram, we call it #prettyguts.

Also, the thinner cotton or rayon reduces bulk.  Some of the fabrics are thick enough that pockets of the same material would have added a lot of thickness around my hips.

I try to avoid thickness at my hips, at all costs.


For each piece, I tried to find a button that either matched perfectly or added some detail.  I  have, like so many of us, a container of random buttons that I've found, cut off of things going into the trash or kept from purchased clothes that give you an extra button  just in case.  I'm happy to say I didn't have to buy a single button!

Since I now have On Aunt Mildred's Porch tags, I tried to remember to put one in every piece.  It's something I forgot almost every time and would remember at the very last second.  None of them are in straight, but they are all in, so that's a win.  They are sew in tags and can't go on after the fact, so I just have to get used to thinking ahead of time when I will need to put them in.

Adding a tag makes me feel like they are not frumpy and homemade.  The tags also confuse me and make me think the size will be listed there too, which is ridiculous.

 I ended up using a variety of sizes and I'm getting to the point where I can't remember which I did bigger or smaller.  So, I think "oh, I'll just look at the tag".


This skirt was the last one I made, so I had learned a few things by then.  It is a twill and probably the heaviest, stiffest twill I have ever touched.  I realized there was no give at all, so I went up a size in this and that was a great decision.  This also has a very specific direction to the nap, like a corduroy, so I had to be careful about making sure I got it right.

Also, it's a magnet.  I have managed to collect every thread, cat hair, piece of grass imaginable.  I'd like to think over time it might soften and somehow attract less cat hair but I suspect this skirt will label me a crazy cat lady. 
This is the only piece where I used the same lighter fabric for the waistband facings and the pockets.  There was no way that a) my machine was going to like going through so much bulk at the waist if I used the same twill or b) my waistline was going to look good with that bulk.  This was a GREAT decision.

I also went a little longer with the length and did a double stitch on the hem.  I did a great job with the topstitching on this, I'm not afraid to brag, but it matches way too well, so no one will notice my precision.

What I love about this pattern is the details.  It takes longer and you might question why you are working so hard at something that people might not see if you don't tuck in your shirts (because I rarely tuck them in) but it really makes them sit different and look really good.  DO NOT skimp on all of the details in the pattern.


When I bought this denim fabric, I expected it to be heavier, and even when I felt it, I thought it was heavy, so I bought "jeans thread" to go with it.  It's that certain color you see in RTW jeans that you can't seem to replicate with the regular yellows, and it's a little thicker.

This fabric did not need a thick thread, so it wobbled a lot and wasn't so great on the inside.  The outside is fine.

I haven't shown you any backs but on all of the skirts, this is  how I did my pockets.  I was going to put flaps like I did on all of my shorts but I can't remember why I didn't on the first one, and I just kept them off for the rest.

I'm sure it was a bulk thing.

I also didn't do belt loops on any of the skirts but I did on all of the shorts.


These shorts are a great color but the fabric isn't as heavy as I think it should be for this style.  It's a bottom weight from Joann but it's almost like a linen.  It really wrinkles by the end of the day.


On all of my shorts, I did flaps on the pockets with contrasting fabric on the inside of the flaps, just as I did on the insides.

And now, my favorite pair of shorts.  The weight of this denim is just perfect and they are slightly darker than they look here.  When I first saw the flowers, I wasn't sure it was going to look that great.  


I think I had jeans like this when I was in elementary school which I later thought were stupid, but as shorts, this fabric is fantastic.


For all of my shorts, I did a 3.5 inch hem.  I think the pattern suggests longer, and I've seen them longer on some people on instagram, but this is the length I prefer in my shorts.  I took a pair of RTW chino shorts that I love and used them to figure out the length.

It's here that I need to tell you a funny little story.  I have read this pattern now a million times.  Before using it the first time, I went over it with a fine toothed comb.  Every time I put in a zipper, I thought it was so strange that one side was never mentioned.  I managed to sew it down along the way, but in one pair, I had to go in and whipstitch it by hand because it was swinging in the breeze.

With all of the details that were so great, I couldn't believe this side of the zipper was supposed to just go free.

And then, on the very last skirt, I happened to see this paragraph at the top.  Explaining how to do that other side.

