Sunday, November 3, 2013

Halloween Parade of Doggies!

So what's a crafty gal to do when her kids get too old to make costumes for?  Make them for her dogs of course!

I have to admit, I always felt bad for animals whose humans do things like this to them:

But costumes needn't be over the top.   My cuddlebugs don't mind wearing sweaters and such in the cold weather, so I figured I would make something based on a similar pattern.

My Mom & Dad came to visit for the weekend.  My Dad is happy raking leaves and working outside this time of year, but my Mom and I love Halloween and sewing, so we set forth to make our doggies costumes.
The local dog park was having a Halloween event:  costume parade and contest, along with refreshments for both doggies and their humans.  We had to go!

Mom decided on a simple cape for her dog, Sparky.  She found a pattern on the internet and got some awesome blue cotton fabric with little stardust swirlies, and a darker blue fabric with little stars for the collar part.  She was thinking he might be a superhero, but ended up making him a wizard from Harry Potter. She put a lightning bolt instead of the star in gold fabric on the back.
Cape pattern

Here at Tea-and-Cat blog, there are plenty kitties to help with the sewing!
Mom showing off the near finished Cape

My Mom & Dad's dog, Sparky, is a Pomeranian* (non-standard size, probably what the breed looked like prior to breeders miniaturizing them)   He is six years old and very lovable.  

One of the ancestors of the Pomeranian breed is the Spitz hound.  There are a few different types of "Spitze" :
German, Finnish, Asian, and the Dutch Keeshond. They were bred originally to help hunting, herding, and pulling sleds, and all other type of fun stuff they did up in the Arctic regions back then.   Sparky looks remarkably like a German Spitz/Dutch Keeshond .

Although I'm fairly certain my Dad does not have Sparky herding any of the local squirrels, we had to check every now and then that he wasn't hooked up to a wheelbarrow moving leaves to the giant compost pile in our
backyard  (jk!)

So my original idea was matching cowboy outfits for Calvin & Charlie,  but somehow ended up being closer to Mexican Serapes with little matching hats. I used fabric from my fabric stash,   some chocolate brown corduroy type material, black denim, and lots of rick-rack for trim!
Kitty!  Mama Cass helps with the patterning

Laying out the trim

Sewing it all up

Finished Doggie Serape

Off we went to the Dog Park Halloween Event,  they thoroughly enjoyed the fresh air, which was pretty warm for this time of year.
Sparky at the park (oops, he blinked!)

Sparky in his wizard ensemble

Calvin in his costume

overhead view (the pink scarf is what I use to sling walk him)

Charlie in his costume,  (The hat kept slipping down)
There were a variety of pups in costumes, I have included some pictures below.  They also had a bunch of prizes for different categories - pairs, character from a book, funniest...
I entered my guys in the 'pairs' category, but alas, did not take a prize.

Sparky took second place in the Book Character category.   My mom ended up bringing home a big basket full of fancy doggie stuff, which they generously shared with my guys too.

boxer in a froggie costume (he took first place in the 'funniest' category)

A collie giving saying hello to Calvin. the Collie is sporting a 'Cheshire Cat' costume.

A basset hound in a cowboy costume There were actually a number
of cowboy doggies there, glad I went a little different!

Part of the Halloween parade.  

Little pumpkin dog
Prize table!

Tired Charlie on the way home.
So that was our big Halloween outing this year.  

Do you dress your pets up?  Please comment and share!

xo til next time, Yvonne

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Hey there Cats and kittens!   This week I wanted to share with you my findings on an awesome French singer from the 60's, but first a little of the happenings in my world....    

My son turned 18 this week. Aside from finally being able to vote (he has been coming with me and 'helping' me make decisions on how to vote for a few years now), and being able to purchase lottery tickets by himself,  his looming 18th birthday meant the deadline for all his Eagle scout work.  Peter has been involved with the scouts since 4th grade.  Like me, he has a lot of anxiety issues. He is introverted, things like social settings and new situations are difficult for him. The wonderful thing about the scouting program is it is has something for everyone.  It is just as helpful to kids who love the outdoors and are outgoing as it is to shy kids who like to read and are science and history nuts.    He is lucky to have a great troop with leaders who really go the extra mile.    

