terça-feira, agosto 31, 2010

Spelling by Ju

As part of the literacy process, at least in Portuguese class, the kids are supposed to sound out and spell words to try to discover how to write.  I really like this process and we have been doing it a lot just to play.  Today some of Ju's homework has to identify things that begin with the letter R and write the Rr underneath them.  Just for fun, he sounded out the words for some of the pictures and tried to write them.

Ring - R i  (not shown, this was added after this picture was taken)

Robot -  R A A  (interesting here he only tried to write the vowel sounds)

Road - R U T  (T and D are articulated in the same place, so this for me is a win)

Ribbon - R B N  (not bad)

Rake -  R C

Rock - R C

Owl - A O U (I especially love this spelling, it really sounds like owl if you say it with a Bahiano accent)

We chatted about why rock and rake would have same spelling as he wrote here.  It's also interesting to see how he is sometimes focusing on vowel sounds, sometimes on consonents, and sometimes includes both.  I seem to remember only writing the consonents at this age, making my journal indeciferable when I looked at it years later. 

domingo, julho 04, 2010

30 at 30

I have no idea if the internet has created such a thing as this.  I suspect so.  If everything goes well, I'd like to read this again when I am 50.

Here are 30 thoughts/facts on my 30th birthday.

1.  I still don't feel like an "adult," but after yesterday's fantastic party, I definitely feel like it's actually my birthday.

2.  I have a pair of jeans that I bought when I was 17 and worked at Meijer that still fit and I still wear, even though they are risqué and lace up the sides.

3.  It's about 72 today here in Brasil and I am a bit cold.

4.  I love to eat sushi and would eat it everyday.  Salmon and tuna, mmmmmmm.  Seaweed, mmmmm.

5.  After living in Brasil for six years, I have reprioritized what I feel is a want and a need, just in time for things to arrive in Salvador that we have not had access to. 

6.  I still like to wear miniskirts because I think my legs look good, but I don't like how my butt touches where ever I sit down.

7.  I love doing waterbike.  It is the best exercise and I think everyone should try it.  I feel like it is what has gotten my asthma under control and helped me destress over the last two years.  Plus I have muscles in places I haven't ever seen them before.

8.  I used to only wear tall platform shoes and now I prefer flipflops.  It has been so long since I wore regular shoes that touch my heels that nearly every time I wear them, I end up with blisters no matter what the shoe.

9.  Someday I want to have a small house on a decent piece of land in Chapada, where I would have a garden, orchard, and some goats for milk.

10.  I love to sew and am determined to make all my own clothes from now on, either from fabric or adapting used things to my liking.  A friend said "you are all kinds of cool at 30, sewing up a storm" - I loved this statement.

11.  Yesterday we had the best party here, by far the most fun adult birthday party I have ever had.  I credit my wonderful friends and spectacular husband for making it happen.  I certainly didn't do much ;).

12.  Doing art with Ju is a great way to spend an afternoon.

13.  Three cats in one house is definitely enough cats.  Ducey, Pila and Lela have amazingly different felinalities and contribute to a well balanced household.

14.  Machines I cannot part with - my laptop, my camera, my sewing machine, my ipod.

15.  I have known and loved my husband for eight years and he is the best man I have ever been with.

16.  I absolutely must drink a cup of coffee in the morning or I just feel like I am coming down with something all day.

17.  My favorite thing to eat is a honey crisp apple, even though we don't have them in Brasil and I rarely find them in MI when we go.

18.  I love teaching little kids.  They are so interested in everything, everything is exciting...

19.  This year's world cup has ignited a real love for watching soccer that I never knew I had.  Brasil is infectious, yes, but there must be more to it.

20.  I believe in the Destination Imagination program.  It should be made part of every school curriculum in a major way.

