Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Double Book Review: Two Very Different Westerns

I'm back with the first book review for the Search for the Perfect Western reading challenge! The first book I chose to read was Shane by Jack Schaeffer, followed closely by The Magic of Ordinary Days by Ann Howard Creel. The books each presented a different take on the western genre, were quick, fun reads, and were fresh and exciting. Given their differences, I thought that it'd be fun to do a dual post about them!

Shane by Jack Schaefer: 

With his black hat, quick reflexes, and cool personality, the townspeople soon learn that Shane is someone to be scared of. Though there's no doubt that he's a dangerous man, he soon becomes a trusted friend of the Starrett family. Tension between the homesteaders and cattle ranchers, however, soon inspires Shane to take out his gun once again.

Filled with action, strong characters, and saloon fist-fights, Shane is truly the epitome of the western genre. Using elegant (but not wordy) analogy, Jack Schaefer depicts the life of hard working men and women in a growing old west town.

A quick read great for a relaxed weekend, Shane will satisfy all hunger for a good, classic western. The book is interesting for all ages, and the content is never gory or vulgar. If your spring-time reading needs a quick kick of old-west flavor, I strongly suggest Jack Schaefer's Shane.

The Magic of Ordinary Days by Ann Howard Creel

After suffering the death of her mother and a love affair gone awry, Olivia is banished to a small farming town to become the bride of local man after her pregnancy is discovered. Pulled away from her studies of archaeology, Olivia must find ways to thrive in this new lifestyle. She soon becomes friends with two Japanese-American women, who's love for life inspires her throughout the summer. But can Olivia ever truly love another man again? And what are her new friends hiding?

The Magic of Ordinary Days is a totally fresh, unique book. I've never read anything else with this type of WWII Home Front living. The farming life represented is charming, without being free of reality. Ray (the man Olivia marries) is a real sweet-heart. His sister and her family are very welcoming to Olivia from the start, and do their best to help her adapt to the new life. I thought that the look at how Japanese-Americans were treated during this era was very interesting and accurate, as well.

Though just a quick read, The Magic of Ordinary Days is a delightful book, perfect for toting around on those nice spring days. I believe that the book is technically an adult novel, but I'm not sure. However, I think most young teens and up could read this book without problems. Olivia does become pregnant before marriage, and there is a short *scene* but nothing very explicit. Her pregnancy before marriage is not looked favorably on or endorsed by herself or others, so I don't really think it's anything to worry about. Personally, I'd place this book at about 14 and up.

Has anybody read or is going to read either of these? What did you think of them? Also, I just updated my About page! Check it out! :)

Thanks for reading! :)

Saturday, May 25, 2013

The Green Satin Prom Dress

Well, I finally got the photos loaded onto my laptop! So after all the promises over the last month, I now have something to actual show you. Let's cut right the chase, here it is!

Blurriness. :P
This dress was the definition of a love/hate project. When I first bought the pattern last year, I was totally in love with it. I had plans of making it for 2012 4-H Fashion Revue, but I procrastinated and ended up making   this dress instead. When FR time came around this year, I promptly bought fabric...and then procrastinated for two months. So, this dress was basically the culmination of a two week sewing marathon! Blegh. Will I ever learn? :P

I do like how this dress sits below my shoulder blades....
I was a little nervous starting this project. It's the largest (as in most fabric) dress I've ever created, it was my first time working with slippery material, and I was using a Vintage Vogue pattern. The people I know who've actually worked with them didn't like the fit, as it's not necessarily meant for wearing over modern underthings. So a big yay for historical accuracy, but a bit disappointing for those of us more interested in simply channeling a vintage look. :)

When it actually came time to put the dress together, I did run into some difficulties. Most of them came from all the gathering (seriously. Pleats are so much better). Gathering the bodice so it was flattering was easier said than done. Attaching the skirt to the bodice was the real challenge, though. Would you believe that there were TWO MORE PANELS MEANT TO BE IN THAT SKIRT??!! Not kidding! There was a huge front panel, two side panels, and a back panel. I literally took out half of the skirt, because there was now way I could ever gather all that fabric to fit in the bodice. But hey, I have so much leftover fabric now that I can make a dress for my little cousin. :)

oooh la la! Pink!
I did go ahead and make a slip. So glad I did! The dress hangs so much nicer with the added poof. I didn't send the slip through judging, it was just a slap-together-so-that-this-looks-nice project. I would love to remake one just to have a nicer version, but if I do I'd be making it in crinoline and not tulle...tulle is itchy. But let's move on to the summary, shall we?

