Sunday, December 29, 2013

Sewing for me!

UPDATE: See more information on these projects at my new sewing blog, The Itinerant Seamstress.  

Since May, I've lost 29ish pounds.  It's the thinnest I've been since about 1/3 of the way through my pregnancy with Natasha, and only 10 pounds away from my pre-kids weight.  It feels pretty awesome, but it also means that I don't have any clothes that fit.  So I've been motivated to try sewing for myself, with some wearable results!

This is the new Liesl & Co. Late Lunch Tunic.  It does not fit me quite right, and the pattern itself is, I think, not the best shape for my body type.  But I sewed it and I think that is pretty cool.  (Also, look - those are skinny jeans.  My first ever!)

I sewed this top from a pattern I drafted myself, using a top I already own.  That top is the miracle top - it fits across a 20-lb range.  I retired it only because it developed a few holes from so much wear.  This purple top is made out of a rayon lycra knit and was my first "draft" of the pattern.

I was pleasantly surprised by how this one turned out: the Lisette Traveler Tunic/Simplicity 2246.  I want to make another one in a more fun fabric and maybe with a different collar.

I think this is my biggest coup - skinny cords from the Sew Liberated Simple Skinny Jeans pattern.  I had to make a bunch of modifications to the pattern to get it to fit me, but even with all of that, it probably took me seven hours from start to finish.  I had to let out the legs on the sides, but (yay) I had to take in the waist and hips A LOT.  I also had to lengthen the pants about five inches and raise the back yoke so they wouldn't be totally indecent.  They work with flats and boots, and after a full day's wear they still stay up!  Hopefully they will hold up in the wash too.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Sewing again

In an effort not to turn this into a sewing blog, I haven't been blogging each individual item that I've made lately.  But I do want to show them off, so I will cram them all into this post.  Of note is that I've been trying to sew more for myself lately.  I will save those for another post (check back tomorrow!)

Kwik Sew nightgown in flannel.
I made three of these - one for each
daughter and one for my niece.
My new favorite pattern - the
Oliver+S Playtime dress. This one is in
interlock knit.
Another Playtime - embroidered corduroy. 
Playtime back.

Fleece mittens from Little Things to Sew book

Oliver+S Music Box jumper, modified, for a friend's daughter.

More Playtimes in fine-wale corduroy.
Oliver+S Art Museum vest
and trousers for G for Christmas

A Davy Crockett costume for a friend's son, sewn using
the Oliver+S Nature Walk pattern and some finicky
faux suede.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Ballet bunnies

A couple weeks ago, the girls' ballet class performed a short dance to the Dance of the Snowflakes from the Nutcracker.  Natasha is one of the more advanced dancers in the class (I swear, this is what the teacher told me -I'm not just bragging), and so she was supposed to be a snowflake.  But she was sick and missed three rehearsals.  Since she didn't have time to learn the snowflake dance, the teacher had her be a bunny instead (Zoia missed a few rehearsals too, but she was always destined for bunny-dom).

Neither girl was very pleased about this, as the snowflakes got to wear proper tutus and the bunnies had to wear ears and made-by-me bunny tails.  I thought they looked adorable but they were very grumpy.  We used the camera to take video (which I can't get to upload for some reason) during the performance, so all I have is this photo of my reluctant rabbits.  I was so proud of the tails (which I made out of tulle), but they hated them :(

Monday, December 23, 2013

First snow

Maybe the last, too.  Tbilisi isn't a particularly snowy city.  But on December 12, we got about 3/4 of an inch.

To say Natasha was thrilled would be a major understatement.

The kid covered the playground with snow angels.  She wasn't even wearing snow pants - when I let her out it was already pretty late and I figured she'd play for 20 minutes.  Wrong.  Wearing just jeans and tights, she laid in the snow and flapped her little arms and legs for nearly an hour.

I was cold just looking at her, but she reminded me of the days when I could run around in the snow until I couldn't feel my rear and still have to be coaxed to come inside.  Kids really do keep us young.  Younger, anyway.

Zoia wasn't really into it, but now I know that she was just about to get sick again.  I'm sure she would have enjoyed it more, had she been healthy.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Thanksgiving and visitors

Yeah, I know it's almost Christmas.  Shortly before Thanksgiving, first Natasha, and then Zoia, came down with a nasty bug that resulted in the TV being on all day for a whole week while they lay on the couch and I tried to come up with new and interesting ways to get them to drink something - anything.  

The illness, and then another one, is still making the rounds through our family.  It has been a long, long, LONG month.  So apologies, again, for the blogging hiatus.  This post is brought you by a sore throat, wooziness and general head-to-toe achiness that has had me laid up in bed for the last day.

So Uncle Jamison and Aunt Michelle came to visit for Thanksgiving.  It was nice to have family in addition to a few friends for our festive meal.  We cooked a 20-lb turkey and enough food for 30 people (we had eight adults, three little kids and two babies).  This year I tried brining for the first time, and also made an herb butter to rub under the skin.  Michelle volunteered to apply the butter.  I told her she might consider a career in midwifery.

The turkey was pretty tasty.  I think I might actually like turkey - this is the first time I've ever said that! Must have been the brine.  And probably the butter.

M&J dutifully did their part in entertaining and helping with the kids.  Michelle played human Barbie doll and story reader at the same time.

Jamison fed the baby and had many tea parties with Zoia.

We also found some time to hang out as adults.  We went to a wine tasting.

We conducted scientific comparisons of fraternal forehead wrinkles.

And we taught M&J how to eat khinkali properly (if you don't look stupid, you're not doing it right).

Oh yeah, and there was a little sight-seeing.

