Friday, December 30, 2011

Fresh starts and motivation

I’ve exercised regularly most of my adult life. Some of that is because I served in the Army, sure, because physical fitness is part of the culture plus everyone gets regular fitness tests. You'd get written up if you didn't pass and those test scores counted in the promotion boards. So we all worked out.

But I wouldn’t say I was ever all that dedicated; in Basic mostly I just wanted to be done. We did PT every single day and we did old school exercises like squat thrusts and push-ups and five mile runs in our combat boots. I picked up the habit of sort of phoning in the exercises, not really paying attention to things like how I stood or held my back or anything like that. At that point I wasn't working out for me, I was working out because I had to. Unfortunately I carried that attitude into my workouts for a long time.

But I did work out pretty regularly for years after that. My mother had lots of exercise tapes back in the VHS days, so I had lots to choose from when I visited my folks. And she was very generous and often got me a copy of the ones I really liked. Those Jane Fonda workouts were pretty good, to be honest. They included a lot of aerobics, usually 20 to 60 minute workouts, plus later tapes incorporated free weights too. But then everything moved to DVD, except those Fonda tapes. For whatever reason, Warner didn't release her workout tapes on DVD. So I struggled a bit and sort of sputtered to an on-again-off-again routine, not consistent and regular.

Almost seven years ago, something changed for me. Don't get me wrong, I was no more of a sluggard than I’d ever been. It’s just that I’d undergone the sixth of the seven abdominal surgeries I’ve had and my belly was done fighting with gravity. I realized that I had to make a change or else I was going to end up with the worst case of grandma belly in the world—and I wasn’t a grandmother.

So I begged my best friend to go to Pilates classes with me at our company's fitness center, and she did. I started to realize that how I did those exercises actually mattered, and how often I did them mattered as well. Slowly, slowly I got a bit stronger. I think it took about six months before I could do a roll up with no modifications (Kerry cheered for me in that class). The Pilates class was only offered once a week at our gym, so I started doing yoga once a week too. I tried step aerobics (and felt very klutzy), zumba (which was far too free form for this child of Jane Fonda's grapevines), the treadmill (too boring) and the elliptical bike (always crowded). But I stuck with the Pilates and yoga.

And my work paid off. Just eight months later, I had the seventh (and I hope final) surgery. I recovered so much faster, even my poor abused/severed belly muscles. I have mostly stayed faithful to regular work outs over the last five years—I got in the habit of three strength workouts and three aerobic workouts every week, I’d switch them up so I wouldn’t get bored, although doing the same tapes over and over can get stale. I also picked up running while still living in Kansas City. That filled the gap of no good aerobic workouts that are not interval training, and last 30+ minutes. Living in Boston meant I had to find alternatives to running during the winter months, so I have a couple of not very good aerobic workouts—yes, I still miss those Fonda workouts. I flat won’t run on snow and ice, and I won’t pay for a gym membership either. I think it's the height of silliness to pay to work out, then have to get to the gym, change clothes, work out, change again and then get home. No thanks.

In the last two years, I’ve struggled with motivation. I fell pretty badly right after we flooded in 2009 and screwed up my elbow. That, in turn, affected any work out with free weights. I got utterly tired of my two yoga and Pilates DVDs (I’ve had them for seven years now). And then this past year, I just sort of started phoning in the workouts again.

But the thing is, I still have weak abs and that will never change. I can’t just rest on my laurels of having gotten fit and then do nothing to maintain that fitness. And I’ve had enough of phoning it in. I didn’t wait for the start of the new year. Two weeks ago, I started back up again. Yes, those same workouts are boring, so I ordered another DVD. According to the reviews on Amazon, this is a 40 minute aerobic torture test by Jillian Michaels. I will tell you, I got spoiled in years past with those Fonda workouts, but they still aren’t available on DVD. Since the current fad is to do short interval aerobic training I’m kind of excited to have found a 40 minute aerobic workout. Of course I haven’t done that one yet so I may change my story. Stay tuned for a review.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Signs Christmas is over in my house

  1. I don’t remember to plug in the tree lights when I get up in the morning.
  2. The Starbucks Christmas blend coffee is almost gone from our house and is gone from the stores.
  3. Peppermint ice cream is gone from the stores, too.
  4. Aunt Bill’s fudge (BEST candy ever and made by my folks) is also gone.
  5. Menu planning is back to normal.
  6. I’m even a little tired of pumpkin pie.

So sometime this week I guess I’ll haul out the boxes and take things down. Then the house will look a little bare until I get used to those decorations not being here.

If you decorated, are you ready for them to be put away now?

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A sewing Christmas

I was counting up the projects I made for Christmas this year and I think I set a new personal record. If I've counted correctly, I made like 12 presents. Hey, it's an Elizabeth-made Christmas! And the gifts Kent and I received will help us both hone our sewing skills:

I've been reading the Threads issues we've gotten already, my Bernina storage box is packed full of presser feet and accessories and I've even cut out a top using the rotary cutter and mat. Kent says the clapper (wooden thingy) makes a difference when pressing collars and seams and he likes it a lot.

Now I need to get the sewing projects for our vacation finished up. The end of January will be here in no time.

Monday, December 26, 2011

A couple of Christmas left-overs

Not food left-overs; just images and a bit of text.

Christmas dinner
We had Cornish hens, potatoes, creamed onions, cranberry sauce and a tossed salad. Oh and a good (and cheap) bottle of Malbec.

Eddie and a new toy
The boy cats absolutely go bananas over any toy with feathers and this toy was no exception. We had to put it away about 10 minutes after unwrapping it or the toy would have been destroyed.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas

Or as the cats would say--Meowy Christmas.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Random Christmas memories

I alternated spending Christmas and Easter with my mother and my father. Some of these memories are with my father and some are with my mother.

Breakfasts in the two households were different but both included foods that were part of that family’s traditions. So my mom would make a Swedish tea ring—until the year she found the Victorian Tea Pastry recipe and ditched the tea ring. The tea ring had to rise twice so Mom either made it the day before or got up at a ridiculously early hour to make it. My step-mother tended to have things like country bacon, and biscuits and gravy.

