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.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

a quick addendum

A bunch of items I'd put on hold had come in at the library - and of course, we couldn't stop with just those, right? *L* Here's some new titles to add to our library list.

One hold we had:

The Traitor's Tale: another Dame Frevise Medieval Mystery to join the one I already have.

The Complete Idiot's Guide to Global Warming

The Politically Incorrect Guide to Global Warming and Environmentalism

States of Fear; Science or Politics from Micheal Crichton (dvd) (hmm... I sense a trend, here. *L*) I've read the novel, State of Fear, and found it quite enjoyable. Like his previous books, it's fiction with a strong base in scientific reality. The dvd, which discusses the politicization of science, should be interesting.

The Romans in North Africa; A journey Back in Time (dvd)

Plus, my substitute book, The Good Housekeeping Illustrated Book of Needlecrafts.

and Eldest's acquisition, Artwear; Fashion and Anti-Fashion. I've glanced through that one myself already, and it's really interesting!

Hmmm... I wonder how many times we'll have to renew our current batch before we finally finish them. *L*

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Learning shishadur.

Every year, I try to make new decorations for the Christmas tree. I originally started this new tradition the first Christmas after Eldest was born. I didn't want to have to worry about her getting into the tree and breaking things and hurting herself, so I went hunting for nice, child safe decorations. Unable to find any I liked, I ended up crocheting an entire collection of balls and spirals. We still use them. Since then, I've tried to make decorations using new techniques or styles every year. We use them on our own tree, as well as pass them on as gifts. This year, I've decided to make decorations featuring shisha mirrors.

I don't have a local supplier for them, though, so I've substituted small craft mirrors. Usually, shishadur is done using small, irregular circles of hand made mirror (originally, they were made with chips of micca). They're grayish blue, semi-transparent, as well as being thinner and lighter than manufactured glass mirrors. Instead of glass mirrors, large sequins can be used, but I'm not big fan of them as a substitute. Eldest had a skirt beautifully decorated with them, and they all fell off. :-( They're just too flexible.

So today, I practiced a bit of shishadur with the craft mirrors that I have. Here are the results. (my apologies for the rather bad photos - my lighting sucked and I didn't feel like setting up the tripod.)

For my first attempt, I tacked the mirror in place using a total of eight straight stitches. These serve to both hold the mirror in place (some instructions recommend using fabric glue or double sided tape, but I don't want to mess with those at all), and to form a base of guide threads to stitch on.

There are several variations of stitches that can be used to border the mirror. This is the method I used. After bringing the needle back up, right next to the mirror, I tucked the needle under the guide threads from the centre, out, making sure the needle went over the working thread - kind of like a button hole stitch.

After taking the needle to the back a short distance from the mirror, I brought it back up so that it went through the loop of the working thread. I continued this pattern all the way around.

Here's the finished mirror. It looked nice enough, but as you can see at the bottom of the picture, the mirror is starting to slip out of the stitching. The opening is just too wide.

So I tried again. This time, I made the stitches so that they crossed closer to the centre of the mirror. It didn't work. Perhaps I made the stitches too loose or something, but I didn't even get half way before I could tell the mirror was going fall out.

In this picture, you can see both my second and third attempts. This time, I used only 4 stitches to hold the mirror in place. The first two were placed parallel to each other, then the next two were wrapped around each of previous threads as they crossed at right angles. This seemed to work much better, as the guide threads seemed to hold each other in place, rather than being pulled too far out as I stitched.

Here's the finished mirror. I am a lot happier with this. That mirror is *not* coming off without a lot of help! I thought at first I'd have to cut the stitching to reclaim the mirror for when I made the decorations. It took some doing, but I was able to get it out without resorting to scissors.

So there's the basics. For these, I used 3 strands of ordinary embroidery floss. For the decorations, I'll most likely be using the shiny rayon floss.

I think this will work out just fine. :-D

Friday, October 12, 2007

Today's library run

It's been a while since we made a full library run - we were down to only one book to return! I mean, what's with that? *L*

Youngest went hunting for a specific book that had to be returned before she finished it, Double Identity. While we were wandering around, she ended up grabbing two more from The Enchanted World series; Water Spirits and Magical Justice.

Eldest got herself an interesting list this time...

European Costume; 1000 Years of Fashion: clothing, jewelry, hats, hairstyles - it's all there.

Fruits and Fresh Fruits: Every single page in these books has a photo of Japanese people on the street - the Harijuku girls (and boys) of Gwen Stefani fame. There is text, but it's barely visible. Tiny print in a rainbow of colours printed over street scenes, with all the colours and textures expected. It's almost impossible to read, but after reading a few, I'm not sure that's a loss. Each individual has a few listings of where they got their various clothing items, then it ends with "point of fashion" and "current obsession." It's the current obsession that's a bit alarming (almost as alarming as the clothes!!). There's things like "making friends" or "snails" or "my boy/girlfriend." Then you get things like "S&M" and "cutting myself." Yikes!

After glancing through them, Eldest says she finds Japanese culture frightening. *L*

Make Up: tracing the history of make up through the ages, from the various styles and methods to materials used. Did you know that white lead was used to completely cover the face?

Early Scientific Instruments: with some incredible pieces featured. There was a time when scientific instruments were incredible works of art. One example is of a Royal microscope of brass, steel and beaten silver. Two figures grapple around the eyepiece, while urns and mermaid decorate the base. A globe of the moon is another favourite.

