Friday, November 30, 2007

Only a few months late

Here are a few pictures from our trip to Paris in September. I don't know why it's taken me so long to display any of them, but it has. Click on the picture to go to my photos on Flickr, where you can see a larger view (click on the "all sizes" icon on Flickr). This is just a sampling of some pictures from the first day, when we walked along the Seine to Notre Dame and back.


Booksellers along the Seine

The Seine River

Tuileries Garden

The Tuilerie Gardens

More to come!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Plaid skirts

As usual, I'm behind the times in keeping up with fashion. I know from the fashion magazines that plaid is (was?) in for fall/winter. I spied this Jean Paul Gautier plaid trenchcoat in the windows in Paris in September.

I have some plaid fabric and I want to make some skirts and I'm wondering what the best placement of the plaid would be. I see a lot of a-line skirts with the plaid on the diagonal and that seems relatively easy to do. Of course since simple is not in my vocabulary, I think of more interesting ways to use plaid. I am thinking of a skirt using this Vogue pattern (click for larger):

I like the version without the pleats (version A or B, if you look at the pattern on the Vogue web site) and would put the plaid on the diagonal either on the sides or on the front/back. But which to do? What do they do in RTW? I did some research to find out.

I didn't find much in the way of mixing the directions of the plaid in the style that I want to do, but I did find this one that shows the diagonal plaid on the sides (Nanette Lepore skirt in a photo from Saks Fifth Avenue website).

It seems that plain pencil skirts, without the panels, can look good with the plaid going either direction:

Diagonal ( from Ann Taylor Loft web site):

Horizontal/vertical (from Ralph Lauren web site):

However, I would think that for my body type, which is a bit ample in the hips and thighs, the plaid on the diagonal might look better. But the skirt shown below, with plaid on the diagonal, just doesn't look very appealing to me. What's wrong with it? Is it just really badly photographed? Is it the visual look of black and white plaid with black tights and black top? Is it badly made? Is it badly designed? Maybe it needs a waistband. I especially don't like the way the skirt appears to draw in below the hips and then hang in little drapes. Something is just wrong here and this is a look I do not want to create.

(Anne Klein skirt from Dillards web site)

Edited to add: Thank you Kathleen C. for your comments regarding the drape of fabric on the bias. It makes sense and I will keep it in mind when I attempt to make my plaid skirt!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Woohoo, another post this month!

This would be a much more eye-catching post if there were pictures. But alas, words will have to do.

Thanksgiving came and went. We cooked a turkey and now our turkey stock is replenished for a while. I was actually considering making something else for Thanksgiving, because we could also use some chicken stock or lamb stock, but I went with the traditional. It was just my husband and me and the cats, although surprisingly the cats did not beg for turkey. Only Felix and Sergei got turkey treats because Ella and Abby don't care for "people" food. In addition to the turkey we fixed the usual side dishes of mashed potatoes, stuffing, and rolls. The veggies were steamed carrots and broccoli from the garden and asparagus from the store. No dessert because I didn't get around to making pie.

We watched a bunch of movies we had recorded on our DVR:
Pan's Labyrinth - excellent
Black Dahlia - disappointing
Duma - very good
Night at the Museum - entertaining and fun
The Queen - very good

I started a new knitting project on Friday. I'm making Lara, from the Debbie Bliss "Alpaca Silk" book published a few years ago.

I had wanted to make it when it came out but didn't want to fork over the $$$ for the yarn. But when I saw that Webs ( had some on clearance at Stitches West last February, I snapped up two bags, because this project takes 18 skeins. The yarn is a pumpkin-orange color, which now I fear will make me look like a big pumpkin. It looked more appealing in the bag. And speaking of which, I did the most STUPID thing a knitter can do. I didn't check the dye lot of the bags and yes...they are different. Stupid, stupid, stupid. However, I can't tell a difference in the colors so maybe I'm saved by the improved, computerized (I assume) technology of dying yarn today. I've noticed that some companies don't even list dye lots on their yarn, claiming that there's no need. I had finished about half of the first sleeve (this is knit in one piece from one sleeve to the other) when I discovered my stupid error so I started incorporating yarn from the second dye lot. I alternated every two rows for an inch or so and I can't tell a difference. I forgot to check how it looks in the daylight this morning and it'll be dark when I get home, so I'll have to remember to do it tomorrow. I'm crossing my fingers. The yarn doesn't have much natural variation so if there is a difference, I might have to rethink using the yarn for this project. That will not make me happy at all.