Pattern: Vintage Vogue V2962 (view A), and this tutorial from Sugardale Clothing for the slip.
Fabric: Nine yards of green crepe back satin for the dress, plus eight yards of green satin for the lining. Also four yards of pink tulle for the slip.
Notions: Eleven fabric-covered buttons, eighteen yards of pink ribbon (for the slip), several hooks and eyes.
Total cost to make: I am roughly estimating $75-$80 on this one. Which isn't that bad, considering a store bought one would probably be about that. I need to be good and keep receipts next time!
Hours: At least 25. Not more than 30, though. This includes really, really late nights at my friend's house of crazed Disney-song-singing-while-sewing.
Previous Posts: You can read my getting started post here.
New techniques/difficulties: Fabric covered buttons, understitching, slippery fabric, as well as a new pattern company were all new to me. Difficulties were the aforementioned gathering of the skirt, as well as the fit of the bodice. Oh! And putting the placket in was annoying, and took some time with a seam ripper.
Where to wear it?: It was intended for prom....but prom was last night and last minute I changed dresses. I'd been feeling a bit iffy with this dress as of late, so I was more confident with a different dress. But after some fittings I'm hoping to wear it to NH 4-H Teen Conference semi-formal in June. Plus, this was my entry for FR this year, and I moved up to State's level with it!
Make again?: Ummm.....probably not, honestly. I don't think I would make another formal dress with the same pattern, though I still love the style. That being said, this construction had enough fit issues that I'm not sure I would want another dress like this in my closet.
Overall Thoughts: asldkfjkjaokfjdkl. But seriously, my thoughts are all muddled about this dress. There was unfortunately a lot of stress about whether or not this would fit, would it be flattering, etc., during construction. Now that it's together I think it looks better than I originally thought it would, but I'm still not totally happy with it. That being said, I'm very happy I made this. It was a great experience, and if there's one thing sewing can teach you, it's to be humble and be prepared to make mistakes. Though this dress might not be perfect, hopefully my next project featuring slippery fabric and a difficult pattern will be a bit easier.

Thanks so much for reading! I'm by no means a sewing genius like some folks I know, but I did enjoy showing you this. :) Here's one more picture...

Rockability pose!! Note: Also wearing black peep-toe heels from a discount department store. 
Alright, I lied. Here's another one!

Me and the lovely Emily! I love her dress...and it's wool! That girl is classy. :)
Thanks for reading! :)

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Blogging Purpose

Well, talk about an unintended blogging break! Things around here are busy (as always!). I'm taking driver's ed. now, which is exciting but scary at the same time. :) I'm at the half way point now, though, so that's good. Other than that it's been skating, finishing up school, and...how could I forget...prom tomorrow! Can't wait. :)

I've been going through a bit of a blogging rut lately. What is the purpose of my blog? What is my 'voice'? Who is my audience? What do they want to see on the blog? What do I want to see on the blog? I've found that it's easy to get caught up in the 'I've got to get something published' craze. In an effort to post as often as possible, I sometimes loose sight of my real blogging goals. Even the quality of my posts go down hill. While at the moment I don't lack ideas of things to write, I feel burnt out, because the design/quality of my posts at the moment might not be what I think they deserve. Blurry pictures make me impatient, and my blog design seems to make everything I write seem outdated.

(via) Don't you just love Twain?

Now, I'm not just venting here. :) While thinking these things hasn't been comfortable, it has been productive. I think I've finally hit on what the purpose of my own blog is. Here's a snippet from my writer's notebook about the purpose of my blog:

To encourage intelligence. To live for something. To be a proud nerd. To have the confidence to be something outside of the norm. To practice my writing. To encourage hard work, the setting of goals, and unique interests. To celebrate tradition and values in our modern world. To celebrate the awesomeness of being an American girl. To realize that life is hard and sometimes even hurtful, but that God has given us the ability (and responsibility) to make things lovely for ourselves and others. To abolish the low expectations set by our modern society for teenagers.

I like clothes, but don't take enough pictures to be a fashion blog. I sew, but not enough for a sewing blog. I bake, but I don't create recipes. I read books and watch movies, but sometimes get burnt out writing reviews. What I do an awful lot of, though, is work to be everything I can be. I hit snags, I make mistakes, but I keep trying. As a 16 year-old, it seems stepping out of my close-knit group of friends means getting my opinions, religion, and even personality attacked. It's what comes with being 'in the world, but not of the world'.

(via) Come on, ladies! Let's live happy lives. :)

When trying to stand up for things, sometimes a deciding factor is the friend beside you. My hope for this blog is to let people know that there is at least one other person who thinks like them (actually, I can guarantee more...I'm friends with lots of awesome teens :)). I want to encourage and inspire the stepping up of leaders, defending your faith, and having informed opinions, all while enjoying this crazy, hectic, sometimes quite strange, but also quite lovely life that is being an American teenager.

For the next month and a half or so, I'm planning on working to update Young Yankee Lady's blog design, layout, 'about' pages, etc. I apologize if posting is a bit scattered during this, and I thank you all in advance for sticking around as I get my blogging feet back under me!

Writing this, I'm getting really excited about what's in store for Young Yankee Lady! I'm so happy to have you lovely followers, and hope my plans for this blog will be something useful and relevant to you! Speaking of which, I would absolutely love your feedback! Please leave a comment (or email me...address on the about page) about what you would like to see more of, as well as new ideas of things I haven't tried!

