The Blog That Wasn’t

So.

It’s been a while.  I’m actually not even sure where to start.  A few big things you may have missed:
-Way back in October, while we were still in Abu Dhabi, we bought a house in the US.
-We’re back in NC and we’re loving it.
-Eric is now working twice the hours for half the pay.
-I have a job!  I haven’t worked since 2007, so I’m pretty excited about that.
-Alana is no longer homeschooled.  We’re about three months away from her next MRI/MRA and I am waiting on pins and needles for it.
-Cameron turned 6 and he amazes me everyday with his reading and writing.

Something you may have noticed – I’m now calling this little corner of the Internet by-kat.com.  *TWO!* years ago when I started this blog it was mainly to share my travels.  I originally called it “An American Kat in Jeddah”, what I thought was a funny play on “An American Werewolf in Paris”, but I don’t think anyone caught on.  Before long I shortened that up to “American Kat”…short, sweet, to the point.  Now that I’m an American living in America I don’t really think the whole “American” thing is necessary.  So, here we are, on a blog about nothing, with no updates in months.  I have hopes of sharing my creative pursuits more now, but who knows.

Anyway – I just wanted to pop in to say “Hi, I’m still alive!”.  Keep an eye out for a bit of a new look around here and hopefully new posts.

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Sew Geeky: Geek Spectacular!

OctoberHeader695b
Y’all…it’s a big month in Sew Geeky Land.  Ari and Kat decided to throw a giant Geek Spectacular and it has been amazing!  Basically, we were given free range on whatever Geeky Goodness we wanted to sew up.  With it being October, I went with the whole sewing costumes thing.

First up, Alana.  Originally she wanted to be Ariel, but when I was looking at inspiration photos I thought of Alana, Ariel’s sister.  I mean, it’s a little embarrassing that I didn’t immediately think of it, but it is what it is…anyway, my Alana agreed.

Sew Geeky Spectacular 1  American Kat 2014
She was pretty impressed with this fun sculpture we found when our first photoshoot location didn’t pan out.

Sew Geeky Spectacular 2 American Kat 2014

 

I was drawing a blank about the top when I first started drafting up the costume.  Modesty is a huge deal here in the UAE, so I couldn’t make a bikini top and be done.  After a bit of searching I found the Sweetheart Halter  and knew it was exactly what I needed.

Sew Geeky Spectacular 6 American Kat 2014

I modified the top a little to use knit fabric, mainly because that’s what I had on hand.  I also color blocked the strap to make the pink go all the way around, imitating the look of the mermaids’ tops.

Sew Geeky Spectacular 4 American Kat 2014

For the skirt/fin portion I loosely followed this tutorial.  The fin isn’t as fitted as I would really have liked it to be, but freedom of movement was more important for an active 9 year old.

Sew Geeky Spectacular 5  American Kat 2014The last piece to bring the costume together was this felt crown.  I just took 2 pieces of crown shaped felt, sewed them together, and bobby pinned them into Alana’s hair.

Sew Geeky Spectacular 3 American Kat 2014Next up, Cameron.
This guy was a challenge.  He originally wanted to be Hawkeye.  After I bought 4 yards of purple fabric he changed his mind.  Hijacking the costume I planned for myself, he decided on Rocket Raccoon.

Sew Geeky Spectacular 7 American Kat 2014

For the base I used the Maui Muscle Tee and Hosh Pants.  Everything after that was an absolute test for me.  I have never, ever, ever spent so many hours on one sewing project.  I can’t even tell you how many hours I sat at my sewing machine just staring at this outfit, trying to figure out the logistics.

Sew Geeky Spectacular 8  American Kat 2014

The vest is removable, thanks to snaps on the end of the black straps running across his chest/stomach.

Sew Geeky Spectacular 11  American Kat 2014

The vest is actually a bunch of vinyl that started out hot glued together.  After getting everything where I wanted it I sewed up the important bits.  I think I would have completely scrapped the whole idea if it wasn’t for the help of the hot glue.

Sew Geeky Spectacular 10  American Kat 2014

I think my favorite part of his entire costume is the tail.  I followed this tutorial for Rocket’s tail.  Tip: when she says to use a pet brush, trust her.  I tried using a fine tooth comb and it was a nightmare.  After wasting hours doing it that way I gave in and bought a pet brush….seriously the best $12 investment.

