December 22, 2011

Flirty Apron

For the sexy chef in your life.

All seam allowances ½ inch
Self- B/W Leaves  5/6 of a yard
Lining- Buttercup Yellow 5/6 of a yard  
Contrast #1- B/W/Y Butterflies 1/3 yard  
Contrast #2- B/W/Y striped/dots 1 2/3 yard

  Please note, the above drawings are not perfectly to scale and are just to give an idea of what the pattern pieces should look like and grain direction. I tried to include measurements to give an idea of how big to make each piece. The tool over the apron is called a "hip curve ruler" and every serious pattern maker should have one. I use mine to draw waist seams, hip seams, princess seams, hems, armholes, necklines...

General Instructions:

  1. Fold Contrast #2 fabric length wise and cut an 4 x 60 in strip (actual piece 8 x 60).
  2. With right sides together, cut 45 degree corners and sew ends closed. Trim corners. Turn right side out, press.
  3. Make pleats in ruffle every 1.75 inches with a pleat depth of 1 inch. I alternated pleats from both ends toward the center. Pleats are knife pleats and should go in the same direction. Makes about 20 pleats. If there is extra fabric, hide in center pleat.

Tip: I pin the top of the pleat and the bottom of the pleat to prevent the pleats from flaring. When I am done I have a 4 inch wide strip of pleats just under 40 inches.

  1. Baste pleats across top edge. Leave in lower set of pins.
  2. Cut pocket out of Contrast #1 fabric. (Note: top edge is on fold.) With right sides together, sew around edges, leaving one side edge open. Turn right-side-out. Press, folding SA for open side in. Edge stitch onto front of apron sewing small triangles at corners for stabilization. Top stitch a dividing line down center of pocket. Placement for the top of the pocket is about 11 inches up from the bottom of the apron (without ruffles.)
  3. Fold Contrast #1 fabric crosswise and cut two,  2 x 20 inch strips (actual pieces 4 x 20)
  4. With right sides together, cut 45 degree corners and sew ends closed, and length of neck tie. Trim corners. Turn right side out, press.
  5. Place on top edge of apron, ½ from side edges, flush with top of apron. Baste in place.
  6. For waist ties, Fold Contrast #2 fabric lengthwise and cut two, 3 x 60 inch strips (actual pieces 6 x 60)
  7. With right sides together, cut 45 degree corners and sew ends closed, and length of waist. Trim corners. Turn right side out, press.  
  8. Place on side edge of apron, flush with side edge and ½ down from armhole edge. Baste in place. 
  9. Pin ruffle to lower apron edge over waist ties, starting at center and curving around toward armhole edges. Should reach just to waist ties. Okay if it overlaps. Baste in place.
  10. Tuck all ties into front pockets. Keep pleats away from lower apron edge.

 14. Sandwich lining over self, right sides together. Sew around all edges, leaving 6 inch gap open at neck.

15. Turn inside out.
16. Fold in neck SA. Edgestitch close.
17. Remove lower pins from ruffle. Flare/fan pleats. Press or starch pleats.

Yeah, my sewing room is usually a mess.

December 16, 2011

Deja Vu Blogfest

 Where we get to redo a post that we feel deserves a second chance.


  I posted this originally back in February when I had less than a half dozen followers. My mom, Sharan Joyce, has a talent for coming up with parodies and wrote the Save-the-Umbrellas campaign after seeing all the family umbrellas out on the porch to dry. (Pictured at the bottom.) 

I think it's funny and witty enough that it deserves a second chance. At least I can't ever look at umbrellas the same way now. 

Investigating Biologist: Sharan Joyce

Biology: The Umbrella is classified as follows: Kingdom Animalia, Phylum Chordata, Subphylum Vertebrata, Class Aves (birds), in the order of Chiroptera, which also includes bats and lawn flamingoes. Members of the Umbrella family generally are unipods (one-legged). Three major genuses have evolved: Bumbershootus (long, black); Parasolis (long, brightly colored); and Collapsicus (short, color varies). Each genus is further divided into species: curvatti, with a hooked foot, or knobsii, with a blunt or “clubfoot.”

