For my regular visitors, if you find that this blog hasn't been updating much lately, chances are pretty good I've been spending my writing energy on my companion blog. Feel free to pop over to Moving On, and see what else has been going on.

Friday, March 30, 2007

new library list

Eldest wasn't planning to take anything out at all after returning the books I'd picked up for her last time, but just couldn't resist this bunch.

Polymer; The Chameleon Clay: techniques to use polymer clay to imitate natural materials, such as jade, turquoise, and so on. Quite cool.

Making and Manipulating Marionettes: this one ties in very well with Eldest's interest in dollmaking.

Decorative Wirework; 50+ ideas for using wire to decorate you home, yourself or your favourite things: A very long title for a fairly short but very thorough book. Some very nice idea in there.

Making Creative Cloth Dolls: Some very freaky looking dolls in this one! LOL

As usual, I took out far more books than I should have. *L*

With Easter on the horizon and a new supply of wax resist dying supplies, I couldn't resist a couple of books on decorating eggs for Easter. It's easy enough to find Ukrainian designs, and I appreciate the artistry of what are usually highly geometric designs, I have a personal preference for the most fluid designs more usual to Poland. When I spotted Lithuanian Easter Eggs, the cover of which I recognized from a website I was looking at just this morning, I snapped it up. The designs are much the same as the Polish ones I like - which makes sense, since Poland and Lithuania were once a single country. I also found the Great Book of Egg Decorating, which has some interesting techniques as well as designs for other occasions other than Easter.

Shisha Mirror Embroidery; A Contemporary Approach: well, maybe not contemporary anymore. The colours and designs are quite dated, but it's the techniques I got this one for. Now, if I could just find some shisha mirrors. I have a skirt I'd like to use them on.

Beaded Dimensional Embroidery: Some very interesting projects in here. I don't imagine I'd actually make any of them, but there are definitely some ideas worth keeping in mind.

Cultural Accents; 60+ Fun, Fashion and Home Decor Projects: I got this one for the gorgeous ethnic patterns. I can easily see translating them into embroidery and or beading projects.

The Crafters Pattern Sourcebook; 1001 Classic Motifs from Around the World and Through the Ages: While there are a few colour photos in there, this book is predominantly patterns as line drawings, sorted by culture and ethnic background.

By Hand; 25 Beautiful Objects to Make in the American Folk Art Tradition: Some unusual modern interpretations of traditional crafts. I'm not too keen on the modern versions, but I like the background of the various styles.

Celtic Knots; Mastering the Traditional Patterns - a step by step guide: Very cool! Lots of blanks and very detailed instructions in making your own Celtic knot patterns.

That was my bunch. Youngest kept some of her previous library choices, so there were no new books for her. Her choices were more towards the movies we got. Both girls picked the 3 Brother Cadfael movies we got this time - The Virgin in the Ice, Monk's Hood and The Raven in the Foregate. Then I spotted a couple of I, Claudius tapes. I picked them up based on a recommendation on Kariba's blog. We've started to watch one already, and were surprised by a couple of familiar faces. Claudius is played by Derek Jacobi, the same actor who went on to play Brother Cadfael. Seeing Patrick Stewart, however - with hair! - was much more startling.

The series of dvds, Great Ideas of Philisophy, were back, so I grabbed a couple with Eldest in mind - Philiosophy of the Mind and Ethics; What is Right? Nothing like a bit of brain twisting to get the day going... :-)

We also grabbed a couple of music cd's. A disc I'd put on hold for Eldest finally came in, Prodigy's Experience: Expanded. I also spotted the soundtrack for Chicago on the way out and grabbed it. We've got the movie, but it'd be nice to listen to just the music. Mr. Cellophane, as sung by John C. Reilly, is just wonderful, as is Queen Latifah singing When You're Good to Mama. The Cd also includes a song that had been cut from the movie.