When I was six or seven, I spent Christmas in Denver with my father’s side of the family (his parents lived there) and I got my first ever watch. I felt so grown up.

In third or fourth grade, my mom and dad lived in Lexington, KY for the first time (we returned there a few years later for Dad’s residency and fellowship). I remember Mana and G’Pa came for Christmas and Mana had sewn my brother and me each a large green burlap bag with our initial on the front in red braid. I don’t remember what presents they put in there but I sure loved that bag.

That was the same year my mom made Doug and me each a super cool stuffed animal. I think Doug’s was a large white dog because he was really into Call of the Wild. I got a cat of course, and he was made of a very cool, mottled patterned baby corduroy. Doug and I often traded animals back and forth so they may have actually been given the other way around. But at the end of it all, I got them both because Doug wanted something else I had.

In sixth grade, back in Bryn Mawr with my father and step-mother, my mom and dad had sent me the soundtrack of Jesus Christ Superstar (yes, on vinyl). I played those records to death and still have every word on that soundtrack memorized. That was the last year I spent Christmas with that side of the family. Long story, but it was how it needed to be.

And skipping ahead to my mid-20s, I will never forget the year Mom and Dad gave me and Rick a portable dishwasher. Mom cleverly wrapped a box of dishwasher detergent and somehow I did not figure out what it was until the moment I started taking the paper off the box. See, I have the ability to touch a present and just know what it is. It’s such a strong, reliable ability that Mom usually forbids me from touching anything and in fact this year, she mailed everything to Kent so I wouldn’t be tempted.

Got any special memories from your past Christmases?

Friday, December 23, 2011

Wild Kingdom

Did you ever watch that show or something similar when you were growing up? I did and sometimes I think I'm living in a show like that because this isn't a house we live in. It's a Cat Habitat and we are living with the big game cats.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas meals

What do you have on Christmas day? Are your meals tried and true favorites? Are they foods you’ve always had?

For breakfast, I’ve served Victorian Tea Pastry (called Pea Tasty by my sons when they were little) plus a fruit salad made of diced pears and apples tossed with a bit of vanilla yogurt. We'll have that this year because it's just so good. Lunch is normal, whatever we’ve been eating lately. That means it will probably be my spicy vegetable soup plus some chips.

Dinner will be different from what I usually make. I’ve made my mother’s pork recipe for years and I do love it but I’m ready to have something else. So I found a recipe for Cornish game hens in Nigella Express cookbook that sounds good and mostly hands off. The recipe calls for putting sweet potatoes right in the roasting pan with the hens. I will put in one for me and a couple of small red potatoes for Kent since he despises sweet potatoes. I’m also making an autumn salad (romaine, diced pears, toasted pecans, feta cheese, dried cranberries plus balsamic vinaigrette), and creamed onions. I already made a pumpkin pie this week and if it’s still around, we’ll have some of that. If not, we’ll have peppermint ice cream.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

I rule!

When I was still in the active duty Army, I had long hair. Army regulations (it's a PDF, and the regulations about female hair are on pages four and five) require that females not have their hair go below the bottom edge of their uniform collar and not interfere in putting on or wearing a protective (aka gas) mask. So I put my long hair up in a bun, but I always wished I knew how to French braid my hair because I love how that looks. Years later, when I was in the Reserves, I grew my hair long again and tried a few times to braid my hair myself but failed miserably. So I’d go to my hair stylist’s house early on drill days and pay her to braid it.

That got old, and also expensive. I remember one week in January I was frustrated with myself for not being able to braid my damn hair. We’d had a box of fresh Florida grapefruit given to us for Christmas and since I was the only one who really loved them and there were far too many for me to eat before they went bad, I’d juiced up a bunch to make Greyhounds. I sat in the family room watching some show I don’t remember, sipping my drink and fuming over my hair. Enough was enough, I thought. I was earning all sorts of academic awards and honors in college but couldn’t figure out how to braid my hair?? That was just crazy! And that night I taught myself to French braid my hair.

Today I figured out my serger and I did it without drinks. I won’t say I’ve mastered it but I did get a wearable, usable garment out of it—the purple sweater I moaned about here. And I’m pretty happy with the results, even if the process was more painful than it needed to be.

Basically, I cut apart every seam in the garment except the shoulder seams and then I serged them all back together again. That means I took out about ¾ inch in every single seam—and the finished garment is not too small. I had already taken out a lot of width in the pattern when I cut out because I didn’t have enough fabric. Altogether, I cut my version of this top a good 10 inches smaller around than the size I should have cut according to the pattern directions and sizing charts.

But all’s well that ends fairly well. I’d post a picture but Kent is heads down working on work stuff and my efforts at self-portraits generally stink.

Monday, December 19, 2011

If it aint baroque

Don’t fix it. Hahaha sorry I crack myself up.

OK here’s a glimpse into the circuitous thought process of Elizabeth. Last week while listening to Christmas music, I heard something on Pandora—I don’t recall what—that reminded me of Handel’s I Know That My Redeemer Liveth. And here begins my strange train of thought.

“Oh I loved singing that piece. I want to hear it again.”

So I tracked down a recording and listened.

“Man I used to have a voice.”

No the recording wasn’t me, duh, but hearing those notes brought back the sort of muscle memory of singing them.

“Oh yeah, I was really into baroque, my poor oboe teacher.”

I got a music scholarship for oboe at KU, even though I wasn’t a music major. That meant I had to perform in a certain number of ensembles each semester and also take lessons. Part of taking lessons meant playing for a jury at the end of the semester. Well right off the bat, I got fixated on baroque music. I played only baroque pieces in my juries for two and a half years. That's five juries of nothing but baroque. My poor teacher must have been so sick of that era after having had me as a student.

Finally in my sixth semester, and shortly before I injured my arm which ended my playing days, I told her I was up for something different. She literally gaped at me with surprise.

Hums the aria and then begins to sing it but with new words:

I know that my cats do sheddeth.