Sew Geeky Spectacular 9  American Kat 2014

A couple more shots, because holy cuteness:

Sew Geeky Spectacular 13  American Kat 2014Sew Geeky Spectacular 12  American Kat 2014

 

Just a few of Alana and Rocket together:

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Sew Geeky Spectacular 16  American Kat 2014

Lastly, me.

Sew Geeky Spectacular 18  American Kat 2014

After being sent back to the drawing board I decided to do a costume I’ve wanted to do for years, Wilma Flintstone.

Sew Geeky Spectacular 20  American Kat 2014

Wilma’s dress was a quick and dirty sew for me.  Rocket utterly wiped me out so I put almost zero effort into my costume.  I basically sewed a tube of fabric together, put it on, and cut out an arm hole.  The bolt was a little too small for me to use without a zipper (like I said, I was aiming for zero effort), so for the skirt portion I used two bolt widths, gathered it up, and attached it to the top.  I did manage to cut the bottom up a little, but since I’ll be taking the costume apart after Halloween I didn’t make the cutouts too extreme.

Sew Geeky Spectacular 19  American Kat 2014

The family that derps together…

Sew Geeky Spectacular 17  American Kat 2014

To see what everyone else sewed up for the Geek Spectacular check out the Sew Geeky Series Blog and Facebook Page.  Happy Halloween!

signature American Kat 2013

 

 

 

 

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Sew Geeky: Studio Ghibli

Studio Ghibli, you guys, STUDIO GHIBLI!

Studio_Ghibli_Logo

I have to be completely honest, just a few months ago I knew nothing about Studio Ghibli.  After noticing Totoros popping up all over the internet, and a bookstore that I frequent, I knew I had to find out what all the fuss was about.  The first Ghibli movie that my family watched was My Neighbor Totoro.  We were not disappointed.  At all.  (For those of you who aren’t Ghibli followers, our favorites are My Neighbor Totoro, Kiki’s Delivery Service, Howl’s Moving Castle, and Ponyo.)

While I was stoked about this theme, my brain has been on super stress mode this month, so I was totally blocked about where I wanted to go with it.  When I told Cameron about it, he immediately proclaimed, “I want to be a big Totoro!”.  So, that was the plan.  I even got as far as buying a sweater to refashion.  But, then I changed my mind, I knew that if I made the sweater I planned, he would wear it…and often.  Since we are still hitting temps of over 130F, I knew that wasn’t going to be the best bet for now.

I kept thinking…and thinking…and thinking.  And none of my ideas were getting me anywhere…so I stopped thinking.  And that’s when the idea of Kiki’s dress came along.  I had been wanting to sew up a Lady Skater anyway, so this was the perfect opportunity.

Because I waited so long to sew up the dress I didn’t really plan out a photoshoot.  So, at 6am, I was up on my roof trying to take pictures.  It was a mess. I am not a fashion blogger.  I’ll take selfies all day, but when I have to put my whole body in front of the camera…it’s awkward.

Studio Ghibli 1 © American Kat 2014Here’s the deal with Kiki’s Lady Skater:
-I need to do a little tweaking on the sizing.  For a first sew, I think it went really well, and the more I wear it the more comfortable I feel in it.  But, it’s still a little on the tight side for my personal preference…also the preference of the entire country I live in.
-Although I adore the waistline (I mean, hello, I haven’t had an actual waistline in a couple years now), the skirt skims my love handles terribly.  I camouflaged this problem by adding some pockets into the skirt seams.
-A simple LBD made perfect sense, but I wanted to relate a bit more to Kiki, so I made a little patchwork Jiji.

Gratuitous hair picture because I am finally almost 100% happy with the color:

Ignore all the creepiness involved here and just look at the pastel goodness of my hair.

Ignore all the creepiness involved here and just look at the pastel goodness of my hair.

And since I wasn’t very happy with my pictures, I decided to pass the buck to Alana.  In a kind of homage to Kiki wearing the dress that was handed down from generation to generation, I let Alana borrow my dress for a little bit of fun.  Ya’ll.  It was the best idea I have had in ages.

Studio Ghibli 4  © American Kat 2014
I almost didn’t even share the pictures of me in the dress because she rocks the heck out of it.  All I did was pull the neckline wayyyyyyy up and safety-pin it.  Then I got her to hold the bodice up and I wrapped a scrap of knit around her waist…it made the whole bodice look awesomely blousey.

Studio Ghibli 5  © American Kat 2014
The aforementioned patchwork Jiji:

Studio Ghibli 6  © American Kat 2014Just because she is so stinking cute…And Johnny Depp.