We're set for quite a while. :-D

Friday, March 23, 2007

Library list

Today's library trip doubled as some time with Youngest on her own, as Eldest headed out to take in a matinee with a friend. They took in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which turned out to be rather shorter than she expected. She actually has no interest whatsoever in TMNT, but company with a friend is always good. :-D Afterwards, they took in a stamp collecting event.

As for Youngest and I, we returned the Brother Cadfael movie I'd picked up for her last time, and today she picked up three more; The Sanctuary Sparrow, St. Peter's Fair and The Leper of St. Giles. She is really enjoying those movies right now. She also grabbed a couple more Calvin & Hobbes digests, The Revenge of the Baby-sat and The Indispensable Calvin and Hobbes.

With Eldest's interests in making beaded jewelry, using polymer clay, and papercrafts in mind, I chose some books for her, though some are as much for myself as for her.

Beadwork Creates; Bracelets: This is part of a series of beadwork books and one chosen more for myself, as it uses beadweaving techniques, but also for Eldest to get some ideas from. There are a few non-woven designs I thought she might like, too.

Fashion Beading: This one looks like a real winner - Eldest was oohing and ahh-ing the whole time she went through it. Along with ideas for beaded wearables, there are instructions on making beads as well.

Jewelry from Nature: I'm not too sure how much we'll get out of this one. Finding the materials might be a bit difficult for us now. Still, seems like a good source for ideas.

The New Beadweaving; Great Projects with Innovative Materials: Ok, this one is for me. LOL It's got some weaving techniques I haven't seen before, plus lots of patterns and idea.

Fast Polymer Clay; speedy techniques and projects for crafters in a hurry: Some cute projects in this one, though Eldest's ladybugs are a lot nicer than the ones in the book. LOL I love the doll house food projects. Very fun looking.

I could've sworn I'd picked a second polymer clay book, but I we can't seem to find another in the pile, so...

Papercraft Projects for Special Occaisions: This one seems to have a good variety of interesting projects, more towards 3D paper sculptures from the looks of it. I think I'll be enjoying this one as well.

Papercrafts; 100 fantastic paper projects, step-by-step: Although this one has a lot more "flat" projects (greeting cards, stationary, giftwrapping), it's got a decent amount of dimensional projects as well.

On top of these, I picked up some DVDs I'd put on hold.

Vikings; Journey to New Worlds: This is the one that was released on IMAX. Looks quite interesting.

The First Cities; Secrets of Ancient Empires: With my interests in early human history, I just couldn't resist this one.

What the Bleep Do We Know: We've borrowed this one before, and I had to put a hold on it to be able to get it again - it's always out. We've definitely got to buy our own copy. Very cool.

That was it for today. I'd accidentally grabbed a bag with a hole in it, so we didn't get more this time. *L*

When we got home, Youngest and I immediately started setting up to watch the Brother Cadfael movies while I braided her hair for her in lots of little braids all over the place. She loves it - and it keeps the hair out of her face. *L* She looks so cute! {ahem} Sorry. Mommy moment, there. ;-)

Hmm... I think it's time to see what they're doing right now. Eldest is set up on the balcony with her camera and tripod, but I've no idea what she's taking pictures of. Knowing her, it could be anything! LOL

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Homeschool Stuff

Well, we've been busy with all sorts of stuff for the past while. Seems like I'm running in so many different directions all the time, and never quite catching up on what I should be doing.

Eldest has had her birthday. She is now 14 yrs old. Normally, whatever day the kids' birthdays fall on, we do the actual celebrating on the weekend after. This year, however, she insisted she didn't want a party or anything of the sort. Well, we couldn't just ignore her birthday, so we kept it as family stuff only. We're still going to bring a cake to share for park day, but not making any issue of it, like candles and what-not.

Her actual birthday wasn't all that pleasant for her, unfortunately. We'd gone to the waterpark the day before. The kids had a blast, but Eldest was feeling quite ill the next day. Aside from being achy all over, and generally feeling really nauseous, her eyes, as she described them, felt like they'd been pickled. Just too much chlorine and muggy air, I guess, as she feels like this after every trip to the waterpark. Such a shame, as it's so much fun.

