Monday, September 27, 2010

Lesson 12: t-shirt girl

I can't help it.  No matter how many times my sister tries to fluff me up and bling me out, I'm a t-shirt girl at heart.  Nothing beats a well worn t-shirt, if you want my opinion.  This statement always leads my sister to predict that one day I will become a Glamour Magazine "fashion don't."  You know--the candid they grab of the lady on the street sporting the dowdy duds.  The editors put these odd little black boxes over the poor person's eyes.  Like someone wouldn't recognize it was me with nothing altered but little, black rectangles over my eyes. 

Nevertheless, when my only sibling dropped 3 dress sizes in a year, I inherited quite a nice array of fat clothes.  Now realize that receiving someones fat clothes is a really low moment in life for a girl.  Receiving KAREN's fat clothes is an entirely different story though.  Barely worn (she plowed right through those sizes), and still smelling of the Limited, they are a bargain hunter's gem.  The only problem is that we have very different tastes.  It goes into the "give away" pile if the item fits into one of these three categories:  animal prints, plunging necklines, or sequins.  Given the latest trends, the give away pile is always quite large.  Once in awhile I try to be brave and fashion forward and will come out sporting something that is on my "questionable" line.  Ellen usually pipes up and says, "Was that Aunt Karen's?"  That usually is enough for me to do an about face and march back into my closet to dig through my t-shirt bin. 

My favorites as of late are my nice collection of organic cotton LOST t-shirts from  I think I wore one every day of the summer.  If my dear readers have not ponied up the 3 extra bucks for the organic cotton yet, I strongly urge you to try it.  You'll never go back---so soft you'll never want to take your shirt
off, or at least wait by the washer and dryer until it is done. That way you can put it back on when it is warm and fluffy and smells like the Snuggle bear.

So, I have accumulated quite a t-shirt collection myself.  Too many to wear with any regularity.  My crafty middle child Ellen, saw a t-shirt quilt in a magazine about a year ago and bugged me about making one ever since.  We decided to try the project out and it was really fun.  It just took a little patience and a big mess in on the kitchen counter for  a couple of weeks this summer.  It was also a great way for me to immortalize some of my favorites---as a square on Ellen's quilt.   At only 9 years old at the time she was making it, she did a fantastic job.  It was so good that we entered it in the North East Community Fair.  The picture to the left shows Ellen sporting her FIRST PLACE ribbon. 

Many have asked me for the directions, so here are some of the materials you need and a few of the first steps.  For those of you who make it past the first stage, call me and I'll coach you through the sewing part and tell you what you can actually do for yourself and what is best to pass along to an experienced quilter.  Read below for the directions:

PHASE 1:  Collection & Cutting
  1. Find 30 shirts
  2. Get a ruler and a sharpie marker and make a 14 inch square around the part of the t-shirt you would like to use--center it as best as you can
  3. Get some plain old scissors and cut out the square
PHASE 2:  Ironing on Fusing
  1. Go to the fabric store and buy fusing by the yard. Fusing is the stuff you iron on the back of the t-shirt to make it stiff.  NOTE:  If you were passing notes in 8th grade general math class instead of paying attention like I was, you may need a bit of assistance.  Tell one of those friendly ladies at the counter what you are making and the size and they can figure out how much fusing you'll need. 
  2. Cut the fusing into 14 inch squares
  3. Drag your ironing board out into the middle of your kitchen floor, turn on your TV to something interesting, and iron the fusing onto the t-shirt.  Be careful--the fusing goes on a certain way--the sticky side toward the t-shirt--otherwise you'll ruin your iron.
  4. This takes forever--and I hate ironing
PHASE 3:  Squaring the squares
  1. Go to a craft store and buy a 12 inch quilting square (see through--like a Plexiglas type thing with measuring marks on it--about $10)
  2. Pick up a rotary cutter while you are there--also about $10.  It looks kind of like a pizza wheel, but I don't recommend running it over your fingers like I did.  It is a sharp sucker and blood does come out of t-shirt squares with a little peroxide. 
  3. Put the see through quilt square over the 14 inch square and center the design.  Roll around it with that rotary cutter and you've got yourself a perfect 12 inch square.
  4. Once all of those little perfect squares are done, you can experiment by laying them out on your living room floor ( make sure you yell at your husband and pets not to step on them--leave them there for a few hours mulling over the different patterns you can make, and piss everyone off a little longer)
PHASE 4:  Sheet purchasing and sewing
  1. If you've gotten this far, then you are pretty serious.  I will not consider you a fly-by-night quilt maker, so please call me and I'll coach you through the rest. 
  2. The quilt goes together pretty quickly--you can get it together in a few hours
  3. We used a dinky, little machine we picked up a Big Lots years ago for $60 and it did the job just fine.
Can't wait to see who the brave ones are.

Monday, September 20, 2010


Happy 10th birthday, Ellen!
May you always stay FOREVER YOUNG.  Enjoy one of my new favorites by Jay-Z and Mr. Hudson.  If you've never heard it before, it's a long song, so be sure to give it at least 2 and a half minutes.  The blending of the musical styles is superb.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Lesson 10: LOST lives on

'Lost' meets Weezer: Doc Jensen decodes the band's new album 'Hurley'

weezer-hurleyPosted for my Lost friends.  Read the above link regarding the new Weezer album titled "Hurley."  Apparently their front man Rivers Cuomo is a LOST fan.  I've never owned a Weezer album in my life, but I am about to.  Hurley lives on through music.  How awesome!  Thanks for the tribute, Weezer!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Lesson 9: Never ask a 3 year old to make inferences

I just can't help it.  The teacher in me always comes out, even when I try keep it bottled up. 