Peter, not unlike many other boys, was sidetracked for awhile (girls,  hanging out with friends, and other stuff that put his scouting interests in the backseat.) So getting the last of his merit badges done and deciding on/working on an Eagle project didn't get started til this past year. For those of you who are not familiar the Eagle process, it is complex and includes a lot of paperwork (before, during and after working on the project) getting approvals, and all sorts of other fun time-intensive stuff.   Suffice it to say, he finished the project about 3 weeks prior to his 18th birthday and the final paperwork and Eagle application was turned in a day before.   Talk about holding your breath....

He chose to do a set of shelving units for our local food pantry. Previously, Peter had no carpentry experience, so there was a steep learning curve. He worked with a couple of Dads from the troop who are carpenters/contractors. Then he had to organize friends, family & scouts from his troop to come help him build the shelves. (Eagle projects are mostly about showing leadership, so the process of getting others involved in your project and leading them by teaching, showing, organizing, etc. is more important than how your project actually turns out.)

 He had several work days over the summer, transforming our back yard into a workspace that looked like a cross between a mill store and Sanford & Son.  The end result were three very lovely shelving units. We took lots of pictures along the way, and I thought he did a great job.   The food pantry was very happy with them.   He is now waiting for his board of review with council (we are doing lots of role-playing and going over questions to prepare, because he doesn't have an easy time with talking in front of people).    Fingers crossed, I will keep you all updated!

Peter working on one of the units

Finished units installed at the food pantry

Now onto French Music!
With deep, soulful brown eyes, a chocolate syrupy voice,  and looks to rival any of the heart-throbs from the sixties,   Richard Anthony is one of the most awesome French singers I have heard.

 In the early 60's  Richard Anthony was very taken by the up-and- coming rock'n'roll music.  Having originally been born in Egypt, his family moved around between the UK, Egypt, Argentina, and finally settled in France when he was a teen.  His family was pretty comfortable, his dad was in the textile industry and his mom was the daughter of the UK Ambassador in Iraq. After he graduated and had a tried out a few jobs (like Refrigerator Salesman) Richard decided to put many of the English pop songs he loved to French lyrics. (he is fluent in 5 languages and later would do recordings of other songs in different languages as well).    His first recordings were "My Destiny" by Paul Anka, and Buddy Holly's "Peggy Sue" in 1961. These didn't make a very big impact. However, a year later in '62  he released his third album and his work started to take off.  One of the next tunes he did was a really beautiful song called "J'entends siffler le train"  (I hear the whistle of the train)   the French version of  "500 Miles."

"J'entends siffler let train"
["500 Miles (away from home)" is a folk song who's beginnings are hard to trace.  It's first recording was by the Journeymen in 1961,  and had a popular version done by Peter, Paul and Mary. It has also been sung/recorded by numerous other artists  (The Kingston trio, Elvis, Sonny & Cher, The Highway men, Roseanne Cash, Joan Baez, and the list goes on)  ]

In 1964 after continued success, Richard Anthony bought a private jet and was able to fly to his some 300 shows that year along with his musicians, instruments etc.  He became the first musician to use  flying as a mode of transport, as it was safer & faster to travel through France that way than on the roads.

I spent the other night playing around on Youtube and listened to a number of his songs. Many of them had videos to go with them, which leads me to wonder whether they shot the videos solely to go with the songs, or whether they were clips from variety shows or the like. (as a child of the '80's and the fledgling MTV age, inquiring minds want to know!)   At any rate,  the videos were awesome! Here's a sampling  (click on the song titles to see the videos):
Itsy bitsy teeny weeny yellow polka dot bikini
I love the  Un, deux trois..." chick with the cat's eye glasses and floppy hat; her slightly exasperated tone as if she's bored with the whole beach scene."  Then check out the gal in the background with the Asian style straw hat and braids à la Mary Ann of Gilligan's Island.  
One other thing I find fascinating is how popular culture changes its idea every few decades as to what is considered an ideal body type.  When little Ms. Bikini gets to the shore line and drops her towel, you can see that this chick has curves!  
 [For that time period, the "it" girl had a classic hourglass figure. In America, Betty Grable, famous pin-up, measured 36-24-35.  With British Women, the average was 37-27-39.   much shorter (5' 2" with 3.5 shoe size).   I am a little over 5' 7" with size 11 feet.  Man do I feel like an Amazon!]