So, it was the next day that we took her out. From us, we gave her a dollar amount to buy whatever she wanted from Michaels. She picked up papers to make more shadowboxes, as well as beads. She's started to make necklaces. Just a couple so far, but they're quite beautiful, and she wants to do more. I've never been keen on stringing necklaces myself - I'm never happy with how mine turn out - so my beading runs towards peyote stitch and other flat, needle woven stitches, so make rings, bracelets, amulets bags and the like. That's not her thing, and she definitely has a good eye for combining colours and bead styles.

When we were done at the Michaels, it was off to Walmart to get the sewing machine she's been after for quite some time. It's a Brother, so she named it Cadfael. :-D Now we just need to re-arrange our very large, very sturdy desk (thanks again, Teebucket!!) so that she can use the back for sewing. I'm allowed to borrow it, too. ;-)

Later on, when Dh left for work, we were to meet at the restaurant of her choice. We *should* have been there early enough to get a table before he got there, but the bus was so late, the next one actually passed us shortly after we got on, and we spent the rest of the trip catching up to it between stops. Eldest chose Boston Pizza for her birthday dinner - after making us promise not to mention to the staff that it was her birthday. Some restaurants do things like bring over a piece of desert and sing Happy Birthday when they find out there's a birthday, and she wanted no part in anything like that. I have no idea if BP does that, but she didn't want to take any chances. *L* I'm not a big fan of BP, but this time, the service was absolutely excellent. The food was ok - Dh's steak was well done instead of medium, but still good. I had the Ribber. I don't know why, but none of their entrees include vegetables, which I find myself really missing. Eldest, however, chose a pair of appetizers for her meal, and just just LOVES the stuffed mushrooms with shrimp. They're really good. She also picked some... pizza bread, I think they're called. They're basically mini-cheese pizzas with some sort of tangy sauce under the cheese instead of pizza sauce. They were ok. Youngest had a cheese pizza and loved it. :-D

And that was how we celebrated Eldest's birthday. She seemed to really enjoy it. :-)

We've made a couple of library trips since I last wrote. Among the stuff I'd picked up before was books on papercrafts, a hobby I really enjoy. These inspired the kids a bit. Youngest has been having a blast making nesting origami boxes with lids. She can make the teeniest, tiniest ones! While we were at Michaels, she picked up some paper for herself to make more stuff like that. :-D So I've also been picking up more papercraft books, some books on polymer clay for the kids to get some ideas to use the Sculpy III they got for Christmas, plus some books on beading, which is where Eldest got her inspiration. I also grabbed a book on how to start a crafting business for Eldest. The last trip was just me returning a few things (though I forgot to return some Cd's - a bunch of Mediaeval Baebes discs), then quickly grabbing whatever I thought would be of interest for the next week before the library closed. I found a book on Krakatoa that I'd been interested in for quite some time, The Day the World Exploded. While looking for that, I grabbed another about Mt. St. Helen's, plus a couple others on climate. I also snagged a VHS on Michelagelo and the Sistine Chapel. I was looking for more of a series on philosophy for Eldest as well - I'd borrowed one of a 6 DVD series but we'd never finished watching it before we had to return it. It didn't occur to me that the entire series would be gone when I came back a week later. :-P

The kids have both been doing a lot of watercolour painting lately. Youngest bought herself her own set of watercolour paints, though she'd accidentally picked up some oil paints at first. She's since offered them to me, so they won't go to waste. I've always been tempted to try my hand at oil painting. We've since picked up a few small canvases, but we'll need to pick up things like linseed oil and terpenoid before I can actually start. Hmm... that reminds me. Since she'd used her allowance money to pay for the oil paints and ended up giving them to me, I'll need to remember to pay her back for those.