I also started a weaving project on my Schacht Flip, rigid heddle loom. I finally got around to warping it, which wasn't too difficult. The instructions that come with the flip are pretty good and I also had a couple of books for backup reference. The cotton yarn I'm using is probably too thin for the size heddle I have (12 dent) and the resulting fabric is fairly loosely woven. But that's ok because this is practice weaving. I ordered a stand for the Flip because weaving at our dining room table won't be comfortable and the coffee tables are too low. I also ordered size 8 and 10 dent heddles. Now I'm set! Well, until I want to do 2-heddle weaving, which is something that can be done on the Flip. First things first though. I need to just get some weaving done!

I haven't done any sewing since October when I made some cloth shopping bags. I'd hoped to get back to the sewing machine but first I wanted to clean up my sewing spaces and inventory the fabric that's been piling up on the guest room bed. Unfortunately that doesn't mean that I stop shopping for sewing supplies. I have been good about not buying fabric because I know anything I buy will just need to be packed into boxes. But the holiday sales at Joanns and Hancocks are hard to ignore. I finally bought the Gutermann thread cabinet I'd been eyeing for a while. Joanns had special sales over the holiday weekend that were only good for a limited time and this thread cabinet was one of the items. It has 100 spools of the Gutermann polyester thread in it with room to store more. I ordered the cabinet online at 12:30 am on the day of the sale so I'd be sure to get one. Funny thing was that they actually had two of these cabinets in the store when I stopped by there later that evening. But in true form for this particular, chaotic, and messy Joann store, they weren't labeled with a price and were not near the rest of the thread. I was at Joann to pick up some embroidery floss for a friend, but since patterns and notions were on sale...well, I had to browse and ended up buying a few.

Saturday afternoon was also the get-together of my on-line sewing friends. There were about 10 of us and we had a good time chatting, sharing what we've made, and swapping fabric and patterns. I passed on a few patterns and magazines from my stash and only managed to come home with one piece of fabric. I didn't have a chance to go through my fabric stash this time but next meeting I will definitely have some to contribute to someone elses stash.

On Sunday my husband and I took a nice walk near Shoreline, which is an estuary of the bay. We saw lots of ducks, sea birds, a hawk (or maybe it was a Kestrel) and a beautiful pheasant. Afterwards we stopped for pie and coffee.

No Christmas decorations up yet. We do not join the crowd and put things up early, but of course there are plenty of people who do. There are even two radio stations (KBAY and KOIT) that are already playing Christmas music 24/7. Both do streaming audio, so if you need a Christmas music fix, there you go.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Cleaning house

I have too much stuff. It doesn't help that I want to do every craft-type hobby under the sun. The supplies and equipment are taking over. So I'm cleaning house and looking at what things need to find new homes.

I sold my first spinning wheel last week to a friend who's son wants to spin (yes, her son!). I sold it to her for the bargain price I paid ($50) so it's a great purchase for someone wanting to try spinning. I felt a bit sad selling it though. I hadn't really used it all that much before I bought my new, portable wheel. It was lovely wheel, but it was taking up precious floor space and probably wouldn't use it because I love my new wheel. So I sold it.

I also decided it's time to get rid of some Burda magazines that are special issues for kid's clothes. I purchased them at a time when I was still hopeful I'd have children. I've listed them for sale on the classified site. I also have a Patrones children's issue for sale over there too.

I am also offering up for sale my basic Pfaff serger. It's a Pfaff Hobbylock 756. I've offered it first to my local sewing guild so that I don't have to hassle with packing and shipping it, so if there's a blog reader local to the SF bay area who wants it, let me know. Or if you're not local, I'll pack it and ship it. It's a 3/4 thread in decent condition although I haven't used it in quite a few years, so it may need a tune up. I also have a video tape that goes with it and the instruction manual. I'm asking $100.

It's not much but it's a start. I know I have some yarn and I'm sure there's fabric I won't ever use, but that's a job for another day.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Vegetable garden recap

Maria posted a comment to my entry yesterday expressing surprise that I planted vegetables in November. I thought I'd follow up on that. I'm hoping the vegetables grow! I think they will because the winters here aren't that cold and we never have a hard freeze. According to my garden books, our frost "season" is January. That's it. January. However, last year we did get pretty cold. According to our outdoor thermometer we got down to 22 degrees F one or two nights. Usually we only have a few nights where the temperature gets below freezing and I think we had more below-freezing nights than usual last year. The jade plants got nipped and our Bougainvillea froze and died. Or so we thought. It sure looked dead but we left the stumps just in case and planted Wisteria, which is a bit hardier. Now we have both Wisteria and Bougainvillea growing on our pergola. So you never know.

This is the first time I've tried to grow winter vegetables but they should be ok. The temperature hit 80 degrees on Sunday and it's been in the mid 70's this week. Not very fall-like. Usually at this time of year we should be getting rain and it should be cooler, maybe in the 60's. The main reason I've not grown winter crops before is because we hadn't done much vegetable gardening in the summer either. This year we decided that the weedy half of the backyard was never going to be a grassy yard and instead we cleared it, leveled it, and put in four 4x4 foot raised beds. We also put in irrigation to each bed because it doesn't rain here from May until October, the prime growing season.