We read to all three of our children every night before bed.  Ellen is always reading some novel.  She prefers "real stories about real people" not about "trolls or humans with wings" (obviously not a lover of fantasy).  If you've read my Lesson 2 blog post, you will know that Natalie I I have stepped it up a bit.  We moved on from Hop On Pop to Tiger Rising. 

Reading time with my 3-year-old Sam, however,  is a weird blend of relief from a long day of disciplining him and amusement at some of the things he did and said to land himself in hot water.  Sam loves the Biscuit books, Olivia stories, and nursery rhymes. 

Tonight we were reading the nursery rhyme book.  Concerned that he would be just reciting them from rote memory and not using the creative part of his brain, I tried to ask him things about the rhymes or pictures to stimulate thought.  For example:  ......"here we go 'round the mulberry bush on a cold and frosty morning."  I said to Sam, "How do you know it is a cold and frosty morning?"  Sam replied, "because the kids are wearing hats and scarves, mommy." 

After we finished up the Hey Diddle, Diddle page, we focused on the picture around the rhyme.  I said, "Oh Sam look!   There are two little birds in the tree.  I bet they are a mommy bird and a daddy bird.  Which one do you think is the mommy bird?"  One bird was a dull brown and the other was a bright blue.  He pointed to the brown one.  I was mentally dreaming about flat hats with tassels, scholarships, and acceptance awards---and I should have stopped right there.  Nope--had to ask just one more question.  I said, "Sam, why do you think that is the mommy bird?"  He replied, "It's fatter." 

This quote is taken from Roseann Barr and applies to me tonight: "I now know why some mothers eat their children."  According to Sam, I guess I have already eaten a few of them. 

Lesson 8: Nostalgia in the middle of September

This year back-to-school brings more that the usual dose of nostalgia.  The smell of the grape harvest, listening to the marching band practice, and hearing the whistles blown by football coaches, all bring a flood of fond memories to me each year. One by one the black and orange jerseys go by as I sit at my desk in Harbor Creek High School.  Strange-- I can still remember the jersey numbers of all of my friends, but I can't recall where I set my car keys six out of seven days of the week.

But this year it is different some reason--the nostalgia stronger than ever before.  I have an awakened sense of time passed and friends that I miss.  Maybe it's the looming 40th birthday six months from now.  Perhaps it is also the fact that my daughter Natalie is now walking the halls of Harbor Creek as a student.  As I see her pass by, I wonder if I looked like that when I was her age.  I am excited for all that she will experience, yet want to guard her from all of the heartbreak that she will inevitably encounter during her high school years.

With all that in mind the last few weeks I came across this song.  It is a great tune, with great lyrics, by one of my favorite American Idol contestants.  It is a reminder that time passes quickly but the memories do remain.  Enjoy.

Lesson 7: Lightning never strikes in the same place twice

I'd like to believe that old wives tale---that blast was really close to my house.  Look at the power of Mother Nature as shown in our yard.  The pieces of the tree scattered 50 feet.  However, according to Mr. Google, lightning can, in fact strike in the same place twice. 

I just so happened to be looking out the window at the time of the lightning strike.  There was a sizzle in the air that I my animal-sharp senses picked up on.  There was electricity all around me, just before I saw the 20 foot high pillar of fire.  All I could think of was a terrified Moses and that burning bush.  I get you, brother.  Truly scary. 

Monday, September 6, 2010

Lesson 6: Rules for life

To play the game, you have to live by the rules.  The rules in our house are sometimes a bit strange.  They emerge from everyday situations and are adapted for interpretation by our 12-year-old, autistic daughter, Natalie.  The number one rule to date, albeit a bit strange, is certainly one to abide by:  No farting in a restaurant.  Natalie repeats this mantra several times a day to remind herself and her extraordinarily gaseous father.  Some other rules we have been working on this summer are:  Don't touch people.  Just say, "Hi!"  and Not everybody's name is Tom.  When in doubt, Natalie inserts "Tom" after the "hi" part in her initial greeting.  This confuses Sam's friends, but they will grow to understand the absurdities of the LaFuria world.

Some other rules I came across several years ago are Bill Gates' Rules of Life, supposedly given to a group of high school students, I am assuming at their graduation ceremony (lucky students).  I've saved it for several years, and again thought is was a good lesson for all of us.  Read below the words of Bill Gates:

Rule 1:  Life is not fair--get used to it!

Rule 2:  the world won't care about your self-esteem.  The world will expect you to accomplish something BEFORE you feel good about yourself. 

Rule 3:  You will NOT make $60, 000 a year right out of high school.  You won't be a vice-president with a car phone until you earn both.

Rule 4:  If you think your teacher is tough, wait until you get a boss.

Rule 5:  Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity.  Your grandparents had a different word for burger flipping:  they called it opportunity. 

Rule 6:  If you mess up, it's not your parents' fault, so don't whine about your mistakes, learn from them.

Rule 7:  Before you were born, your parents weren't as boring as they are now.  They got that way from paying your bills, cleaning your clothes and listening to you talk about how cool your thought you were.  So before you save the rain forest from the parasites of your parent's generation, try delousing the closet in your own room.

Rule 8:  Your school may have done away with winners and losers, but life HAS NOT.  In some schools, they have abolished failing grades and they'll give your as MANY TIMES as you want to get the right answer.  This doesn't bear the slightest resemblance to ANYTHING in real life.

Rule 9:  Life is not divided into semesters.  You don't get summers off and very few employers are interested in helping your FIND YOURSELF.  Do that on your own time.

Rule 10:  Television is NOT real life.  In real life people actually have to leave the coffee shop and go to jobs.

Rule 11:  Be nice to nerds.  Chances are you'll end up working for one.