Friday, March 30, 2012

My Polyester -Shearling Jacket

This fabric has a nap and so it looks darker in spots...

I didn't bother to do anything with the seams - that's the beauty of polyester shearling!!!

Welt pockets - my first (and maybe last! They were difficult) ever!

I had trouble with puckering on the zipper and the hem. I gave up..I may just pull it out and do it again.

I've discovered that I really enjoy relaxing when I sew. I'm not one to change patterns - I like sewing to be very mindless but I do play with fabric choices and colours.

Having said that I rarely change patterns, I had to change a few things on this easy pattern to make it work in the heavier fabric. My jacket is a hybrid of two patterns....this one and Burda 112B

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Books for Boys

Research shows that choice of material is critical in stimulating reading success in boys. According to Smith and Wilhelm in Reading Don’t Fix No Chevys: Literacy in the Lives of Young Men, boys make very different choices in reading materials than girls. Then again, research showed that boys wouldn`t want to read fiction written by a woman, so JK Rowling used her initials for the Harry Potter series. And it has since been determinied that boys will read good fiction by men or women. Its the story not the author that sells the book.  Here are a few truisms about boys' reading habits:

  •  Boys are more inclined to read informational texts, magazines, and newspaper articles.
  •  Boys are more inclined to read graphic novels and comic books.
  •  Boys tend to resist reading stories about girls, whereas girls do not tend to resist reading stories about boys.
  • Boys like to read about hobbies, sports, and things they might do or be interested in doing.
  • Boys like to collect things and tend to like to collect series of books.
  • Boys read less fiction than girls.
  • Boys tend to enjoy escapism and humor, and some boys are passionate about science fiction or fantasy.
Teachers need to let boys know that nonfiction reading is reading. Magazines, newspapers, websites, biographies, science books, comic books, graphic novels are all reading material”. Here are some great suggestions for books for boys!

Young Readers  Grades k -3 (Or To Be Read To):

Frog by Susan Cooper

Mike Mulligan and More: A Virginia Lee Burton Treasury

No, David! By David Shannon – look for more books by this author

Squids Will Be Squids: Fresh Morals, Beastly Fables by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith

The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales by Jon Scieszka

The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs by A. Wolf as told to Jon Scieszka

The Wheels on the Bus by Maryann Kovalski

The Wolf Who Cried Boy by Bob Hartman

Grades 4 and up:

Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis

Call it Courage by Armstrong Sperry

The Cay by Theodore Taylor

Holes by Louis Sachar

Knights of the Kitchen Table by Jon Scieszka

Loser by Jerry Spinelli

Owls in the Family by Farley Mowat

Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Lois Sachar

Sounder (with Teacher’s Guide) by William Howard Armstrong

Grades 7 and Up:
All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque

The Giver by Lois Lowry

The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton

Tales of Mystery and Suspense:

The Wars by Timothy Findley

Curse of the Viking Grave by Farley Mowat

Non Fiction:
Early Bird Physics (Series)
Some of the titles in this series include:
- Levers by Sally M. Walker and Roseann Feldman
- Pulleys by Sally M. Walker and Roseann Feldman
- Wheels by Sally M. Walker and Roseann Feldman
Hearts of Gold: Stories of Courage, Dedication and Triumph by Lorne Zeiler

High Interest Books (Series)
Some of the titles in this series include:

- Cloning and Genetic Engineering by Holly Cefrey
- Crisis in Space: Apollo 13 by Mark Beyer
- Jon Krakauer’s Adventure on Mt. Everest by Scott P. Werther 
- The Shackleton Expedition by Jill Fine 
- Virtual Reality by Holly Cefrey

General Science Books:

The Encyclopeadia of Yuck by Joy Masof
The New Way Things Work by David Macaulay
Seven Inventors by Harry McNicol
Sold! The Origins of Money and Trade
Stones and Bones! : How Archaeologists Trace Human Origins