21.  When I eat apples in Brasil, if they are really good, I eat the whole thing and leave only the stem. 

22.  I spend too much time reading craft/art/DIY blogs and such online, being inspired by what I see, but rarely getting up off my butt to do what I read about.  (But I'd really like to)

23.  My kid is bilingual.  Our whole house is bilingual.  We mix English and Portuguese in every sentence every day.  I still would love to study our language habits.  (and it has been hard to not write Portuguese words into many of these list items)

24.  Being a Quaker is a huge part of who I am, even though it seems like it's such an unknown fact in my life and where I am.

25.  I often fall asleep 8:30 at night, wake up at like 11 and stay up until 12:30, then go to bed again.  I am pretty sure this is not conducive to health.

26.  I only wear glasses because it feels like too much time to go have my eyes examined and get contacts here in Brasil.  I wish things weren't so far apart and complicated down here.

27.  I miss having pink hair, but feel like it wouldn't go over well down here.

28.  If I could do any job, it would be creating window layouts like those in Macy's in NYC.  So cool!  I would also enjoy making theater or movie sets.  Or maybe those big scenes behind glass you see in museums.

29.  A perfect lunch is a big salad of baby spinach and spring greens that has salmon, mandarin oranges, chopped walnuts and Gorgonzola cheese.  At least, that is what I feel like eating at the moment.

30.  I love my friends, even though we hardly see each other.  I have no idea where I would be without internet.

domingo, maio 23, 2010

Stuck on sewing

It is like an addiction.  I start one project, finish it, and just seem to find something else to do.  I have a notebook full of drawings of things I want to copy, or project ideas I thought of and jotted down.  Today I made a cape, fixed some shorts with a hole in the butt, and almost finished a doll whose clothes I will make tomorrow.  Also on the agenda for this week - fix the curtains upstairs or maybe make new ones, make at least one more tunic dress (so comfy!), as well as finish the scraps shirt I began at the end of April.  And I really should go to the dentist soon. 

quinta-feira, abril 15, 2010

So the city is shutting down...

Apparently everything is currently so flooded from the rain that the city is at a stand still.  So far today, I have heard that:

- some bridge fell or was completely covered by the river that it no longer exists, in Laurel de Freitas
- Bonoco (major road through the middle of the city) is shut down because of flooding, in Rio Vermelho
- Some other road in to Rio Vermelho is shut off, so there is basically no way to get in there there.
- Rivers across the city have crested and cars are under water
- the governer has declared a state of emergency and is asking for people to stay home until the rains have subsided and flooding has gone down (fat chance)

Despite all this, we did have power the whole day here, it didn't even flicker off!  I am impressed with Coelba's work this time.  As I type, everyone is trying to leave school early, taking advantage that the rain has subsided a bit to run down to the bus stop at the end of the road, or maybe swim to it as the end of the road is usually under water on days like this. 

Those poor people at the UN conference must be water logged by now.

*** evening update - the rain has stopped and it was sunny and somewhat warm this afternoon, but I did see on the way home that the bridge over the river on the Orla by Clube Bahia is collapsing.  I wonder if it will last much longer.

terça-feira, abril 13, 2010

It's almost 6 a.m.

and I hear birds for the first time in days.  I wonder if this means today we will see some sun, after almost a week strait of rain without end.  I actually see sky out there. Amazing.

domingo, abril 11, 2010

Is there power?

There is no website, there is no webmail.  Is there power?  We will only know tomorrow.

sábado, abril 10, 2010

Rain day project

March was hugely overwhelming with activities.  I'm glad it's past and I can get some of this art in my head out into the real world.  There is something very satisfying about thinking about a project for so long and then having time to make it a reality.  Yesterday school was canceled because there was no power for the second day in a row (the first day we held class for the entire day without power, with all the doors open for a breeze, letting in the rain and wind - at least we had water!), so I spent some quality time with my sewing machine and playing with fabric dye.