The garden was a success overall. Some things didn't work too well but others did and we had lots of veggies all summer. One of the most prolific producers were the tomatoes. My husband put up 9 quarts of tomato sauce. Yes, my husband. He participated in my jam making enough to know how to do it and while I was traveling for work he got busy in the kitchen. The picture below is from the summer but the heirloom tomato plants are still producing and I made two batches of tomato sauce last week and had tomatoes for chili.

More tomatoes!

The yellow crook neck squash and zucchini kept us in squash for many weeks. Too much, in fact. Next year I don't think we should plant quite so many. Although we found we did have to share the squash with the squirrels (or rats, although I hope not) so having more than we could eat was not a bad thing. We also had lots of pumpkins. They started ripening in August and at that rate I feared not having any for Halloween. But I did and there are still two out on the vine. We also have pumpkin soup in the freezer.

The cucumbers grew successfully and we enjoyed many cucumber-tomato salads this summer. Some of the last harvested cukes are soaking in brine right now...our first attempt at making pickles.

We had both bush and pole bean plants but the bush beans did better, mostly because they were started from nursery plants and given sufficient space to grow. The pole beans were started from seed, planted in a little area next to the cucumbers, and I have to admit that I neglected them. Bad gardener! I harvested the beans too late and will save the seeds for next year.

We had six corn plants that produced a few ears of corn. The first ears were good but the latter ones were misshapen and not so great. We'll try corn again next year but probably in a better location.

The jalapeƱo, serrano, and green pepper plants did pretty well. We harvested a number of jalapeƱos and lots and lots of serranos (which are super mega hot once they turn red!). The green pepper plants ended up being crowded out by the large heirloom tomato plant but we did manage to harvest some of those as well.

I tried growing six cantaloupe plants and was semi-successful. I think we harvested the first cantaloupe too soon but it was still delicious. After the first one we only managed to harvest one more and it was smaller. The remaining cantaloupes were also very small and unfortunately not really edible.

Cantaloupe from our garden

The strawberry is also from our garden. Those and the blueberries and raspberries were wonderful treats to enjoy all summer.


We also grew lettuce and had a successful first crop but then it got too hot and our attempts at subsequent crops never really took. I'm looking forward to more lettuce with cooler weather.

The onions did well. There are still onions growing and they should continue to do well into the winter. We really should grow some garlic. Gilroy, a huge producer of garlic and home of the Gilroy Garlic Festival, is just to our south. Some mornings it smells like the whole neighborhood is cooking breakfast!

One crop that didn't do well was watermelon. My husband was really hopeful for the watermelon and one small one finally started to grow, but it wasn't very edible. The beets didn't do well either, nor did the radishes, I think because of where we planted them. The eggplant is holding on and seems to be doing better. We harvested a little broccoli but no cabbage. These should do better with cooler temperatures. The carrots didn't take but they were planted in a pot and I think we had more sand in it than dirt. Live and learn.

We did learn a lot from our attempts this summer and hope to improve next year. This last year really was a trial garden. We attempted to grow a lot of things, partly because we wanted to be able to harvest a lot, but also just to see how things did.

Monday, November 05, 2007

So much to do, so little time

Even with the extra hour this weekend I still didn't get everything done that I wanted, but I did quite a lot though:

- watched a few movies I had recorded
- cheered for my football teams (Penn State, 49ers, Eagles)*
- baked bread
- joined friends for a spin-in, dinner, and a movie
- worked on two knitting projects: Jaywalker socks and a scarf in a simple stitch
- caught up on some recorded TV shows
- did a load of laundry
- bought snow peas, cabbage, broccoli, lettuce, dill, and cilantro plants and actually planted them (instead of leaving them in their plastic nursery pots to wither and die)
- planted pansies in the front window box
- read the Sunday paper and relaxed with the cats
- made chili with tomatoes and peppers from the garden
- slept in with the kitties

One of my big to-do projects is to clean up and organize my sewing/knitting/crafting rooms. Yes, plural rooms. My hobbies have expanded into the second bedroom that is sometimes known as a guest room. I have most of my fabric swatched and stored in plastic or canvas bags but I have not been so diligent with my purchases from this past year. I also want to catalog my yarn stash on, which will take some work.

* I "power watch" football on TV. I record the game and then use the 30-second fast forward button on my DVR to skip the between-play chatter. If you hit the button as soon as the whistle blows on a play, you can skip ahead to the next play. Deletes a lot of time off a football game but watching it recorded can have a downside if you accidentally see the score on live TV.