And here endeth the journey through my strange brain.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

It’s not a wadder but

It’s not really wearable either. I made McCall’s 6408 out of the lovely purple mohair/wool material I got in Idaho. Before cutting out the pattern, I read the reviews on Pattern Review, which I like to do for new patterns so I can avoid known problems. The reviewers uniformly said the pattern ran big so I cut a size smaller than I normally would. I should have cut two sizes smaller because the sweater is too big, and not by a little.

You can see in this picture that the arm seam is well below my shoulder. This pattern isn't supposed to have a dropped shoulder, though. If you look closely in front where my arm pit is, you can also see the material bunching up there. It’s also too big across my back.

To be honest, I’m not sure how to fix this. I don’t want to just start whacking away because I’m afraid I’d end up ruining the sweater. Other than being too big, it’s great. The mohair/wool combo means it’s warm, the color works well for me, and it’s something that could be dressed up or down because of the fabric. As it stands right now, I can wear it around the house and that’s really about it.

After Christmas, I will haul it into the fabric store I go to here and ask their advice. Other than that, I got nothing.

Friday, December 16, 2011

I know what love looks like

It looks like the tiny live tree delivered to me today, complete with little ornaments and a string of lights. Kent did this because he knows how much I’ve missed having a tree. We used to have a really great artificial tree that (I swear) did not look artificial but we couldn’t put it up our last Christmas in Kansas City and we knew it was much too big to bring to Boston.

We did put up artificial garland on our mantel and Wally hopped right up there and started eating it. So no garland either.

Kent decided it was worth trying with a live tree (as in we can plant this after the holidays—the information sheet included with it says it grows to six feet tall. I promise you it will never get that tall in our patio. We just don’t have enough sunlight. Anyway . . .) and if it didn’t work, oh well. I'd say the tree is a success already.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

What I did yesterday

I made this Amy Butler birdie sling bag. It’s pretty large, and as you can see it’s quite colorful. I think this bag will work very nicely when Kent and I go to Jamaica at the end of January.

I changed some things when I made this bag. The directions call for it to be fully lined with a very lightweight fleece and also to be reinforced with interfacing. I nixed both of those because I wanted a bag, not a blanket. I also decided not to add top stitching. The materials are plenty busy and I didn't think the top stitching would add anything in terms of looks or stability. It sews up quickly; I started sewing late yesterday morning and was done by mid-afternoon.


Here's a picture of the lining plus one of the two pockets plus you can see one of my sewing tags.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Walk with me

The first summer after we bought our lovely old home in Kansas City, we went to a lot of estate sales in our neighborhood. Keep in mind that the homes were all built around the turn of the last century (ours was built in 1905) and many of the homeowners were the second set to own the homes. So it makes sense that they were beginning to shuffle off.

Most of those sales were unremarkable and just filled with the odds and ends of a long life. Mostly we glimpsed the way the houses looked before people started updating them or modernizing them. We wanted to stay true to the era of our own home so we loved seeing these houses.

One estate sale was different. Eva Brancato had been a war bride from England and she’d outlived her husband by many years. I have no idea if he left her with a pension, but she was able to keep her home and it was in decent shape. She’d also had a sewing business and one table was full of her equipment and supplies. I wasn’t in the market for more machines or anything, and her fabric was pretty old and not to my taste. But her sewing basket with scissors, needles, thread etc were there, along with two zip lock baggies full of interesting buttons and trims. I bought all three of those items and still have some of those things today.

When Kent and I were in Oklahoma two years ago, his mother Ardis let me go through all of her notions for any I might use. So this picture shows some exceptionally cool buttons from Ardis, a couple of shoe buckles from her too, and also Eva’s sewing label and Ardis’ sewing label (I have a sewing label too but mine is small and says By edj in blue like that).

People have sewn their own clothing forever; I know my fiddle farting around is nothing new and isn’t ground-breaking in terms of clever sewing or exceptionally well-designed patterns. But I do like feeling connected to the women who’ve sewn before me. My Mana (mother’s mother) sewed a lot, my own mother made lots of our clothing when I was growing up, and she still creates artisan quilts today. Kent’s told me about how much his mother, Ardis, sewed—not only clothing but a lot of crafts too. Then there’s Eva, this woman I never met, who supported herself through her sewing. It’s like being a member of a very old, very well-established club.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Destructo-cat

This block was part of a huge set of high-density foam blocks. We got them for Alison and Eliot to play with in September so they don’t owe us anything now. Apparently, though, the cat has decided these blocks are now his. He keeps going into the closet where the container is, and he fishes out a block to play with. As you can see, he plays hard.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Words matter

This week on NPR, I heard a story about t-shirts sold at either Forever 21 or Penney’s (I forget which and am too lazy to go look it up) that have slogans like Allergic to Algebra on them. The story described how a mother was disturbed enough by the message on those shirts that she started a tweet campaign against them, and enough people joined in that the shirts were removed from the stores.

What really caught my attention was the sound clip from another woman, also a mother, who basically said she didn’t see what difference a shirt like that made, they’re just kids and it’s just words or something to that effect.

I couldn’t disagree with her more. Words do matter, they matter a lot. What we tell our children has a lot to do with how they see themselves including what they think they can and cannot do. We all have those childhood tapes in our heads—some are positive and sadly, many are not.

If we tell them they are clever and good at something, I think that can influence their behavior. I remember overhearing my mother and first grade teacher talking about me right before Christmas break that year. My mother asked how I was doing and my teacher, Miss Floyd, gave her an update on me. She said that I was in the second reading group but there was no reason I couldn’t be in the top reading group if I wanted to be. That idea was new to me, that I could be in the top reading group and it was almost like I was given permission to get there. So I did. I’m not sure that would have happened without her saying that and me overhearing it.

I wish I’d gotten that message about math too. I didn’t do well in math until I got to college. Partly that’s because I went to five different elementary schools so math was very disjointed for me. I didn’t get the continuity or practice that’s necessary to master basic math skills. I also wasn’t told I could be good at math. Based on how difficult math was for me, I decided I was awful at it and that I hated it.

