Saturday, November 29, 2008

Robot Dreams Book Review by ChristineMM

Robot Dreams
Author: Sara Varon
Genre: Graphic Novel, children, wordless
Format: softcover books
ISBN: 9781596431089

Rating: 5 stars out of 5
Summary Statement: Touching Story, Wordless

Book review by ChristineMM

Robot Dreams is a sweet tale told in comic book style. It is a wordless book. The sweet and innocent nature of this book allows it to be enjoyed by very young children yet the message and story can be enjoyed and appreciated by adults.

The story takes place over thirteen month’s time and the plot is very much associated with the changing seasons. It is a story of friendship between a dog (living and acting as a human) who buys a robot kit and assembles his new robot friend. When the robot rusts and stiffens while at the beach, trouble ensues.

I can’t give the story away so I’ll have to stop with the story summary at this point. The ending was surprising and very much not what I thought would happen.

The take away message for me was that friendships are important and the good memories can live on in our hearts even if due to various circumstances, friends become separated and they go off in different directions.

I’m not sure if all young children will get that same message from the book.

My eleven year old son who is a robot-lover and graphic book lover really enjoyed this book.

My younger son, aged eight, read it and enjoyed it.

I read it and loved it. Due to the nature of the story and despite the characters being male, I think girls might like the story itself, if they are graphic novel lovers. The story may be too juvenile for teens unless they are specifically interested in the storytelling form of the graphic novel.

The book also has an educational component if someone wishes to use it in that way. Teachers could use this to show how a story is built and how the trajectory builds up as the book goes on. Since it is wordless it can be consumed in a short time frame making it easy to teach from. Art teachers could use this as an example of the graphic novel format and to help teach student about drawing comics or using the graphic novel format. It could also be used as writing prompt for writing composition. Students could try to write a chapter of the story using the book as the source material. I am planning to use this book in those ways with my homeschooled children.

I am a lover of books and the written word, however the more I read graphic novels of a different type than Superhero-based action stories, the more I am coming to appreciate the art form and the difficulty of communicating a storyline in purely visual format for the wordless graphic novels, and also for those with far less words than ‘text only’ books. It takes a special talent to be able to portray in all visuals, a complete and touching story. Sara Varon has succeeded with her story Robot Dreams.

While the value of traditional books will never fade, I do hope that the graphic novel genre continues to grow with high quality stories artfully told.

How I Came to Read This Book: I found it on the shelf at a local Barnes & Noble and due to its cost I decided to borrow it from the public library. However we love it so much I may buy it and use it in our homeschooling. After I read it I heard Amy of the Creative Mom Podcast, in episode #113, review and recommend it.

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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Winter's Coming

It is getting cold!

Photo taken by ChristineMM on November 23, 2008, in Cape Cod, Massachusetts

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Slow Going on Knitting My First Sweater

My knitting feels like it has come to a standstill.

For the last two weeks I have been trying to knit a sweater.

I have been working on gauge swatches. I realized that yarn #1 for contrasting color will not work. I don't like how it is coming out. And it is a thinner yarn than what I'll use for the main color.

I decided to use a Noro yarn I already have on hand. I believe I own enough (one 100 gram skein) but even if I run out and need more a local yarn shop has more in that dye lot. I chose the yarn that I used to make my hat and scarf. So this sweater will have a 'faux fair isle' band of that same yarn. The bottom of the sweater will be a natural color. That means the sweater will look great with the hat and scarf.

I have done two swatches with the main color.

I just finished the gauge swatch with the new contrasting color.

I am really not enjoying this part of the process. As a consequence I have not been knitting in public. I've been reading a lot and brining books with me everywhere. I have been busy and doing a lot of appointments outside the home or else busy at home doing homeschooling lessons, cooking and cleaning. Also my husband was away for business so I was the 'single mom' living 24/7 with my kids. I have barely been watching any TV so no knitting is happening while in front of the TV.

I miss knitting. I want a project that I can just pick up and work on.

I am beginning to think that this sweater will never happen and that just to get knitting again I should go back to hats.

I'm not feeling so fulfilled as a knitter right now...

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Must Have This

After seeing this video preview of "An Illustrated Life" compiled by Danny Gregory I realized I must have this book. Must own. Must read. Must refer to. Must enjoy.

The book is being released on December 16, 2008 and is available for pre-order through Amazon now.

Hat Tip: R. from CMPCircle referred me to this blog.

More About Danny Gregory

Danny Gregory's webpage

Danny Gregory's Podcast Archive

Looking West

View from the front of my house looking west.

The rain and winds have brought down nearly all the leaves, almost in one fell swoop. My eyes are getting used to the new look of the landscape. It always seems other-worldly when the transition from lush green leaves, to wild colored foliage, sometimes too harsh for the eyes, to this.

The bare trees with their fine details, reveal differences between tree species. In my yard, the tall oaks dominate, so obviously dominating the other trees.

