Saturday, August 31, 2013

Books Read in August 2013

Vacation!  Much time to read!  Very exciting!  I even read three books that were not book club books.

Written in Stone
Roseanne Parry
Read for Librarian Book Group
I was a great fan of Island of the Blue Dolphins as a child (though I haven't read it since) and this book left me in the same place.  It's a well-crafted tale of a Native American girl living on the Olympic Peninsula in the 1920's.  The story is moving and full of details and the author, who is not Native American, seems to have worked hard to respect the Native American culture.

The Rules for Hearts
Sara Ryan
I wanted  more from this book.  More of the brother, who remains a cipher throughout and then is suddenly explained in a few paragraphs in the final chapters.  More of the household relationships.  More of the play, even.  I did enjoy the various Portland locals very much.

Man of My Dreams
Curtis Sittenfeld
"Huh.  I seem to have missed reading one of Curtis Sittenfeld's books" said I to myself as I perused a review of her new novel.  Being a fan of Prep and a rabid fan of American Wife, I put this book on hold at the library and soon had it in my possession.  And then, while I read it, I puzzled over whether I had actually read this book before.

It's not listed in my Goodreads list, but that only goes back to 2008, so it's possible that I did read it when it was first published in 2007.  The plot seemed incredibly familiar to me, so much so that I was distracted a bit while reading, stretching to see if anything felt familiar.

That said, I love how Sittenfeld's character was fairly removed from her emotions, peering at them as if watching them over a fence, happening to someone else.  She was so careful, and so unnatural in her actions, I enjoyed her journey.

Chu's Day
Neil Gaiman
Read for Librarian Book Group
I was left with a feeling of "eh" after reading this very short picture book.  But the librarians reported this is a great read aloud, with the sneeze repeatedly building and building and then stopping.  Until it doesn't.

Take Me Out to the Yakyu
Aaron Meshon
Read for Librarian Book Group
The part of me that should have been a double entry accountant (whatever that is) LOVED this book.  On one page, we see the American version of baseball.  On the facing page, we see Japanese version of baseball.  Great bi-cultural little kid experience, great compare and contrast, great illustrations.

Rainbow Rowell
Solid and clever romance with two characters who do not know each other.  Bonus newspaper newsroom setting for fans of the reporter genre.  Very funny conversations between two friends.  Excellent twists. Omaha, Nebraska setting. Great fun of the kind where I abandoned other projects just to keep reading.  After Eleanor and Park and this, I'm ready for whatever Rowell throws my way.

Monkey and Elephant Get Better
Read for Librarian Book Group
Pretty much what the title says, though Monkey and Elephant have very different ways of fighting off a cold.  Good three-chapter beginning reader.  The librarians really liked the clarity of the font.

The Zookeeper's Wife
Diane Ackerman
Read for Book Group
This was packed full of sometimes a few too many details, but was quite fascinating. I learned a lot about the Polish resistance, of which I knew little, and I found it to be good enough that it was worth breaking my "no more Nazis" rule of book reading.

A Tangle of Knots
Lisa Graff
Read for Librarian Book Group
I did not love this juvenile chapter book that also came with recipes for various cakes.  I found there to be too many characters, many of whom were rather shadowy, so I was vaguely confused for the entire book.  However, many people really enjoyed the book's quirky nature and you might too.  I did copy a few of the cake recipes to make.   Lime Pound Cake anyone?

That is NOT a Good Idea
Mo Willems
Read for Librarian Book Group
A picture book that might be a child's first glimpse of what silent movie title cards looked like.  I call that a plus.  This is a funny story with a twist.

Silver Linings Playbook
Matthew Quick
It is rare for me to prefer a movie adaptation to the original book, but I did in this case.  Everything that makes the movie delightful is here in the book--and more!  But I found the book to drag a bit in places.  That said, the book was as funny as the movie and worth the read.

Unicorn Thinks He's Pretty Great
Bob Shea
Read for Librarian Book Group
Goat has a problem with Unicorn.  Just the existence of Unicorn brings Goat down.  Very bright colors and also rainbows.  Funny.

The Watermelon Seed
Greg Pizzoli
Read for Librarian Book Group
By the time book group came around I didn't actually remember this book.  But it's a fun little vignette and a good summertime read.

Gone Fishin
Read for Librarian Book Group
A story of a boy going on a fishing trip with his father told in many different poem forms.  Includes information about the different poetry forms as well a poetry vocabulary.  Not only is it interesting from the poetry standpoint, it is fun from the storytelling point too.  It might make a fun read aloud.