Unlocking the Secrets of Science (Series)
Some of the titles in this series include:
- Albert Einstein and the Theory of Relativity by John Bankston
- Jacques-Yves Cousteau: His Story Under the Sea by John Bankston
- Tim Berners-Lee and the Development of the World Wide Web by Ann G. Gaines

Wild Science: Amazing Encounters between Animals and the People Who Study Them by
Victoria Miles
Why Seals Blow Their Noses: Canadian Wildlife in Fiction & Fact by Diane Swanson

You Wouldn’t Want to Be (Series)
Some of the titles in this series include:
- You Wouldn’t Want to be a Pirate’s Prisoner! : Horrible Things You’d Rather Not
Know by John Malam
- You Wouldn’t Want to be an Aztec Sacrifice! : Gruesome Things You’d Rather Not
Know by Fiona Macdonald
- You Wouldn’t Want to be an Egyptian Mummy! : Disgusting Things You’d Rather
Not Know by David Stewart
- You Wouldn’t Want to be on Apollo 13! : A Mission You’d Rather Not Go On by Ian

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Teaching Reading to Boys

I run a reading support group at recess for the grade one students. It is primarily for students who are struggling but I let anyone come. The children usually bring their own books and read aloud to an older student volunteer. I keep extra books for students who forgot their book or who want to change books. Today, one of the little boys told me he didn't want to read his book. It was called Bread from Around the World and had a repeating sentence on each page with the specific change (In John's house we eat whole wheat bread; in Boris' house we eat Hot Cross Buns.)

I understood why the little boy wanted to change books. I gave him a graphic novel on Robin Hood. But then I started thinking, who would want to read this book? No one I know. I think the boys are more easily distracted from reading when the subject isn't motivating. I think the girls are equally bored with the books but are driven more towards obedience than interest.

Arms-length, purpose-driven books engage boys:

Boys want arms-length, fast-paced fiction books or informational, visual non-fiction books. They don't want the good-for-you books that schools put upon them.

I believe that reading entails three key areas: motivation, fluency and comprehension. Comprehension means understanding the story and even reflecting on the story. Fluency is word familiarity, word-calling and word meanings. Motivation is the big one; it is what drives the reading process and gets them reading and gets them to continue reading.

I've used strategies such as having students find and read jokes and riddles aloud. It motivates them (because they can all laugh), it gets them beyond fluency to comprehension (you have to tell the joke properly for it to work and you have to understand it to tell it properly).

Boys do read:

While teachers try to resolve the "boys don't like to read" dilemma, I have always wondered if it isn't that boys don't like to read what teachers would like them to read. They tend to have no problem with emails or texts. They don't want to read about social problems or discuss a character's deep feelings.

This is a growing list of general quick tips for getting boys to read from:

  1. Most boys prefer to read NON-FICTION.
  2. It's critical to RESPECT a boy's reading interests, even if we think it stinks.
  3. Most boys prefer things that are SHORT, like Tweets :-)
  4. Boys love MAGAZINES! They are chunk-able and informative.
  5. Boys like to DISCUSS things they read, but are often shy. Ask questions, engage them. 
  6. Boys need ENCOURAGEMENT with reading. Remember to tell them "Good Job, Keep it Up"

Monday, March 19, 2012

Do You Pack Munchies for Your Commute to Work?

I drive about 40 minutes to and from work. Sometimes that stretches into an hour if traffic is bad. I have, from time to time, stopped for fast food. Its costly and I don't need the extra calories. So I have reverted back to my days in undergrad, when I packed three apples for the commute. Today I packed an orange and a few apples.

Do you have a long commute? What do you pack for the commute?

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Sewing with Knits Part 2

A serger just isn’t in the cards until at least next Christmas. But I really do want to make more clothing from knits. I’ve always stayed away from knits because I found them hard to work with. I have discovered that sewing a zigzag stitch helps. So I put in my ballpoint needle and gave it a go. I tried sewing my knits with a zigzag stitch and I see how that helps with having some give in the seam (when there is so much give in the fabric). And it isn't what I am used to, but it works. 

So I decided to try some different stitch lengths on a straight stitch. (I am just too old-fashioned to sew a seam with a zigzag stitch.) I plan to make several Renfrew tops for the spring, so I may come to feel differently about this. 

