Saturday, January 31, 2009

If you can't say something nice, don't say.....

...anything at all--you knew the ending to that phrase.

Community theatre groups work on their plays with passion and energy to put on the best production their time, space, and funds will allow. Actors and actresses will spend hundreds of dollars on just the right pair of boots, or a wig to make them look the part that they are playing.

Our town has a lot of community theatre groups. I seem to recall that my own mother and father met in a community theatre group. So maybe that's why I've always wanted to get involved in community theatre in some capacity.

Being a widow, with no one to complain how late I arrive home, I've had lots of chances to work with community theatre groups. You either have to be a single or have a very understanding spouse, or two theatre nuts have to be married to make this theatre commitment work. Many of the people I have met are in the same situation as I am, single. I've met couples involved in the work together. One lady who played Joanna in "Move Over Mrs. Markham" showed up at our opening night last week, unable to see her husband, who played Phillip in the same play in his opening night performance on another play. Compromises need to be made in this case.

Community theatre groups always think what they have done is the be-all, end-all to any production on the boards at that given time. When I put my heart and soul into making 120 costume pieces for a play, (like I did in "The Music Man"), I think it should get a good critical review. The review was not raving, not terrible, and definitely pointed out some chinks in the armor of that play. This opened my eyes to the role that local critics play in judging the quality of plays that they see.

Our local "critic's panel" works for a radio station that fosters the arts, KDHX-St. Louis. For our latest play that was revued, "Prelude to a Kiss" the lead actors were lauded, several of the side actors and actresses were mentioned, and I got a nod from a very picky critic. "Costumes (SewWhat) were appropriate." Now was that a ringing endorsement or a simple nod that they were OK?

When I costumed Oklahoma last summer, the critic mentioned that the pig farmer's shoes were too clean--no other mention of the costumes. I think for The Music Man, some mention of colorful costumes was made. So I guess the work appropriate may be a high compliment, according to these very picky critics.

I like to say something nice about each thing I critique, no matter how small it may be. When the critics say they yawned through the entire thing, or they had a bad attitude about even coming (Last summer's Oklahoma's critique started out, WHY DID THEY EVEN PICK THIS PLAY TO DO?) And this was for a show that had two sold out houses in a 600 seat theatre! Or they couldn't even muster up a laugh when the audience was cracking up, I say it's time to turn over the critic job to someone else, you are definitely overworked and have really become jaded.

But if you want a real true estimate of the merit and flaws of what the production value of your play, these critics seem to nail it. Maybe we don't like to see the warts, just the beauty. But we are learning our craft, and pointing out flaws helps us to know what needs to be changed the next time we do productions.

But as I said, if you can't say something nice, maybe you should just shut up.

Read critique of "Prelude to a Kiss" on KDHX-St. Louis website. Go to "Community" then to "Current Reviews" page through to Prelude... Jan. 23-Feb. 1, 2009

Friday, January 30, 2009

Ordination 101

Do clothes make the man? Or in this case, do they make the cleric? I ask this question because of my experiences over the past few months.

Isn't it odd, in the past three plays which I've costumed, two of the actors I've had to costume played priests. I know there is a priest in "The Sound of Music", but he must already have his wardrobe collected. I've now been involved in learning about clerical garb in researching how to make these costumes.

Here's what I've learned:

It takes a $1.30 piece of plastic to make a roman collar.

When purchasing these pieces of plastic in advance of the play, you must put them in a safe place, or you will not be able to find them when you need them. Somewhere in this house is a nice roman collar piece hiding for future treasure finding. I'll find it the day all these plays are over.

The religious goods store that used to be 2 miles from my home has moved to 30 miles from my home. (Needed to go there to by the second set of plastic roman collar pieces after losing the first set.)

You can take a cheap man's shirt, sew down the collar points to make a shirt to accomodate a roman collar. Apparently, frugal clerics do this instead of spending $40 for a cheesy shirt with the $1.30 collar piece already installed.

A new cassock cost $150.

A cassock has deep cuffs. What do they store in those cuffs? Are the cuffs used for pockets? My cassock will not have cuffs.

None of the priests at my parish wear cassocks anymore. My dear pastor said once he got too fat for the one he wore as a young priest, he never replaced it. He is anything but fat! And we celebrated his 25th anniversary as a priest last summer. He's a peach of a guy!

Apparently, none of the priests that others know wear cassocks either, because we haven't found one to borrow.

Finding the old Butterick pattern for a cassock requires searching the back of the pattern drawer at at least 4 or 5 fabric stores. Finding out that Butterick pattern that I BOUGHT only put part of the pattern in the envelope was a big disappointment! Especially since I only have 3 days to make this costume, not 2 weeks to search for another pattern.

You can rig anything and cover your mistakes when making costumes. After I cut 4 back pieces out of the same piece (instead of 2) for the cassock, AND I had no extra fabric, I figured out how to use scraps to make the erroneously cut piece into the correct shape to make the back. Plunging open backs is not a look today's clerics, or even those from the 60's have/had adopted.

I can now advise Ty's Mommy from how to dress for her upcoming event as presiding minister at her friend's wedding in the spring. The Rev. Mrs. was ordained online and has her official certificate to prove it.

Why didn't I think of doing that? I could make a little money on the side, now that I know how to dress a cleric!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

One more nail in the coffin...

Let's put this week to rest. Let's declare it dead and gone. Let's put it into the far back memory portion of our brains, and then quickly forgetaboutit.

So one more nail in the coffin of this week happened to me this afternoon. I began sewing my costumes for the third play of the month (the last in the three week continuous run of plays). I needed to make a priest cassock.

The priest is the main character in this play, who is on stage throughout the entire show, so he should look somewhat authentic. At times, he tries to be Harry Houdini, and attempts to get himself out of a straight jacket, so he needs some room in his cassock to go through all this commotion.

Butterick still has a pattern for a priest's cassock in their pattern book. Most stores that I checked don't have the pattern because it is pretty old. But I did find it a couple of weeks ago at a pattern store far away. Confident as always that things were in order, I got ready to make the cassock.

Butterick, you have failed me for the first time. I love your patterns and your cut of patterns. I can rely on you for being true to what size you say the pattern is going to be. This doesn't always work out that way with other pattern companies. But as I unwrapped the tissues in the pattern, I discovered that a big chunk of the pattern was missing, including the sleeves, collar and entire back.

I discovered the sleeve issue right away, but thought I had the back issue solved. Not so, as I tried to put it together, I found that I had cut two sets of side backs and no real back! This would have made the equivalent of a strapless back gown for the priest! I'm thinking this isn't the look we're going for! I could fake the sleeves, but how to fake the back?

So I was lucky and did find the same pattern at the closest fabric store. I am going to try to rig the back by piecing that part that is incorrect, and hope it works out OK. If not, then I bought another piece of black to make another cassock.

Could anything more go wrong this week? Unfortunately, I have two more days to live through, so the answer is "yes". I'm wishing I could stay beneath the covers until Sunday, to try to ward off any more evil spirits. I'd better watch what I wish for, because I could end up in bed with the flu or something dastardly like that.

Tell that black cloud to move on to someone else's house, OK?

Ah, to be a kid again!

Snowstorms have different effects on people, and it usually depends on your age as to whether you are excited or furious! People who must get to work on time each day surely hate the white stuff, but if you are a kid, snowstorms mean a lot of good things to you!