September Girls
Bennett Madison
Read for Librarian Book Group
Boy spends summer on island populated with very attractive and unique girls.  Said girls have eyes for him, in a way that makes his older brother crazy.  Interesting exploration of sex and identity in a way that I think YA books usually shy away from. I wonder if male authors can get away with this more than female authors?

A is for Apron Provence Smock tutorial.

Provence Smock is awesome, but the directions are not. Here is my translation.

I think this is an advanced beginner, if not an intermediate project.

To begin.  The green smock below was made with the pattern available in the book.  I have a 42" bust.  When I finished it, I was a little surprised at the fit, it was much tighter than pictured on the model.  This should not be a surprise as I am not a model, but it was.  

I made the second apron bigger by adding one inch to the yoke, front part and straps.  You can see the fit difference below.

After wearing both aprons for more than a month now, I can say that I prefer the tighter first version, as it better stays in place through the day.  I think the second one looks more like the fit in the picture, but I don't like how loose it is.  If I were to make another one, I would still add an inch to the straps and keep everything else the same.

Let's talk yardage.  The directions call for 1.5 yards of fabric (or toile).  I found that with that amount the layout was tight on the green apron and it wasn't enough for the patterned apron, as you will see. I would recommend 1.75 yards, or 2 yards if you are wanting to be super-safe or match patterns.  All other materials listed are correct, though thread got a bit dicey with the green apron.

Directions from the book are in bold, my commentary is in normal font.

1. Cut out the apron pieces using the pattern pieces.  Yes.  Do this.  If you want a fit more like the patterned apron and you have a 42" bust, add 1/2 inch to the front piece, 1/2 inch to the yoke and 1 inch to the straps.  Wait a bit and I will get to the second half of the instructions of step one.
The pieces with added amounts.  Both the yoke and the front are cut on the fold, so adding 1/2 inch will give you an inch total.
Lay out your pieces.  Here, aside from the cat "helping," you can see I don't have enough material to fit the entire front piece.  This would have been the case even if I hadn't increased the pattern size.
Checking to see if everything else will fit.
The pocket pattern says "cut 4," but later the pattern refers to the pocket lining.  If you need to save material, cut 2 of your pockets out of a different material, as I did here.  These became the "pocket lining".
Here is how I made it work.  I drew a line to bisect the front pattern piece.
Then I cut the piece and moved the shorter piece down into the area where the second set of pockets would have gone.
Be sure to add 5/8 for a seam allowance to both pieces.  Then, I joined the newly created side pieces with the front piece using a French Seam.
Hot tip:  Use tailor's tacks to mark the dots where the pockets are.  This will become important later.  Also use tailor's tacks to mark where the buttons will be attached.  This is less important as exact button placement is not key to this project.
2. If necessary, splice the bias tape together to create one long piece.  Save the spliced bias for binding the outer edges of the apron, where the spliced edges will be easier to hide.  If you are buying your bias tape in the standard packages, you will need two packages and you will need to splice it together.  I found a tutorial on the Internet that I have not been able to find again.  But you should have a good idea of how to do this, so watch some tutorials. It's one of those things that freezes my brain and I can't think.  As for the second half of the instructions, ignore them. If you start attaching the bias tape where they instruct you to and you are using packaged bias tape, it will automatically fall on the outer edges of the apron.  An important bias tape note.  I skipped step 16, making the bows and attaching them to the pockets.  That left me with a healthy amount of excess bias tape.  This meant that whenever the directions said to "leave 1/2 inch bias tape on each side" I made that number "2 inches" because I knew I would have enough bias tape and I wanted more play, just in case.

3.  Attach the bias tape blah blah blah.  This makes no sense to do right now.  Ignore this step.  Just cross it out.

Mark the circles on the yoke but only on one piece.  The other one will become the yoke back and will not need them.
Second half of step one.
1.[That step up above then ]Trim all the outer edges of the fabric pieces to accept the bias tape.  Set them aside.  This means the following: Stay-stitch all outer edges of the apron 1/4 inch, trim to 1/8 inch. "All outer edges" means the neck straps, (except where they join the yoke) the front piece (but not the top) and ONLY THE TOP of the pockets. The yoke that doesn't have the circles marked (a.k.a yoke back)  will be stitched all around,  (but not where it joins the neck straps) the yoke with the circles marked only needs stay-stitching on the inside and on the outside to the circles.  See the picture after the next one for an illustration of this.  Important thread note! This is a rather thread-intensive project.  The green apron used up nearly all of a standard spool of thread.  If you are worried about running out of thread, use something else for the stay-stitching, which will be covered by the bias tape.