Flash forward to college. That was the first time I had to do a lot of math, over and over until I mastered the concepts. I realized I was actually quite good at it once I’d had enough practice. I still didn’t particularly love it, well not all of it, although I absolutely adored statistics and computer science math.

My experience with math is why I tell every little girl I see that she will be really good at math and science. Sometimes I get puzzled looks from the adults nearby but I don’t care. I want that message to get out and I want girls to realize they can be cute and also kick ass at algebra.

Edited to add a link to the article Jeanne mentioned in the comments. Go read it!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The indignity of it all

Now that we have a decent HVAC system (one of the few positive things to come out of our flood), our apartment gets quite dry in the winter. I have to add water to the cat’s water fountain twice a day, my poor nose suffers and so do the cats. They all get a bit of dandruff on their backs near the bases of their tails. It’s especially bad for Eddie because he’s large enough that he can’t really groom there all that well.

I do my best to stay on top of the problem by grooming all three frequently but this year has been unusually dry quite early in the season. So last weekend, we bathed all three cats but only on their backs near their tails. I took this video after they were all done and as you can see, they don’t hate me.


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Where did they go?

I have three sets of measuring cups in my kitchen. Two are cheap plastic sets by Kitchen Aid I think, plus I have a set of Foley metal measuring cups. We make the majority of our food from scratch and use all three sets at the same time pretty regularly. But the Foley set is my favorite set by far. Partly it's because they stack better, always a good thing in a home with not much storage. It's also because the metal cups have the amounts they measure stamped into the handle, while it's just painted on the plastic cups and the paint is wearing off. Plus the metal cups are a lot sturdier. The other day, when a handle from one of the plastic ¼ C measuring cup broke clean off, I decided to look around online for another set of the Foley ones and order them.

Only Foley is out of business.

I can find other metal measuring cups but they have very long handles which means the cups don’t fit well in our drawer. I also tracked down a set online, and learned to my surprise that Foley, whether metal or plastic, are now considered vintage. Who knew?

So now I need to decide if $14 plus shipping is just way too much to pay for a set of measuring cups.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

No poo? Not for me, thanks

Have you heard about no poo? No, I’m not referring to toilet habits but to shampooing. Some folks are forgoing shampoo or switching to specialized hair cleaning products that aren't shampoo, either for the environment or to improve the condition of their hair.

I could never see myself embracing this idea entirely because I’ve got oily hair. As oily hair goes, mine’s not the worst case in the world—you wouldn’t look at my hair at the end of the day and think “gee, let’s harvest that to solve the world’s oil crisis.” But it’s meant I need to wash my hair every day. I have some friends, including my best friend Kerry, who have dry hair and can gleefully skip washing their hair for days on end. Or at least they can skip a day. I’ve always been a little wistful about that because washing and drying my hair takes more time than the rest of my morning routine put together. I have a lot of hair and even though each piece isn’t thick, there’s so much of it that drying it generally takes about 20 minutes.

Recently I’ve been on a big kick to get out of self-imposed ruts. These ruts include things like only wearing super bright pink polish on my toes, wearing my hair only parted on the right, or not trying on clothing I’ve decided will look horrible on me while it’s still on the hanger. So this fall I’ve bought and used a dark purple nail polish (still not entirely comfortable with that color yet), and I’ve tried on a cowl neck shirt even though I was positive it would look awful on me (I was wrong and I got the shirt). Yesterday I decided I would try not shampooing my hair.

I put my hair up in a clip, took an otherwise normal shower and followed the rest of my morning routine regarding clothes, make up and so on. I was tickled to gain the extra time normally devoted to fixing my hair.

And that’s the end of the positive report. Even though every other bit of me was entirely clean, I felt ultra greasy all day long. Plus my hair, which normally looks good when it’s put up, just looked nasty. Or maybe that's the greasy feeling affecting me. All I know is that this morning’s shampoo never felt so good.

Can you skip days for hair washing? If you can, then know I’m a tiny bit jealous. But I’m not jealous enough to try that again. At least not for another 10 years or so.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

76 Trombones

Well no, actually it’s 76 sewing patterns. I took an inventory of my patterns so I could sort them out and know exactly what I had. I even created a spreadsheet that contains the pattern company name, pattern number, a brief description and whether or not I’d made it.

First, I don’t need any more skirt patterns in my life ever. Second, I have more than a few patterns I haven’t sewn yet. Shame on me. Third, I do not know what I was thinking when I bought the stuffed animal patterns. I hate making those.

Finally here’s the sorting/inventory mess in progress.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Christmas Past

This week I got out our Christmas decorations. As I told Kent in October, I missed having the house decorated last year. Of course last year we were both gone so much, plus we went to Oklahoma for Christmas itself that we really didn’t have an opportunity to decorate. But this year is different. We are staying home.

We need this time together. My previous job’s travel tended to cluster in the spring and summer, while Kent’s job gets crazy starting late summer and continuing through the end of the year. Between work and Thanksgiving, he’s been gone the last three weeks and was home a week before that but gone several weeks before that. So we are looking forward to some quiet together time.

As I unpacked the boxes, I realized we had not really decorated for Christmas since 2006. We had the best house for Christmas decorations in Kansas City but in 2007, the house was on the market so most Christmas decorations weren’t allowed, although I did put some artificial garlands on our mantel. We had Eddie and Wally by then and Wally promptly started eating the garlands so they got put away almost immediately. In 2008, we were here but still had far too many things in the house to put up decorations. The tree had been abandoned before our move as far too large for Boston living (plus Wally would eat it). Without a mantel, I had no place to put stockings. I did put up a wall hanging my mother made for me years ago but that was about it.

Eddie is our present?
2009 was a bust since we’d flooded and the surviving Christmas decorations were at the salvage company. That’s the year we bought our little ornament tree and I cried in Target when Kent said we should get it. And of course last year we were just not around.

Going through the boxes was almost like opening presents. I found a pet collar I really didn’t remember we had. It's the one in the video I posted earlier this week. I think we bought it for poor little Sammie cat. Since he was pure black and the servant stairs in our Kansas City house had no lighting, we had already put a belled collar on him so we’d know where he was. We figured he wouldn’t mind the collar but sadly I have no pictures of him in it.