The straight stitch puckered a bit...

First thing I noticed was that I needed to change the amount of seam allowance I was using. I tend to play with seam allowances because the measured sizes never truly pan out for me. It’s always more or less right, but I tend to have to take seams in or let them out for a customized fit.
So the 5/8 of an inch was too much. I went to half an inch and then a quarter of an inch.

I found when pressing the seam open, the ¼ inch seam allowance worked for me. I was too scared to try anything more extreme. I used pinking shears to finish the seams.

Another thing to note, I always back-stitch at the beginning and ending of a seam to secure it. Don’t do this with knits! After some tears, I’ve learned to either tie the ends the old-fashioned way (no thank you) or to simply stitch in place for a few seconds. This keeps the fabric from bunching up.

Then I happened to notice, in my sewing manual, that my machine has a stretch stitch!!! (Yes after working for about an hour and really feeling like I can conquer this shirt pattern, I notice that I have a stretch stitch!!!! Oh the frustration!) This stitch is created by the machine making two stitches forward and one backward stitch. This stitch takes a bit more time to sew then a regular straight stitch but the results are well worth the small amount of additional time

Finally, I found a "leaf" stitch that my sewing manual (from the late 70s) called the "serger" stitch. I think I have found my stitch for knits.

Some of my favourite T’s have a thin strip of what looks like clear elastic sewn into the seam. It must be a stabilizer as well. I don’t have this, and at this point, I am not willing to go out and buy some. So I decided to try using freezer paper when sewing the seam. I got the idea from here. This tip always seemed too fussy for me but I have to say, it was magic. It was so much easier. And when done, just rip the freezer paper away!

Now on to the hem: what a problem hems are on knits. I think the hems are what have kept me from knit fabrics all these years. I found that top-stitching left some puckering. I decided, on a whim to add interfacing. (When I change zippers on knit cardigans, I find twill tape of interfacing help to stabilize the garment for me.) I extended that thinking into using interfacing. But what interfacing do you use with knits?I've just used a light wt fusible one, for now. Is there one that is designed specifically for knits?

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Lentil Burgers with a Broccoli Stir-Fry

Lentil Burger: 

  • 2 cups cooked lentils 
  • 1 medium onion, sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, sliced
  • breadcrumbs
  • oil for frying 
  • 1/2 c parsley (optional)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2  teaspoon cayenne

  1. Slice onion and garlic and saute in oil. When onions are soft and starting to release their scent, add spices and mix well.Rinse lentils, then add to onion mixture. breadcrumbs, mix well. Mix by hand (or use a food processor) and form into small balls (about the size of fist) Makes 8 -10 lentil-burgers. Freezes well.

     Broccoli Stir Fry with Walnuts

    3 tablespoons of sesame oil ( or use Olive or canola)
    3 cups of broccoli florets
    1/2 red bell pepper, diced
    1/4 cup vegetable stock or broth
    1/2 cup of chopped walnuts
    2-3 tablespoons of Braggs' Liquid Aminos or low sodium soya sauce
    1 tablespoon of rice wine vinegar
    1/2 of a 14 oz. package of Thai Kitchen Rice Noodles

    Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the rice noodles and immediately remove from heat. Allow to sit for 8 to 10 minutes until the noodles are tender but still firm.
    Meanwhile, heat sesame oil in a large skillet or saute pan over medium-high heat.
    Add the walnuts and saute for about 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the chopped red pepper .Add the broccoli florets and saute for about 4 to 5 minutes, until fork tender. Add soy sauce and vinegar and continue to saute for 1 to 2 minutes more while mixing in the sauces well.  Finally, drain and rinse the noodles. Add them to the saute pan along with 1/4 cup of vegetable stock and toss gently to mix.
    Allow the dish to saute another 2 to 3 minutes to heat through. Plate and serve with fresh fruit or your choice of sides.