How on earth I missed it, I can't tell you.  And how I managed to secure every zipper by accident,  except for one, is also a mystery.

If there wasn't some ridiculous tidbit every time I show you something new that I've sewn, you'd be reading the wrong blog.  It's kind of my job, I guess.  Screw it up somewhere along the line and tell you so you don't do the same thing.

Here are some pictures of how they look on me.  And from what I've seen, how they look on everyone else.




And now, for my favorite skirt.

This is a print I've seen on instagram several times, and only after I had it at home did I realize it had a slight stretch.  It's a sateen.  I'm told there's also a linen of this exact print, but I hadn't seen it.  And I'm not always a lover of linen because I make it look like I've slept in it about 3.5 seconds after I've put it on.
Had I realized it was slightly stretchy, I would have actually gone down a size.  By the end of the day, it's fairly loose at the waist.

All of my skirts are 8 inches from the bottom of the zipper except the black twill one.  That is meant to be 9 inches but I think it's more like 8.5.  Some hems are fairly wide like this and some are narrower, like my black one, depending on the mood that hit me at the time and how much length I had available. 

So, I have made a promise to my wallet that there will be no more shorts or skirts for a while.  I have no need, my closet is full.

If I added up what I spent in total, I'd say that I spent no  more than $10 per piece because I got some good deals, there isn't a lot of fabric necessary and all of the inside fabrics, buttons and most thread were already in my stash.

But if those pants get released, I'll be all over it.

Linking here:

http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2016/08/clever-chicks-blog-hop-204-featuring.html
http://www.pluckys-secondthought.com/cooking-crafting-j-j-link-61-60-features/
http://www.thesitsgirls.com
http://www.sewcando.com/2016/08/craftastic-monday-link-party-giveaway.html
http://olives-n-okra.com/merry-monday-117/ 
http://www.quiltingroomwithmel.com/2016/08/fiber-tuesday-73.html

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Running An Asylum, Or A Campground

Growing up in a seasonal campground, I have answered the phone since I was about 8 and knew the "no tents allowed" refrain way before I understood town by-laws.  The town says no, so we don't push it.

Though we must lose a TON of money every summer having to turn away tenters.  It seems every other phone call is for a tent.  And they are absolutely shocked that we don't have tent sites.  Like it's a personal affront to them.

Everyone else can have a tent, but I chose you to be the unlucky one who can't come.

And then they ask if there's anywhere nearby that does.  I have a serious issue sending business elsewhere, even if it's because I can't service them myself, and thanks to google, I don't have to.  I just tell them to google tents sites on Cape Cod and they'll find something.  They don't usually like that answer but it's just as easy as me spelling something for them and giving them a number.  Plus, who has a pen and paper handy to take down that information anymore?

Some are persistent, so I give them the two state parks which  are equally nowhere near ours.  And then they yell at me that it's so far from where they want to be.

Then fork over the cash for a pricey hotel room or house, like everyone else.

My parents were away recently, and the calls were forwarded to my house.  So, I had the privilege of answering calls, pretty much at any hour, for a week or so.  11pm to ask for a campsite?  Sure.  Arguing with me at 9:30pm because we don't allow you in?  Why not.

Remember when I said I've been answering the phone my entire life?  I thought I'd heard it all.  Like, seriously, how many more ways can a person ask to reserve a site?

And then I got this call:

Hello?

Umm, yeah, hi, umm how much would it be if I brung my own tent?

I should have just hung up there because seriously "if I brung my own tent???"

But, out of sheer curiosity, I hung on to see what would come next.

And because I needed some blog fodder.

We don't have tent sites.

Oh, ok, but what if I brung my own?

Yeah, we don't have tent sites.

Ok, but how much is it to stay in a tent.

We don't have tent sites.  Like, umm, we don't allow them..  NO TENTS.

looooooooooong pause....Oh, ok.  Are there any places that do?

No, not that I know of.  Hee hee.  Like not in the entire world.  There are no places that allow tents.

And then there was a couple who rents this swanky house in the summer because we live in such an idyllic place, and they stay in their motorhome.  They didn't have a tent, so it should have been smooth sailing.  They just wanted to stay for the night and since they have a house in Swanksterville, I said it was fine.