I know we got this stocking for him, because I remember the conversation Kent and I had about how silly it was to spend $12 on a stocking for a cat. Now I wish I had two more, although I still don’t know where I will put any stockings, let alone stockings for cats.

Do you decorate? If so, how much? When do you take things down? I take our decorations down on New Year’s Day. I also stop listening to Christmas music the day after Christmas.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

I'm a mean one

Just ask my cats.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

What a nice guy

We frequently go to a restaurant that's about 75 yards from our house--but not because the food is so great. It's fine, don't get me wrong. And it's reasonably priced but that's not the reason we go either. We go because of Kevin. He's the main server there. We've seen a few other servers who've come and gone but mostly it's Kevin. We met him one of our first nights out after we moved into this place and unlike 98% of the rest of the servers in Boston, he was friendly and funny and nice. So we go back because of him. In fact this summer, he was gone from work for over two months with a fairly serious eye infection and we didn't go while he was gone. As I said, the food's OK. Kevin is why we go.

Sunday night as I got out of the taxi after getting back to Boston, I saw Kevin and he said he had something for me. A friend of his knew he sewed and gave him a bunch of sewing patterns. Kevin brought them to me! Isn't that cool?

Here's what I'm keeping and I'll return the rest to him later this week.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Kindle v Kindle

Fire is on the left, 3G on the right
I got my Christmas present from Kent early—in fact I got it before we left for Virginia. That’s because I have zero patience and once he informed me that he would be getting me the new Kindle Fire for Christmas, and I’d made the financial objections only to be overruled, I asked if we could get it Right! Now! So I got my present early. Yes, I know I'm spoiled.

My mother called this morning asking some questions about the difference between the Kindle 3G, which I also own (hey I am Gadget Queen) and this one. We had a good conversation and I told her I’d also post pictures of them both here on my blog plus give a quick assessment on how they compare.

The screen on the Fire is amazing. We watched lots of short videos on You Tube last week and they looked great on the screen. Streaming like that does drain the battery, and I haven’t yet looked at ways to store videos or movies on the device although it can do that.

The touch keypad is fine but I wouldn’t want to type lengthy posts on it. That’s mostly because I prefer keyboards and I'm really fast with them. I’m less speedy with a touchscreen keyboard.

See how well the 3G handles
the light from the flash?
Reading on the Fire is different from reading on my 3G Kindle. First, it’s backlit. Second, instead of buttons on either side of the screen, you tap the right side of the page to advance in your book and the left side to go back. The search function works as well as the 3G search function. I will take my 3G Kindle when we go places where I’ll be reading outside—the e-ink does so well in direct sunlight and doesn’t strain my eyes.

If I get a job where I travel the way I did with the last job, I’d take the Fire. When I travel, I’m generally not creating content while in the air and if I need to do that, I’d use a work laptop.

With my hand as a reference for size.
The Fire is perfect for consuming content which makes sense since that’s what it’s designed to do. If you expect a powerhouse processor, first reexamine why you are considering a Fire—start by asking yourself what problem you are trying to solve.

If you want to create content, get a different device. This isn’t the device for you.

If all you want to do is read, get a plain jane Kindle, which handles that task beautifully.

If you want to keep up on your personal email, check Facebook or Twitter, read your favorite blogs and maybe play games like Angry Birds, then give the Fire a good look.

If you’re an Apple fan, I can’t help you.

Monday, November 28, 2011

My children made me cry

And in this post, I am counting all four of them as my kids (no disrespect intended to the mothers of Jen and Sophie).

We exchanged gifts with Ben, Jen and the kids and Jordan and Sophie on Saturday. The puppets were a huge hit with both children, which really made me happy. I have some great memories of playing puppets first with my little sisters and then later with Jordan and Ben. Seeing Alison and Eliot love the puppets like that brought all those good feelings back.

But I have to say I think that I got the most amazing gift of all. My kids completely surprised me and more than that, they got me something that just overwhelmed my heart. To understand why, I need to give you some back story.

I’ve written here before that as divorces go, mine was pretty civilized. Yes, a marriage ended and yes, dreams we’d both held of beating the odds and living happily ever after also ended, but for the most part, neither of us got nasty or vindictive. One of the few sticking points for me—and let me hasten to say that this wasn’t Rick being nasty or vindictive, I think he was just sort of oblivious—was that I got pretty much no photographs of our 16 years together. That also meant I had almost no pictures of my children as they grew up.

I’ve always felt this loss keenly. The boys loved it when I’d sit down with them and go through all the photo albums and tell them stories about what they were doing in each picture. Our albums weren’t scrapbooks, just the old-fashioned, probably ruin your pictures kind of albums but they held the pictures and we looked through them frequently.

Even this summer, when Rick was in Boston and took us both out to dinner, I mentioned that I had no pictures. He was shocked and promised to get me digital copies. I didn’t hold my breath.

Maybe you can see where this is going. Last year or the year before, Ben and Jen put together a picture book, bound and everything, that contained pictures of us with them and their children. That was a fantastic gift, so Saturday when I felt the texture of the book, I knew what it was.

But I was wrong. They’d gotten their childhood pictures, scanned them all, and had them printed into a book for me. They also burned the pictures onto a disk. It was a complete group effort by all four of them—I cracked up at the account of how Sophie just walked in to Rick’s house and took the pictures (yeah!).

I’m getting teary again just thinking about how much this book means to me. I haven’t looked at the disk yet. I am saving those pictures when maybe I’m having a sad or lonely day, or feel not so great about myself. I know for a fact those pictures will give me a wonderful boost.

Now you’ll have to excuse me. I have something in my eye.

Ben is on the left, Jordan is on the right. Cute lil stinkers, huh.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

New traditions

I've loved seeing what my sons want to continue for their holiday traditions--for the most part, they've taken everything I did and incorporated them into their own family celebrations. That makes me feel really good.

