Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Skills I never knew I had

This handy little tool has become one of my best friends over the years:
Image source
I certainly never set out to become a handywoman.  It has kind of been thrust on me by kids.  Lately my trusty screwdriver has been used to remove and reinstall doorknobs.  Bugaboo has a knack for locking himself in the bathroom or my bedroom.  The problem then is that he can't unlock the door to get out.  Mom with her screwdriver to the rescue!  Have a toilet paper roll holder that has been taken off the wall?  Yep, I can fix that.  Towel bar pulled away from the wall brackets?  I can fix that, too.  Maybe I need to just ban Bugaboo from the bathroom entirely.

What unforeseen skills have you gained as a parent?

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Insomnia book review + giveaways

Today's post is a little different than my usual posting.  The Author follows several teen fiction writers.  We were given the chance to review Insomnia, the debut novel for J. R. Johansson.
“Completely unputdownable. I’ve decided to nickname Johansson: Scary McScarypants, because she spooked me in all the best ways.” –Carrie Harris, author of BAD TASTE IN BOYS

We thought it would be fun to do a little question and answer session about the book. (Just to clarify, this is with my daughter, The Author, not J.R. Johansson, the author of Insomnia.  I would hate to confuse anyone there.)

Amy: We’ll start out with a question to make you think.  How would you describe Insomnia in 5 words or less?
The Author: Creepy ride with great characters.

Okay, now can you give us a quick plot summary for Insomnia?
Parker Chipp has not slept in four years. He’s pretty sure it’s killing him. Instead of sleeping, he goes into the dreams of the last person he makes eye contact with.
This all changes when a new girl appears in town. Mia’s dreams are peaceful and calm. Parker is able to sleep in them.
But then Mia is in danger from a real stalker… And everybody thinks it’s Parker. Parker isn’t too sure of his innocence once he discovers that he’s been leaving his room at night and finds himself near Mia’s house.

Who is your favorite character and why?
I loved Parker’s best friend, Finn. He wears cool T-shirts. He’s a great guy with a fantastic sense of humor. Finn has great development, too; I love well-developed characters!

Which character experienced the most growth?
Parker. He has to come to grips with his odd scenario, the fact that he’s acting very creepy just to catch Mia’s eye, and that he’s not exactly being the best friend for a time.

What did you learn, as a writer, from reading Insomnia?
I loved the characters. Everybody had a story and a part to play; they all had lives outside of Parker’s dilemma. I also loved how you had to keep guessing at who the villain was, as the plot twists changed your guess at the stalker just as you were certain it was someone. I’ll be able to look to that as reference in one of my books where I want to do that. Parker’s voice also felt natural. That’s not easy to pull off.

Fill in the blank:  If you loved ___________, you’ll like Insomnia.
The Author: The closest thing I can think of is Supernatural, the TV show. Both Supernatural and Insomnia are creepy, well-done horror that is not stereotypical. Insomnia has no ghosts, zombies, or serial killers and still manages to be a scary ride.

What do you hope to see in the future from J.R. Johansson?
The Author: The sequel to Insomnia comes out next year; it looks like Parker will be learning more about his unique ability and controlling it. I really want more non-stereotypical horror from Jenn, because that’s a genre that is being neglected in YA that she absolutely nailed.

What do you think?  Are you itching to get your hands on a copy?  Well, this would be your lucky day, because Jenn is giving away 10 signed copies.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
But wait, that's not all! Have you ever had the secret dream of being an author yourself?  I used to dream about becoming famous with my debut story about a penny and a nickel that got separated when the nickel was taken from the cash register drawer.  They each had their separate adventures until they finally got reunited in a coin purse.  Yep, it was going to be the next best thing before Harry Potter. Anyway, if you or someone you know is a budding author on the verge of stardom, you will love this giveaway.  Jenn is offering 10 first ten-page critiques.  So, you can find out if you have the next big idea.  Just remember, I called the penny and nickel adventure first!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck! 
** Disclaimer -- We received a free ARC copy of Insomnia to review.  All opinions are our own.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Sewing pioneer clothing

The Author is currently on a three-day handcart trek.  One of the requirements for the trek is to dress in period clothing.  While some sources recommend just shopping your local thrift store and finding clothing to modify, I've never had great luck shopping thrift stores and I knew I could come up with what we needed through sewing.

Here is our pioneer ready to hit the trail:
Some of my inspiration for this outfit came from a pattern: McCall's 9424.  The bonnet is directly from the pattern.  I used a stiff craft interfacing on the brim since previous bonnets I've made have been a bit on the floppy side.  This one was going to be used on the trail, I wanted something sturdy enough to provide good sun protection. 

The blouse is modified from the pattern.  I shortened the dress pieces to a blouse length and cut two inches off the width of the front and back pieces, so they're a little less gathered when attached to the yoke.  I also added a couple inches to the length of the sleeves.  I found this allowed for a little bit deeper casing than the pattern calls for and a bit less stress on my part when threading the elastic through.  I hope the unbleached muslin looks period enough.
I also used the pattern to make a dress, but it was packed away before I thought to get photos.  I'll have to grab an after photo for that one and explain my modifications.  The apron was an old one I made years ago for a pioneer-themed activity day.  It still fit and The Author decided that would be one piece I wouldn't have to sew this time around.  It was a bit shorter than I would have liked, but I'm just glad I had the foresight to add a nice deep pocket the first time around.
The skirt was made from a couple yards of excess fabric I had on hand.  I just cut it to length and used the selvage edge instead of a bottom hem.  I cut a waistband slightly larger than her waist (about 1 1/4 times her waist measurement) and gathered the skirt onto one edge.  The other edge of the waistband was folded over and sewed down over the gathered waistband seam to create an elastic casing.  Yes, an elastic-waist may not be true period, but I try to avoid buttons and buttonholes whenever possible, even with my one-touch buttonhole setting on my sewing machine.

You can't see it, but under the skirt is a petticoat of unbleached muslin.  For this I cut two panels from 45" wide fabric in my desired length.  Sew the selvage edges together for side seams.  Cut a piece of 1-inch wide elastic to the waist measurement plus 1/2".  Overlap elastic ends and stitch to secure.  Divide elastic into quarters and mark with pins.  Secure elastic to top edge of petticoat at side seams and center front and back.  Sew elastic to skirt with a zigzag stitch, stretching elastic between pins and pleating excess fabric to fit as needed.  We found it is most comfortable to wear with the elastic on the right side of the petticoat.

Any questions, please ask.  Hopefully someone else can find these ideas helpful in preparing for a trek.