Here's another Richard Anthony song called "Fiche le Camp, Jack" (Hit the Road, Jack). Although the song is not one of my favorites,  I love the outfits the girls are wearing in this video. Classic sweaters with pearls and A-line skirts.    My Mom, who was a teen during the fifties & early sixties, said they used to take cardigans and wear them reverse, buttoning them up their backs. (when I found this out, I started wearing this fashion to school!)
"Fiche le Camp, Jack!"

Another one, "Let's twist Again"  is done in English.  I love how they are all polishing the soles of their shoes before they start twisting!
"Let's Twist Again"

Other songs I really liked - "Lundi, Lundi" (Monday, Monday) "Le Voix de Silence" (The Sound of Silence),  and "En Ecoutant la Pluie" (Listen to the rhythm of the falling rain)

Richard Anthony is still around and performing (although now he looks a little more like Pavarotti than Frankie Avalon).  He has over 600 songs to his credit, and sold 50 million records. ( He has had nine kids (through two marriages and a number of partners), one other thing he has been very successful at !)

Do you have a favorite singer from the past?  Please Share!
I would love to hear about it.

Til next time, xo

Bibliography/Information from:

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Can you beat this amount of mid-century awesomeness?

Hi Friends,

First, a heartfelt Congratulations to Lisa of My Pretty Baby Cried She was a Bird blog, who got married about a week ago. I read Lisa's blog regularly. She adds wit and a knowledged eye to her many vintage finds, from tag sales to old advertisements to photos. I never know whether I will be treated to Borden's talking cow family ads, or a critique of a mid century dining room. A true gal after my own heart!

Now down to business....  I have come to possess my own little piece of mid-century awesomeness.  My very own starburst clock!

As my fellow afficianados of the fifties & sixties decades know that due to our newfound space travel, society was obsessed with all things not-of-this-earth. This translated into many design flourishes like Googie architecture found in motels, gas stations and bowling alleys, and fins on everything from cars to eyeglasses.

The Starburst or Sunburst clocks are perhaps one of the better known pieces of iconic fifties material culture. Their original designer was George Nelson, well known for his design advances in that period.  They were soon to be copied by many different companies like Lux, Elgin & Westclox. Westclox made sunbursts and starburst clocks, some capped with little balls at the end of their spikes.  Lux put little flowers on the ends of theirs and called them "atomic daisies." Some of their clocks were also made with pop-art colors like striking red or blue.   Elgin used teak and brass alternating spikes to differentiate themselves. I have included some photos of the many different types I found on the internet:

alternating teak & brass spikes

spikes capped with little balls

Atomic Daisy clock

 Personally,  as much as I love fifties design,  I was never a fan of the straight, hard lines that are found in a lot of the items then.  I like a much softer, organic feel to my furnishings. That's why previously, I never longed for a starburst clock to adorn my walls.
Then a few months ago, that all changed.  I was doing some looking around on the web, when I saw the type of starburst clock with swirly lines and LEAVES on the ends!  (I am a nut for floral and nature themed items...)
so obviously I fell in love with it, and had to try to get one of my own.      Sadly, I found that many of the clocks I saw on Etsy, Amazon & Ebay were all priced in the one-to-several hundred dollar range.
But not to be discouraged, I kept digging.  Low and behold, I found a 'fixer upper' model on ebay for $12!  yes,  my own little piece of fifties iconicness for under twenty bucks (including the shipping)      My clock still runs, although at some point the wiring was changed out, (and it looks like the person who rewired it may *not* have been a rocket scientist, as the wires look a little funky)  The official maker of my clock is United.
It also has two candlestick pieces that abut from either side a little below the dial that take a Christmas sized lightbulb. This is somewhat of an oddity, as I have not seen any other clocks that feature those.