We had a 36 hour precipitation event in our city. It started with freezing rain and sleet on Monday night. Then it continued all night long, and some snow fell in between sleet events. For most of the day Tuesday, it sleeted, and didn't seem to pile up significantly despite the fact that it was pretty continuous all day. Then Tuesday evening, it started to turn to snow, and by Wednesday morning, we had a 5" pile on our lawns and streets.

In our city, this means one thing "SNOW DAY". Schools close, parents grumble and kids are ecstatic! Not all schools were closed on Tuesday, but Wednesday most of the elementary and secondary schools and districts were closed, as well as my community college! So we all got a SNOW DAY.

Little Boy M and Little Girl M were supposed to have preschool, but that was closed. So my usual trip to get them on Wednesday meant we went to the babysitter instead of school (which is right behind my house.) They had looked at the snow all day, but the babysitter didn't take the crew outside to play in it. As we were going home, they began planning their first romp in the snow for this snow event....Grandma, can we run in the snow?.... Grandma can we have a snow fight?.... Grandma, do you have hot chocolate?....Grandma, does your hot chocolate taste like mommy's?....Grandma..... Grandma.....Grandma...

By the time we got to my house, the snow romp was planned! Yes, we would run in the snow and have a snow fight. Yes, Grandma does have hot chocolate, and hopefully it will taste like mommy's (whew!) Grandma was not looking forward to bring two cold snowcovered snow bunnies inside and drying them out, but I have reserve clothes at my house, so I figured--WHAT THE HECK, LET'S ALL BE KIDS AGAIN AND PLAY IN THE SNOW!

It wouldn't have done me much good to plan anything else, because as soon as I released one M from the car seat, he was in the snow, same for his sister. They had a ball, running, throwing, digging, burying their faces, making snow lasted for all of 20 minutes til little toes started to tingle, and the thin gloves I could find for Boy M became totally caked with snow and his fingers got very cold.

As we went in the back door, we stripped down, taking all our snowy clothes off, and they moved into the bedroom to find new socks and slippers that I had bought for them to wear while at Grandmas. We got out the hot chocolate, the drippy clothes went into the dryer, and the evening went very well.

As messy as it is, and as inconvenient as snow can be for adults, it was fun to be a kid again, and take joy in playing in the fluffy white stuff. I'm glad I could enjoy it with the M & M's, because they had such fun at Grandma's house yesterday.

FLASHBACK: I remember a snowy day when I was about 5--I think I was already in Kindergarten. There was a very deep snow, and we were playing in it. I was at a friend's house that was about 3 blocks from my own home. I stepped into a very deep drift of snow, at least up to my --- well, you know what, and my boot came off. The friends couldn't find the boot, so I had to walk home 3 blocks in one boot and one sock! My foot knew the meaning of cold on that day!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Snow Blower Blues

For an old woman, getting snow off the driveway can be an issue. So, as an old woman, I've had to deal with this issue, and have done it in various ways.

The idea of a "lady" snowblower was hatched when my mother bought a small, lightweight Toro snowblower for her driveway. She was definitely in the "old lady" category at this time of her life, because I'm sure she got it in her late 70's. She was a very vigourous lady until her last year at 83 when she passed away. So the snowblower was passed on as a legacy. I got it.

It got many a workout at my one country home in the lake subdivision. It even worked better on my neighbor's "snow over ice" driveway, because it was the paddle type, which got down to the pavement better than the bigger auger type that her other neighbor had.

Then we moved to a house with a gravel driveway, so there was not use in even trying to use it there. We needed a blade, and had several to choose from. One for the tractor, and one for the brush mower. I think the late Mr. figured out the tractor one, but the brush mower one never was used. I gave the "lady" snowblower to my brother, who moved into my mothers old home after she passed away.

So when we moved from there, back to the city, our son inherited the whole mess (tractor, blade, brush mower, blade). He felt he owed us something, so he bought a monster snowblower from a friend for our new house with the 20 foot long driveway. This thing was so huge, you could have done Wal-Mart's parking lot with it! Way too much for our little driveway.

The first time I had a chance to use it, it was locked in my under-deck shed. Snow had been preceeded by about 12 hours of wind-driven freezing rain, so the deck door was tightly frozen shut by about a 1/2 inch of ice. We just let nature take its course until the stuff melted off. That year, several other snow events happened, and often my driveway miraculously was cleaned off by well-meaning neighbor children and family members.

The next year, things weren't quite as smooth-running, so I got the snow shovels out, with a very aching back as a result. One day, I decided to try to snow-blower my son gave us, and after a 1/2 hour of pulling the rope, I gave up. I called my son, and he said, "Oh yes, there is a little problem with the starter, you just jiggle this and wiggle that and poke a screwdriver here and there, and it will start". NOT HAPPENING, SON, YOU ARE TALKING TO AN OLD LADY WHO DOESN'T DO MOTORS!

Last year, after a couple bouts with the shovel and ensuing aches and pains, the frustration of trying to start the monster snowblower, I bit the bullet and bought another "lady" snowblower. Of course, doing this just prior to a predicted monster storm meant the price was high, but it got to my house before the first flake flew, and was quite easy to start, easy to use, and it did a good job.

This week, we've been hit by about 3 continuous days of off and on snow, sleet, freezing rain, little pellets that look like styrofoam beads. The stuff really started accumulating yesterday afternoon. Aha, I have a new snowblower! NO PROBLEM!

Confidently, I went out to start the snowblower up for an attack on this most recent snow event. It had been strategically placed near the front of the garage, easy to get to. The gas cans were close at hand, and so were the electic cords for the electric start. Confidence was soon dashed as the thing in no way would start up. After 15 minutes of cranking and not an inkling that the wonderkind machine would start, I gave up. I'll just wait until the spring thaw.

This has been a week of frustrations in many areas of my life. Cell phone wouldn't charge up, bookstore didn't have my students' books and wouldn't be getting them for weeks. Social Security wants to take away my pension, and I can't get into see the doctor I want to start going to until April. I was beginning to really feel star-crossed. The dead snowblower was just another frustrating effort that got me nowhere. Don't know what's going on that all of this is messed up.

Fates, give me a break for once!

Let's keep it a family show!

Ordered Sunday night--4 pairs of bloomers.

No pictures of these, because they were cut out, sewed up and out the door in about an hour!

The Sound of Music play put on by our local Catholic high school alumni association will start tomorrow. This is the play that I worked on for the past few months making various costume pieces. Here was my part of the contribution:

Made 8 vonTrapp kids sailor outfits. Why 8? Well, I had to make a top and shorts over because they didn't fit right. These were light grey sailor tops, ties, and navy skirts/shorts.
Made 7 vonTrapp "curtain outfits" Blouse/weskit combo tops, gathered waist skirts for the girls, and brown "leiderhosen" type shorts with suspenders for the boys.

Sad note: One student had to drop out of the show family, so there will only be 6 vonTrapps in this version of the show!

Then I altered Maria's vintage wedding dress so she could change into it and button up the 36 buttons quickly. This required me to remove 24 of the buttons and sew them back on over the button loops, and then put velcro underneath so she could just slap the opening shut after she wiggled into the dress.

I altered the Baroness vonTrapp's dress for the wedding. I hadn't heard how that turned out, so I hope it worked.