I have a small collection of ankle length skirts that I want to turn into dresses.  One of them was a hugely ugly salmon color, a simply designed rayon thing with big pockets that I think my mom picked up at the goodwill or somewhere.  I don't have a picture of the original article because I only thought to share the project after I had finished, so I cheated and took photos of the scraps left over - gah, see how gross this color is?

Salmon looks great on me, but I really detest the color, and I couldn't just give it away - look at the detail on the skirt embroidery!  It had to become a casual house dress (i.e. something I would wear at home and to the beach, but probably not out to a restaurant), so I cut some arm holes down the sides, maintaining the elastic in the waistband to make the top stretchy just in case.

I cut out the pockets that were luckily made out of the same fabric, and cut them into strips to fake some bias tape to make the straps.

I pot-dyed it with brown and green, the combination of which has hidden most of the hideous salmon color, or at least muted it, which is fine. 

It was pretty easy to do this by trial and error copying another dress I have that fits about the same on the top (minus the elastic).  My one regret was to have used the white cotton thread.  It looked fine with the salmon color, but after dying it was pretty obvious how crooked my stitching is.  Also, the dress could be a little shorter, as the sack look only works so well with certain lengths, especially for short people like me. 

sábado, abril 03, 2010


I am plagued by too many ideas and not enough time.  Today I took a few hours to paint with fabric dye on my $5 Old Navy Ts, turning plain old ho-hum shirts into GREEN messages and something I am calling CAT OM that I was inspired to make after browsing Burda for a while.  CAT OM might go so far as to be recreated on some other articles because it is just kinda cool. 

ooooooooooom, meditate with felines......

quarta-feira, março 31, 2010

On the phone

When I first moved down here, cell phones were the newest thing.  It wasn't yet like it is now, where everyone has one, sometimes several, and may not be able to pay their electric bill but they do find a way to have this one essential extension.  Many I know have more than one, and each one is for calling very specific people, in certain circumstances, or to those with the same provider.  With this new found techno freedom, there is of course always the risk that someone will decide to point a knife or such at you and ask you to hand it over, as happened to me 6 months after I got my first one.  And when some unknown person ends up with your cellphone, they then can take it and use it to call your loved ones and try a "golpe" - try to convince the person they are calling that you have been kidnapped or otherwise compromised, asking for money or tricking you into giving valuable information for them to use at a later time.  My email box used to fill up with warnings about these golpes - how to not list phone numbers as "home" or "husband" or "mom" or what not, how to check if the person is okay in other manners, how never to take anyone's word for it that you can't see and don't know on the other end that what they say is true.  My second cell follows a lot of these indications (although as it is now so old and obsolete I doubt anyone would bother trying to steal it anyway) and I have learned to be extremely cautious on the phone when people call here.

All this caution has made it very difficult to communicate anything of use on the phone, however.  People call and want to know who called them from this number, but they don't want to give their name, and I don't want to give my name or the name of anyone else in the house, the conversation kind of going like this: "someone called me from this number, who am I talking to?" "It wasn't me that called, so I don't know." "Who are you?" "Who are you?" "I'm trying to find out who called me from this number."  "Well, it wasn't me, must have been someone else." "Who are you?"  "I prefer not to say, who are you?" "I just want to know who called me from this number."  "Sorry, it wasn't me." "Okay, thanks anyway. " "Yeah, sorry." And so what was the point of the phone call?  No one leaves voicemail because it counts against your very expensive credits to listen to it for many plans.  Many people figure if there is a number on their phone that called them, if it is that important, the person will call back, while at the same time you call and figure your number registered on the phone, so eventually someone will call to find out who that was that called and have a conversation much like that above.

I even had a golpe phone call once, after my maid's daughter's phone was stolen (for the second time).  About a month after or so I got a tearful phone call from a woman claiming to have been robbed.  Of course it caught me off guard and I accidentally gave the daughter's name before some guy got on the phone and wanted to know "what is the person at this number to her?", but luckily I figured out what was going on at that point and refused to answer.  I then called my maid and asked her to check on her daughter and make sure she was okay, which of course she was, but then I felt tremendously idiotic for having fallen for a golpe when I had always been so cautious before.  I hoped that by accidentally given the girl's name I had not done any damage that might enable the person with her phone to use this information to fool someone else in her phone list.  I never heard of anything happening after that, however.