    Makes 4 servings

    Tuesday, March 13, 2012

    Sewing with Knits Part 1

    This is the first of a few posts on knits. I have recently ventured into the world of knits and I've discovered I like sewing with them. I am currently sewing a few versions of the Renfrew pattern and I'll post them when I'm finished.

    Knits are easy to wear, and don't hold wrinkles, so I like them. Knits are an important part of every
    wardrobe because they are comfortable to wear and easy to care for. Because of their elasticity, knit garments do not require a lot of fitting and they shed wrinkles well. Most knits do not ravel, making them quick and easy to sew. (Although, I like to finish the seam allowances.) Knits are versatile and can be seen in everything from the most casual wear to the dressiest of clothing attire.

    Why sew knits
    We all wear t-shirts. T-shirts and leggings can be cheap, but the price can, and does, add up. In terms of quality, home sewn is definitely better value, and you decide the colour, fit and length too. With all the choices in fabrics, you can mix and match and make your own unique t-shirts, leggings, etc., Best of all: knits are a quick sew. They are very forgiving compared to other fabrics. That is, you can fudge and cut corners easier. Knits often don't fray and so require less finishing . They stretch when you are wearing them so there's a lot less pressure to get a precise fit for your body. Once you find a pattern or patterns you like, you can run up a bunch of T-shirts or leggings really quickly.

    What are knits:
    Knits are made of interlocking looped stitches. They do not have lengthwise and crosswise yarns like woven fabrics. Instead, the interlocking loops of yarn create lengthwise ribs called wales and crosswise lines called courses. The stretch, both lengthwise and crosswise determines the type of knit.

    Notions You'll need:

    Use pattern weights or pins that are designed for knits
    Thread (For lightweight knit use extra fine polyester or polyester/cotton thread; for medium weight knits use an all-purpose polyester or polyester/cotton thread)
    Zippers (are generally more suitable than buttons)
    Interfacing for knits (to stabilize collars, zippers and buttons)
    Ballpoint or Stretch Needles

    Sewing Knits:

    You must preshrink your fabric because knits tend to shrink. In fact, I find it is best to launder them twice, just to be sure. Most knits have a right and wrong side, so be sure to mark the fabric pieces as you cut them out! (And while this isn't a scientific fact, I find that knits curl toward the right side.)

    Patterns designed for knits generally have fewer pieces and less shaping details, making them quick to sew. There is less ease built in due to the stretch of the fabric. (I size down two sizes when using a knit on a pattern not made for knits.) Patterns designed for knits have a stretch gauge printed on the envelope to guide in fabric selection.

    A Variety of Knits:

    Knit fabrics are typically classified by their amount of stretch.
    Firm, stable knits have very little stretch and are handled much like woven
    fabrics. These may include double knit, sweatshirt knit, boiled wool, and raschel knit.
    Moderate stretch knits are those that stretch about 25 percent in the crosswise direction. Moderate stretch knits allow enough stretch for comfort but are not intended to conform to body

    Quick Reference Table

    Type Definition Uses Notes
    Single stretch knits Moderate (less than 50%) stretch Examples: jersey, tricot and interlock knits as well as some fleece Thinner single stretch knits such as jersey curl at the edge
    Two -Way Stretch Knits Stretch 50 -75% in both crosswise and lengthwise directions Typically used for leotards, bodysuits and formfitting garments

    Super stretch Knits Stretch roughly 100% in both directions Sportswear and ski wear (spandex or Lycra is typically added to enhance stretch)

    Different types
    Bacially, the more stretch and slip, the more attention you have to pay. Standard cotton jersey - T-shirt material - without any lycra or spandex in a medium weight behaves fairly similarly to a woven a fabric. It doesn't stretch that much and it only stretches across the length of fabric (selvage to selvage). On the other end of the scale is shiny lightweight nylon lycra - stretches in both directions, slips around and stretches a lot so sewing seams can require a lot of attention to make sure they stay aligned while you sew.