Why did I take this photo? The color of the clouds caught my eye. Blue skies with puffy clouds, white on the edges and deepening to dark gray in the center, complicated by the sun setting and the new sky filled with branches not foliage. That's why. Sometimes what I see cannot be captured well by my camera, but it is worth a try anyway. I never know if the viewer of my photos sees the same things as I do and I'm not sure if that matters anyway. What is more important is my seeing it, my appreciating the beauty in nature and small things seen, the fun of the process of photography, that is what matters, the seeing and the process. The final product is different and is not as important as the process itself.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Make It From Scratch Blog Carnival #90 Has Been Published

The Make It From Scratch Blog Carnival #90 was published on today at A Bit of Flour. Check it out and get inspired to make something from scratch.

Consider submitting to this blog carnival if you make things from scratch. It can be anything from cooking and baking to sewing and crafts.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Red Leaves Falling

I couldn't resist snapping this photo of this gorgeous tree with its red leaves falling, on a Saturday afternoon. It had rained steadily for about 24 hours and the tree went from being intact the prior day, to this.

Less than 48 hours after I snapped this photo, I saw this tree again, every leaf was off the tree and the red leaves on the ground had turned brownish, and the homeowner had spent time the day before (a Sunday) raking up the leaves.

This is a good example of why stopping to snap a photo when you see something you want to remember is a good idea. Beauty is fleeting and we never know how long what we see will remain that way.

Photo taken by ChristineMM in November 2008 in the Tashua section of Trumbull, Fairfield County, Connecticut.

Saturday, November 15, 2008


Younger son and I collaborated on making a pair of pajama pants for him to wear. We finished pair #1 the other day. I was teaching myself using a book and he was learning right alongside me.

I found the book "Buckles and Bobbins" at a homeschooling conference. It is written to teach boys to machine sew and includes 'boyish' patterns.

The pants ended up too large for my son, so I'll be tweaking the pattern to customize them, for pairs #2-6. Making those is on my "to do" list. My son wants to use the sewing machine by himself. I let him do a little on this first pair. As we work on the rest of the pairs together I plan to have him do more and more of the work, all of it, not just the machine sewing part.

Below is a photo of his idea to help me. When I was getting pieces mixed up of which was which of the four parts to cut out, he used Post-It notes to label them. Hooray for creative thinking on the fly!

My sons both got to see me struggle to learn to make these pants. While doing this I had to teach myself to do all the basic stuff to the machine from winding the bobbin, fixing tangled up thread, replacing the needle, so on and so forth. I think I experienced every kind of error and problem that can happen when machine sewing and I resolved them all, calmly and without tears. It is good for kids to see that adults struggle to learn also.

In case you're wondering I'm making these from scratch because I can't find decent PJ pants made of cotton. Also I hate that chemical flame retardant that the federal government mandates be on children's pajamas.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Rain on Leaves

The heavy and steady rain with the winds the other day brought down a lot of leaves.

Photo by ChristineMM taken near my home in Fairfield County, Connecticut on November 8, 2008.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Losing Its Color

Photo of a burning bush taken by ChristineMM near my home on November 8, 2008, in Fairfield County, Connecticut.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Finished PJ #1

Last night my younger son and I finished PJ pant #1.

I was so excited. Well after putting in the elastic per the directions he put them on and I realized I would have to cut off about 5 inches of fabric from the bottom before hemming it. So I did that.

In the end I was so psyched!

Then he put them on and we realized:

1. the ankles are giganticly-wide
2. the waist is too loose and they fall right down as he walks
3. they are still too long

It looks like for pair #2 I will have to modify the book's pattern to be something else that will fit him better.

I feel like this is an experiment in progress.

The good news is that the sewing is going well. I have successfully problem-solved a few issues, wound a new bobbin, changed a needle, put the presser foot back on, and other basics. I'm getting more confident with the sewing machine and that is a good thing.

After the digital photos are downloaded I'll share some photos...

Friday, November 07, 2008

Sewing Pajamas for My Son

My worst fear in life is machine sewing. I am not kidding.

I have had a hard time finding decent cotton flannel pajamas for my younger son (age 8) that are not coated in horrid chemicals to make them flame retardant. I understand that it is a federal law to have such a chemical on the PJs. Actually most boys PJ pants are made of 100% polyester. When my son wears one pair he has of those he has a nightmare and/or wets the bed every time. Hmmm.

Also in general for some weird reason, I just can't find PJ pants for my son anywhere. Old Navy staff tell me they are a seasonal item only sold at Christmas time. Interesting. After going to six different stores I gave up and decided to sew PJs pants for my son.

Oh boy.

A few weeks ago I got up the courage to buy the fabric.

Days later I read the pattern. I'm actually using a book that is intended to be used with boys, children and teen boys to teach them beginning sewing and it includes patterns boyish things for them to make.

I re-read the directions on another day. Trying to get my courage up.