We don't usually allow locals because they aren't usually renting out swanky houses.  They are usually going from winter to summer to winter rental and it's not pretty.   They load up the Clampett mobile and everyone and the dog moves in the for the summer and they end up taking over way more than their one site allows and it's just a headache.

And we just aren't that kind of place.  Two weeks and then it's au revoir until next year.  We are a seasonal vacation destination, not a residential trailer park.

But Swanksterville is too pricey for me to even enter the town so I knew this was no winter rental situation and when she drove in, she had a lovely motorhome that was exactly what I pictured one needs to own if one comes from Swanksterville.

She pulled in all cheery and I could see a million things jammed into this motorhome, clothes hanging all over the place.  I got a little nervous.  Maybe she was an imposter.  She wasn't swanky, she just lied to get in!

Who am I kidding, we are not that much of a hot commodity.

Out popped a tiny woman with crazy white hair, in her one piece bathing suit.  Who runs around in just a bathing suit?  Excuse me, who drives a motorhome around in a one piece bathing suit.  It's just bizarre.  There are rules for bathing suits.  If you're in the beach parking lot, driving the one mile home from the parking lot, walking the one mile to the beach, then parading around in your bathing suit is fine.

You do not go to the store in your bathing suit, you don't clean your house for renters and then drive 8 miles in your motorhome in your bathing suit and for God's sake, you don't ever get into any argument with someone while you're in just your bathing suit.  Not that it's every happened to me, but I think you would be about as vulnerable in your bathing suit as you would be if you were naked.

It would have been funny if she'd started arguing with me, though.

So, out she popped and her first words as she looked around the driveway were Oh, Harry isn't here yet, huh?

Not that I know of....  Harry is a.......

Man.  Driving a white Volvo.  Oh, he does this.  He gets lost.  He's such a scatterbrain.  He doesn't follow directions.

She kept looking around like Harry was hiding his Volvo under one of the trucks or behind a building.

So, he's not here.  Oh dear.

I felt like I was reading a novel.  A breezy summer beach read where the main characters are airheads who have too much money and run around in bathing suits and do ditzy things like get lost on an island.

Meanwhile she kept sticking her fingers along the legs of her suit to try to straighten it out like you do when you first get out of the water.  Except it was loose enough to almost be hanging so no adjustments were necessary.  But she kept tugging at it looking less and less sure of what was happening.

She was small enough that I was towering over her, which says a lot.

I encouraged her to come in and register and let's get this circus underway.  As she frolicked up the brick walkway, I realized she was completely empty handed which meant she had no way to pay because Harry must hold the purse strings.

Harry who is blindly driving around wondering where his wife went with their swanky motorhome filled with everything the renters wouldn't be allowed to use in their house this week.

All the tugging on that bathing suit wasn't producing the jackpot she needed.

She came in and registered but of course, had to confess, that Harry must be going to the bank and she couldn't pay right now but she would come up first thing tomorrow.

Fine, or even when Harry gets here tonight, I suggested.  No response.

As she skipped back down the walkway, she reminded me  Harry drives a white Volvo and he would probably drive through a few times looking for the place.

Can't wait.  I'll catch him on the 3rd or 4th round.

But my week was made when I got this phone call:

Hello?

Oh hi, (very boisterous accent, very loud, already thinks he owns the place) yeah, I'd like to book a site for tonight for a large SUV and a boat.

Did he just say BOAT?  He wants to park his BOAT in a trailer park?  Has the heat already gotten to my brain?

Oh, sorry, you need to have a trailer or motorhome.

Oh, that's ok, I can just stay in my large SUV.

Oh, no, sorry, you can't.

Why?  I can't park my boat there like a a trailer and stay in my large SUV?

No.

No, seriously, why can't I do that?

Because this isn't a marina.

But, really, I can 't stay there?  You're seriously telling ME that I can't pay you to park my boat and my large SUV in your campground?  Why? (his teachers must have LOVED his unending questions)


Yes,  Robert DeNiro, I am telling YOU that you can't stay.  See, you have a large SUV.  If it was a small SUV and a boat, no problem.

Because you have to have a shower and a toilet inside your motorhome or trailer.

Ooooooooooh, cool, I get it.  Thanks.