At one point during college, some guy in Hawaii accidentally called my apartment in East Lansing looking for a girl who had previously been at that same number.  We got to chatting just for the heck of it and kept in contact for a few years after, occasionally writing letters and exchanging pictures, although we never did meet and lost track of each other once I moved off campus.  Still, for the bit it lasted, it was fun to think how I found a friend by accident just because he called what was my phone number.  (yes, I recognize that now with social media and whatever you wanna reference online, this kind of thing is quite common and not at all unusual)  I will never have that experience here.  You can't trust that unknown person on the other end of the phone.  Actually, you can't in East Lansing either, but it seemed much more productive to talk to people on the phone at that time than it does to me now here.  Or am I too paranoid?

**** Edit update ****

Apparently something similar is now happening on facebook.  Who knew?

domingo, março 14, 2010

If you were in my movie...

March has become an immensely horribly busy month for me.  I can't remember March ever being so distinctive before.  I have managed to pack (not by my own planning) two major school events and the MA course into a 3 week period, along with agreeing to sew 45 kimonos for my current students, 25 berets for my son and his classmates and teachers, traveling to São Paulo for a weekend training, not to mention taking a group of 23 students and almost as many parents to São Paulo at the end of the month for the DI Celebration which involves countless meetings with parents and students involved, and don't even get me started on the last minute additions to this trip.  Actually, I didn't pack any of this, it all seems to have packed itself.  I have been running on 4 hour sleep nights for the last three weeks, been sick twice (still recovering), and one of my bottom wisdom teeth has decided to break surface which has resulted in some of the worst tooth pain I have felt since I cracked my tooth two years ago and an extremely swollen face.  I'm hungry and I don't want to eat because even opening my mouth hurts, let alone chewing.  I have read almost all of our course text book in a matter of two weeks and only stopped reading because I found the first 60 pages of the last chapter are missing.  I'll have to chase those down tomorrow.  Today I took 5 quizzes online, wrote two papers, did 3 discussion questions and read two articles.  And I still have more to do.  Oh, and I cooked some soy chicken with carrots for our snack during the course tomorrow.  I'm not even going to go into what I have to do for the course this week, it's really not what I want to think about right now.  When I got home yesterday, I took a five hour nap and hid from all social contact for the entire day.  Then we watched a movie that was absolutely one of the worst movies I have watched in a long time.  It felt really good to not work for a bit.  Today was homework day as I neglected to do anything productive yesterday save dream of getting my PhD.

In the morning, I usually listen to my ipod in the van, rather than chat with my colleagues.  It's a good way to start the day, just watching the sun on the water on the way to school, and I can almost just feel optimistic about the possibilities for the day.  Sometimes I imagine I am in a movie and the music is the sound track, and what might be the next obstacle in the plot line.  Everyone's life seems a bit movie like I suppose.  Some more than others (my dear friend of the dourado mamão could sell her story for a novela, although unfortunately her experience is not far off the norm for new arrivals- come to think of it, I'm not sure when I got so passive about the things that really used to get to me).  I also think of very interesting things to write on this blog, although they seldom get written because I am in a van and no where near a computer with the necessary speed or time to write.  But I did remember the movie thing and I did take time out of my reading and writing to write about it, just so you all know I'm not dead. 

quinta-feira, fevereiro 18, 2010

Ju speak, February 16, 2010

If I fosse a bombeiro I could apagar that fogo.

terça-feira, janeiro 19, 2010

How to do laundry with a four year old (when the maid is on vacation)

To do laundry with four year old, follow these instructions:

1: get all laundry consolidated at the top of the stairs.