I got my own eclectic variety of books; too many again, as usual. *L*

The Clerks Tale; A Dame Frevisse Medieval Mystery: something to satisfy my craving for historical fiction.

Wild Weather; The Truth Behind Global Warming, which is a new one for me, and Eco-facts & Eco-fiction; Understanding the Environmental Debate which is a repeat.

The Culture of Food; part of a series called The Making of Europe. From the jacket, "Until recently it was the concern of the populace to conserve meats and grains by salting and dessication, while the nobility - from Roman times onwards - sought to consume fresh food out of season... Now most foods are available all the time, the taste of the privileged has moved to those of the natural season. Vegetarianism is symptomatic of ready access to meat. Then a diet meant what you ate, now what you don't." How true that is!

Cheesemaking Made Easy and Making Cheeses at Home: I'd found a whole section on cheese making, and it was all I could do not to grab the whole bunch. *L* Not that I'm in a position to actually make cheese, other than yoghurt cheese, perhaps. Until I can, I'll just have to make do with learning how. :-D

Famous Diamonds: Isn't it funny that stones can actually have names and histories? Extensive information and exquisite photographs of some of the most famous diamonds in the world in a gorgeous, oversized book.

After our book bag started looking way too full, we headed for the audio/visual section and grabbed a few dvd's.

The Planets; Volume 1: with the episodes Different Worlds and Terra Firma

Do You Speak American? We've borrowed Talking Canadian - now it's time to see the differences in the US.

Guys and Dolls: I figured it was about time I saw this one, as I keep hearing about what a classic it is. I like musicals, but it occurs to me I've seen very few of them.


Monday, October 01, 2007

Catching up

The last few days have been out and about days for us. Friday is becoming our regular library day, it seems. This time, though, we just dropped off a few things, picked up what we had on hold. Eldest had reserved Our Posthuman Future; Consequences of the Biotechnology Revolution and Pulse; The Coming Age of Systems and Machines Inspired by Living Things. For Youngest, we got the first two books from A Series of Unfortunate Events on CD. Book two actually has both the cd's and the book, which we weren't expecting.

That done, we headed out again. We'd spent the morning working on Eldest's vest and were figuring out where the buttons were supposed to go when we decided the buttons she had didn't really suit like she thought they would. Also, the fluid fabric led to an edge uneven enough that interfacing was showing at the seam. Right at the front, of course. So we wanted to get some Fray Check as well. With that in mind, we went from downtown to a Walmart to get both. By the end of the evening, Eldest's vest was complete, and she is very happy with the results. She wore it to her art class the next day. It looks really great!

And yes, she really does choose to dress so formally on her own, though it's the first time with an actual tie. The scarf she'd intended to wear didn't go, so Dh gave her one of his silk ties. He hardly ever uses them anymore, so she may as well, if she wants them. :-D

The rest of us ended up accompanying Eldest downtown when she left for her art class. She's not too sure what to make of the class. It's a youth "paint and draw" class with the local art gallery. She's starting to wonder when they're going to, you know, paint. And draw. She's done collages for two classes in a row now. That and the teacher and a couple of the students practically worship Andy Worhol, whom she detests. She dislikes pop art in general. I'm no big fan of it myself, so I can understand that. *L*

We were going to somewhat make it a picture taking day, though the only pictures I got were of some mushrooms in front of our building. Dozens of these guys showed up overnight, growing so fast, they split their own skins.

Sunday was going to be a more formal picture taking day. We were planning to go to a local botanical garden, where we now have passes, however it was free admission day for the city. We decided to take in the zoo, instead, as we've never been there. We did get a lot of pictures, but we won't be going back there. I knew it was a small zoo, compared to what we were used to in Winnipeg. It wasn't the size, but the condition of the zoo that was a disappointment. The animal enclosures were disturbingly small, and many had so many layers of chain link and mesh, you could hardly see the animals in some of them anyways! It was really quite sad. Especially for some of the more exotic animals. I don't have anything against zoos, and even this one is light years better than early menageries of the past, but we know more about the animals now, and what sort of environments they thrive in. Or at least do well in, if we can't replicate the ideal. I believe zoos to be a valuable resource. I know it takes a great deal of money and space, both of which zoos are often perennially short. The staff we saw clearly cared for the animals, all of which at least appeared healthy. The conditions just weren't very good.

The other problem with going to the zoo is that it took a full hour to get there - and the final bus that actually goes to the zoo no longer runs, as it's a May to September route only. Off season, the nearest bus stops on one of the streets several blocks away from the entrance. As it was, one of my knees started acting up while we were out, and it's still giving me a bit of grief. So there's really nothing to bring us back there again.

Today is normally a park day for us, but we were expecting something to come in - well, hoping it would come in today - which would've required me to take care of when it arrived, so we stayed home and baked bread and watched library movies, instead. It didn't come in, though. Hopefully, tomorrow. We've now planned specifically for Tuesdays and Thursdays to be home days, anyways, so that works out.

Youngest has been listening to one of the books on cd today, and Eldest has been working on her comic book pages, as well as other pieces she wanted to get done. In the evening, all four of us did a bit of arnis, using a squash court for a gym. Youngest got a bit of sword work in, too. She likes that better, I think.

*sigh* I need to be working on a column for a newsletter, but I haven't been able to settle on a topic. It's not a formal column, exactly, but I'd really hate to miss a month. Deadline is in 2 days, though. I can easily finish a column in that time - as long as I have a topic to write on! Hopefully, I'll get a good idea soon.