Camping brings out the most peculiar side of humanity and every summer, I get to witness it first hand!

Linking here:
http://lifeasweknowitbypaula.blogspot.com/2016/08/no-rules-weekend-blog-party-195.html
http://olives-n-okra.com/funtastic-friday-87/ 
http://www.thesitsgirls.com/sharefest/august-13th-saturday-sharefest/

Monday, August 8, 2016

An Overabundance of Greenies

With 3 cats, I go through a lot of cat food.  When they were still kittens, everything was going along fine until one or all of them ended up with  digestion issue.  I spent most of the fall trying to figure out what was going on.   And cleaning up a lot of messy cat boxes.

I took them to the vet and had a bunch of tests nothing was coming up. but my bank account was quickly depleting.

Eventually, I narrowed it down to just one cat but what was the cause?

They lived on boiled chicken and rice for about a month and LOVED it.  I'd blend it into like a pate and they thought this was the life.  But,  I worried they weren't getting all of the nutrients that little cats need and I could not face the idea of being a kitty chef for the rest of their lives.  I had to get back to cat food and figure out what was causing the bad stomach.

Finally, I decided the one thing that was in every food I gave them was grain, so I went with a grain free variety called Nutrisca.  At the time, this was easy to get at my grocery store, and sometimes I was lucky enough to get it on sale.  It was super expensive and I shook my head every time I bought it because I could not believe I had cats with some kind of grain intolerance.

Other grain free varieties still bothered one of them, so I also think maybe it's something beyond the grain.

I tried finding it cheaper online and couldn't and then discovered it's rarely available anywhere.  This worried me because it was the ONLY thing that stopped everyone's bowel issues and that they seemed to like.  I had to stockpile it in case my store stopped carrying it.

But these gangster cats can smell it from a mile away, so I can't have the bags anywhere where they can get to them.  They will gnaw right into it, even with a bowl full of it in front of them.  I don't want to have a big barrel of food in my house like I'm running a barn.

So, I carried bags of it around in my car.  Seriously.

And then, it happened.

I ran out.  And none of the stores nearby carried it. 

I went with another choice which seems to be tolerated but I still wanted to go back to the Nutrisca because it had such  great results.

I found it on amazon.com for a slightly reasonable price for a 13 pound bag.  Along with it, I got some Greenies because my vet suggested them for tartar control.  I already had a container, but thought a back up would be good since those also are not in my local stores.

When the box arrived, I could hear kibble rolling around and the cats were extremely excited about the box.  I knew this was a bad sign.  When I opened it, the bag was sliced open and kibble was everywhere.

The cats couldn't believe their good fortune that a buffet was now set up in the living room.

I got right online with amazon and they said they would replace the bag because it wasn't returnable.  This made me really happy because that meant an extra 13 pound bag for free :)

But, along with that bag came another container of Greenies!  I guess she just put the whole order through again, not just that one item.

So now, not only do I have to store 26 pounds of cat food, I also have 3 containers of Greenies that these fools are trying to get into on a regular basis.

A good problem to have, but a puzzle, nonetheless.

These cats are only a year old, so there are many years of food ahead of us and I have no idea what I'm going to do. 

I was not paid to do a review of Nutrisca but since I am running a feline circus over here, I'd love to do a paid review or be paid in dry cat food :)

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

My Love Affair With the Greenwood Tank

It's been so hot and humid for the past few weeks, sewing hasn't really been something I've wanted to do even though I've had lots of sewing plans on my radar.  The very same sewing room that freezes me to my death in the winter is nothing but an oven after 12 pm most summer days.

However, desperation and a slight dip in humidity and temperatures brought me to the Greenwood Tank which I had bought but sort of forgot about.  After making a series of chitown chinos shorts and skirts, I realized I didn't have any summer tops that really go with them.  Not too smart on my part.

I have the Just A Tank pattern that I used to draft these dresses, but this wasn't the neckline I was going for.  And then I remembered the Greenwood tank from straightstichdesigns

I've always been worried about this kind of bound edge because I am very bad at catching both the top and bottom when I topstitch.  But, as I went, I got better at it.

I bought some knit fabrics from imaginegnats in the spring, and they've been burning a hole in my sewing table all summer.  One of the reasons I've waited is because my serger thread was pink and all of my knits are dark so....