    • Use smaller seam allowances on knits – they don't fray and I find that the stability that larger seam allowances provide in woven fabrics actually act against the drape of the knit fabric
    • Using a zigzag stitch allows the knit to stretch when worn. (assuming you don't have a serger)
    • Try the stretch stitch on your sewing machine also
    • There is no need to stretch the fabric as part of sewing or hemming.
    • I use interfacing for knits on t-shirt collars because it helps – especially with v necks- to get the “V” right
    • A friend told me to try this trick: use tissue paper over and under the fabric to decrease the drag while you are sewing (I find this too much work)
    • I've looked at about 6 t shirts and two or three other knits in my closet and they all have a double needle hem. This makes the garment look professional and so I'm going to do it on my hems too.

      See My Post: Sewing With Knits Part 2

    Sunday, March 11, 2012

    How Much To Expect Your Fabric To Shrink

    Any fabric can be expected to shrink about 1 to 3 percent. Manufactured fibers will shrink the least, and natural fibers the most. When buying RTW, the shrinkage of natural fibers is often controlled during the manufacturing process, by washing and preshrinking the fabric before it is made into a garment.

    Knit fabrics in particular tend to shrink more than woven fabrics do. I tend to launder these twice before cutting out a pattern.

    Natural fibers which are not preshrunk, and some manufactured fibers such as rayon and acetate (both of which are made using natural plant matter as part of their ingredients) can shrink significantly...even several sizes.

    Generally, preshrink your fabric in the same way that you expect to launder the finished garment. Laundering it once should be plenty as 90% of its shrinkage takes place in the first laundry (washer/dryer) cycle. (With the exception of knits -especially cotton or rayon knits - which should be laundered twice.

    If you are unsure of the fibres in a fabric, you can do a burn test. Generally, synthetic fibers ( like polyester) melt whereas natural ones burn and leave ashes. Combinations of fibers can act like one type, the other, or neither. There's an excellent burn test chart here.

     Fabric Characteristics

    The table given below shows the comparison of only the characteristics of few fabrics. For example, water retention is very high in cotton and the lowest in polypropylene. Same with the drying time, it's very long in cotton and vice versa in polypropylene. Cotton and wool shrinks more than polyester and nylon.
    Cotton Wool Polyester Polypropylene Nylon
    Water Retention High High Low Lowest Medium
    Drying Time Long Long Short Shortest Short
    Heat Conduction (Wet) High Low Low Low Medium
    Comfort Level (Dry) High Medium High Medium Medium
    Shrinkage High High Low High Low
    Durability Medium Medium High Medium High
    Colour Choice High High High Low High

    Saturday, March 10, 2012

    Itchy Ears Remedy

    Okay, I get very itchy ears in springtime. I've asked the doctor about it, from time to time, and he checks my ears and says there is no infection. He seems unconcerned that my ears are so itchy. But they are VERY itchy.
    Then I went to a naturopath who said it was likely some sort of allergy but had no advice on how to end the itching. From time to time, I look up itchy ears on the internet and I see some OTC ointment for sale. When I buy them, they don't work. I find that I look for days for a drugstore that sells such things and then, pay $15 for a tube that gives me minimal relief.

    SO I decided to try apple cider vinegar. I put it on my basset hound's ears to keep them from getting infected and I thought I would try it on myself. It took about three days of cleaning them with ACV but the itchiness is gone.

    Friday, March 9, 2012

    Fictional Books that Deal with Bullying for Middle School Students

    Adam Canfield, Watch Your Back!by Michael Winerip (2007)

    A much-welcomed snow day turns into an embarrassing nightmare for middle-grader Adam when, after being mugged by high school bullies for his snow-shoveling money, he becomes the focus of major media attention just as his co-editors at The Slash are launching a contest to out bullies at their school.

    Buddha Boy by Kathe Koja (2003)

    Justin spends time with Jinsen, the unusual and artistic new student whom the school bullies torment and call Buddha Boy, and ends up making choices that impact Jinsen, himself, and the entire school.

    The Bully (Bluford Series) By Paul Langan (2002)

    Darrell Mercer, a 9th grader at Bluford, is the new kid at his middle school. Physically smaller than his peers, Darrell quickly becomes a target for the freshman class bully. 