It was a great trip!  Hope to do it again soon.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Winter garden

After the relative success of my summer garden, I had grand notions of a fall/winter garden overflowing with kale and peas.  I planted about 10 weeks ago.  Here's my progress.

Foreground: mesclun mix, arugula, cilantro and mini Romaine.
Middle: snap peas.
Back: I tried to grow beets, kale and green beans ... and
those broccoli plants are left over from the summer.
I actually planted this broccoli back in April - by September it still
hadn't produced a darn thing.  I left a couple plants in just to see what
would happen.  Check it out!  Only took seven months to grow a
golf-ball-sized head.
Kale and beets ... but the kale leaves are only about 1 cm long, and the
beets grew sorry little greens ... and nothing else.

Container kale ... which is doing much better than my garden kale.

Container mesclun mix.

Monday, November 4, 2013

The Chinese Circus

The Chinese Circus was in town a few weeks ago, and Jeremy and I decided to take the girls. We have been wanting to get them out to performances more, as there are so many good kid-friendly ones here.

They loved it. I would have gotten more pictures, but, like Carrefour, the circus employs a good number of intimidating guys in suits whose sole job is to make sure that you don't take photos.  I got nabbed halfway through.

In this case, I think maybe the security guys were on the payroll of the Chinese government. My guess is they don't want anyone to know that they send their fourth-string performers to places like the former Soviet Union, where a good portion of the population doesn't need convincing that communism is awesome.  After watching the opening ceremony to the Beijing games, I had figured that anyone representing the Chinese government would be able to dance in sync.  Alas, this was not the case at the circus.  So communism: still not awesome.

But the girls loved it, and certainly there was some neat stuff to see.

Some seriously strong dudes. 
Natasha's favorite.  My covert camera operation was shut
down right after this photo - but this lady was later hoisted up
 on that ring and did some neat acrobat stuff.
The kid on top is 9. 
Afterwards, the girls had fun entertaining us with their own circus tricks.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Scavenging for state secrets, aka grocery shopping in the FSU

Georgia has spent the last decade or so trying to shrug off the vestiges of its Soviet past, with significant  success.  Little bits of it remain, however, and you run into them when you least expect it.  Like at the grocery store.  There are two quite large stores near the Embassy.  One, Goodwill, specializes in German imports.  The other is Carrefour, a French store.  Both stores employ an army of security guards, whose main job is to prevent people from walking in with reusable grocery bags or cameras.  Taking photos in the grocery store is strictly prohibited.  That is perhaps a vestige from the days when the Soviet government didn't want anyone in the outside world to know the the store shelves were empty and people waited in line all day for a loaf of bread.

This is not, however, a problem in Georgia today.  Carrefour has half an aisle dedicated to crap chocolate ball cereal.
Illicit photo captured surreptitiously with my phone.
Reusable bags are dangerous, too, because you know, you might put stuff in them and then walk out without paying.

Except Carrefour actually sells reusable bags.  There is a big display of them within 15 feet of the security guard stand where you walk in.  It tells you to buy these bags because they will save the environment and also Carrefour offers a lifetime guarantee!  I would take a picture with my cellphone, but it is too close to the guard stand and I would certainly get caught.  Yesterday, however, when I walked in with a large Carrefour bag filled with several smaller, empty reusable bags, the guard stopped me and asked me to leave my bags in one of the lockers designated for that purpose.  I pointed to the reusable bag display.  He explained that one can only bring empty bags into the store.  I pointed out that while my bag was not empty, it only contained more reusable bags, all of which were empty.  He was staunch in his point that the bag was not empty.  "It is forbidden," he said.  I took all the bags out of the Carrefour bag so that I was carrying four bag handles in one hand.  That, apparently, was not forbidden, and I was allowed in.

Until next time.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Dye for your cake, the natural way

I'm over at Hardship Homemaking today with a tutorial on making naturally dyed marshmallow fondant.  Hardship Homemaking is an expat-run blog with tips and tricks on how to move a family around the world and make do when you can't find the things you need at your post.  There's a wealth of information over there, so check it out!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

The great birthday triathlon

We are two events into the great birthday triathlon.  The girls' birthdays are less than three weeks apart, and this year we had a joint friend birthday party in between.  Natasha celebrated her 4th birthday while her Nana and Pop were visiting, and then she also had a celebration at preschool.  Yesterday we had the girls' big princess party, and Zoia's 3rd birthday is next week.  I have made (and eaten) a lot of cake.  I was down 28 pounds since Gabriel's birth as of last week, but I am afraid to get on the scale this week ...
Princesses Cinderella and Tiana in the party room.
Their dresses were their birthday gifts sewn by Mama.
We made the dresses this summer as a craft, then used
them as party decor.
Rice Krispy Treat wands.  Each kid got one and then we
played a freeze dance game to Bibbidi Bobbidi Boo.
The girls' castle cake.  Homemade marshmallow fondant.  I
dyed it with India Tree natural food colors, berry juices and
cocoa powder.  The turrets are made of rice krispy treats and
ice cream cones.  Cupcake topiaries are gluten-free for our
gf guests.  Princesses are made of fondant.
Vanilla cake dyed with berry juices, and vanilla buttercream.
The fierce dragon who ravaged the castle and stole the treasure.
Somehow he looks more Angry Bird than dragon.
The kids still enjoyed hurling fireballs at his head to slay him
and reclaim  the treasure (gummi bears and bejeweled rings).
Cake time!
Zoia was so excited to blow out the candles.
Preparing to decapitate a princess.                          
Immediately after cake, Z retired to the armchair with her
favorite book and stayed there for the rest of the party.
Me and my girls.  You can't see so well, but I was the
fairy godmother, complete with wings and a wand.