Studio Ghibli 7  © American Kat 2014Although I was feeling inferior this go around (seriously, everyone made amazing looks this month), I am pretty happy that I ended up with a dress that I can just throw on and go, and Alana can wear with almost as little effort.

Studio Ghibli teaser

 

Click each picture below to check out the stars of this episode of Sew Geeky!

Totoro by Rae Gun Ramblings Nausicaa by Sew Chibi Princess Mononoke by Sew Chibi Calcifer, Howl's Moving Castle by Sew Chibi Howl's Moving Castle by Robutton Jiji, Kiki's Delivery Service by You and Mie Totoro & Princess Mononoke by Amelie & Atticus Jiji, Kiki's Delivery Service by Sew in Love Chihiro/Sen, Spirited Away by Max California Totoro by Casa Crafty Kiki's Delivery Service by American Kat Totoro by The Life of a Compulsive Crafter Sew Geeky Episode 6: Studio Ghibli Image Map

signature American Kat 2013

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Homeschooling (Part Three)

Part One
Part Two

I don’t want to homeschool.

It’s not something I ever planned on doing.  It just happened.  And then it just kept happening.  I want nothing more than to enroll Alana into a good old-fashioned brick and mortar school and let someone who is actually qualified to teach have a go at it.  But, that’s impossible here, special needs kids get left in the dust when it comes to the education system.

Don’t get me wrong, there are times when I absolutely love homeschooling.  I love that moment when understanding finally hits.  I don’t love the three days that it takes for that understanding to come around.

I am extra frustrated because Alana has a beautiful mind.  She can tell you almost every detail she has ever heard about Wolverine.  She can pull out a memory from when she was two years old.  She can tell you about the cutie mark of every MLP she has ever come across.  She can spell any word, phonetically.  On the flip side, give her a spelling word to learn and she will only ever spell it the way she sees it in her brain (magnet will always be magnit, regardless of how many times we practice it).  Spend 15 minutes working together to pick out continents and she won’t be able to pick out Asia on her own.  A simple fill in the blank worksheet?  Two and a half hours.

I’m completely lost in this journey right now.

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Homeschooling (Part Two)

Part one.

Curriculum.  Everyone has an opinion.  Everyone thinks you should know their opinion.

I don’t mind advice.  I really, really don’t.  But, here’s what…my kid had a stroke, probably before she was even born.  Add that to her ADHD, aphasia, and cognitive disorder, and you have a brain full of chaos.  Alana hadn’t been formally diagnosed with any of her learning disorders until after we started homeschooling, but we knew about the stroke, and we knew that she wasn’t learning at the same level as her peers.  Because of this, I didn’t want to start her on a strict (and expensive) curriculum.  We actually started out unschooling.

Some people will tell you that unschooling is lazy.  Some will tell you that it’s not even a thing.  Some will tell you that their kid learned how to read by five because of unschooling.  I can tell you that it was fun, and interesting, and awesome, but it wasn’t the key for Alana’s learning.  She is an inherently lazy learner and she needed a bit of pushing, especially when it came to phonics and reading.

Alana did workbook on top of workbook (my absolute favorites are the ones by Brain Quest, but Sylvan runs a close second).  She used abcmouse.com and starfall.com.  I printed worksheets from education.com and teacherspayteachers.com.  Basically, we kept doing stuff until she learned it.  For the 2013-2014 school year she went to tutoring at Sylvan for nine hours a week.  It was more expensive than I could have imagined, but it was worth it, the confidence that she gained while learning there was invaluable.  During the same school year we also added in time4learning.com and brainpopjr.com.  Both are animated and held her attention pretty well, but it just wasn’t enough.

This was part of Alana's 2013-2014 school year.  She watched a video about Dr. Seuss on BrainPop Jr and decided she wanted to know more about him.  She did some more research and ended up typing a paper about him.

This was part of Alana’s 2013-2014 school year. She watched a video about Dr. Seuss on BrainPop Jr and decided she wanted to know more about him.  After a little more research she ended up typing a paper about him.

This year we’re trying something completely different.  We’re going to be using K12 International.  From the research I’ve gathered, this will be a fairly structured curriculum.  I’m a little nervous about it, but since we’re hoping to get Alana back into the public school system next year, I think it’ll be the perfect gateway.

I typed all these words to say this:  every child is different.  Don’t immediately jump headfirst into a curriculum.  Go to a used curriculum site and buy books from various publishers, see what fits your child best.  For us, there is no easy fit, but I think we’ve finally found our rhythm.

signature American Kat 2013

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