    Bullyville By Francine Prose (2007)

    After the death of his estranged father in the World Trade Center on 9/11, thirteen-year-old Bart, still struggling with his feelings of guilt, sorrow and loss, wins a scholarship to the local preparatory school and there encounters a vicious bully whose cruelty compounds the aftermath of the tragedy.

    Burn by Suzanne Phillips (2009, c2008)

    Bullied constantly during his freshman year in high school, Cameron's anger and isolation grows, leading to deadly consequences.

    By the Time You Read This, I'll Be Dead by Julie Anne Peters (2010)

    High school student Daelyn Rice, who has been bullied throughout her school career and has more than once attempted suicide, again makes plans to kill herself, in spite of the persistent attempts of an unusual boy to draw her out.

    Charlie's Story By Maeve Friel (2004)

    After being abandoned by her mother at the age of four, living for ten years with her somewhat distracted father in Ireland, and being mercilessly bullied by her cruel classmates, Charlie Collins almost gives up on life.

    Crazy Beautiful by Lauren Baratz-Logsted (2009)

    In this contemporary retelling of "Beauty and the Beast," a teenaged boy whose hands were amputated in an explosion and a gorgeous girl whose mother has recently died form an instant connection when they meet on their first day as new students.

    The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin by Josh Berk (2010)

    When Will Halpin transfers from his all-deaf school into a mainstream Pennsylvania high school, he faces discrimination and bullying , but still manages to solve a mystery surrounding the death of a popular football player in his class.

    Defying the Diva by D. Anne Love (2008)  

    During Haley's freshman year of high school, a campaign of gossip and bullying causes her to be socially ostracized, but after spending the summer living with her aunt, working at a resort, making new friends, and dating a hunky lifeguard, she learns how to stand up for herself and begins to trust again.

    The Devil's Toenail By Sally Prue (2002)

    When he finds a strange weathered stone on the beach, thirteen-year-old Steve decides to pretend that it has mysterious powers that can protect him from bullying and can help him impress the gang he wants to join.

    Dog Sense by Sneed B Collard (2008)

    After he and his mother move from California to Montana to live with his grandfather, thirteen-year-old Guy gradually adjusts to the unfamiliar surroundings, makes a friend, and learns to deal with a bully, with the help of his Frisbee-catching dog.

    Don't Call Me Ishmael By Michael Gerard Bauer (2007)

    Fourteen-year-old Ishmael Leseur is certain that his name is the cause of his unhappy school life as the victim of the worst bully in his class, but when a new boy arrives, he shows Ishmael that things could be different.

    Dough Boy By Peter Marino (2005)

    Overweight, fifteen-year-old Tristan, who lives happily with his divorced mother and her boyfriend Frank, suddenly finds that he must deal with intensified criticism about his weight and other aspects of his life when Frank's popular but troubled, nutrition-obsessed daughter moves in.

    Drowning Anna By Sue Mayfield (2004)

    After being befriended by the most popular girl in her new school, the brainy and shy Anna is puzzled when their warm friendship descends into cruelty and violence.

    Endgame By Nancy Garden (2006)

    Fifteen-year-old Gray Wilton, bullied at school and ridiculed by an unfeeling father for preferring drums to hunting, goes on a shooting rampage at his high school.

    Exposure By Patricia Murdoch (2006)

    Frustrated with being constantly bullied, Julie decides to get her revenge by taking compromising photos of her tormentor, but when the initial success of her plan takes an unexpected wrong turn, Julie must decide whether to be the bigger person and do what she knows is right with the evidence she has gathered.

    Freak By Marcella Fleischman Pixley (2007)

    Twelve-year-old Miriam, poetic, smart, and quirky, is considered a freak by the popular girls at her middle school, and she eventually explodes in response to their bullying, revealing an inner strength she did not know she had.

    Freak Show by James St. James (2007)

    Billy, a budding drag queen, survives bullying that would reduce most people to quivering jelly -- and falls in love with a football player. 