I used it for the first tank I made since it was my muslin and I figured I'd wear it as a workout top, so who cares.  Then I bit the bullet and rethreaded that effing machine with dark thread since I also plan to make a couple of dark colored skirts when I'm done.

What's nice about this tank is that it's literally just a front and back piece and 3 strips for the bindings.  There are two views of the neckline and I chose to use the same piece for the front and back because I just don't like high backs on tank tops.

These two tops are VERY different weights and I especially love the lighter blue on the left.  I thought that was going to perfectly go with the denim rose shorts I just made, but it didn't look right, so I had to make one more!

This darker blue looked much better with the shorts.  But this one gave me fits.


While this one has the best top stitching and hem, there's something wrong with either the neckline or the binding on one side and I spent an entire day pulling up the strap to cover my bra strap.  The other two are not like that, so I am certain it's operator error.

Speaking of hems, I have a very hard time with hems on knits.  I've tried double needles and just one needle.  I've watching a million videos.  And I was convinced it was my machine the other day when I tried and tried and could not get a hem with any give, no matter the needles, the tension or the stitch.

It pushed me to tears because the hem is necessary to look finished but the thread kept popping!  How can I make a nice piece and then not hem it or hem it by hand????

Then I watched one more video about double needles and decided to try rolling my hem up twice to give it something to actually sew through.

That's the inside with the double needle and that seemed to be much better.    With a loose dress bottom it's not such a big deal because the dresses is flowy and not tight but when you're wearing a shirt, putting it on and taking it off puts a lot of stress on that bottom hem.

I need a coverstitch machine to solve all of my problems, obviously.

But even a coverstitch machine would not take the dimwit out of my sewing room.  Lately, I've been putting my labels in my clothes, but remembering to put them in before I finish them is quite a challenge.  These labels need to be sewn into a seam, not applied afterwards, so if I miss my window, I can't put them in.

I was really good about putting them in and then I did this.

I put it in backwards.  And upside down.  But I really liked the topstitching so I wasn't willing to undo all of my good work.  No one will see it anyway.

And this was the shirt with the strange one side, which part way through the conference I was attending I turned around, thinking maybe my other side might be a different shape and work better.  It did fit slightly better, but I knew the tag was in the front for the rest of the day.  And it distracted me.  A lot!

I definitely like this pattern and it gives you enough space with the binding that you can catch both sides if you pin it and go slowly.  Two things I don't love to do.

Bo is ever so helpful while I sew.  He doesn't usually do anything except lay on what I just cut out, but taking a cue from Daisy, he decided to sit right on my arm as I was trying to make the first tank.  At one point, his tail was wrapped around my arm.

I'm a little late to the Greenwood Tank party as I look at all of the posts on instagram and they are from last year, but if you're looking for a quick and easy tank, this is it!

Linking here:
http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2016/07/clever-chicks-blog-hop-202-featuring.html
http://www.thesitsgirls.com
http://www.thetipgarden.com/2016/07/country-fair-blog-party-august-16.html
http://olives-n-okra.com/merry-monday-116/
http://www.sewcando.com/2016/07/hello-august-its-craftastic-monday-link.html
http://www.flamingotoes.com/2016/08/show-tell-link-party-7/

Monday, July 18, 2016

A Variation on Shrimp Tacos

I posted about Shrimp Tacos around this time last year but I've recently edited the recipe and like it much better.

The first recipe called for mangoes and they aren't all that easy to come by here.  They are expensive and I worry about all of the chemicals they've seen on their long journey.

Instead, I used peaches since it's high peach season and I can get them locally.

The original recipe also calls for so much butter I can't even write the amount.  I never made it with that much butter, even when I did it with mangoes.

So, here's the new and improved version.  This fed two people for supper  with a small amount left for lunch the next day.  The amount of shrimp left was really not worth bothering, so if you are feeding the masses, figure on doubling or tripling this recipe.  The salsa gets better with age, so plan to make more!


2 lbs of shrimp
2-3 peaches
bunch of cilantro
a medium onion- to your liking
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
2 limes
honey for drizzling
shredded cabbage- I used the bagged kind but you could shred
about a half a cabbage
cheese of your choice- I used jack because it's what I had
burrito wraps

Make the salsa first so the flavors can start blending:

Dice the peaches, onion and cilantro.  Add cumin, juice of both limes and sugar to your liking.  Depending on how much lime juice you get, you might need to adjust.