Bumbershootus curvatii

Parasolis knobsii
Collapsicus knobsii

All members have an inflexible central vertebral column with fine-boned flexible wings that sprout just below the tiny head. The brain is surprisingly small for an avian. The adult’s average wingspan is three feet. Certain marine specimens, adapted to sunny beaches, have a span of up to six feet.

Characteristic Behaviors:
Like bats, umbrellas are frequently found hanging upside down in dark places. They are not exclusively nocturnal, however. Umbrellas generally shun sunny days (except Parasolis), and come out only on cloudy or rainy days. They live on nutrients derived from moisture in the air and are capable of hibernating for years between feedings if necessary. During their dormant season umbrellas may fold their wings tightly about their bodies, securing them with an “umbrellical cord” about their middles, or they may retreat into skin-tight cocoons. Umbrellas rarely breed in captivity; most are captured wild in their native breeding grounds (China) and exported.

Domesticated umbrellas, like domesticated turkeys, are generally flightless. Years of evolutionary degeneration, brought on by umbrellas’ growing dependence on humans, has weakend the umbrella’s skeleton to the degree that most individuals are unable to fly. Far from the ice age days when vast flocks of umbrellas could be seen circling the frozen tundra in search of thawing pools of water, the domesticated umbrella will not even expand its wings unless a human carries it to moisture. Occasionally on a windy day instincts will be aroused and an umbrella will attempt to take flight, but this is often a fatal experience resulting in skeletal inversion.

Umbrellas of the Bumbershootus and Collapsicus genus are most at home in the areas of year-round precipitation. In semi-arid climates, umbrellas tend to disappear after the end of the rainy season. Labeling and tracking of umbrellas has established that many of them try to migrate to the equatorial zone in search of more rain. Since they are flightless, many umbrellas take the bus; however they have small brains and no innate sense of direction, and often find themselves hopelessly lost unless some kind human adopts them.

Parasoli umbrellas can be found in both dry and wet climates. Marine umbrellas, and the domesticated poolside umbrella, seem to thrive on evaporated moisture from nearby bodies of water; perhaps they have made this evolutionary adaptation to enable them to flourish in sunny weather when there is little competition from the less-advaned, wet-weather umbrellas. In an unusual symbiotic relationship, Parasolis knobsii seems to feed on sweat exuded by humans on hot days, while sheltering the human from the sun.

The Problem:
Umbrellas have been exploited by humans. It is tempting to think of umbrellas as amiable, non-demanding pets, and many a child who cannot be trusted with a puppy is allowed to have an umbrella. However, umbrellas are a well-known hazard if allowed to roam, open and unrestricted, through the house. Also, they are not easy to housebreak. After a few puddles are left on the floor, they are usually shaken and relegated to the garage without water. This is inhumane. Pet umbrellas allowed outdoors are treated little better, as the master must guard against the ancient tendency to flight by keeping a firm grip on the leg when walking their pet.

Further, it is shameful that wild umbrellas are poached and killed for their feet (valued in making canes and walking sticks). Wild umbrellas may soon become as endangered as the sea otter as their skin is highly valued in making water-repellant tents. But the greatest travesty occurs in China, where umbrella hatcheries do a brisk business selling millions of fledgling Parasolis’s to the U.S., where they are considered a delicacy and served in cocktail drinks.



December 12, 2011

Gift Card Fun

This was just so awesome, I had to share.

Target gift card with free Legos.

I was at Target and saw this in the toy section. (It is not by the front counter with all the other gift cards.) I threw it into my basket, wondering how much it was going to cost extra at the checkout. Turns out, the Legos are FREE with purchase of gift card. I asked the clerk if there was a minimum amount I needed to put on the card.

She gave the the accompanying eye roll for the, "Why do I get the customers with the dumb questions when they've got three people in line behind them," question. 

