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Saturday, December 31, 2011

Making Friends Fat

Everyone has that one friend that has the ideal figure...the friend that's always skinny, always looks good, with the perfectly proportioned body.  We love that friend for who she is, of course.  And we get a lot of good out of being friends with her. 

But secretly we hate her, don't we?  I have a skinny friend.  Her name is Grace.  Doesn't her perfect figure make you sick? 

Yea, Grace is my dressmaker model.  I always wanted one but they are pri-cee!  By dumb luck, I was just bumming around one day and stumbled upon a thrift store and she just happened to be in the window at $40.  She's not too shabby....but she is definately way too skinny. 

I use her a lot for sewing and of course, things look great on her skinny self.  All the items on the floor behind her are HER clothes, 'cuz Lord knows they wouldn't fit me.  Some friend, hey? 

Well, I can't get too mad at her.  The thing about sewing is, it forces you to admit your natural shape.  It is absolutely frustrating to spend all day sewing something only to put it on and have it fit poorly. 

It's madness to try and use a model that's skinnier than you...or doesn't have your shape issues (swayback, dowager's hump, saddlebags, whatever).  So, to make clothes that fit, you need a model that's shaped like you.  I decided it's high time to fatten up my friend.  I used this awesome and easy tutorial from Threads magazine.  And my equally awesome sister, Caroline, helped me out. 

You basically put on an old shirt then have your helper wrap you up in duct tape all around your curves and other issues.  Honestly is required - no sucking in your tummy, padding your bra, or standing funny to hide your true shape. 

After spending about an hour getting high on duct tape fumes in my bathroom, this is what we ended up with:

See what I mean - no lying about your true shape. 

But the form is cool.  The shirt and tape combo gives it stability, yet is flexible.  I'm scuking in my tummy below, and you can see that I can poke into it.  This is great because you can push into a real person....therefore, I need to be able to push into Grace's new shape. 

Once you're all taped up, your partner slices you out of it with a cut down the back, leaving the form ready to slip out of.

And there's the new Grace.  Laying on my sewing table like a dead slug, which is identical to how I look after The Conductor and I eat dinner.  Sadly, this is the body shape that comes when the one you love loves to eat as much as you do.  ~Sigh~   

I was so pleased with how this turned out that I asked my sister to tape my upper arm which, next to my bust and belly, is probably the third toughest part of my body to fit properly.  If you make a model of your arm or thighs, you should either squeeze your arm muscles as you're taped or sit down for your leg - you want the model to reflect your shape at it's widest so your clothes have enough ease in the fit. 

Once you're sliced out of it, drape the new form over your model.  Make sure you tape over all of gaps in the original model.    Shove batting or fiberfill inside to pad any areas that don't lay exactly on the old model. 
Because you sliced out of the back, it's easy to line up the original cut and tape it closed.  And there's your new friend. 

I am SO SO SO thrilled with Grace's new look.  So thanks to my sister for inhaling duct tape fumes with me.  Can you even tell which one's Grace and which one is me?  

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Where Did it Go?

Wow.  How did a whole year manage to get by me?  I had only about 22 posts - this whole year!

It's not that I haven't had anything to blog's just that I'm so busy getting things DONE that I don't have time to write about them!

I'm off for a Christmas break and I thought I'd share all the goodies I got this year.  I was really blessed this year which gives me a lot of hope.  We're in a crappy economy.  Several people I know are dealing with being un- or under employed.  So it was really encouraging to see that no one around me let that stop them from sharing a nice holiday season.  Here's my haul:

First was a goodie basket from the Conductor's mom.  I got it when I visited her with him for Thanksgiving.  She always puts together fun baskets.    This one included some candies, hot chocolate a dip mix, a holiday plate, some pretty soap, a pin, socks, a bun warming cloth, napkins, Michigan made salad dressing and a cookbook magazine. 
The best part of all was the basket itself though. 

She gave me..drumroll please: ^V^V^V^V^V^V^V:

A real....honest to goodness....Longaberger basket!!

I didn't think I could ever own one of them but there it is.  She also sent me home with an oblong shaped one that has a lid for the plastic liner.  Happy dance, happy dance!  (Dana and his brother looked bored when we were discussing baskets.  Boys just don't understand these things).

It even has a removable liner.  So guess what this seamstress will be doing?  Yuh-huh.  Taking it out and making a pattern to make changeable liners.  Happy dance!

I also got a pretty good assortment from my coworkers:

It includes a mug of chocolate treats, a sugar scented candle, an angel note holder, an ornanmental J, and my boss...who has been described by the press as "a fastidious follower of the rules" gave us each a wine glass and a set of cocktail mixers.  No booze, but still, not like her at all.

My favorite from this group is the set of towels and coasters that Gene's wife, Marie made.  She cross-stitched them.  Aren't they cute?

I admire stitchers. I know how to do it but I don't like to.  My free time is rare and in the amount of time it took her to do this, I could have made a skirt and a top.  It's like you do so much work for such a small amount of "doneness".  Which is why I admire people that have the tenacity to do work like this.  Sr. Nancy taught me to cross stitch in high school and told us that the mark of a good stitcher is when the back looks just as good as the front.  Let's check Marie's work:

Yep.  Girl's got it goin' on!