This is our fifth Thanksgiving with Ben and Jen and the second year Jordan and Sophie have been able to join us. So we have a couple of new traditions:
  • Our Great Pizza Cook-off. This started as a competition between Kent and Ben and now we've decided it's really just a way for us all to have great pizza. This will be our third cook-off.
  • Catan Championships. Jordan, Ben and Kent played last year and are playing again this year. I think this will be a new tradition for them.
  • Faux Christmas. Ben and Jen graciously put up their tree the Friday after Thanksgiving so we can help and then we open presents. Alison is old enough to know that this isn't the real Christmas celebration and still young enough to enjoy opening all the gifts.
  • Pea Tasty. OK it's not really called that, it's called tea pastry but Ben couldn't say that when he was a little kid. We always had the pea tasty for Christmas breakfast and that's a tradition Ben has continued.
  • Bake time with Alison. Last year Sophie and Alison made cookies together and this year they are going to make cup cakes. I think Sophie is a saint.
Did you know your adult children develop strong opinions of their own? And that you can really learn from them? Well they do and I most definitely have learned from both sons. This week, Ben told me I shouldn't use the tag "stupid things you're rather not know." He said it's demeaning about what I write and also slightly dismissive toward the people who read this blog. I've thought about it, and I'm going to stop using that tag. It will be hard but I'm going to give it a whirl.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

I'm in Virginia with Kent, both sons and their families for the holiday and I'm really glad to be here. It's a very cool thing to have adult children as interesting as mine are. I take no credit--as my brother is fond of saying when complimented or dinged about his own children, "it's not my fault."

I hope you are with those you love and who love you right back. I wish for no drama, much tasty food and a relaxing, restorative time.

More later!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Unrelated rantlets

Rantlets are tiny little rants hardly worthy of the word rant. So here we go:

I’m tired of the meme first world problems. Yes, I know others elsewhere have it a lot worse than I do. I get it. But these are my problems and hey, guess what—I live in a first world country complete with first world problems.

I’m also tired of applying for jobs with companies that use antiquated web sites. I'm talking about web sites that can't accept documents in Word 2010 and won’t run in Chrome. Hey, a job application is also a chance for me to evaluate you, company who has the job posting. So don’t use Web 1.0 technology and do update your site so I can upload my resume into the dark abyss of your company never to be seen or heard from again.

Also this week I ran across a company with a career section of their web site that was in such bad shape regarding security certificates that both Chrome and Internet Explorer had absolute fits about me going there. And yes, this was one of the companies whose site flat wouldn't work in Chrome. Please for the love of God join us in the 21st century and make your web site compatible with the major browsers.

That leads me directly to the dark abyss of no answer or response to a job application. Seriously, it’s not all that difficult to set up a script to let all the non-winners know you filled the job. If tiny companies in Iowa can get that script up and running, so can you, big giant companies in major cities. It's the polite thing to do.

Finally let’s talk about the TSA. Ah the joys of either getting virtually strip-searched or else patted down before I can fly. I guess I slept through the  biology class that covered the parts of the human body, because for the life of me I never heard of a body part called resistance. The TSA sure has and they love to karate chop me there every time I fly.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Friendsgiving

We went to our friend Fiona’s third annual Friendsgiving Saturday evening. She provides the turkey, plates, utensils etc. and we all bring everything else. I usually bring my cranberry-port sauce, the one my friend Shima calls the boozy cranberry sauce. This year I found a recipe for honey roasted almonds so we made a batch of those before we headed over. Oh my goodness those were tasty. They are also all gone.

The nice thing about Friendsgiving is it provides the perfect kick off to the holiday crush and ensures we see all our friends while we are still sane. I love it and I’m so glad she does this every year.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Back to cats

I thought I'd already posted a video of their feeding frenzy but maybe not. So here's a video of the nightly food ritual, complete with their pathetic cries.

Chloe is the worst offender. She starts sounding off a good two hours before feeding time with her monotone meow, which is fairly annoying. Wally doesn't stir until the can has been opened. Then he'll saunter into the kitchen and wander around. He rarely meows while we get the food ready and when he does, it's cute. He's got a little meow for having such a big personality. Eddie's meow is both loud and expressive, which is exactly how he is.

Friday, November 18, 2011

The freak

I’m sure you’ve heard of the whole Penn State/Paterno/ Sandusky mess. I think the two most chilling stories I read were about (1) Penn State students rioting over Paterno being let go and (2) the story about the grad assistant who saw something, reported something but not until the next day and then . . . nothing?

I think I’m the freak here.

I have reported people for things done against those who have no recourse, not something I think happened or something I suspected happened but events I saw. Here are my bona fides:

  • I reported a woman whose children slept in urine-soaked playpens who were also fed mold-infested food.
  • I confronted an “abusive” man berating a woman at Murphy Hall at KU. That ended up being some freaky theatrical experiment and when I figured that out, I hauled ass into their little debrief and confronted them about the dangers posed by pretending to be abused when in fact they were not.
  • Last week I stopped a tiny, no more than three year old girl from being hauled down a super long escalator by her slightly older big brother. I think her mother was pissed but too bad. I’ll take pissed mom over injured kid any day, thanks anyway.

So I don’t understand why on earth Paterno didn’t do more. For that matter, WTF, grad assistant who saw the inappropriate shower. What were you thinking? Were you afraid your career would be damaged? How about the life of the boy in that shower, did you think about that?

At this point, I'm OK with being the freak.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Freeze frame

Wally likes the camera. In fact, he’ll be doing something funny or silly or cute and he’ll keep doing it until I get the camera and either take a picture or video.

Case in point is today’s video. He lolled around on my desk with very appropriate music in the background exactly as though he were some kind of star at a photo or video shoot. I could have taken a much longer video as far as he was concerned.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Strange cats

We use Amazon a lot here in Boston. It's far more convenient than getting in our car or taking the T and then fighting Boston traffic to get someplace only to find that what we want (a specific coffee maker, for example) isn't in stock. So we use Amazon which means we have boxes.