Cook the shrimp however you cook it.  I use nothing but the water I've rinsed them with.

When cooked, chop the shrimp and drizzle with a little honey.


On each burrito wrap, place some cabbage, shrimp, salsa and cheese.  Roll and eat.  So good but soooooo drippy and messy so  have lots of napkins handy!

Linking here:
http://www.sewcando.com/2016/07/its-time-for-craftastic-monday-link.html
http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2016/07/clever-chick-blog-hop-200-featuring.html
http://olives-n-okra.com/merry-monday-113/
http://www.flamingotoes.com/2016/07/show-tell-link-party-51-20/

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

The French Teacher Has Left the Building

As this school year ended, I was on pins and needles for a month waiting to find out if I had a new job.  I didn't blog during that time because I was so busy holding my breath and distracted by thoughts of what.was.I.doing changing things midstream???

The position of Assistant Director of Digital Learning and Library Services (it rolls right off the tongue, doesn't it?) became available and after a lot of thinking about it and people telling me I should apply, I decided to give it a shot.

Some of you just had to pick yourselves off the floor because this is the first you've read about it and I'm sorry for the shock.  I'm not sure I really know what I've gotten myself into either! 
only just started, sort of, I'm just explaining it as I understand it will be.  Basically, I will be teaching teachers new ideas in technology, making sure they are up to date with any new software (like gradebooks) that they have to use and helping them use technology smoothly in the classroom.
Clearly, not the French I've been teaching for 20 years.

When I moved to the 4/5 building 3 years ago, that was a move that I didn't initiate and it really threw me for a loop.  I was glad to have a job, glad to be in the same district and glad to be teaching the same subject.  But 4th and 5th graders are not middle schoolers, so it was a 3 year transition period for me.

I loved the kids, didn't love the old institutional feel of the building and wasn't in love with only having each class once a week.  I felt like I wasn't making connections with kids. The schedule was crazy and I repeated myself ALL.DAY.LONG because I had so many classes.

The kids I made the biggest connections with were those that I had in enrichment, which meant I had them in their regular French class plus one or two more classes.  I really need to see kids more than once a week to feel like I know who they are.

I have been teaching French since my first day as a professional teacher, and I figured I'd do it until I retire.  I was good at what I did in middle school and I loved seeing the progress.  It took me 3 years in the lower grades, but I started to  like the small progress I saw there too.

But oh, that progress was so tiny because of the lack of contact time I had with them!

The girl who had been in my new position this past year is someone I've worked with for a long time and I was thrilled for her that she got the job last fall.  I kept an eye on what she did all year and kept thinking "I could do that."  She's my age, so I knew she wouldn't retire before me, so I figured it would be something I could fantasize about when I was repeating myself for the umpteenth time this week.

And suddenly, she told me she wants to go back into the classroom, so she told me to apply.

I thought the idea was crazy because technology is something I embrace, though sometimes reluctantly, but do I have the skills to do what the position requires?

As time went on and the position was posted, two more people actually came to me and said I should apply.  I am not one to make rash decisions, and change is the last thing I seek in my life, but when THREE people came to my door and told me this is something I should pursue, I thought maybe I better get on it.

It's a total leap for me because I will not be a classroom teacher.  As in, no teacher's union.  For those of you who don't believe in unions, I have to say that on many occasions in my 2 decades of teaching, our union has put a stop to some very ugly things that were happening from above and it's been something that I have happily been a part of because of the support they've given me.

To be out on my own is very scary for me.  I actually had to sign a new contract!

So what will I do?  We have 6 schools in the district, so I will be in and out of all 6 of them.  I will have mandatory things that I have to make sure everyone knows how to use, but then I will also be available to see individual teachers or small groups to share some exciting new apps, new ways to use technology, help them figure out why something isn't working, etc.

I will also have to teach a grad course in the spring and summer, which is something that people have always looked forward to because it opens so many doors into the tech world and using tech in the classroom.  It was one of those tech grad courses that helped me learn how to blog and I also  found a French woman with whom I did penpals for years.