I then cut one piece out. Got worried and stashed it. Got busy with Halloween prep. Put it off for a week.

Today my younger son begged me to get to work on it. I knew I didn't have the right elastic but knew I could do all but that. So I launched in. I had three panicky calls to my mother asking for help. The first one included a statement, "I think I am too stupid to learn to sew as I just can't understand what they are saying to do".

I am a person who learns by reading very easily. However I have huge issues with directions for things in writing that are three dimensional and I do with materials and my hands. I can't convert text directions easily to 3D objects. For example the basic instructions for how to set up and use the sewing machine is very difficult for me to understand. Sometimes the directions of things get mixed around like it say counter clockwise but I swear the thing I have to do is clockwise. Tonight my husband insisted that to turn it that way indeed is counterclockwise. Well I thought there was a typo in the instructions.

Okay I'll stop complaining. I did everything on pair #1 of the PJs except the elastic band. And I didn't cry or break down or stomp around, yell or swear. Younger son helped me a little including doing the pressing (he loves to iron with supervision).

Tomorrow I need to buy the elastic band I need. I'll check length and tweak the pattern before I sew pairs #2-6. Yes I am making 6 pairs in total for that son.

Oh, and I did buy the cotton flannel on sale for $5.99 per yard. Despite that savings I'll share that each pair will cost $15 in flannel and $1 in elastic band. So it is not a big savings, as Old Navy's PJ pants are $15 per pair and the ones at The Gap are $19.50. As someone told me, home sewing of clothes is no bargain anymore.

For the record, this is one project I'm doing just for the final PRODUCT and this is not about PROCESS for me, not this sewing!!

I can't wait to go knit and try to relax!

Started My First Sweater

I finished frogging my third sweater. I had about a week of knitting nothing. No projects in process.

Last night I bit the bullet and decided to start my first sweater. I picked the Faux Fair Isle Raglan in Shannon Okey's book "Spin to Knit".

(I am loving this book so much I think I'm going to have to just buy it, I've renewed my library copy once already and think I may be due to renew it again!)

I chose a hand wool spun yarn (no name on it) that I picked up at a vendor booth (with no name on it) at the New York Sheep and Wool Festival last month. The colored part around the neck is shades of pink and rose. The rest of the sweater will be a natural color. That is from Wild Apple Hill Farm Ltd out of Hudson New York, and I picked it up at the same festival. This yarn was a bargain at $5 for a 210 yard, 4 ounce skein, it is a bulky wool.

My only worry is that the handspun wool for the accent color looks to be a narrower yarn. I don't know how to address that.

I am doing my first ever swatch to check gauge. Tonight I will finish the main color swatch and will begin a swatch for the accent color.

Whenever both are done I'll wash them and block them and see how it all turns out.

I am using the book "Knitting Rules" to help me understand how to check gauge.

I will confess to feeling quite nervous about this endeavor. My worst fear is that after the sweater is done it won't fit me or will look terrible on me.

I also don't understand the stitch k1f&b in continental. I have spent over 30 minutes on the Internet looking for a video that shows how to do the stitch through the back with continental stitch. So far all I have found is that stitch in American. I'll deal with that later, for now I have swatching on my mind.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Make It From Scratch Blog Carnival #88 Has Been Published

The Make It From Scratch Blog Carnival #88 was published on today at A Bit of Flour. Check it out and get inspired to make something from scratch.

Consider submitting to this blog carnival if you make things from scratch. It can be anything from cooking and baking to sewing and crafts.

Sunday, November 02, 2008


Scenes like this are all around me. These pretty sights are so common here they are often unnoticed by most people including me. There is beauty in the architecture of an old church building. I appreciate also that the building is old and the special place that religion had in the settlement of Connecticut.

I am trying to take notice of sights like this, to appreciate them. I feel grateful for the beauty all around me which is there just waiting to be noticed.

I made my husband stop the car so I could snap this shot. So often as I'm driving or the passenget I see a sight and think, "The light is lovely shining through those leaves, I would love a photo to remember it" but I often don't stop to take that photo. Often I regret that later.

I'm glad I snapped this one.

This church is in South Britain, Southbury, Connecticut on Route 172. Photo taken on October 26, 2008 by ChristineMM.

Rip It Good!

I have no current knitting projects.

The focus now is on frogging thrift store sweaters. Last month I did one cashmere sweater. I finished the second cashmere sweater last night. I then began ripping a bulky cream colored wool sweater last night.

My older son loves to help me. He likes ripping out the stitches. I've been winding them around a Sterlite plastic bin that is about 12x18 inches in size.

Today while out I'm going to buy a clothes drying rack as we don't own one and I've improvised in the past. I will use this to dry sweaters that I've washed, to dry wet pieces of machine felted or hand felted wool, and to hang skeins of frogged recycled yarn on to dry.

I've not washed or hung the recycled yarn yet as I have no where to hang it.

I've been taking photos and after will share the before, during and after shots.