The leaves have a fair share of rusty spots, but overall it's not in too bad of shape.  I have purchased a bottle of "Krud Kutter - The Must for Rust!"  (no kidding that's actually what the product is called!)  It's a biodegradable rust remover product.  I plan to clean the metal pieces with that, and then hit them with a couple of coats of metallic Krylon paint.    The dial needs some cleaning too.  I was also weighing the possibility of replacing the wired clock movement with one of the battery ones you can find in a craft store.  I have yet to open it up, so that may not be as easy as it sounds, but with the wiring as is, I am fearful of plugging it in and leaving the room as it may be a fire hazard.  Plus, having it eight feet up on the wall with a plug hanging down looks a little unsightly.   At the very least I am going to have my Sweetie take a look and rewire the plug with a modern one.
Nifty Candlestick appurtenances
So I am so thrilled to have found this piece!  I will definitely take pics of the 'restoration'  and post them later.
Have you found a wonderful item online or at a tag sale that you were able to fix up?  Do share!

Pleasant thoughts coming your way!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Is it August already?

I begin by apologizing now for the length of time it has been since my last posting.  I don't know if I have any regular readers, or if most people just happen across my site from other blogs or random internet searches.

Part of the issue was that I moved my computer to my daughter's room earlier this year (mine was better & faster than her laptop, and we were making a foray into the wonderful world of homeshcooling)  but then she discovered Minecraft.... so when she wasn't doing her coursework, she was adventuring with her friends; digging, mining, building, fighting Cave Spiders and Creepers.   I think anyone who knows about this game will understand.   Unfortunately, I never saw my computer again :(
I have been using her laptop, but it doesn't have the same 'feel' so I find that I am not as creative on it, hence the lack of posting.  So what have we been doing with ourselves the past couple of months?

  • Some Home Improvement
  • Anime Boston 2013
  • Vintage clothing shopping in Boston
  • Summer camps
  • Baby kittehs!

Home Improvement

So first, my old living room curtains were tattered & torn (much thanks to doggies sitting at the window pawing at them, and kitties running up and down them)     I found this really lovely fabric with birds and butterflies (I am a nut for natural themed things) -
"It's Curtains for ya, Rocky! Curtains!"  (Bugs Bunny)
And Voila!    I am really in love with this fabric.  I got it at JoAnn's Fabrics,  and I think this is one of a family of fabrics (if that's what you call them?   Series maybe? ) Anyway, there are other fabrics that go with this I may decide to do some accent pillows or slipcovers or something.

more Bathroom paint
Bathroom painted

The other project undertook was cleaning out and painting the bathroom.   This project is not yet completed, although we got a good deal of the clutter out;  cleaned and mildew-primed the walls and ceiling; and got the walls mostly painted.   I am  planning on erecting some sort of shelving unit (the old one was falling apart so my daughter had a lovely time dismantling it).   We chose a really pretty lilac for the paint color.   I also still need to make curtains for the window, though I'm really undecided about the fabric. I thought a complex pattern with a lot going on (like the fabric for the living room ones)  wouldn't be good for such a small space.  I saw some fabric that was a white background, had sort of caricature lines depicting trees, and owls dotted among the trees.  Although I did like the fabric,  I'm not sure it really goes with anything in the bathroom though.  Suggestions anyone?

Anime Boston 2013

Last year Anime Boston was a mother-daughter trip. It fell right around Autumn's birthday so we made a special weekend out of it - stayed in a fancy hotel and ordered room service.  This year, the convention was a month later, and Autumn got an invite to spend the weekend with a friend who lives right outside the city, and was having several other of their friends stay too (sleepover!)  So this year I didn't go with :(  but Autumn had a great time and got to see many of her friends that she only sees once or twice a year at the conventions.
This year Autumn was Aradia from Homestuck.  I'm proud to say she did the entire cosplay herself

Horns         (ordered from a party store online, she attached them with heavy duty glue to a headband)
T-shirt        (basic black one from Wal-Mart, fabric painted design)
skirt           (second hand long gray one ordered on ebay, we shortened & hemmed it)
Arm socks (gray tights from Target, she found instructions on how to modify them on the 'net to make them into armsocks)  This was a    last minute cosplay change,  she originally planned to use the same gray make-up on her arms as she had on her face.  But                      it didn't look a smooth, especially in the elbow crease,  and kept getting gray dust all over the rest of the clothing.
Tube Socks        (Hot topic)
Gray Make-up   (theatrical make-up from a local art supply store)  

Peter & I went up on Sunday (last day of the con) to pick her up, and spent a few hours vintage clothes shopping in Boston.  We found a few neat new places, but I want to do a separate post on that so as to give it justice as some of the places were faboo!