    The Guardian By Joyce Sweeney (2009)

    When thirteen-year-old Hunter, struggling to deal with a harsh, money-grubbing foster mother, three challenging foster sisters, and a school bully, returns to his childhood faith and prays to St. Gabriel, he instantly becomes aware that he does, indeed, have a guardian.

    Indigo's Star
    By Hilary McKay (2003)
    Spurred on by his youngest sister Rose, twelve-year-old Indigo sticks up for himself and an American boy who has replaced him as the primary target of the school bullies. 

    Jumped By Rita Williams-Garcia (2009)

    The lives of Leticia, Dominique, and Trina are irrevocably intertwined through the course of one day in an urban high school after Leticia overhears Dominique's plans to beat up Trina and must decide whether or not to get involved.

    Kiss Me Kill Me by Lauren Henderson (2008)

    Longing to be part of the in-crowd at her exclusive London school, orphaned, sixteen-year-old Scarlett, a trained gymnast, eagerly accepts an invitation to a party whose disastrous outcome changes her life forever.

    Magic and Misery by Peter Marino (2009)

    TJ, a sturdy teenaged girl with little self-confidence, becomes best friends with a new, gay student in her high school, and when he is bullied and she tries to convince him to tell the authorities, he refuses.

    The Misfits by James Howe (2001)

    Four students who do not fit in at their small-town middle school decide to create a third party for the student council elections to represent all students who have ever been called names.

    Mousetrap by Pat Schmatz (2008)

    When Maxie's best friend from elementary school returns years later after a horrible act of violence against him, Maxie feels guilty about how she treated him and conflicted over whether or not she wants to befriend him again.
    Out of Sight, Out of Mind by Kaye Kaye (2009)

    "Amanda Beeson is Queen Bee at Meadowbrook Middle School. If you're not friends with Amanda, you're nobody. But one morning gorgeous, popular Amanda looks in the mirror and sees a very different face staring back at her. The Queen Bee is about to get a taste of life in someone else's shoes." (From the cover)

    Payback by James Heneghan

    Newly arrived from Ireland, Charley Callaghan is relieved when the school bullies stop picking on him and find a new target in Benny Mason, but when Benny doesn't defend himself and ends up committing suicide, Charley is overcome with guilt.

    Racing the Past By Sis Boulos Deans (2001)

    After his cruel father's death, Ricky Gordon, still haunted by the brutal beatings and harsh arguments, realizes that he can no longer fight with the kids that torment him on the bus, and decides to run to school, which leads him on a new path of hope, in a dramatic story of determination and survival.

    Shooter By Walter Dean Myers (2004)

    When his friend goes on a shooting rampage at school, misfit Cameron has to rethink his views on his life and his place in the world, in a powerful tale told through interviews, diary excerpts, and newspaper articles.

    Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers (2010)

    Regina, a high school senior in the popular--and feared--crowd, suddenly falls out of favor and becomes the object of the same sort of vicious bullying that she used to inflict on others, until she finds solace with one of her former victims.

    Stuck on Earth by David Klass (2010)

    On a secret mission to evaluate whether the human race should be annihilated, a space alien inhabits the body of a bullied fourteen-year-old boy.

    This Is What I Did by Ann Dee Ellis (2009)

    Bullied because of an incident in his past, eighth-grader Logan is unhappy at his new school and has difficulty relating to others until he meets a quirky girl and a counsellor who believe in him.

    White Girl By Sylvia Olsen (2004)

    After her mother marries a Canadian Indian man, fourteen-year-old Josie finds herself living on a reserve outside of town and becomes a target of bullies for being white.

    Thursday, March 8, 2012

    Use Common Sense with Making Your Own Bubble Bath

    Sometimes I like to check out the cool little make-it-yourself recipes on

    And recently, I came across a page that gave directions to make your own bubble bath (see below)

    Foaming Vanilla Honey Bath
    In a clean container, mix together 1 cup light oil (almond, sunflower, or canola), ½ cup honey, ½ cup mild liquid hand or body soap, and 1 tablespoon vanilla extract. To use, shake gently to remix and pour ¼ cup under the running water as you fill the tub. This recipe yields about 16 ounces, or enough for 8 baths.