I altered one of the wedding guest's formal dress, making a rather permanent shoulder wrap out of one she had to hold on to.

Fixed the suspenders on a pair of shorts for a contestant in the music contest, who has a 3 second on-stage appearance. They all hooted and hollered when she tried on her costume, because she is a mom, and is playing the part of a Tyrolean gentleman. The little green hat with a red feather really made the outfit!

Then the reality of the staging became an issue. This stage is built at the end of a gym, and is about 3 feet off the ground. This means that any person sitting within about 30 feet of the front of the stage will see UP the skirts of the female vonTrapp family members. We must have proper undergarments for this to remain a family show! So, an order was put in for 4 pairs of bloomers for the girls to wear under their costumes.

In my mind, bloomers are a must for any family show where a girl or woman is wearing anthing above ankle length skirts. This is especially true for stages above the eye level of the audience, even it if it only the front rows. So I've made my share of bloomers for shows. One day, while I was sewing for "The Music Man" I made 15 pairs in a day, this style included a double row of lace edged ruffles at the bottom. So I'm an expert at churning them out quickly.

So I whipped up the 4 pairs of bloomers Monday afternoon during the Oprah show! I didn't get a chance to thread the elastic through the waist casing, that was for some mom who was sitting there at play practice with nothing to do. Using a serger, the sewing takes absolutely no time at all (less than 10 minutes per pair.) And I have a package of various size of shorts patterns, which I made when I was making the 60 boxer shorts for my rainbow angel play about 5 years ago. I've used that package for many, many things! They sure come in handy for making bloomers of various sizes.

Now, the Sound of Music will remain a family show, not a strip show! The only issue now is the 3 day snow storm that has closed the school today, and probably tomorrow, when the first show was scheduled to be performed for elementary school kids. The director, who is short on hair as it is, doesn't even have much to pull out, but he has had his share of challenges this year. Hopefully, by Friday night, the show will go on, and it will turn out well! And I hope they all look great.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

What to Wear? Why, something new, of course!

Well, my dilema of what to wear to the awards banquet was resolved because a package was delivered to my house Saturday afternoon containing the bargain dress I had purchased online from ColdWater Creek earlier in the week.

It was a lovely shade of purple, an embroidered and beaded jacket, with 3/4 length sleeves, loop button closures on the front of the jacket. Underneath was a very beautiful plain shantung purple sheath dress.

I tried it on, and the dress sort of fit, but the jacketfit very nicely. The dress was too long, gapped under the arms, and definitely needed some alterations. I played with ideas for how to alter it, and it seemed that pulling up the skirt and tucking it under a pleat across the middle to make it look like a 2 piece dress. This might be the way to go to do a quick alteration.

Now, I've altered a lot of costumes lately, and this is what I would do to a costume. So, I bravely forged ahead, measured TWICE and cut once, and cut the dress in two pieces for a top and a bottom. I was a little bit scared of this move, but I liked the jacket so much by itself, and it would go with black underneath, so I figured I didn't have that much to lose.

In about an hour, I had a nice three piece outfit instead of a two piece outfit. And it fit well and looked nice. I got plenty of compliments on the outfit while I was at the banquet.

The only modifications I need to make is to tighten the elastic at the waist, because it slipped down in the back as I sat around listening to the awards. If I had had more time, I would have made a fitted skirt out of it, sewing in darts and inserting a zipper. With the loose elastic, I had to make sure I wasn't showing anything untoward as I got up to give my presentation.

As I was ironing it in the final finishing, I had a flashback to the time I ironed my actress's jacket (made of the same fabric as my outfit) and burned a hole in it! I kept checking the iron's setting to make sure it wasn't too hot. A hole in the fabric would have been difficult to repair! Luckily, that didn't happen to me, the fates of the steam iron were with me on this day!

So my dilema has been solved, and now I will be looking for another special event to go to in order to wear my new three piece purple outfit.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

What to Wear, What to Wear.....

I've been invited to participate in an awards banquet tonight, sponsored by our local theatre group. This is the group that I have costumed the last 4 shows that they have done in the past seasons. They give awards for best actress, actor, best play, best supporting cast, best set, light and sound design. The only category they don't give awards for is costuming. Go figure.

I was asked to present an award to one of the male actors. It is an honor, and somehow I feel compelled to dress up. So, my dilema is what to wear.

I could go with re-runs from years and events past, such as these.

The lace number is from MonkeyGirl and Mr. Monkeygirl's wedding rehearsal dinner. The black velvet is from some year way in the past for our annual Christmas dinner and show at the school where I used to teach. The black blazer and skirt were stand-bys for the wedding, in case I needed them. They were an incredible bargain, like $15 for the skirt, and about the same for the jacket, so they were good to have JUST IN CASE!

But, black is sooooooooo boooring! Wouldn't some color be better? Like these little numbers?
These dresses still have the tags in them. Somehow, I felt that my social calendar was going to be so full last year, that I purchased these dresses for the many parties I would be attending. NOT HAPPENING! The red one was NOT on sale, but the pink one was. The pink was for Easter, but last Easter was frigid cold with snow flying, so it didn't get worn. The red never had an occasion, except to sadly try it on during lonely nights, envisioning myself swirling around on a dance floor in the frenzy of some sort of social activity. NOT HAPPENING.

What ever the end result is for my frock for tonight, this will be very much a necessity! I've seen make-over shows, and they are kindly referred to as "industrial strength underwear". We can suffer for fashion sake, I just hope I don't have to make too many trips to the ladies room and have to re-arrange it when nature calls! I'll have to drink lightly!
You notice how the manufacture refers to this stuff--UNBELIEVABLE UNDERWEAR!

Hope I can pull it off and let the "assets" be my saving grace to fit into my dresses, what ever one I choose.

P.S., I'm leaning toward the red, as I have some very cute red pumps that my granddaughter and I love to wear. They are high, but still rather comfortable, I think I can stand them for an entire evening.

What do you think?

Opening night

Last night was opening night for "Prelude to a Kiss". Everything went very well, which was the first time it did go well! They say, "bad dress rehearsal, good opening night!" We were really hoping that was true, because we had a major malfunction of the sound and light cues, due to a lazy computer during dress rehearsal. The stage manager threw up her hands and was ready to head for the hills Thursday night after all of that. But things went very well last night, THANK HEAVEN!

I was told to stay backstage, instead of sneaking out at a certain time to do the changes for the lead actress. I found a couple of more times when she could use help, and between myself and the prop mistress, we got her changed and into the right stuff, with the minimum of off-stage noise as possible. Off stage is a triangle of space between a wall and a curtain, so any noise, such as banging hangers can be heard by the audience. We have a narrow beastly warm fire escape hall to change her into her wedding dress, and about 30 seconds to do it. But we were a well-rehearsed team last night and got it all done with maybe 5 seconds to spare.

The only problem that our Rita sees is that tonight I cannot be there to help her. She is very worried about that, and rightly so! I hope it goes OK. She is really depending on me, and that makes me feel good, like I'm contributing something besides a wedding dress and a couple of aprons. I've briefed the prop mistress and the "maid of honor" on how to do things, so hopefully they can get it done.