According to her, I can put whatever amount of money on the gift card I want.

*Evil maniacal laugh*

I plan to include it in my husband's Christmas stocking. He may be an adult, but I know he likes toys just as much as my young cousins and nephews. And since it's free, if he gets tired of it after the first ten minutes, I have no problem tossing the pieces like I do with Happy Meal toys. Then he can use the money on the card to buy something he wants more instead. (Probably peanut M&M's or a bag of mini Reeses candies.)

Folds into a small "book"

November 29, 2011

You want fries with that?

This is old news, but Heinz has reinvented it’s ketchup packet. However, I just got to use one for the first time this weekend.

Heinz said it redesigned the ketchup packet because it’s had years of complaints that the old packet was too messy and had too little ketchup.

Now, I’m assuming most of the complaints are from people who are eating while driving, or in a car. (Because if you’re at a restaurant, there’s no excuse why you can’t get a dipping cup or use a drink lid/hamburger box/plate.)

Here’s my only biff with the new design: I still have to hold the fries with one hand and the ketchup in the other. And I guarantee I can make just as much of a mess tearing off the dipping lid as I can tearing open the corner of a ketchup packet.

So, I decided I had to give reinventing the ketchup packet a shot:


Brilliant, I know—I have worked fast food before. ^^ )

If I trust my car’s cup holder to keep 16 oz of sticky soda in its place, then I should trust it with my ketchup too.
Overall, I'll at least agree the new Dip & Squeeze design is better than my old method for eating ketchup: sucking it straight from the packet then stuffing the French fry in my mouth and chewing. 

October 28, 2011

Death by Murder

Piano Skirt
I recently got to participate as a suspect in a "Clue" type murder mystery game. My character was an accomplished musician with a conductor wand for her weapon. 

In real life I've played the cello and tuba--neither of them very well. I've never been good at counting anything faster than eighth notes. I lucked out that the band conductor was more concerned that I could march a mile with the 30 lb instrument than if I could hit all the notes.

I am thoroughly convinced you don't need to have musical talent to play the tuba, just a good chiropractor. My brother confirmed my theory his freshman year by following in my footsteps.
26" Bell Diameter  

So, even though I didn't really fit the part of the "accomplished" musician suspect, I had a blast sewing this pleated skirt for my costume.
The yoke is pleated bridal satin.  The ruffle fabric is just something I picked up in the quilting section at Jo-Ann's. The sharp keys, flat keys, and box pleats on the bottom are moiré .

If anyone lives in Florida or is thinking about visiting Orlando on vacation, there's a Sleuth Mystery Dinner Show that's worth checking out: 

The comedy is pretty funny and the jokes are subtle/clean enough that it's safe for young kids too. 

October 19, 2011

Spooky Spirits

This Halloween, bring back empty bottles from the dead.

Pumpkin Candle Holder

Step 1: Remove label from bottle. I soak them in warm soapy water then use Goo-Gone to get rid of the remaining sticky residue.

Step 2. Wrap masking tape or painter's tape around the barrel of the bottle.

Step 3. Using a marker or pencil, draw on face. I blackened the area I wanted to keep so that I wouldn't get confused while cutting it out.

Step 4. Carefully cut along markings using a razor blade or an X-Acto knife. Peel off surrounding tape leaving the eyes and mouth in place.

Step 5. Cover the bottle with orange spray paint. Let dry until paint is no longer tacky, then remove masking tape.

A little about paint:

 I prefer to use acrylic paints because they dry fast  and stick to almost anything. Acrylic paints are usually diluted with water. However, if you want the paint to dry faster, you can use rubbing  alcohol. Acrylic paints can be purchased in spray cans, so an airbrush is not a requirement. (Drying time is almost instantaneous.)