2: throw, toss or otherwise utilized gravity to ensure the laundry begins it's decent to the floor below.

3: alternately, you can ride the laundry down on your butt (just make sure there is enough to cushion your bottom if it's like mine). Wooden stairs make a great laundry sledding hill.

4: if you are four, bury yourself in the laundry, it's fun.

4.5: break for lunch.

5: sort into piles of whites versus things that will bleed with darks, and light colors, also towels and sheets.

6: spend all day loading into machine, and then slowly painstakingly hanging them all on ceiling racks which are really hard to pull up.

7: wait 3 days for it all to dry, by which time there will be more laundry to throw.

I remember my mom yelling at me for doing this on her carpeted stairs, telling me that it would ruin them. I will never have to fight this fight.

segunda-feira, janeiro 18, 2010

In the spirit of writing my blog in the style of other blogs I am currently reading because that always seems to be what I do, here is a small tutorial.

Upcycle that skirt into a dress (but you can still wear it as a skirt too, woopee!)

Do you have a lot of India style long skirts stashed away? I remember giving many away to friends when I moved down here, only to need them when I was pregnant because nothing else would fit! I have quite a collection of them down here now, several that I have acquired since moving. I used to wear them quite a bit too, but I find that now 1) it's just too hot to wear something down to my ankles for the better part of the year; 2) when I walk on the street, I have a tendency to carry the skirt up off the ground due to the vast amount of grossities left on the sidewalks here that I just don't want on my clothes and; 3) climbing up and down stairs with or carrying kids and wearing long skirts is a bad combination resulting in tripping and falling, stepping on the skirt and either ripping it or pulling it off my butt.

I have gotten tired of me as the hippi-girl with long skirt and tank top look. I have been that girl for more than half my life. Most of the time I wear knee length dresses here, because of the heat. STill, I love these skirts, they are SO comfortable, so while staring at my collection one night, I decided to see if I couldn't turn one of them into a dress using shirring, as I have been experimenting with it lately. As this was a first attempt, it didn't come out as perfect as I'd like and I was unable to add the ruffle I wanted to the bottom because I stupidly did not measure anything before making it (live and learn), but it came out okay. I hope it can give new life to the skirts you have stashed away and don't want to part with.

You will need -
Sewing machine with zigzag stitch
A long skirt
Thread that matches said skirt
Elastic thread
Seam ripper
A ruler, if you are so inclined to measure things

Select your skirt. If it's ankle length and you're not exceedingly tall, there is no reason it can't become a dress that will fit you without showing off all you have to offer.

As I am on the small side and there is a LOT of fabric in many India style skirts, I ran a simple stitch all around the skirt to maintain the broomstick pleats and make the circumference smaller on the top. If you are more well endowed than I, or feel like you need more space on the top, feel free to skip this step. With my machine, it takes about 5 inches in on a 37 inch circumference while shirring. Everyone's body shape is different and you may need more space than I, so I'd recommend doing one line and double checking that you can still fit it over your hips to pull it on. All this sewing I did with the garment right side out so I could see how neatly the stitches lay where they would be seen.

I sewed 14 lines like this, and I would recommend NOT just going down in a spiral like I did because it became really confusing when I was shirring with the elastic thread later on. These lines are about 1/2 inch apart. Yes, this part kind of takes a while, but I felt much more secure doing it this way.

Now that you have your basic shape (and have double checked that you can pull it on over your hips - it should fit loosely around you), you can chop off the waist band and hem the top (I liked the frayed edge and left it unhemmed). Often times these things are old and nasty, but if you want you can try to salvage the elastic using your seam ripper.

Hand wind your elastic thread onto your bobbin. This seems like it will take a long time, but it really doesn't. Don't wind it tightly, just try to keep it wound as it is on the spool, if that makes any sense. When you pop the bobbin into it's casing, be sure to pull out a decent amount and hold onto it when you begin sewing. You won't have to pull it out and stretch like you do for waistbands though.