Summer Camps

Autumn went to a Youth Group camp sponsored by one of the local churches along with a few of her closest friends.  It was near Mount Monadnock in NH. She had a great time, they did team exercises and swimming and stuff. (sorry, I haven't got any pictures of this, you will just have to imagine a blue haired girl taking NH by storm)

Peter went to Boy Scout Camp at Camp Yawgoog in RI.  He has also been working on his Eagle Scout project this summer.
Peter at the Dining Hall

New Additions to the family

Et finalement, nous avons les petits chats noirs maintenant!

By way of one of the kids' friends who has a friend whom she visited in Tennessee,  3 baby kittens made their way back (via plane then bus ride).   We got 2,  their friend kept the other one.
This is Princess Kashi and Mama Cass.   (Mama Cass has a little crimp in her ear and a little white fur under her arms, Princess Kashi also seems to have a deeper 'meow')   I'm sure to tell you more about them in future posts.

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Antique Robots

Let's just say for the moment that you looked at this post title and went "Whaaa?"

We are a household of geeks:  gamer boyz & grrlzs, Whovians, Trekkies, Medieval swordplay, Cosplaying, sell-your-firstborn to George Lucas kind of geeks.  (My son and I had a running arguement for a long time about which was better - Star Wars or Star Trek- I STILL wanna have Spock's baby)
So yes, we have an action plan for a Zombie Apocolypse, and worry about Robots taking over the world.... or at least playing some music or drawing us a picture or two.

A couple weeks ago I was checking out the news and came across an article with video about Boston Dynamics using one of their robots called "Petman" to test out hazmat gear to be used by the military:

You can check out the link to their article and view the video of this incredibly human-like robot....I was left with visions of a Terminator genesis. More Youtube searching by a slightly paranoid me, and I found disembodied robot legs hopping around at MIT,   "Big Dog" robots making their way along beaches and through the woods,  and a "Cheetah" robot that can go almost 30 miles per hour.   And here I am with Boston only 75 miles away.  Kinda makes a girl want to sleep with an EMP disruptor under her pillow.

Going back a few years, I remember watching a history program on European watch & clock makers. One  man they featured was Pierre Jacquet-Droz. Pierre lived in the mid 1700's and was a gifted clock maker well known for his large clocks.   In 1758, he was introduced to the Royal Court and King of Spain, Ferdinand VI, (who was a more of a lover than a fighter unlike some other height-challenged megalomaniacal persons of that era)  King Ferdy was a great patron of art and culture.   Pierre ended up selling several intricate clocks to the Spanish Court and thus the Jaquet-Droz house became reknowned to the other royal courts throughout Europe.

Of course Pierre had to become bigger and better, and in the quest to do so, he along with his sons (who had joined him in the family business) created four Automatons in the late 1760's:
 "The Draftsman" (Le Dessinateur), "The Musician" (La Muscienne), "The Writer" (L'Ecrivain) and "The Cave" (Le Cave).

Each of these pieces were basically lifesized androids, (1:1 ratio) who functioned by intricate clockwork movements.

Each of the different pieces did as their names suggested - The draftsman drew one of several drawings, the Musician played on a small organ, and the Writer wrote a handful of words and phrases. The largest one (The Cave)  was a diorama of sorts -showing a palace and garden with moving figures in different areas. The Cave unfortunately did not survive Napolean's conquest that happened within the next decade (what did I tell you about those megalomaniacal people?)  The other three automatons are still around today.  Here is a video on youtube that shows these pieces in action (the dialogue is in French, but you don't need to understand it to see these lovelies working)  They were on tour for awhile, but now reside in the Museum of Art & History of Neuchatel.  These Automatons were built and traveled around as 'entertainment & advertisements' to increase the sales of watches and clocks among the royalty.
I found this blog post here (from a social network called Watchonista, all about watches)  that has a lot more  detail and pictures of these amazing pieces

internal workings of "The Draftsman"

Drawing showing "The Cave"  - Darn you Napolean!