So, I wish you all luck, and I'll be with you Sunday. Hope things go OK tonight!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Cush Ball Crazies hit SewWhat

Little Boy M gets a beard
Little Girl M gets new hair

You know that SewWhat uses the cush ball with a face as the blogspot symbol. This means the the blogger is always on the look out for new cushball products to incorporate into the home landscape. The grandkids love this collection and want to play with them every time they come to visit.

So we had a cush ball crazy day yesterday, the cush balls were thrown, smacked, sat upon, and used to decorate the little bodies.

This is what we came up with!

Now, that is crazy, but so are cush balls!

Just adopt one of you own, and you'll have a great time with it!

Naps are overrated....only by 3 year olds!

What a week! Besides working with 3 new teachers, 28 new students, tech week for my first play of the month (2 more in successive weeks), planning for new plays in spring and summer, babysitting the grandkids, my afternoon nap cycle has been severely curtailed!

What is it about napping that toddlers and preschoolers resist? They must think they are missing something wonderful while they nap to make them resist the idea. My 4 year old Little Boy M resists it at preschool, until everyone else is ready to wake up, then he falls sound asleep and misses the afternoon fun. I usually have to wake him up at 4 p.m. when I come to pick him up because he is sleeping so soundly. Last week he was conked out so deeply that it took 15 minutes of work to arouse him!

So today, I actually followed my plan of leaving work at noon, having put in my hours in the classroom and in the office. The options for napping places loomed as my only challenge, and kitty and I chose our favorite napping place, the overstuffed chair under the soft blanket. Kitty likes to sleep on top of the blanket, nestled in my arms like a little baby. We used to call this position "en face", like a mother and child. It is endearing, until you try to move a muscle, and he gets testy about that, and begins to retaliate for being moved! (Hence the bandaid on my hand from a previous encounter!)

Kitty and I managed to squeeze in 3 nice refreshing naps today. I do feel like a new woman! Well, not maybe new, but somewhat renewed. Now, onward to a final dress rehearsal tonight, a day off tomorrow with a trip to the hairdresser on the calendar, and then opening night of "Prelude To a Kiss".

Thank heaven for naps, they make life look like it it can be endured.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Skaterboy's First Day of college

My step-grandson started college today. Hooray for you, Skaterboy! What was very wonderful was that his first class was in the same building at the same time as my first class. He was looking for his class to start, and when no teacher showed up, he at least had someone to come to ask what was going on, ME!

Turns out, we were several of many who forgot today was Tuesday, not Monday. So, his class in my building is on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, not Tuesday and Thursday. We got him re-oriented and on his way to the other end of campus, perhaps a few minutes late, but you can expect that on the first day of school.

I'm glad I got that little wake-up to the fact that people might get confused by the day, because two more students came to my classroom expecting to see other classes in there. They too had gotten the day confused. Their class meets in this room on M, W, and F. Thank heaven, because I don't want to give up my wonderful spacious classroom because of a time conflict.

We teachers can get very territorial with our spaces!

New Teachers

My small department of 2 teachers has increased by 150%. We have 3 new teachers working with us this semester. It has been a lot of fun to get to know them, and to answer their questions as they prepare for their new jobs.

Today, I co-taught a huge class of 28 ESL students with a lady who agreed to become a member of our staff just Saturday! What a brave person she is! We managed to get through our first day together, and are making plans as we continue to work on how to present our class material for future classes.

Our classes aren't exactly easy to catagorize, because they have a lot of unusual structure to them. So, hooray for my new teachers, and thanks so much for the support of my colleague who has been with me since 2005!

Together, we'll get through this challenging semester, and hopefully have a great time doing it. As a former colleague of mine once said, "We're in for the ride of our lives!"

Eagle sighting

Thirty years ago, this was a sight that few could actually see. The bald eagle, the symbol of the United States of America, was endangered and was getting close to becoming extinct. Poisons that people used to kill pests were ingested by the eagles in the fish and rodents and insects they ate. It caused their egg shells to become so fragile that the weight of the mother on the nest of eggs would cause them to break and the baby eaglets perish.

Environmental action banned the poisons from being used, and a rebuilding program to repopulate the eagle population began. Today, those actions are so successful that the bald eagle is no longer endangered, and in some places, is becoming so common that it is not even a novelty.

We live very close to the confluence to two of the United States great rivers, the Mississippi and the Missouri. At this latitude, the rivers seldom freeze over completely during the winter, and the number of locks and dams keep open water available for the eagles to fish from all year round. So, the winter migration of Bald Eagles brings them to our area.

Many people flock to viewing areas near the rivers to see the eagles in winter. Last year, I took a ride up the Great River Road in Illinois, and saw about 80 eagles that day. I took this picture during that trip.

Eagles like cold, windy, snowy, bitingly cold days to do their soaring. They roost in trees on calm days. You can imagine what kind of day it was when I saw 80 eagles soaring as I drove!

The other day, I was in our neighborhood doing some outside work. I looked up and guess what I saw? Not a pigeon, starling or crow. Not a red-tailed hawk or a kestrel. I saw a bald eagle soaring on the wind currents, right over my head, right in the middle of suburbia! It was exciting for me, because I can't get enough of watching these magnificant birds.

I guess they might become our common winter neighbors, even inland. From the height of his flight, he could probably still see the rivers, but it was exciting to see him right over my own suburban landscape!

Yes, it was a cold, windy, snowy, bitingly cold day, just like last year's excellent eagle watching day.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

A nice warm bath

Ahh, nice warm water!

Many people who know I have a backyard pond ask me what I do with the fish in the winter. "Do you bring them inside in winter?" No, folks, I don't have a 500 gallon fish tank in my house. "Then how do the fish survive?" How do they survive in the winter in any pond or lake? They lay low and wait till the water warms up!

We had a pretty powerful cold snap that has just broken in the past 24 hours. Before it began, I purchased a new pond heater to keep some open water for the bishies*(see below) benefit. Guidelines for ponds with fish say that even in freezing weather, an open area in the water must be kept, to keep gases from fish waste from becoming toxic to the fish. One of the added benefits for them is that the water around the heater is nice and warm, so they all gathered around it today. When I came out to take their picture, they were closer to it, but they moved away a little bit.

In my old pond(circa 1994-unknown), the fish would gather around the heater in a circle, with their little orange noses pointing toward the heater. This was a bigger pond with many more fish (lots of breeding went on in that pond!) They were all just trying to get a little bit of warmth in their cold environment. It formed a very pretty orange circle of fish bodies around the bright red heater, so cute,

So the poor fishies have a way to go to be in naturally warmed water, but until then, this will have to do. Enjoy your nice warm bath, *bishies!

*bish, def. cold blooded species, lives in water, identical to fish, pronunciation generated by little boy M, at age 2-1/2.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Clubbin' with the Oldies

Surprise! Happy Birthday, Steve!
The master at work

I live on a court with 15 houses. The neighborhood is new (abou 4 years old), carved out of an old empty field in a very established neighborhood. So we all moved in within about a year of each other. This has made us develop a very close-knit group. We party with each other, share each other's big events, and woeful events. One of the neighborhood's first actions was to come to my husband's visitation after he passed away, and this was after we had live there for only 3 months. Another neighbor lost his spouse last summer, and the neighborhood rallied around him also. So we are a close group.

The age range of the group varies from 30's to 70's. I'm on the upper end of that continuum, but the young ones are very gracious to invite me and include me in the "boomer" generation activities.