Cats love boxes. Well I should say our cats love boxes. Yesterday I stacked four or five together in a big cardboard nest, and the cats had a blast taking that stack apart all day long. When they deconstructed the stack entirely, I'd put it back together and the fun would start again. Much to my surprise, Eddie didn't eat any of those boxes. I'm sure he will, it's only a matter of time because at heart, he's part beaver.

We also don't have cat beds. We don't need them because the cats would rather sleep in boxes. We usually have two boxes out, one on the recliner and one on the couch. Chloe sometimes sleeps in a box but usually she prefers her cushions with her smashed flat bear. Wally and Eddie cycle between the two boxes, although really Wally claims everything, as you can see here:

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Strange dreams

The last month or so I’ve had a lot of very strange dreams. Some are just odd, and some are flat out nightmares. Last night’s dream was bizarre.

I was wearing bright red elasticated waist pants plus a short, red jacket-esque kind of thing. Think bolero length and you’ll get the picture. Now you should know that I don’t wear elasticated waist pants ever, and I never ever wear red because I look like I’m dying in it. I'm not kidding. When I've worn red, friends and co-workers have asked me if I'm getting sick, that's how awful I look in it. I don't even own anything red. But in my dream last night, I wore elasticated waist pants (yuck) that were red (double yuck), plus the red jacket (barf).

In the dream, I'd be walking by a mirror or a window or something reflective and I'd catch a glimpse of my big as a barn butt in these God-awful red pants. The bolero length jacket only emphasized the awfulness. It was mesmerizing and more than a little disconcerting. I have no idea what I was actually doing in the dream, all I know is I kept seeing my big ol butt larger than life and twice as ugly.

No idea what it means, but man it was weird.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Tick tock says the clock

How can I be so busy when I’m unemployed? And my deadlines aren’t even self-imposed. I’m almost glad Kent is out of town this week because otherwise I don’t think I’d be able to finish everything.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Odds and ends from Idaho

My parents’ dog is pretty darn cute and also super sweet. Like our cat, Chloe, she doesn’t photograph well so you’ll just have to take my word for how cute she is. She’s also a lot smaller than I thought she’d be. When they got her, she weighed a scrawny 25 pounds and now tops the scales at 29 pounds. That’s pretty small for a Brittany.

I lust after my mother’s sewing room. It would be a fairly small bedroom but it’s perfect for her desk, sewing machine cabinet, and ironing board. Plus she can store her fabric in the closet. Best of all, if she wanted to shut the door—say to keep nosy, curious animals out of there—she could.

We drove to Boise yesterday and stopped by an amazing fabric store which was almost overwhelming. The fabrics at Caledonia are to Joann's fabrics as clothing from Macy’s is to Walmart clothing. I bought an amazing wool/mohair sweater knit in purple plus another, more summery fabric for a dress.

Then we went to the holy grail—the Bernina store. That store was overwhelming in a different way. I love my sewing machine and to be in a store with all the latest and greatest (and very expensive) Berninas just took my breath away. Seriously, one machine cost as much as my Honda Fit. I bought three new presser feet and dropped more money there than I did at the fabric store. Crazy.

It’s been a fantastic visit so far and I’m so glad I came out here.

Edited to add that the post makes it sound like I'm having fun because we are doing things. Actually I'm having fun because I'm hanging out with them, but that doesn't make for a very scintillating blog post.

Monday, November 7, 2011

YARL*

  1. Kent says he likes these kinds of posts.
  2. Good thing. I write them when I have bits and pieces to say but nothing substantial enough to merit a whole post.
  3. I solved the problem of how to finish the lining in my wool skirt so I can keep the kick pleat.
  4. I did this while I was asleep last night.
  5. Kent says I’m weird because my brain never stops. I thought everyone was this way.
  6. Apparently I’m wrong.
  7. I fly to Idaho tonight to visit my folks. I haven’t been there in eight years.
  8. I’ve seen my parents every year—just not in Idaho.
  9. The high desert climate is tough on my nose and sinuses.
  10. Yes, I know. Supposedly I would adapt to the dryness.
  11. No thanks. I’ll take humidity.
  12. Except in the summer when it’s really hot. Yuck.


*(Yet another random list)

Friday, November 4, 2011

Sewing and stuff

Or Stuff if you prefer to capitalize it.

One of the sewing forums I’ve been reading holds sewing contests throughout the year. One is called a SWAP (sewing with a purpose) and that always intrigued me because I like the idea of having a plan for my sewing. I want everything to go with everything, mostly, and I don’t want to have clothing orphans that just sit there never getting worn.

But I’ve realized these SWAPS are done a few times each year, maybe even each season. I don’t remember. Each one includes seven to 11 items of clothing. Now you can do the math as well as I can—if you sew seven pieces each season, you’ve got 28 new items of clothing every year. I don’t have room for 28 new pieces of clothing in my closet. What’s more, even if I did have that room, I don’t want that many items. That much clothing makes my brain hurt.

Here’s another ongoing projects—a jacket a month. Wow, 12 jackets each year?? My last job required professional business dress, not business casual, so I wore suits or suit-equivalent clothing every day. I owned just four jackets and that was plenty. I don’t need or want 12 of them.

I’ve realized this forum isn’t a good match for me. Those women are amazing sewists/seamstresses/sewers/whatever and are very generous with fitting/cutting advice. They really know their stuff. But I don’t fit in. From my perspective, they just never stop sewing clothing for themselves. Then they complain that their closets are full and they have massive stashes of fabric.

So that’s why I capitalized stuff. I think that kind of sewing becomes another way to accumulate things that end up cluttering my life and my brain. No thanks.

I have one final item to sew for my own, retooled wardrobe: a wool skirt that has a bit of stretch in it. Then I'm done sewing for myself until something wears out or somehow gets ruined. The rest of my sewing will be for others or for gifts or for the house.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Imaginary friends

Did you have any when you were a child? I didn’t, not really, although I did like to sit at my bedroom window on the second floor and look across the driveway to the abandoned house next door. I populated each window with girls I could play with. This was when I was five or six years old.