Also at work, I got a political gift.  We've had some government issues here in Wisconsin.  Namely, our arsehole governor and some of our state representatives have turned teachers into a political football.  One local company, Penzy's Spices, didn't like that and wanted to say thank you teachers for their hard work.  They gave out these gift boxes to teachers at the start of school - - but sent a box to ALL of us public school employees for Christmas.  How awesome is that? 

The box includes a bumper sticker and pin. Since I'm not a teacher, I'll give these my brother who teaches.  It also had a bottle of their salt-free seasoning mix, a cookbook, and a little jar of cinnamon. 

I got a kick out of the cinnamon.  Here's MY jar of cinnamon.   

Look how cute the Penzy's jar is next to my jar.  :)

I also met up with my friend, The Gardener, for dinner and we exchanged gifts.  She gave me a talking pedometer which I'm looking forward to using at the gym.  I sure hope it says something other than, "Boy Jill, are you getting fat!"  She also gave me a jar of honey.  Coincidentally, I included a chocolate bar with honeycombs in her gift.  (We both daydream about beekeeping someday).

She also gave me a spoonrest.  As if through ESP, The Gardener, who hasn't been in my house since I first moved in, chose for me a spoonrest that perfectly matches the color of my walls.

She actually gets hummingbirds in her yard, the lucky duck!

Gifts from family included;

A Carraba's gift card from sister Betsy, a mini sewing machine and purse holder from sister Sarah...

This handmade apron from step-mom Kathy, compate with a criss-cross back, a towel loop and

a little bit 'o' bling on the pockets (the buttons shimmer like the snowflakes - which you can't really see in this crummy picture)

And a pajama set from sister Betsy.

And of course I got some presents from The Conductor:

A new CD burner to replace the one that konked out, a set of flashlights, some scented oil (in lavender, he was watching me experiment and make my sister some homemade eucaluptus scented oil that turned out awesome!), and a Shiva Rea yoga DVD because I mentioned I was looking for some good morning workout ideas. 

See what else is in the array?  Not one, but two kinds of candy.  The Conductor is forever teasing me about my sweet tooth yet he goes and buys me TWO kinds of candy - chocolate covered cherries and a fun dark chocolate with citrus and ginger. 

The cutest part of the array?    
Babushka nail files - a nod to our Polish roots.

The best part of the array, though, was the card:

Now everybody, together say:    Awwwww!

Happy Holidays - now I'm going back to the sewing room to finish my New Year's dress and I am SO SO SO pleased with it so far!

Friday, November 11, 2011

More About My Kitty

Winter is fast approaching here in Wisconsin.  In my last post, I introduced you to Mitzy, my kitty cat.  (She's really an alley cat that keeps coming into my yard).

I just adore this cat and I don't know why. I was feeling awful at the thought of her trying to survive in winter.  So I borrowed a huge racoon cage from my friend, The Gardener.  I put inside of it a can of tuna hoping the smell would lure her in.

TEN MINUTES after I put the trap in my yard, I heard it snap shut.  So apparently Chicken of the Sea is the brand of choice for tuna, huh?

I'm glad my friend has a racoon trap.  I knew I couldnt' take her in right away in the morning and I didn't want hre to be overly traumatized so, with the 'coon trap she had plenty of room to move about.

Cute or not, I wasn't about to take her all the way into my home.  So she spent the night on my enclosed back porch.  Which was a good thing because the temperatures took a nose dive last night.

I took her to work with me the next day planning to drop her off at our domestic control center on the way home.  Not wanting her to freak out from strange noises or sights, I kept her covered with a lot of blankets.  She talked to me the whole way to work.  Her meow is so cute - "Noooooo!" she says over and over, in a woe-is-me kind of voice.

I checked on her during the workday and she was doing fine.  (A few summers ago I had a squirrel in the roof problem and trapped quite a few.  Some of them got so anxious to get free that they'd chew their own jaws off or rip their hands to shreds. I was really worried she'd hurt herself.  Thankfully, she just seemed confused about the cage more than anything). 

We got to the domestic control center - the same place I took my poochka when I had to put her down.  Our domestic control, by law, holds a stray for seven days in case an owner claims it.  After that, if the animal is healthy and of good temperament, they turn it over for adoption.  When I was there dropping of Mitzy, a mom and son were coming in to adopt a stray. 

That was my whole goal of trapping her - I just know she's an adoptable cat and I'm hoing she'll have a good home before winter.

The worker took her in the trap to the back room and brought the cage back to me.  He said, "Thanks a lot for bringing him in."


Yea.  Turns out my Mitzy is actually a Mitzter.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

"My" Kitty Kat

For some time now I've had a cat.

Sort of.

This is Mitzi.

There's an alley cat in my neighborhood that I named Marly.  After Marlboro cigarettes since she's the color of an ashtray.  Marly likes to sleep on my porch furniture which is really annoying when I want to lay on my bench and take a nap only to find cat hair all over.

I think Marly must've had a litter because I saw Mitzi following her for a little while when she was a new kitten.  She's a teenaged cat now and she LOVES my yard.