So, last night we went clubbing. Our neighbor across the street turned 50, and his wife planned a celebration with neighborhood couples. His next door neighbor owns a limo service, so we got the limo to take us to our various venues. Very nice! It was my first time in this type of vehicle, and it was nice, to say the least!

First it was boozing our way to dinner at a nice seafood restaurant. Next it was on to a very famous night spot to indulge the birthday boy's hobby of playing darts. He is very good, and although he got beat last night, his worthy opponent stated that he should be among the revered players on the "Wall of Fame" in the bar. Then we went to a local casino for a deposit of some of our cash!

Now, if we all weren't around 50 and were younger, the night would have been longer. The yawns and silences while we were going home meant that we were way past our normal bedtimes! So, it was fun, we were home by midnight, (didn't want our carriage to turn into a pumpkin, now did we?) We hope Steve had a great birthday, and I say, thanks for asking me to come along!

Friday, January 16, 2009

A Week from hell

My part time job seemed to take on new meaning this week, which was our service week back to the grindstone prior to the opening of school. I am the ESL coordinator for our college, and the week was full of plenty of activity, mostly taking up much more than a part time job would normally take.

It started Monday with two new teachers coming in for orientation. Syllabi, tours of the campus, paperwork, meeting other staff members, we worked on things together for an entire day. The next day, was the same.

Wednesday, somehow I managed to come in at 9 and leave near noon, to prepare myself physically for the M & M's who would be coming to stay with me Wednesday night. Then Thursday, we met our new students from SE Asia.

It was a marathon day, from 8 a.m. to 5:30 when I returned home. We met the students, graded their writing, interviewed them and placed them in their classes. The program on my campus (one of three participating in this program) is small, and finding classes to place them in was a challenge. What really made this difficult is that most of them are very accomplished as English speakers, readers and writers, so my class that was supposed to have 15 in it ballooned to 28 very quickly.

But Friday was the biggest challenge of all--spliting this group into two sections and then finding a teacher to actually teach the session. So far, no luck! Then at three o'clock came the news that one of my teachers might not have the necessary paperwork in order to be hired! What else can go wrong?

I am in awe of my department chair, who faces these issues every semester, and after many years at the helm, he is very cool at this time of year. I guess he knows that this too will pass, and it will all work out OK.

At this time, my anxiety level cannot see that it will be OK. I'm not sure how this will work out. So, all you 7.2 million unemployed people out there, is there an ESL writing teacher among you who would like a job from 8-10:30 two days a week? You'd have a great person to work with (me!) and you'd love the students. All I have to do is find that needle in the haystack, and I have one long holiday weekend in which to do it. 8:00 a.m. Tuesday morning, we need to be on the job!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Warm wishes from a cold city

I made 67 scarves for our visitors
All wrapped up and ready to go

Today, I am going to meet our scholarship students from SE Asia. Wouldn't you know that these visitors, mostly from tropical areas, are here during the coldest weather we've had here for over a decade? They are most probably not acclamated nor are they probably prepared with the proper clothing for enduring this kind of weather. On our agenda today is to place them and enroll them in classes, and then go shopping to help them get warm clothing. They will certainly need it today!

My colleague and I are meeting in a little while to travel down to the school where we will be meeting them. I hope they survive this morning, as it is 2 above zero here with a wind chill much below zero. Hope nobody decides to buy a ticket back to their warm climate! We do have some students from Mongolia, I am pretty sure they are prepared for this type of climate.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Baby Jesus in the garage

When you think of decorating for Christmas, you think of Santas, snowmen, deer and antelope grazing on the lawn (my motif for this year), and some people think of the religious aspect of Christmas. I've seldom seen an outdoor Nativity set that I would even pay $2 for. I hate those lit up from inside sets, with the fake statuary look. I had been looking for a nice outdoor Nativity set this year, but any I saw were either cheap looking (but expensive) or expensive looking and very expensive!

Last week, in my costuming mode, I had to find a "roman collar" for a minister for one play. So I went to a religious goods store to get the collar, which I knew would be under $2. This store was in my community for decades, but they decided to move to the newer suburban area last fall. I used my Map Quest to find out where they had moved, and set out to find the new store.

I felt like I was driving and driving and would soon cross some state line somewhere before I found this place. Low and behold, as soon as I walked in, there was my Nativity set, value priced at about $150 less than it had been before Christmas. It was still pricy, but is unbreakable and looks very natural. The adult statues are
29" tall, so they will be a significant addition to the lawn.

In the meantime, Baby Jesus is occupying quite a large space in the garage in the box with Mommy and Daddy. I hope to con the woodworker in my family to make me a stable, and then I'll feel like my Christmas decorations will be complete. I hate it when Christ is out of Christmas, no x-mas for me, thank you!

Baby, it's really cold outside!

The schools are closing, the pond is freezing over, the wind chill advisories sound more and more ominous. The midwest U.S. is undergoing the worst cold snap in 12 years. Are we ready for this?

I happen to work at a college that has just welcomed 60 exchange scholarship students from South East Asia. They must be freaking out thinking that they will have to endure this type of climate for their 8 week visit. In anticipation of this, tomorrow they will go shopping for warm clothing!

I am offering them a gift from myself. I emptied my huge fleece tub and made long neck scarves for each of them, plus I bought cheap gloves to add to their gift. I am going to have to get the gifts together tomorrow before I go down to meet them. I forgot, I was supposed to get 8 more pair of gloves tonight, and it is now 8:48 p.m. and I haven't shopped for them yet. Hopefully I can find some tomorrow morning before I leave to meet them.

Hope these folks from warm climates will survive their visit to the U.S. in winter. Too bad they didn't decide to go to college in California. But we will be glad to have them here, and we hope they survive the cold weather.

The Hills are alive with the Sound of Music

the four vonTrapp girls outfits made of curtain fabric

one of the three boys outfits

Soon, the hills will be alive with the sound of music on stage at my local high school's alumni musical. This group has been presenting musicals for many years, and it combines the interest of both the highschool students, their alums, and future students to participate in the presentation each year. The adults on the production staff are all graduates of the high school, and the lead cast members feature both current, past and future students.

I didn't go to this school, as I lived in the opposite part of town, but the principal and I went to the same school, and we worked on "HIGH SCHOOL MUSICALS" together in our years there. We went to the sister school in the south county area, whereas this school is in the north county area. But, I have friends who are involved, so that is how I got involved.

Last year they did "Meet Me In St. Louis". I had just finished making costumes for "The Music Man" (set in summer) and "The Christmas Carol" (set at Christmas, duh). Since Meet Me In St. Louis spans the whole year, they used parts of my costumes from those two plays for their production. Then, since I WASN'T BUSY???? I made some other costume pieces for their production.

So this year, when they announced that they were planning to do "The Sound of Music" they came to me to ask for help again. So I offered to make the vonTrapp kids outfits. It started out to be only the "curtain" outfits, but enlarged a bit to a second set. It is hard making 7 of identical things, you get bogged down by the repetitive nature of this job, but I finally finished the sewing yesterday.

So, this is how the curtain scene will be set. I still have to make the curtain, but that won't be anything difficult. I hope to deliver the whole mess to them this weekend, and be done with it.