Where to purchase paint: I recommend Hobby Lobby, Hobbytown, HobbyUSA etc... anywhere that plastic airplane model kits are sold. I have found that most Michaels do not carry acrylic paints in the spray can format.Home Depot/Lowes/Walmart will have a selection of oil-based spray paint.This will take much longer to dry. Do check with a paint expert if the paint is meant to bond with glass.

Model Master, Testors, and Tamiya are example brands. Do not buy the kind in tubes or anything with 'craft' on it. It will not coat the glass evenly.

October 13, 2011

The Twelve Dancing Princesses


I read PRINCESS OF THE MIDNIGHT BALL by Jessica Day George several months ago. A while later, I read Heather Dixon’s variation, ENTWINED. It was my intention to discern for myself, which author did a better spin-off of the classic fairytale, The Twelve Dancing Princesses.

Right from page one of Entwined, I realized picking a winner would not be easy. I gave up on the concept of comparing the two books half way through. Although they share the same premise, I still had the impression I was reading two different stories. The overlapping elements are minor enough that I honestly can’t recommend one over the other.
 Then, while traveling to California to visit my family,  I purchased THE NIGHT DANCE, by Suzanne Weyn, on a whim.  This seemed the least like a 12 dancing princesses story and more like a King Arthur adventure spin-off.

And since I’m on the topic, I absolutely adore  THE TWELVE DANCING PRINCESSES, retold and illustrated by Ruth Sanderson. I think the illustrations in this children’s book are just gorgeous.

 Just over a year ago, I had to move from North Carolina to Florida. My hardcover copy of this book is one of three books I packed in my valuable car space and took with me, rather than letting the movers handle.  

That left me wondering: Are there any books in your home library you wouldn’t trust anyone else to transport across the country for you?

October 11, 2011

Mad Scientist Drink Bar

 Okay, if there’s one thing you should know about me, it’s that I love Halloween more than any other holiday—yes, even more than Christmas. But, I should clarify that I’m not into the scary, morbid, aspects.

A few things pertaining to Halloween usually happen every year:

  1. I will sew my own costume. It will be elaborate and unrivaled in craftsmanship, but will fail to win the local costume contest.
  2. I will spend at least $100 dollars on new Halloween decorations (this is a self-imposed restriction since I can easily spend more) and another $70+ on candy.
  3. I will host or attend one Halloween party where over half of the food must be cleverly garnished to resemble something spooky or Halloween-like.

Since this was a success at the party I hosted last year so I thought I’d share some tips for creating your own Mad Scientist Drink Bar:

 Science equipment is relatively inexpensive if you can find a local supplier. However, if you don’t have one, and have to purchase the items online, it can get pricey with shipping& handling. I’ve been very satisfied with every item I’ve purchased from American Science & Surplus. (  Their descriptions for each item are sarcastic and funny too.

Test Tube Rack- The rack was actually not stained when it arrived, so I did a quick sand, stain, varnish job to give it the dark 19th century look I admired in the picture.

Test tubes- DO boil and sterilize these after they arrive. Then do it again. These make fun “drink shots”.

500 ml Erlenmeyer Flask- (Triangular bottom)

500 ml Borosilicate boiling flask- (Has a round, bulbous bottom)

10 ml 1/2” tubular bottles- (Uses #0 cork) Boil and sterilize before use. I filled them with mystery “potions” (drink/juice concentrates). You can let your guests uncork the bottles and use eye droppers to add flavor to  their drinks. With larger bottles you can use powdered drink mixes. Use a miniature funnel or eyedropper to fill vials.

Tongs-Kitchen or scientific. If you're going to crush dry ice for your guests to add to their drinks, I strongly recommend the scientific tongs.

Cocktail Stirrers- Party City

Formaldehyde pumpkin in a jar- (Marshmallow pumpkin)-Walmart 

Brain Freeze Ice Cube Mold-Target, Spirit Halloween

Brain Freeze Ice Cubes

Drink labels- Spirit Halloween, Halloween City
Pick your Poison

Apply stickers at room temperature, then put the drink in the fridge to chill. If you decide to print your own labels, they may not hold up after the bottle begins to sweat once it's removed from the fridge.