Thanks for reading! :)

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Sewing Project Inspiration

Well, I'm going to have to delay showing you my latest sewing project yet again...still don't have camera batteries! Hope you enjoy today's substitute post. :)

It's impossible to got to 4-H Fashion Revue without coming back feeling inspired! So many pretty, unique clothing pieces! So, I thought it might be fun to put together a post with some recent ideas that have been floating around in my head. I'm not sure if I'll ever get to these, as I seem to think about sewing more than I actually sew, but still. :)

I'm thinking of using Colette's Anise Jacket to sew a wool coat. I could use it for Leadline sheep classes at fairs, where you have to have an outfit of at least 75% wool. I've fallen in love with bright green coats lately...

Isn't that just a lovely color?? And I'd need something to wear with it, of course....but I can't decide between an a-line or pencil skirt! I think I'd want to do it in a pretty charcoal gray. Or maybe I should go another route, and try making cigarette pants or something...

I could either make these in a pretty gray like the one above, or perhaps I could be loud and do do black and white houndstooth! That would be fun. :)

I sort of want to make one of these cute midriff tops, like Casey's. It would be so comfortable to wear around the house on humid days, or at the beach when you want to take off your wet bathing suit. I'd probably copy her and make a polka-dot one, too. :)

One of the girls at Fashion Revue had made a lovely dress featuring a busy, floral print. I fell in love with the simple, princess-seamed design, and have been scheming ways to re-create it ever since. I would definitely choose a busy print like the one above for it. Butterick B5417, which I used on this dress would work.

I'd probably make the shorter skirt length this time around, making it more suitable for day wear or with flats. I'm leaning towards the puff sleeves version, with the awesome wrap-around belt that I love. :) 

via American Duchess
I've also been contemplating doing a white on white print dress using that Butteick pattern...maybe the shorter version, with no belt and butterfly sleeves? Just something light and fresh for summer.

I saved the best project for last.....anyone want to know what my head's been concocting for next years FR dress???

Use a relatively simple, elegant design, like this lovely Modcloth dress...

Or maybe something like this...I'm loving the spaghetti straps on this one. I think I want to make it in a navy blue, or something....elegant, dark, and versatile. I definitely gravitate towards darker colors with my formal stuff, but it's what I feel looks nicest with my hair and skin tone. The main reason I'm being so attracted to these simple styles is the lovely, straight skirt. Very different from the skirt on my last project! :)

So, that's it for now! HOPEFULLY I'll get some batteries  and actually show you my dress. :) Until then, thanks for reading! :)

Your Thoughts?: Any fun sewing projects in the works? What are you excited to sew at the moment?

Saturday, May 4, 2013

For the Betterment of Her Mind: To Serve Man by Damon Knight

Happy Saturday, everyone! I had originally scheduled to do a post about my recent sewing project, but we don't have batteries so I can't load any pictures into my computer just yet. Sorry about the wait! Hopefully I'll have it up soon, though.

For now, I thought we'd go back and revisit the For the Betterment of Her Mind Reading Challenge. I'm embarrassed to say I've been making my way very slowly through the list. Reading time has been scarce lately, which is sad and something I need to fix. I have, however, completed the short story To Serve Man by Damon Knight.

To Serve Man, depicted in an episode of The Twilight Zone.
Just a few notes before getting into the good stuff! As To Serve Man is a short story, it may be relatively hard to find. I ended up getting The Best of Damon Knight with an introduction by Barry N. Malzberg on inter-library loan. Also, in my original post about this challenge I had this title listed as 'How to Serve Man' by George Orwell. That turned out to be misinformation, and our lovely librarian was able to figure out that I had meant Damon Knight. Thank heaven for librarians! :)

To Serve Man tells the story of United Nations employees, as they try to work with aliens. These pig-like beings, who appear to be friendly, promise great things for the world as a whole. After impressing UN members with their 'lie detector', they soon set up facilities to destroy disease, rid the world of air pollution, and make humans grow larger. Though some question the intent of the aliens, the 'ambassadors' assure the world that they are simply a caring race, and making the world better gives them happiness. One UN employee is fascinated by their culture. He even goes so far as to steal one of their books to better learn their language, which leads to some startling discoveries.

To Serve Man is a short (mine was only four pages or so) read, perfect for days when you're current read is acting long and tedious and you need a quick fix. :) Coming from someone who has almost never read the sci-fi genre, I found this very interesting and fun. However, I'm not sure I'll be very interested in reading many of Damon Knight's other works. I read a couple others from the collection, and each of them seemed a little more morbid than To Serve Man. His writing style didn't interest me enough to finish the collection, but I'm so happy to have had this introduction to sci-fi! Definitely something I'll need to read more of in the future. :)

Right now I'm in the middle of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, so I'll (hopefully!) be back soon with another of these posts! I'm going to finish this challenge, even if it takes me longer than expected! :)

**Spoiler alert! Read below with caution!**

Damon Knight
For those who've read it: what was your opinion of Damon Knight's writing style? Were you surprised at the ending, or were you expecting something of the sort? I loved how the aliens were basically 'fattening up' and trying to get the humans healthy right in broad day light, but it never occurred to anyone that that's what they were doing! What was your opinion?

Your Thoughts?: Ever read To Serve Man, or any of Damon Knight's other stories? Ever read (or are interested in reading) the other titles in this challenge?

Thanks for reading! :)