Last night, I went to two production meetings for two more plays that I'll work on in 2009, plus got fabric, patterns and plans for the last winter show I'm working on currently, so being done with Sound of Music is by no means done with it all. I just have to give my sewing machines a little rest, clean up all the scraps, and then begin on the next set of shows!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Patterns, patterns, patterns

No, this isn't a picture of my entire pattern collection, it is a picture of the patterns I added to my collection TODAY! You see, JoAnn Fabrics is closing a store near my house (boo-hoo!) and their patterns (regular ones, not Vogue) are all $1.99, NO LIMIT on how many you can buy. They say they are going to open a superstore in our area, I'll believe that when I see it.

I had 45 minutes to kill waiting for an actor to show up for practice so I could measure him (Don't Drink the Water), so I scooted down the hill to the fabric store to look for one particular pattern. Unlucky for me, they didn't have that pattern, but while I was in the drawer where it should have been, I started spotting patterns that were very interesting.

This drawer held the older patterns that weren't even in the current pattern books, so I just went through the entire drawer, picking the ones I thought I might be able to use some day. I especially like Butterick's Retro Patterns, which are dated and have some awesome styles of dresses from the past. I was lucky enough to need to make some retro dresses for an actress in one of the plays I costumed last year, so these were a great choice for me to make her two dresses from. I love Butterick Patterns, they are very true to size from pattern to pattern, not something I can count on with other brands of patterns.

I just recieved some very old patterns (thank you fellow blogger!) from unknown years of the past. All I can tell about their vintage is that the price of the patterns ranged from $.15 to $.35, so you know they are old, because patterns of today cost from $11-$17 list price. Lucky for us seamstresses, nobody sells them at full price, and most fabric chains have a rotation of sales of patterns for $1.99 or $.99. Usually you are limited to how many you can purchase at a time at those bargain prices. So this sale was very inticing to just let my fingers do the walking and pick the patterns I thought I might use.

I chose baby/childrens patterns, other types of costume patterns, men's period costume patterns, and ladies period costumes. I also found some nice dressy gown patterns, just in case I get invited to the ball.

Did I tell you my sister's name?

It's Cinderella!

Countdown to.....

Here it is 8:50 a.m. and I've finished 7/8ths of one blouse, cut out the other one, and am washed, fluffed and ready to go to church! I'm one step closer to being done with this job! Hooray!

Edelweiss, Edelweiss.....

I'm thinking they are darling!

You remember in "The Sound of Music" Maria dresses the 7 vonTrapp children in fabric she steals from the curtains in the room. Well, this is the curtain fabric we found to do this job. The fabric itself is quite lovely, and it sure made into a cute outfit.

It was a little bland without some contrast. So I found some cream colored upholstery fabric stashed in my extensive multi-closet fabric stash that I made the weskits out of. These are for the little girls, who are flighty and can't focus, so the tops are velcroed closed in the back and the weskits are part of the whole top assembly. I think this will work best for them, because they have some quick costume changes in and out of this scene.

Today, in between 2 visits to other sets of my two other plays, I need to try to finish the big girls tops. I can make the suspenders during the week, and do the alterations to the wedding garments when I can snatch a minute. But right now, 6:59 a.m., I need to get going on sewing, I have 1 hour till I need to get ready for church to sew. Hope I can get a lot done in an hour!

Close to the finish line!

Here's my collection of finished items for "Sound of Music"

7 Blue bottoms, 4 circle skirts and 3 pairs of short pants
7 grey and blue middy tops, with ties. I have to put a snap on each of these to snap the dickey closed at the neck.

3 brown pairs of short pants
4 gathered skirts made of curtain fabric
2 blouses with weskits

Still needed 2 more blouses with weskits
3 pair of Liederhosen suspenders
Alter a wedding dress so she can get into it quickly
Alter a "MOB" dress--taking it in, putting more elastic in the neck and shortening it.
Make the curtains for the set!

Will I ever be done with this job?

Now, on to the next one. At 3:00 p.m. today, I'm meeting with the director and production staff of "Don't Drink the Water" to see what they need. I have 3 weeks to get this together, along with a very heavy load at work. So for today, I want to use my minutes to work on everything I can finish. See ya later, alligator!

Friday, January 9, 2009

Found it!

I found the part for my serger--hooray! I finished one top tonight. That makes 4 skirts and 1 top for today's work. Plus I found a $4 tuxedo and a flowing white dress for Prelude to a Kiss. So the day was tough, but not a complete loss.

Still looking for a little tiny set screw for my old serger, the sewing machine store didn't have one in stock, I'll have to get them to order it. It is about the size of one grain of fat rice. Without it, the machine doesn't work properly! Go figure! I've bought a "trial" screw twice, and neither worked, so I guess I'd better order one--or a couple just in case!

MonkeyGirl, MommaMartha and This D*mn House are cropping, hope they have fun this weekend!


No, I didn't get caught doing anything wrong, or maybe I did! My day of sewing costumes has not gone smoothly.

First it was a busted head on the corner of the shelf as I plugged in the iron. No blood, just a little dent in my skull.

Then it was a busted tummy, that kept me from staying at my task in the sewing room, because I was spending much time in the bathroom...but, that seems to have calmed down. Thank heaven.

Then it was busted threads here and there, on both the straight sewing machine and then the serger.

Then the ultimate broken item, I ran over a pin with my serger and broke the upper knife. If you have ever used a serger, you know you cannot continue without an upper knife. Now I have to find a part in this city.

So, is that someone up above's message to me to quit sewing for a while and take a rest? If I can't find a replacement part, I'm in big trouble, so I hope my afternoon break will net me some much needed parts so I can continue my job.

Napping may be an option, though.

Prepping for a wedding

You have your brides who are laid back, your brides who are up tight, and of course, many who are somewhere in between. The laid back brides plan the wedding about 2 months or less before the event. The uptight brides (Bridezilla type) have every nuance and detail planned within 24 hours of accepting the engagement ring. And every minute of their wedding day is filled to accomodate the many details of dressing for the big event.

But what if you have one minute to get ready for the big day?

In "Prelude to a Kiss" the bride and groom meet, get to know each other, live with each other, meet the parents, and are propelled down the aisle in about 30 minutes! This means that the actual wedding takes place without a lot of time to prepare the bride and groom for their great day.

The groom dresses before your eyes on stage. His best man brings in his tux and cumberbund and dresses him while he is speaking. The bride has about 1 minute, divided into 2 30 second sessions to get out of her other clothes, and into her wedding garb for the big event. We've developed a routine, and will practice it in upcoming rehearsals to perfect our timing to send her out on stage with the zippers zipped and veil arranged! Her maid of honor holds the veil, I attach the overskirt, AFTER she strips down to her bathing suit (for the honeymoon scene, which is immediately following after she strips off the wedding gown) and we zip up her gown. It's a flurry of activity. These continuous scenes always work better in movies than in stage plays!

I had a short "bridal" costume change to deal with in Oklahoma. In the span of 10 minutes, Laurey and Curley got married (change #1), spent their wedding night and were chivareed (change # 2), Judd got killed, Curley was tried (change #3), and they left for their honeymoon (change #4)! AND SANG "OKLAHOMA" IN BETWEEN! This meant 4 very quick changes in 10 minutes, with about 30 seconds each behind the curtain! During one of our practices before we had the routine down pat, Curley adlibbed "Be there in a minute!", because she wasn't ready, which brought on gales of laughter! We had to velcro Laurey into her clothes because buttons were not an option for that quick change. I followed her as she came off one scene to the curtain call to make sure she wasn't hanging out somewhere, I tucked her in as she lurched forth onto the stage!