Eldest has been working diligently on her comic book pages, as well as other pieces, some of which have been scanned and uploaded to her art and comic blogs. Youngest is definitely inspired by her sister and doing a lot of drawing and painting of her story characters.

One of the things we've been letting slide lately is the girls' French. They've reached a point where they need more help than I can give them, so we were going to shift it over to evenings so Dh can help. He suggested, however, that we give them a break until we can get a new microphone headset for the computer. The software we use has a section with speech recognition that allowed you to learn to speak the language, and it uses the oscillations recorded to match with the original to determine how well you've pronounced it. Unfortunately, every time you start to speak into the microphone, the computer starts to spin and hum, which the microphone picks up and the software records, as if it was part of the speech recognition. So instead of a 2 second long recording of "une fille," you end up with a 30 second recording of the computer humming, and you can't stop it. Of course, the software can't recognize whether or not you've actually pronounced anything properly. A microphone headset *should* get around that. We keep forgetting to pick one up, though.

And that's some of what we've been doing lately.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Check it out

For those concerned about climate change and global warming, I would consider this documentary to be a must see. I've been seeing this information for years from many different sources, but it's the first time I've seen it all in one place. It's 1 1/4 hours long, and worth every minute.

Update: The video is now here.

Friday, March 02, 2007

It's done!!!

Since our last move, we've been provinces away from family on both my side and my husband's. While we're able to keep in touch with most through email (and I'm notoriously unable to phone on a regular basis, usually remembering well after the time zone differences make calling downright rude), my own parents don't have a computer. That means that, for over a year, they haven't been receiving any pictures of their grandchildren, except those which I've emailed to other family members that they may have seen, or that were printed out for them. I'd thought that once we finally got a new printer, I'd be more diligent about printing them out and mailing them, but by the time we got one, I found there were just too many to make that practical.

Then I discovered something about our new computer that we couldn't do on our old one.

I can make DVD's.

My parents have a DVD player.

A while ago, I tested out the software by making what turned out to be a short DVD for my parents that included slideshows of still photos, plus mini-movies taken with our digital cameras. While learning the software, I discovered how to add music and otherwise edit and build something for them. When it was done, we tested it out on our own tv, then ended up making a second copy for the other set of grandparents as well. Silly me, I never though to make a copy for ourselves before starting a new one, only to discover that I'd have to dig through a year's worth of digital photos and almost completely recreate it. Ah, well.

The new one was far more ambitious. Now that I had an idea of just how much space I had available (not just for the photos, but the music, etc.) on a disc, I wanted to make a much more complete DVD for the family back "home." I went back farther, to the move itself, so the end result would contain over 15 months of photos (2007 isn't represented at all). We've taken thousands of photos in that time period! This time, however, I skipped the movies, since I'd already used the best ones for the first disc.

I quickly discovered I had taken on a HUGE job - even with the help of the rest of the family. This has truly been a family project. Eldest was interested in learning the software to make her own DVD, and they helped choosing the right music for the various slideshows.

Ultimately, though, I was the one that worked on it. I started off in dribs and drabs, but making very little progress. Finally, I went all out and spent the last couple of days working on it every chance that I got. I'd organized the photos into categories that would eventually become individual slideshows. I ended up with 21 slideshows! Then I had to go through every slideshow and put the individual photos in the order I wanted. Usually, that meant chronological order. That would be easy if I were using only 1 camera, since the file names are all in numerical order. The pictures, however, come from 4 different cameras, and with some, they had to be re-named because the camera would reset itself to the beginning every time the photos were uploaded to the computer. Others had to be renamed because one camera assigned a number that was the same as another camera. As long as they'd been in separate folders, it wasn't a problem, but after I'd sorted them by subject, there were duplicate file names, and there were an awful lot of them to go through! If I remember correctly, the largest slideshow had a total of 117 photos!