An illustration of what all the trimming back looks like.
4.  Cut two strips of fusible interfacing...and press them where the two buttonholes will be.  Yes.  Do this.  And while you are messing about with fusible interfacing, why not also do:

17.  Cut two small squares or dots of interfacing and fuse them to the wrong side of the neck straps [they mean apron front] where you will sew the buttons.  If you would like to give that button a bit more support, cut out a few scraps of material and sew it over the interfacing. (I have no picture of this because I did not do it.)

5. Trim one of the yoke pieces 3/8 inch away form the lower edge between the circles.  This piece will become the yoke front; the remaining one will become the lining.  Do not trim the lining.  Yes.  Do this.

Marking and trimming.
We are usurping steps 9 and 13 here, because this way makes more sense.  Take a length of bias tape and cut it to fit the front yoke between the two circles PLUS at least two inches on both sides.  The directions say 1/2 inch, but better to have more tape to cut off than to run short (which happened to me with the green apron.)  Attach the bias tape to the yoke front on the back.
DO NOT yet attach it on the yoke front.
 I'm not really sure why we suddenly jump over to pockets.  Feel free to save this until we actually get to the attaching pocket phase.
6. Sew the pocket front and the lining together [with wrong sides together] using a [1/4 inch seam. Press it down.  Do not turn.  Do not press seam under at this time] The instructions and I very much differ about the pockets and I think my way is better.  So go with 1/4 inch rather than 3/8 and don't trim  or press anything.
6. (Continued.)  Run two gathering lines across the top of the pocket, and set it aside.  Would you like to know a good place to put your gathering lines, so they don't get caught up in the bias binding?  I thought so.  Put them at 5/8" and 3/4".
7. Run two gathering lines across the top of the apron front. Set it aside.  Would you like a suggestion for a good place for those gathering lines? Put them at 1/4" and 3/8".
8. Join the neck straps to the yoke and yoke lining.  Press the seams open.  I would add to make sure your neck straps are going in the right direction. It's easy to get them reversed, especially if you have spacial relations problems.  But here's what it looks like properly lined up.
9. Sandwich the yoke and the yoke lining together.  Baste or stitch them with the longest machine stitch [on the edges beginning from the center front yoke and working out to the edge of each neck strap.] Press [the joined yoke and necks straps] down making sure all edges are evenly aligned.  Trim them if necessary.  If you are hand-basting, I would baste through the center front of the yoke.  If you are machine-basting, I wouldn't.  REMEMBER not to sew through the lower part of the yoke--the part that will attach to the apron front--because that will make it difficult to complete step 11.
[Step 10 is moving to a later time]
11.  Attach the apron front to the yoke lining, with the right side of the lining to the wrong side of the [apron] front.  Match notches and center front.  Adjust gathers, and stitch them together with a 5/8 inch seam.  Press the seam to the yoke.  This means gathering the apron front first.  I like gathering; it's fun.  Here I am showing you my apron front center.  Of note:  I found figure 1 in the book helpful at this point.
11 (continued.)  Remove the gathering threads,  and trim the seam to 1/2 inch, clipping curves if necessary.
And here is the joining, sans gathering threads.
Here is the trimming.
13.  [You've already done all of the other parts back when we were usurping steps 9 & 15 so all that is left is to] stitch through all thicknesses.
14.  Encase the outer edges of the apron front.  Begin at the inside edge [but not at the corner] of the left neck strap.  Bind the inner neck strap, continuing around the yoke.  Miter the right corner of the neck strap and continue along the other edge, covering the exposed edge of the bias tape on the front of the yoke. [If you have excess bias tape on the yoke you will need to trim off the excess.]  When you reach the [beginning,] finish off by turning in the edge and stitching through all thicknesses. I had not mitered corners before and so found a tutorial on that topic. It's also worth thinking about how you will start and end your bias tape so no raw edges show.  But other than the terror of the unknown mitered corners (they weren't that hard) this was a rather satisfying step.  The whole thing gets encased.  So fun!
Also, after this you can do:
10.  Mark the buttonholes on the right side of the neck straps and then make the holes.  My machine isn't able to make button holes right now, so I had to use a friend's machine later.

On to the pockets.  We are almost done.
If you have already done step 6, then continue.  If you have not yet done step 6, do it now.