There's also a lot of mystery to what this job will entail.  Some of it is carved in stone and I will just fill in the blanks.  But, I can also start new endeavors and sort of take it where I want to go.  That kind of freedom and unknown is really scary for someone who has lived by the bell for 20 years as a teacher, but really, my entire life because I went right from being a student to being a teacher.

I have no idea how to not jump up every 50 minutes to welcome the next class.

I've also never spent any time in an office.  I was never a receptionist.  I've never made phone calls in front of people.  And my desk will practically be on top of the secretary in the tech office, so to say things will be tight and not private is an understatement.

I will be like a wild animal in a cage, I imagine.

But then there's the bright light of not really being tied to a desk because I will be all over the place.

It's 15 more days than my current teaching schedule but those 15 days are not determined for me.  So, I could work some days during a school vacation and take other days off when everyone is in school.  I can decide when to go in during the summer and count those days.

Remember all the time I spent in August getting ready for school?  Now those will be legit work days and I won't be sweating and swearing getting my classroom ready.

After all that work to get a cabinet in my room the first year I was in the lower grades, packing this year meant actually packing to leave.  Most teachers just put everything away for the summer.  I've always been good about having my system of where everything goes.

This year, I had to pack to leave but also figure out what is  mine and what is theirs. There are many things that were given to me or donated over the years.  Thankfully, I always labeled everything as the school's or mine so I could just go through and sort.

But that was a lot of sorting.

And I didn't find out for sure that this job would be mine until the  morning of the last day of school.  So, my packing was not quite as organized or as pleasant and I had hoped.  I thought I might know in early June and would start bringing things home early.  Since I didn't know that early, I didn't start bringing stuff home in the event that I was actually returning to my classroom.

No sense bringing everything home only to bring it all back in 2 months.

I brought several car loads home but on the afternoon of that last day, I really needed the dumptruck to bring home those final big things.  I didn't want to leave that giant bookcase that we just made last year.

And after all those years that I refused to spend money on my classroom, I actually caved and bought some things because that classroom had no storage the first year and I couldn't live out of rubbermaid tubs on the floor.

But, that also meant I had to completely rearrange my storage space upstairs in my house to fit all of this in.  I knew how I wanted to do it, but it was a matter of moving all kinds of things in my house, just as I was moving things out of  my classroom.

And that last week of school was pretty  hot.  And humid.  Not the kind of weather that inspires moving a muscle, let alone actual furniture.  In the hot upstairs of my house.

And to top it off, I was planning to go to my sister's for a few days the weekend after we got out, so everything had to be in place before I left since I literally put most of it on the lawn under a tent when I first got home!


I left a cabinet full of things for the replacement they get for my position.  I have a year leave of absence, so if this isn't the job of my dreams, I can go back, having lost just one year.  I assume they will get a French teacher to take over while I am running around sharing the joys of technology, so I left some things in my room.  I left posters on the walls and some paintings that I had collected that I have no use for or interest in.  I left all of the materials that were from the district in that cabinet.  And I left 3 years of memories that went by in a blur.

It was pretty weird to take this sign off the door, knowing it will not go back up in August.

I'm excited, curious and mostly unsure about what's coming.  The director of technology will be my boss and I've known him for a long time.  He's witnessed everything I've done with technology in my classes, so he knows what to expect.  The technology techs will also be in the office with me and I know them well because of the wildly insane things that my computers have done over the years requiring work orders.

People keep saying "oh, so you won't be a teacher anymore?"  All of my teacher friends reading this know, once a teacher, always a teacher in every.single.aspect of your life!  I will still teach, but my audience will be adults more than kids.  I certainly won't hesitate to work with kids and there will be times when I will be in a classroom and can help kids.

But I've always taught at the gym.  I can't help putting on my teacher hat at the barn when someone has a question.  When I used to do promotions for liquor, I would find myself giving long explanations of the product.  I even teach my plants in my garden who's boss.

So while my position has changed, I'm still a teacher.  You can take the teacher out of the classroom, but you can't take the teacher out of the teacher!

Thank goodness I know how to blog so I can tell you all about it!  I'm also on instagram as @thesassytechnologist where I plan to share all of my wildly juicy secrets about technology in the classroom!