Your top thread is the same, but now your bottom thread is elastic, do you see? You will use a wide zigzag stitch now - on my machine it's the widest of the three options for simple zigzag.

Now you get to follow those lines you made earlier, but this time zigzagging over your running stitch with your elastic thread underneath and the cotton thread on top, again with the garment RIGHT SIDE out (so you're elastic stays on the inside, where you can't see it). Obviously, one should generally experiment with any stitch or technique on your fabric before starting your project to make sure your tension is okay and such and to see how the fabric will lay with different stitches. I didn't so this at all because I generally just wing it and live and learn. When you complete a line, just stitch over a couple inches, put up your pressure foot, move it over and continue on the next line. I didn't once cut my threads (except when I ran out of elastic thread and had to rewind the bobbin), but rather trimmed at the end. It worked pretty well.

Be sure to get your cat to help you hold the dress down.

Once you finish all the lines, you are pretty much done. Big busted women may want to add ribbon ties to keep everything where it's supposed to be. I am not one of these.

If you want to go all out and have no waste at all from this project, you can chop up your waist band into a ruffle (be sure to measure first or you will end up ruffleless as I did - to compensate, I took the seam ripper to the bottom seam and made it frayed as the top - not my best idea ever...). First use your seam ripper to remove your waist band elastic. You could also use scissors to do this, but as someone who has in the past fought to carefully removed an old nasty waistband without ripping the thin cotton fabric, it was very satisfying to just really rip into it. To each his/her own.

Ew, nasty old waistband.

Now cut this circle somewhere so it becomes a strip, and lay it out strait so you can further divide it into multiple strips. I made three here, but that was not enough. I would recommend at least 4 for the average width skirt. If they are different widths and thicknesses, no worries - just cut them in half or thirds and you will distribute this unevenness evenly.

You can make your ruffles as gathered as you like. Some people have a gathering foot for their machine, which I am sure would be useful for this. I just push up small pinches of fabric as it passes under the presser foot, which works okay. When you come to the end of a section of fabric, just stick another one on to the end and continue gathering. I love this style ruffle - it ended up all over my white dress for new years as well. Once you're done with this ruffle, pin it on the bottom of the skirt and stitch that puppy on.

And there you have it - a dress from a skirt. Just tug it down to your waist to wear as as skirt again.

domingo, janeiro 03, 2010

I keep having to write this, but yes, yet again, I am not dead. A bit tired, yes, but not dead. The problem is I feel most inspired to write things in the afternoon, when, generally, I am not usually anywhere near a computer. This may come from my deep found need to avoid actual responsibilities I have to accomplish, like cleaning, planning and laundry. Also, it's vacation and rather than sit and type things I have been sitting and making things (sewing, cooking and otherwise, and admittedly also spending time in FARMVILLE on facebook which is admittedly a stupid way to spend my time, but I like it).

Recent discoveries that have taken my life into a more sewing machine based direction are oneprettything and threadbanger. If you aren't familiar with them, you should check them out. I made several xmas gifts based on ideas from these sites. Ju is the proud caretaker of Boogie the monster (also known as stupid creatures) and his small cat friend Cookie. I made them from his rainbow boutique crib sheet and the legs of a pair of pants that turned into capris and then turned into shorts. I made my dress for NYE out of some lovely fabric my mom gave me for my birthday. It took me three days of thinking and staring before I began to cut and sew and I changed my design 4 times while working on it and in the end used nearly EVERY SINGLE SCRAP of fabric I had cut - even the very small pieces were cut into strips and sewn into the ruffle style I have recently become obsessed with. I used this same ruffle technique to make a garland for our Xmas tree (still have to take that down) and to make gift bags. It's not very interesting but it looks really nice when it's done. I also learned shirring which as opened up new design possibilities.

I promise something more insightful later. Maybe.