15.  Pull the gathers on the pocket to equal 5 inches across.  Bind the top edge with the bias tape, leaving [2 inches] on each side.  Remove the gathering stitches. I found it helpful to mark off five inches on my directions so I could gather properly.
Here we go into my pocket adaptation.  Mark the tailor's tacks indicating the pocket placement with chalk or disappearing ink.
Make a template of the outline of the pocket using a thin cardboard.
Using the tailor's tacks/marks as a guide trace around the pocket placement template using chalk or disappearing ink.
Sew the pocket on the line you have drawn, folding the raw edge under as you sew. Use the line of stitching you made to join the pocket and lining. You needn't worry if the pocket comes out a bit askew, the gathers of this style make it hard to see.
15. (continued) Use the seam leveler at the corners as necessary.  I wasn't sure what a seam leveler was, but handy googling told me I didn't need to buy a tool.  If you used packaged bias tape, just fold over the cardboard piece that comes with the bias tape and snug it up against your presser foot.  Instant seam leveler.
If you are worried about your pocket strength, sew a second line of stitching.
If you haven't yet done the first part of 17, do that. then.
17. (continued)  Sew the buttons through the fabric and interfacing.
Stand back and admire your finished creation.

I hope this tutorial has cleared up any questions you might have.  If  you find it helpful, please leave a comment and/or link to your finished apron.  I would love to see it.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Hard times for readers of the Oregonian.

Our full-time movie critic (Shawn Levy) has been gone for more than a year, but this week we said goodbye to our theater critic, Marty Hughley.  Last week it was the music guy, Ryan White, a reporter I always read, even though I never listened to the music he was writing about, because he was such a good writer.

The point of having a full-time critic is that I get to know their preferences and that helps inform a decision if what they are talking about is something I might be interested in.  Having a bunch of part-timers is not helpful in getting anything done but giving a summary.

The thing I hate most about this transition is that the Oregonian refuses to acknowledge that they are settling for a lesser product.

Three sentence movie reviews: Barney's Version

On the one hand, this was a rather boring movie with an annoying main character, and I just didn't care very much about anything that happened.  On the other hand, it was interesting to see actresses I don't usually see very much of.  Also, there was a bit of a mystery that was solved at the end in a very satisfying way.

Cost:  free, on loan from co-worker from his library system
Where watched: at home.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Prompt Writing: Burnside homage.

This spring, I took a writing class offered through Write Around Portland.  It was called "Prompt" because each week we would meet and write for a limited amount of time--usually somewhere between 2-8 minutes--to a number of different prompts.  As the school year grinds to a start and I have less time to write, I will be featuring excerpts from my writing class in lieu of the weekly essay.

Some of you "out-clickers" have already read this, as it was the piece I picked for the broadsheet.  The prompt was "along Burnside."

The sidewalks are skinny. Too small to hold the accumulated panhandlers, tourists and residents who travel along Burnside.  There are even posted signs, directing us to keep walking, not to stop and sit, or contemplate the heavy traffic.  Sometimes, I think back a few decades, imagining the hybrids sprouting tailfins and doubling in length, then morphing again into Model Ts and early horseless carriages, and soon I hear the quiet clop of a horse pulling a carriage. As my mind travels back, buildings transform, replaced by their shorter predecessors.  I go further back and traffic thins until the road itself disappears, replaced by a footpath leading through the trees to the banks of the Willamette River.

Postcard from Germany.

I love they shiny cheerfulness of this snail postcard.  So pretty.  Tina sent me a quote:  "The paths of friendship shall be walked often or they will grow rampant."

Monday, August 26, 2013

Tour of ArtHouse!

We've watched it go up, piece by piece.  Now we get to see inside!  A woman stopped by school to invite everyone to the open house.  When I made the sad face because I couldn't go, she scheduled a tour right then for us.  This was very exciting.

ArtHouse (this is from the press release) is a collaboration between project[triangle thingie that is not available to me on my keyboard], the Powell Family, and Pacific Northwest College of Art which will bring 130 students to the North Park Blocks.

Here is the view from the front door, looking at the courtyard.  The elevators are on the right.
A lounging space, overlooking the park.
Another space.  These spaces are designed to have rotating gallery exhibits.
The library. Powell's donated the art books in the bookcase.
Lovely contrasts in the courtyard.
Behind that metal fence is bike parking.
There are two staircases, blue and green.  This (for those of you with colorblindness) is the blue one.
One highlight of the building is the huge amount of natural light flooding the hallways.
Sixth floor view, looking towards Burnside.
Each unit has a stackable washer and dryer.
Here are rooms from the three-bedroom demonstration unit.
The living room of the three-bedroom unit.
And from a different angle.
Big kitchen and that recessed, closet-like space has a bike hook.
Here's a two-bedroom unit, which is not staged.
This two-bedroom is a corner unit and overlooks the park blocks.
Nice bathrooms.
Good amount of living space.
And a very nice kitchen.
Here's a view from one of the studios.
And a staged studio space.
The roof of our school isn't the most attractive thing.
Good closet.
The green staircase.
More of that natural light.

This was our only chance to see ArtHouse as the students start moving in on Wednesday.  There will also be retail at the ground floor level.  I'll have pictures of that when it happens.