     Now, here's my question: should you pour 1/2 c of oil down your drain? I know people vie away from grease, but is oil the same thing? I'm thinking in the name of all things plumbing, you shouldn't tinker with oil in the pipes.
    There is no doubt that making your own bubble bath is worth an attempt to make. It may save you money, which is one of my goals for this year. Looking at the ingredients in the above recipe (and even in the one I am about to give you next, I'm sure it has healthier ingredients but it isn't necessarily cost-saving.) So here is a recipe I found in an old copy of a Canadian housekeeping book. (It's falling apart, I've only got a title page and an elastic band around some papers holding it together, so I can't give it more credit than that. It has annoying phrases like "the modern Canadian woman" and 1960s era fonts.)

    Homemade Bubble Bath
    1/2 cup shampoo
    3/4 cup water
    1/4 teas. table salt
    In a bowl, mix the shampoo and water until well combined.  Add salt and stir until it thickens slightly.  Use a funnel to pour it into a bottle.
    And that’s it!

    I would add some vanilla or citrus flavouring or essential oils if you are so inclined, but generally since you throw this stuff down the drain regularly, its a lot more safe for your pipes.

    Monday, March 5, 2012

    Using a Bias Cutting Gauge

    I always hated measurement in math classes. I can't do it. And it drives me crazy. So, when I discovered the steps to making your own bias tape - an realized how much money I can save doing it - I realized that I had to find a way around my problem with measurement. Then I discovered the Singer Bias Cutting Gauge.

    I read about this gauge in Charlene Philips The Sewing Machine Attachment Handbook. And I couldn't figure out how it worked - sometimes I am quite dense. I wondered if it somehow marked the fabric so that you ended up with a line exactly 1/2 inch from where you cut. It is simpler that that.  Basically you affix it to the blade of your scissors and it works as a guide to keep you measurement straight. The guide skims the cut edge and lets you cut exactly 1/2" (or the desired amount). Its right there on your scissors so with even minimal attention you will get evenly cut bias strips easily.

    I discovered it on Ebay and bid a few times and lost out. (Those buyers who come in the last 5 seconds always seem to spell disaster for me!) Finally I secured one and it was on its way.

    Right now I only need short strips of bias tape because I am trying to make nicer seams inside my sewn garments. I really Hong Kong seams but for now, I am just finishing them sewing bound seams. But now that bias tape is so much simpler to make, Hong Kong seams should be in my future!

    Sunday, March 4, 2012

    Green Smoothie Recipe

    This is my recipe but there are hundreds on the internet. I swear that drinking these keeps my migraines away.

    1 cup of milk (dairy or non-dairy)
    2 cups of spinach (or any green leafy vegetable)
    3 bananas (frozen is better)

    Put all ingredients in a blender and blend until sufficiently smooth. Then blend a minute or two more. These are better when everything is smooth. Drink at leisure.
    The bananas drown out the taste of the spinach. Trust me, they do.

    Good Reasons to Drink Green smoothies:

    1. They are quick to make
    2. They taste good.
    3. They are very nutritious
    4. You are covered for your greens on days that you drink these.

    Friday, March 2, 2012

    Help! My Cat Sits Very Close to the Iron When I Sew

    We all know that cats like to be warm and cozy. Sometimes, during a heat wave, my cat will sit atop the hot water heater!!! But when I sew, he sits right beside the iron. I like to keep the iron plugged in so that I can press a seam after it is sewn. It just makes life easier. Besides, I am slow sewer and I don't need to plug and unplug the iron, and wait for it to heat up, after sewing a few seams.
    But my cat sit perilously close to the iron.  I think he enjoys the heat emanating from it. (Now I also have a fireplace in my sewing room - an electric one- that gives off a lot of heat too. But that is a bigger machine and it distributes the heat more evenly through the room.) I've tried turning it low and it doesn't deter him. Is there a guard I can buy for my iron that will keep my cat from being burned, should he knock into it?


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