Then came the fun part. Choosing music. I have eclectic tastes in music, and what I don't go for, other family members fill in the gaps. Though our music collection isn't particularly large, there's enough variety that we could match pretty much all moods and themes I needed.

The challenging part was finding music that matched the "feel" of the subject in each slideshow, as well as making sense together with it. Some were well suited by classical tunes, while others just screamed for a bit of Chutney. Science Fiction soundtrack music fit the bill for one, while reggae fit in another. Every now and then, we'd find a beat or rhythm that seemed just perfect - only to test the slideshow and suddenly realize the lyrics were totally unacceptable. Discovering corrupt files sure didn't help, either.

Then there was the timing. A click of a button could have the slideshow match the length of the chosen song. Some larger slideshows needed 2 longer songs, or the individual photos would be sweeping across the screen at only 1 or 2 seconds each; others required a search for short pieces to avoid 10 second displays of each image. Because the DVD plays all "chapters" (slideshows) one after the other without pause, I ended up making title graphics to put at the start of every slideshow, so that those watching would know that the theme was changing. Some, no matter how I fiddled, were just too short, for the song I wanted to use as well as for a sense of balance, and I ended up going back to our archived photos disk to add more.

Finally, at about 2:30 last night, I was essentially finished. The only thing left was to go over the whole thing and see what tweaking needed to be done. This morning, I was back at it. Together with the girls, we watched the whole thing while I made notes about any changes I wanted to make. By lunch time, it was done to the point I felt I could burn it and test it on the tv. Then we went out.

This evening, I burned the first disc. By the end of it, the whole thing took up almost 3/4's of a 4 gig DVD, with about 1/3rd of that space being taken up by the music. It took a while to burn that much! (need more RAM... 1.5 gigs isn't enough! *L*) Then, the girls and I watched it (Dh went down for a nap, but was so tired, he ended up calling it a night, too).

In all, it's about 1 1/4 hours long. There's only 1 problem with it. One of the slideshows has a skip to it. I think it's because that particular slideshow is much longer than the others, and that perhaps that's causing a problem, but I'm not sure. I certainly can't find any cause for it. I think we're stuck with it. Which means...

It's done! All I need to do now is burn enough copies to send out to family - and this time, remember to keep one for ourselves. :-D Our stack of blank DVDs is going to go down a lot by the time it's done!

All in all, I'm quite pleased with this project. Considering how many more pictures we're taking now, and the photo expeditions we're planning to take once the weather becomes more pleasant, I will definitely not wait an entire year to do the next one. I might go by seasons, or by project.

The best part is that it's basically hassle free for my parents. All they need to do is stick it in the DVD player like any other movie, hit play, and off it goes. Sure, they can select individual slideshows if they want, but even that much fussing is often more than they want to bother with. The last I called them, they hadn't received the short DVD I'd already made, so I don't know how they like it. That's something to find out when I call this weekend. That disc had "safe" pictures - pictures I was pretty sure my mother wouldn't take offense at. Unfortunately, that meant few pictures of Eldest, who's been exploring the boundaries of hair colour and funky make up.

This new disc not only includes photos where her hair and make up can be seen, in some cases, they dominate! Then there's youngest, who was shaved absolutely bald so she could go as Count Von Diesel for Halloween, so for quite a while, she had no hair at all. Heck, even some of the tunes are in genres that wouldn't go over as well with my parents. At first I was planning to make this second, extensive, DVD for the other grandparents. They may not *like* that we're letting the kids do stuff like this, but at least they're accepting of that fact that we're all grown up now and it's our responsibility to make these choices, not theirs.

Having gone over the images (over and over and over and over again!), I've decided that there's just too much good stuff on there not to share. I will be making over half a dozen copies total to mail out, including one for my parents. If they don't like it, they don't have to watch it. They'll still have the other one.

Besides. Sometimes, my mother surprises me. She might actually like it.

I'll just have to keep an eye out for another flying pig. They're not as rare as I'd thought.