October 3, 2011


Every time we revise, polish (or just write) we tend to repeat ourselves. Writing a whole paragraph to elaborate on one thought can  reinforce something critical to the story, or it can gunk it up. 

             She admired his preference to swear in Russian over German. When compared to several of the other Slavic languages, which all sounded threatening when spoken in raised tones, German actually had a limited vocabulary of offensive words. Unlike Russian, which had so many they almost constituted another language and a separate dictionary was needed to name them all. Furthermore, the Russian word for a German person literally translated to, “Somebody who does not know how to speak.”

(Your sarcasm is welcome in the comments section, but please hold your thoughts for now…)

Unless the character is a linguist and this is a clue for a detective novel (which they’re not) there doesn’t need to be a long paragraph rambling about swearing in foreign languages.

As a connoisseur of vulgar remarks, she noted his preference to swear in Russian over German. 

Redundancy can be eliminated even from short paragraphs:

Jennifer started to cry. She sat on the floor, her head hung between her knees, and sobbed. The tears poured hot and bitter, searing down her cheeks like the dripping wax of a burning candle.

The two sentences following “Jennifer started to cry” say (show) the same thing.  When deciding what to cut and keep, I  try to go with the sentences that are most interesting.

Jennifer sat on the floor, her head between her knees. The tears poured, searing her cheeks like the dripping wax of a burning candle.

The important part to remember is that without redundancy, I wouldn’t have written the other sentences, the ones I ended up keeping. Editing for redundancy is a revision concern, and shouldn’t hinder you while you’re first drafting the novel. 

Other tips:

 It's common to state something the reader can clearly figure out from the text. Trimming the extraneous details can tighten up the prose and make it read smoother.

I darted to the window [and peeked out.] David was running toward the building, waving his hands above his head and yelling.

We can cut “and peeked out” from the sentence since it’s clear the character looks out of the window because the next sentence tells us what the character sees.

I slipped my hand into his, trusting him.

This one is not as easy to spot since it’s out of context, but the act of slipping her hand into his implies trust, so saying she trusts him is unnecessary.

Words can be redundant as well:

 Back - He eased [back] into his chair, hissing a sigh of exasperation.  
Up/down (when the direction is obvious)- He jumped [up] onto the porch. / He looked [down] at this feet.

September 1, 2011


I love how this reminds me of an Ipod poster.
There are lots of ways to strengthen a sentence. Adding sharper details, changing the punctuation, reordering the structure... I like to go for the simple approach: modifying the verb.

Using common verbs lends the manuscript to sound a little bland. Use robust verbs to help the reader feel more like a participant in the scene.

Walked – ambled, sauntered, lumber, strolled, shuffled, staggered, etc.
Ran –jogged, skittered,  hurried, dashed, galloped, loped, etc.
Cry – whimpered, sobbed, sniveled, bawled, wailed, blubbered, howled, etc.

Using the Edit>Find tool search the novel for the following words, and replace them with something stronger, or rewrite the sentence to omit the word.

Was/were- This is one of the weakest verbs at your disposal.

She was rather plump.
Her fully fleshed stomach and bust swayed each time she moved.

Seemed- This is a non-committal verb. It lets you sit on the fence without picking a side. I try to only use it when I need to avoid a POV violation.  

He seemed old for his age. 
He left no impression of innocence and irresponsibility characteristic of boys his age. 

Began/Started- These are also  non-committal verbs. 

She started to cross the room.
She crossed the room. *
*Unless, she started to cross the room and then the floor falls out before she reaches the other side.

Knew- The POV implies that the character already knows .
 She knew he hated her. 
 He hated her.

August 19, 2011

Show & Tell

(Actually, the title should be “show, don’t tell”)

I’ve been doing a lot of beta reading and critique swaps in the last few weeks and I’ve noticed a few reoccurring pitfalls. These easy-to-fix-yourself problems have inspired me to do a series posts covering: Show & Tell, Verbs, Redundancy, and as a bonus, I may even attempt to do a post on “Voice.”