I don't put out any food or water.  And I haven't been growing catmint or any other food substance a cat might like.  But I find her in my yard all the time.

I came home this past weekend to find her hunting around my yard again. I do have a lot of tall plants which would provide the perfect hiding spot for field mice or even chipmunks. I bet that's what she was after. We have a pretty clean alley so I'm sure it's hard for her to find good garbage to eat off of.

I walked up to her slowly expecting her to skitter away but she didn't.  So I sat on my chair and she nestled into the grass only four feet away from me to await the next hunt. 

I was talking to her the whole time and she didn't even flinch.  Weird, for a feral cat.  Then she spotted it.  A mouse?  A frog?  I couldn't tell.  But she walked right up to me (my legs were blocking her path).  She debated for a brief second about whether to chance it passing me or give up the hunt. 

She went for it, leaping over my legs over to the strawberry patch.  Quietly she strategized her battle plan:

She began to stalk the unsuspecting prey:

It caught on and tried to run, but she was right on its tail:

And, whatever creature it was, she followed it into the neighbor's yard.

I love this kitty and I don't know why.  I won't put food out for her (I don't want to encourage more alley animals).  And I won't let her into my house.  The Conductor and I are both allergic, I really don't like cats, and I have no desire to rehab a feral animal.

But I just adore her.  She's the prettiest thing. (She's got the most beautiful gold colored eyes!)  It's amazing to me how, even though I live in the city and have a yard the size of a postage stamp, Mother Natue still sends amazing creatures my way. 

In my next post, I'll share some more of the visitors to my yard. 

Monday, October 31, 2011

Apron Challenge

I'm back. I've been busy - too busy to stop to post.  But I was inspired by a recent blog post I stumbled upon by BoPeep who blogs at Willow Homestead.   She's a Wisconsin gal like me.  I raise dandelions on my city lot.  She raises sheep in the country.  How cool is that?!?!

She recently found a clipping from a 1959 article of the Milwaukee Journal (now the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel).  Or, if you live in Milwaukee, but disagree with the Journal's slant on stories, you might refer to it as the Milwaukee Urinal. 

We're a classy bunch in this town, aren't we? 

Anyway, the article issued a challenge to ladies of 1959, which  BoPeep has passed on to us:  to make a differnt apron for every month.  With today being the VERY last day of October, I'm squeaking in my entry:

I used McCall's 6132, which was super easy to do and, the way it's set up, you actually line it which I love since I USE aprons when I wear them.  Thin cotton just won't cut it for this messy cook.  Here's some detail:

I used candy corn printed black for the base with a witchy orange for the pocket. The trim is another shade of orange with little spiders on it.

Here's a closup of the pocket.  It's such a whimsical print~  I asked The Conductor to zoom the camera in on the pocket and rick-rack.  And he said, "Ok, sure!!  But what's rick rack?"   Boys.....

Here's the kitty's face.  Isn't he cute?   More of the spider print for the ears and nose, ribbon for the whiskers, and green buttons for the eyes - because every Halloween cat needs green eyes.

I worked on this while the neighborhood kids were out trick or treating.  I followed my Grampa's annual tradition of closing all the curtains and turning the lights off to keep the trick or treaters away.  (I don't have kids so I don't hand out candy.  But my Grampa sent his kids out.  I think that's awful not to give out treats when your own kids are getting them!)

I finished this right when Trick or Treating was over - just in time to pack it up in a box for next year.  ~Sigh~

One final shot:

Happy Halloween!  This apron wasn't the only cat I got recently....In my next post, I'll tell you all about my new kitty cat! 

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Gratituesday: Laboring

Someone at work asked me how my Labor Day weekend was.  I said I spent all three days remodeling and painting my sewing room.  She commented, "So you labored on Labor Day".

Yes I did.  And labor is something to be grateful for.  First, the choice to labor.  In some countries the goverment tells you what your job will be.  In America, we can follow our own path when it comes to labor. 

Second, the ability to labor.  Some people have bona fide disabilities or illnesses that prevent them from working.  I'm grateful that I have a working body that does what I need it to do.  

I'm grateful that my parents bestowed a good work ethic in me.  There are people that prefer to cheat the system so they can live on welfare, disability, or drug dependency just to avoid doing for themselves.  I have no respect for people who game the system to avoid earning their living.

My heart goes out to folks who despertely WANT to be laboring now - but can't find work because of the economy. 

I'm grateful, too, that I'm marrying a man that values labor too.  The Conductor always pitches in when he's at my house

and it's important to him to be a good provider for us when we're married.  I'm grateful for a partner willing to do his share of labor.

I'm also grateful for all the laborers who came before me.

There's the manual laborers who unionized to fight for fair wages, safe working conditions, the 40 hour work week, and other things we all take for granted. 

And for the workers who fought to end sexual discrimination and sexual harassment in the work place and who fought for the right for working moms to have family leave and keep their jobs after having babies. 

So, yes, I labored long and hard this past Labor Day weekend.  But I'm grateful for every backbreaking, muscle aching, calloused hand moment of it.

I'm linking up to Gratitutuesday at Heavenly Homemakers.  Join us here!