Here are some things that I find absolutely amazing - 
  • The intricacies of these dolls. (I don't know much about clockwork mechanisms, but I am reminded of  music boxes or player pianos where there are little metal plates with holes or risers on them that cause different motions (or notes)
  • These were created in a time essentially when people were still working by candlelight or gas-lamp. Before they had invented things like the steam engine, electricity, and even had proper sanitation in most places!
  • How genteel these antique robots were - teeming with art and beauty. I wouldn't mind sharing a room with one of these guys.  (On the other hand if I saw Big Dog or Petman coming down the street, I'd make for the nearest alleyway and grab a pitchfork....or a screwdriver.)

The House of Jaquet-Droz is still around today, however has become part of the Swatch Group.  That's right, the same company that gave us these beautiful mechanical marvels 250 years ago, has culminated its engineering capabilities to create the iconic accessory of the eighties - the Swatch Watch
 (wait, what?)

Be still my fashion sensibility!

There is one other thing I would like to share with you, my dear readers.... These aren't robots in the traditional sense,  however I find myself mesmerized while watching them.  They are kinetic sculptures created by Dutch Artist Theo Jansen, and honestly,  a bit creepier than automatons (but in a good way)

  He calls them "Strand Beests" (Beach Animals) and he himself says that he is creating new life forms that he is hoping to put forth in herds on the beach to live their own lives.  Watch them in action on his website.
They are basically created from large PVC tubing with joints and sails, powered by the awesome wind coming off the North Sea.  They are environmentally helpful in that a secondary task of theirs is kicking sand back onto the dunes to help keep down erosion.    So far I am relieved that Mr. Jansen is the only one creating these things,  but if I start seeing wee little baby strand beests, I'm going to start adding saws and bolt-cutters to my screwdriver arsenal.

Merci aux websites pour l'infomation & photos: : Ville de Neuchatel - Musee d'Art et d'Histoire -HORLOGERIE & JOAILLERIE -pictures of strandbeests - Background info on Pierre Jaquet-Droz & his works.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Mad Men Sewing Challenge ~ Completed Dress!

Hi Friends!    I have been busily sewing these past couple weeks trying to get my "Mad Men" sewing look completed. (Mad Men 2nd annual Sewing Challenge from Julia Bobbin's Blog) I am very happy with the way it came out.  The dress seems to suit me more than the 40's skirt and blouse did.
Here is my inspiration dress on the character Betty Draper :

And here is my finished look:

I ended up using McCall's pattern# 6146, circa 1961. 

My fabric as I mentioned in a previous post was approx. 7 yards from a Queen size sheet set:

Purple is one of my favorite colors, and liked the sizing of the rose pattern on the fabric. I was having trouble finding large roses on regular fabric at the fabric store.
I used the same procedure as with the 1940's pattern:   Transferred it to wax paper, then cut out the fabric.
You might notice that the pattern from the 60's looks much more like the ones today do with markings, grainline, seam allowance etc.  (the one from the 40's was blank tissue paper with series of little punched holes in it to demark all the info)

This pattern happened to be a size 12, which was a couple sizes too small for me. When I traced the pattern on to the wax paper, I added about 1/2 inch extra on all the seam areas to size it up. Also, I made sure that the bottom of  the bodice and the skirt waist actually fit my waist (I have found that many of the mid century patterns have teeny tiny little waists!)
Other changes included a little extra scoopiness in the neck area to closer match the inspiration dress,  and I added a pleated overlay to the bodice area for the same reason.

I ended up doing a lot of hand sewing on this dress.  The skirt pretty much was a straight yard or so piece of fabric gathered.  I machine gathered it and hand sewed it in,  mostly because everytime I do a large gathering while sewing,  it doesn't end up coming out as well when I machine sew it in and I have to spend much time picking out the stitches and redoing them.

My kitty sat this one out. Instead I had Calvin, my mini dachshund, helping me.
Calvin assessing the situation - fabric is comfy!

Kisses for the helper
Many thanks to Julia for hosting this awesome "Mad Men" sewing challenge!  I am looking forward to seeing everyone's awesome projects.  I will have to actually find some episodes of Mad Men and watch them now too.