So you brides who have plenty of time to prepare--be glad for that luxury. Those stage brides and grooms can't even sneak a peak in the mirror to see if things are in place on their BIG DAY!

How you know it's good

One of the fondest memories I have of my days as a principal of a small Catholic School was of directing our yearly Christmas pageants. Every child in our small school had a part, and we spent about 6 weeks preparing for the event. They were always very exhausting, for the most part worth while, and many people appreciated going to them (always a few naysayers, so not all liked this plan.) One lady wrote me this Christmas telling me how much she missed going to them!

I got the idea for the type of presentation we would give for Christmas on my very first day of work as principal. I sat in an empty school waiting for my first student to arrive and sign up to come to my school. The action was less than lively, so I had a lot of time to think. Here was what I came up with...

We would have a nice Christmas dinner for the adults, and after we ate our wonderful dinner (prime rib!), we would be entertained by the little angels in the school play. While the adults were eating, the children would have their own brand of party in a different space, get dressed in their costumes, and be marched over at the appointed time to present the play.

Our first play, "Calling All Angels" featured our school mascot, the guardian angel. In years to come we incorporated this theme into many of our Christmas plays. The children looked so darling, and I dolled up the ugly stage with yards of gold lame and fake poinsettias. We codged together lights and music and sound, and it worked out OK. We did a play of this sort for many years, and made a few bucks each time. It finally met its demise one year when it was turned into a chancel play (not by me, but by #1 naysayer), and it was a disaster. From then on, it was just a Christmas program, because I left the school the day after the disaster, and no one ever revived the idea of a full play presentation. (The same naysayer is still in charge!)

When you are working with actors and actresses, no matter what their age, you encourage them to portray a message. Maybe it's about Baby Jesus or some of life's little twists, but I always know a play is good when it brings a tear to my eye. Whether I'm watching or I'm directing or I'm assisting, I know it's good by my own emotions. The tear may be a result of exhaustion, or pride in a child's accomplishment, or by the message in an adult play that really came through. When I was directing, I sometimes got the tear during a dress rehearsal, but sometimes not until the actual performance. During some of the plays I've worked with at the community theatre, I've gotten the tear every time I saw it (On Golden Pond did it to me every time!) Some have also left me dry-eyed and disappointed.

Last night I saw a complete run-through of "Prelude to a Kiss". It is very different from other plays I've seen, and I wasn't sure I really liked the play. I had read the script, and that left me cold. But the actresses and actors did a fabulous job of bringing me right into their story, no matter how much of a crazy fantasy story it was, and the tear sprang forth. I'm choking them back now as I think of it. Congratulations to the cast, director and producers of this play, and all I can say is, "Break a Leg! You guys are great!"

Opening night is Jan. 23.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Here comes the Bride..or at least I think it's her!

This play, which I am working on costuming, has been made into a movie, starring Meg Ryan. Have any of you seen it? If you have, you know why I titled this blog in the way I did! I'm not going to give away the secret, so you'll have to see the movie to fit the pieces of this puzzle together.

The wedding scene in this play is the centerpiece for the play, and so I was commissioned to find a wedding dress for the leading lady. Finding a wedding dress that would fit my beautiful actress by going to thrift stores or begging people for cast-offs isn't always fruitful or time-wise, so I decided long ago that I would use a simple pattern and make the dress to fit my actress. The lines of the dress I made are very close to the ones that MonkeyGirl chose for her own wedding 2 years ago.

Several of the criteria for this wedding dress are: she must be able to dress in less than a minute, she must wear her swim suit under it, because she peels off the dress on stage, and is on her honeymoon in the next scene! And she needs a veil that covers her face, because her father lifts it, kisses her and then gives her over to the happy groom.

I made a muslin and fit it on her Sunday, and then was ready to go ahead. I almost ran out of my cheap $3.88 a yard fabric, which I bought the entire bolt of, so some modifications had to be made, nothing critical. I'm sure it will look much better on her darling figure than stuffed with plastic bags and laying on the couch!

The veil will be modified today, I'm going out now to find a comb and will remove the ring. This style looks dorky on her, although it looks nice on the couch! We want it to look good on stage. Hope my director likes the results.

Is it OK, DR. J?

Measure once, cut twice OR?????

This is the play I'm working on today. I am the costume coordinator, but I did make a few things for this play. Mostly, the actors and actresses are raiding their closets for things to use in the play

Backstory to this post....

My darling Late Mr. was a very meticulous woodworker. He was very slow in completing projects, but he rarely had mistakes to cover up, and things fit together very well.

He framed the entire basement of our original family home, putting up the outside walls, interior walls and doorways. It took him months (and many cases of beer, I might add--but the walls were still straight!) to finish this framing job. After all the time he was working on it, when it was completely framed, I said, "Oh goody, now we can start hanging drywall!" Not so fast, Mrs. SewWhat. The entire thing was up and there was not one nail holding it in place. He measured so carefully and fit the wood so well that it stood, an entire basement, with not one nail. So he had to number everything, take it all down and nail it together! Luckily for the impatient spouse he was married to, this part didn't take nearly as much time as the cutting and framing did.

My kids were so impressed by Dad's life lesson that he taught them, to "measure twice, cut once!" that they put it in the eulogy they gave at his funeral.

Sorry to say, this life lesson is lost on me. I rarely do that, and many times get into trouble. You see, in this play, Prelude to a Kiss, one of the settings is in a trendy bar. The characters need a butcher apron to wear. I have a fancy embroidery sewing machine that often is neglected, so I thought, why not embroider the name of the bar on the apron, thus appearing to be a professionally made item. So I started on my job, with a vague reference in my head of what the name of the bar really is in the play. This is my prototype.

Hello, SewWhat--you idiot! Why don't you check on what you are supposed to do instead of relying on your rapidly faily memory? THIS IS WHAT IT IS SUPPOSED TO SAY!

Luckily, I didn't sew the erroneous logo directly on the aprons, I sewed them on a pocket to be attached to the apron. I was so proud of myself figuring out the embroidery process, I didn't pay attention to the right text!

So this is the finished project, and hopefully it will be right. I need to remember those words, "Measure once, cut twice" NOOOOOOOOO it's "Measure twice, cut once!" I always learn the hard way.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

High Maintenance

We all know what that means. If it is a house, you are working on fixing stuff all the time. If it is a car, make friends with the man at the repair shop, because you are going to become best buds. If it is a spouse, well, you'll be walking on eggshells a lot. If it is a kid, take an extra dose of vitamins, you are going to need them!

My little M & M's were definitely high maintenance tonight. Little Girl had her hand on her hip and finger shaking at me all evening! Every word out of her mouth registered 100 decibels on the eardrums, and sometimes it went to dog whistle pitch, and the her actions were about to be measured on the Richter Scale!

Grandma, come here! Grandma, play with me! Grandma, I'm going to eat popcorn! Grandma, my horse is going to eat popcorn! ( and spill it all over the floor!) Grandma, I'm going to make a cave (meaning turn out the lights!) Grandma, I'm going to turn on the lights! Grandma, I'm going to chase the cat! Grandma, I'm going to slam the door! Grandma, I'm going to imitate Horton (she saw the movie for the first time today--Horton jumps!) Whew...after a couple of hours of that, I definitely need an extra shot of vitamins right now!