Below are the top two occurrences I’ve found of authors using “tell” when they should “show”.

Felt- If you say “he felt” you’re automatically about to tell me something.  In first person POV this is especially heinous because the reader knows the feeling must belong to the focal character. It would be a POV violation if it didn’t. 

Tell: I felt myself settle down 
Show: The tightness in my chest eased and my heart stopped pounding to be let out of my rib cage. 

Looked- Anytime “looked” appears around an emotional description, replace it with a visual picture. (I’m a big fan of body language and facial descriptions.) 

Tell: She looked depressed.  (Oh boo-hoo.)
Show: The corners of her mouth dipped into a rueful frown. Her shoulders slumped.

Body language is non-verbal communication which  consists of posture, gestures, eye movements, and facial expressions.
  • Crossed arms over the chest
  • Shrugged shoulders (Yes, I know that’s redundant)
  • Yawning
  • Leaning/angling toward or away from someone
  • Lack of contact/extended eye contact/averted gaze
  • Touching the ear/chin/cheek
  • Tilting the head to one side
  • Excessive blinking
  • Hands on hips
  • Straightened/slumped posture
  • Puffed chest
  • Playing with hair/hands in hair
A side note on facial expressions:
Smiled/Frowned/Grinned- I view these as weak facial expressions. I suggest replacing most of them with other facial expressions/body language, or at least justifying its use with a visual.

            He flashed him a smile of glistening white piano keys.
            A wide smile threatened to swallow his face.
            Small lines of tension formed at the corner of his eyes and the muscle in his jaw twitched.

“Showing” often involves the use of:
          The 5 senses
          Character actions
          Figurative language
Showing doesn’t mean you need a paragraph to describe every event. A line or two here and there is sufficient.

Tell: He answered the phone and carried on a short conversation.
Show: He flipped open the phone. “What’s up?” He listened quietly, grunting in agreement every now and then or nodding. “Yeah, I can do that.”

Tell: We took off on our dirt bikes.
Show: Mud kicked off the back tire as he sped forward. Releasing the clutch and rolling throttle hard, I chased after him.  

 Feel free to offer other suggestions in the comments!

July 25, 2011

The Amazing Spiderman

 Is it just me, or does anyone else think Hollywood is past scraping the bottom of the barrel for film ideas? Just saw Captain America (awesome BTW) and there was a movie trailer for…

“The Amazing Spiderman” (2012)
I rolled my eyes and shook my head. The original Spiderman came out in 2002, and  Spiderman 3 was released in 2007.
I saw this same phenomena with “Hulk” (2003) and “The Incredible Hulk” (2008).

I guess film movie licensing rights aren’t good for more than 5 years. Or, maybe they have a different strategy… sort of like the reasoning that must have prompted Disney to make the movie “Beverly Hills Chihuahau.”
If they add the number of people living in Southern California with the number of people across the United States who own a Chihuahua or other toy dog—they can make any ridiculous low-budget movie they want if they think even 1/20th of the niche market they’ve isolated will go see it. 

It doesn’t matter if Spiderman is a repeat idea because there are enough people worldwide who can’t get enough of the super hero movies and will go see it for no other reason than to compare it to the original.

Anyone else have any ideas why there's a need to remake Spiderman?

July 14, 2011

J.K. Rowling's Deleted Harry Potter Character

After being MIA for the last few weeks due to an extended family reunion over the Fourth of July weekend, I am finally able to resume blogging. In honor of the final film release for Harry Potter, and because amid mowing the three foot tall weeds in my front yard I’m beta reading a few manuscripts and revising my own novel, I’m going to share a College Humor post :

An early manuscript of the Harry Potter saga recently revealed the many revisions the novels went through before publication. Of the changes, most notable is a fourth main character, Kenny Nesbit, completely absent from the final draft.

by Owen and Ben on