When they left my house, it was snowing. That just got the adrenaline going an extra notch. Tired mommy and worn-out grandma could only hope that the hours until bedtime would roll around quickly, and sleep would come to their little overwroght bodies and peace will reign again.

Hope springs eternal...

They may be high maintenance, but I love them just the same. Especially when I get kisses and hugs and sweet smiles in between the chaos.

A Photographer is born

Grandma's picture
Budding Photographer's picture

My little granddaugther (one of the M's in M & M's) is 3-1/2, going on 21. You know the type, you see them with their hand on their hip, shaking their finger at you, telling you what to do and what not to do! Gets a grandma's blood a-perking when that happens!

They spent the night at my house over New Year's Eve. There wasn't much fuss that night, she was especially great. Maybe that means she is growing out of the terrible twos, turned totally terrible threes, and can finally live in peace with the rest of the world for more than 20 minutes! Part of her "schtick" is that jealousy reigns supreme in siblings that are 15 months apart, and they both vie for the center ring in the three ring circus of their lives!

When she is with me without her brother around, she is a little angel. The same goes for him. But when the two of them are together, they know how to push each other's buttons, and the scene can get ugly.

Well, on New Year's Day, her brother and her mom were playing a new video game on the Wii. That meant that she had to wait to see her favorite movie, Polar Express. Mom is so sick of that movie she puts it "in the vault" every year after Christmas, or they would have to watch it every day. Now, I totally love the Polar Express movie, and have loved that story since it came out in the late 80's. So I was very willing to watch the movie one more time with little girl M.

I have an old DVD player hooked up to the tv in my bedroom, so we got our blankets and snuggled and watched the movie. She wandered off the ranch a few times, but came back and continued to watch. She can describe every different scene in the movie because she has seen it so many times.

During one of her breaks in attention span, she decided she wanted to take my picture. I bought a little Canon PowerShot camera last year, and love it because it is so compact and easy to use. With a little instruction, she got the hang of how to take the picture. Well, maybe the aiming and framing of the shot isn't quite perfected yet! I know she caught my most pleasing aspect, my scrawny turkey flesh neck! I want to frame this picture for sure! NOT! Then I took her picture, and she showed me her foot just as the picture snapped.

Now you have two wonderful portraits of some great photographers, one with experience and one who is budding in her craft!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Doe a dear, a female deer....

The seven vonTrapp Family Singers children's outfits

Little Girls' outfits

Little Boys' outfits

I've been working on this project for the Sound of Music for a while now. I finished the skirts and pants before Christmas, but never could find the time to get the tops done. Last Friday and Saturday, I worked on making the basics of the tops, completing them until all they needed were the hems, the cuffs and the ties. Today I worked at least 8 hours to do the finishing on the set of outfits.

One top didn't fit right, and this was for the oldest girl. Since she is the most important person in the ensemble of 7, I remade her top, hoping it will fit better. One boy's shorts were too short, so I made another pair of them. Now they are all finished except for sewing a snap on each one to close the neck dickey.

I think they look darling on hangers, so I know they will look even cuter on the kids.

What do you think?

Slick as Snot!

Well, I had my route well planned. Go across the garden, then on to the lawn and down to where the newspaper is! No pavement to cross! This is because we have had a spit of rain that fell down on cold pavement, and everything is slick as snot outside, covered with a thin coating of ice!

Even with the well-planned route, I still got in trouble. I forgot that the garden stones separating the garden from the lawn should be considered pavement, and they were ice covered. So, as soon as I stepped on one of them, down I went! Luckily, my fall was broken by some forgiving evergreens, and nothing was hurt but my pride!

So watch out when you hear about ice! It is very deceptive, and can be dangerous! Now I'll spend the rest of the day picking evergreen needles out of my pants!

January, the darkest month!

Well, I pulled the plug yesterday. Not on life support or anything that earth shattering, but on the outdoor lights and display that decorated my house for the Christmas holidays. With the threat of freezing rain in our area for today, the deer and their "forest" were taken inside, and the lights on the eaves had their plug pulled. Many other neighbors have done the same on their homes, so the court that was once lit up from one end to the other is now going dim, one house at a time. There are still a few diehards who have kept the electricity flowing, but each day they are fewer and farther betweeen!

Not only do the lights of Christmas dim in January, but the sky seems to follow that same pattern, it is usually dark and dreary most days in January. It is the month when SAD appears in many people (Seasonal Affective Disorder--you are restless, tired, depressed, and can't get your mojo on). No wonder so many folks who are able flee to the south like the birdies and soak in the sun until spring!

This month brings memories of sadness from my past, my mother passed away in January, my father-in-law was hospitalized with a terminal illness in January, but he hung on til February. It seems like January is a month of funerals.

Of course, there is always the dismal financial picture. Big bills because of Christmas spending, this year the stock market gutted my savings! No retail therapy to cure the January blues for me this year! Plus my first paycheck doesn't come again until mid-February! I may be eating a lot of hot-dogs this month.

We'll start the new semester soon, which is an upper for me, but many days we battle snow and ice just to get to school! We have a thin coating of ice on our streets right now, that is complicating a lot of early morning travel in this city. Many schools are closed today, and you can't even tell why, until you start to walk on the sidewalk! Thank goodness the college doesn't start until Jan. 20th.

So happy January. I always feel like I've battled the beast and won when I'm still alive on Feb. 1, still have a job, haven't broken any bones falling on the ice, no fenders have been bent on the vehicle, haven't been foreclosed on yet, and maybe, even maybe, have lost a few pounds because of following my yearly plan to get on track and get in shape as a new year's resolution.

This is one month I wouldn't mind losing from the calendar! Hey Julius Caesar, why did you do this to us?

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Hooray for the Seamstress!

Well, I actually got a set of 7 vonTrapp kids outfits more or less finished (garments are constructed, but they need hems and finishing.) I went to the play practice today (Sound of Music, in case you needed a reminder about the vonTrapps), and got all of the kids together for a fitting. They were twirling around, shifting and squiggling, but after the director came out and told them to stand still, I could finally do some fitting! They were very excited about their outfits.

These outfits are navy blue skirts and navy walk shorts, with grey and navy middy tops. I remember from the movie that Mr. vonTrapp is military, but I didn't remember that he was in the navy. But his kids look cute in middy outfits.

So they all lined up in "birth order", and then marched in to the gym where the rest of the cast was practicing. All of a sudden, a round of applause broke out as they marched in. I didn't know what was going one, but one by one, moms popped their heads out, and said, "Did you make those outfits? They are darling!" I had many compliments!

I guess plays finally look like they are coming together when the costumes are broken out. It somehow motivates the actors and actresses to finally learn their lines, remember their cues, and come on and off at the right time. The Sound of Music will open on January 30, so there isn't much time to finish up with everything! The assistant director is shaking her head right now, but she's a veteran of this group, so she knows it will all fall in place by opening night.

By the way, I had to go to another practice site today for another fitting for another play. My work is cut out for me this week, finish this first set of clothes for the Sound of Music, make a wedding dress for the second play I'm working on, make a second set of clothing for the Sound of Music, and then get ready to go back to work next week. Will there be any time for naps this week?