Today, I have a lot of virtual friends which some might consider to be the same thing as imaginary. I disagree; two of my best friends are people I met online gaming. I’ve known John and Angie since 2000. Kent and I stayed at John’s house and got to meet his wife the first night of our honeymoon (John and Brenda lived in Calgary then and we honeymooned at Lake Louise). About a month later, we went to Angie’s wedding. They’ve been friends with me through eleven years of good and bad times and are no less important to me than people I met in more conventional ways. Edited to add that those were the first times we'd met John and Angie face to face.

Tomorrow I’m having lunch with another virtual friend, one I met through Facebook. We figured out that she works very near where I live in Boston and she’s originally from the Kansas City area. I'm looking forward to meeting her face to face as well.

What about you? Do you also have virtual friendships that are as important to you as your face to face friendships?

Monday, October 31, 2011

I laughed

 We have a cat that destroys paper. This isn’t the same cat that eats cardboard boxes—that’s Eddie and he can eat his weight in cardboard. Wally is obsessed with paper, primarily paper towel and toilet paper. So we can’t keep our toilet paper on a roll holder or whatever they’re called like normal people do. We have to keep ours in one of those storage canisters. Even then, he's gotten a roll out as you can see from the picture on the left.


Of course that means we have to take the roll out each time we need to do our business. I can’t speak for Kent but I tend to put the roll on the edge of the sink until needed, although sometimes I just put it on edge of the tub or the floor. The floor isn’t the best option, though, because once I forgot I left it there and Wally found it.

Yesterday I heard Kent swearing up a streak in the bathroom and I knew immediately what had happened. He did what I always feared I would do: he dropped the roll (a brand new one, by the way) straight into the toilet. Yes, I laughed—partly with relief that I hadn’t done it first, but mostly I laughed because it was funny.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Two years

Eddie in the crack house hotel
the night we flooded
Two years ago that 35-inch water main ruptured and our apartment flooded, along with about another 50 or so apartments. I wrote about it in 2009 and 2010 and I guess I’ll keep writing about it as long as it affects me the way that it does.

That was the start of a really long stretch of awfulness for us. We flooded on October 28 and had to find temporary quarters to live in. Then after returning from visiting our younger son and his family for Thanksgiving, Kent was told he would be getting laid off (I still didn’t have a job). Our trifecta of awfulness concluded a week later with us receiving notice of the condominium lawsuit that continues to prevent us from selling our place (no, the suit has nothing to do with the water stuff, and the reason we can’t sell is that banks won’t lend money for condos involved in lawsuits because of the potential liability).

Today, Kent has a job but I got laid off this summer. The lawsuit looks to be done but the arbitration that should conclude this whole nasty mess won’t even be scheduled until January or February. And I’m still jumpy when I hear unexpected water noises.

I think Wally was affected the most. He was never what you’d called a mellow cat even before the flood, and that day only made things worse. I wrote about how he ran into the rising waters to try to get to his safe spot and came tearing back into the bedroom absolutely terrified. Today he remains far more high strung than the other two cats. He’s really skittish and hides in inaccessible places when people come over.

As for me, I keep a charger near my phone which is near my handbag. My passport is easily accessibly (and well above a potential water line). The cat carriers are not stored under anything, they are very easy to get to in a closet that doesn’t have a door. If there were a next time, I wouldn’t waste a moment throwing towels at the back door as I did two years ago, and I wouldn’t call 911 until after I got the cats in their carriers and out the door. But I would still remember to get the Scotch.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

A wadder

What’s a wadder? I’ll tell you at the end.

Last night I made a pasta recipe from a pin I found on Pinterest (if you want an invitation, let me know in the comments). I was intrigued by the balsamic reduction and hey, you can never go wrong with butter. I even thought it might be something to add to my son Ben's food blog.

It looked so yummy.
I always follow the recipe the first time I make it because I figure I won’t know how it was supposed to taste if I run around altering things right out of the gate. The one exception is that I will cut a recipe in half—there are just two of us and unless I’m positive we will love a new dish, I don’t want to risk having a lot of food we don’t like sitting around in the fridge.

And I had my doubts while making this dish. Partly it’s because the vinegar smelled awful while reducing, even though it was good vinegar. I was a little worried too that the combination of vinegar and brown sugar would lead to a sweet and sour taste, which I don’t care for in the least.

It didn’t taste like sweet and sour, I’ll give the dish that much. But it was awful. I asked Kent for his take on the dish and he said all he tasted was a thin sweet taste plus a very sharp bitter taste. I was less eloquent and said it was gross.

We always talk through dishes we’ve made for the first time, looking for ways to improve them or create alternatives so the dish is even more versatile. In my opinion, this dish would have been better served to have no vinegar or sugar, stick with the butter and put in a few hot pepper flakes. But then it’s changed beyond recognition from the original recipe and has become something else entirely. Something I might actually eat.

And here’s your weird word for the day: a wadder is what you call a ruined sewing project. You just wad that sucker up and move on. That’s what I’m doing with this recipe.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Old man winter

About two years ago, we ordered new windows for our place here in the South End.
That’s not as large of a purchase as you’d think since we have just three proper windows. We also have a glass brick window (three bricks wide and three tall, so it’s a rectangle) and we have our back door which is nothing but glass.

The windows dated back to when this brownstone was renovated, or possibly to the second round of renovations. Regardless they were at least 20 years old and probably older so they did very little to keep out the cold or the heat, had no storm windows and no screens either.

We'd ordered the windows right before we flooded, and they got replaced during the reconstruction. Even then, before we were able to move back in, we could tell how much more efficient the new windows were and are.

So that’s a passive bit of winterizing we do. The active bit involves our stairs to the first floor.

Our place
In Boston, all apartments and condos must have two ways to escape. That code is to protect people from getting trapped in their homes in case of fire. We use our glass door, the one that leads out to the patio, about 99% of the time. It comes straight into our living area but more important, we have just three locks to undo: the patio gate, the iron grate and the door itself and they all use the same key.

Our second entrance is at the top of the stairs, which leads to the street level door. When we do use that door, we have to unlock our door, the common foyer door (which has two locks) and the iron gate (all that takes two keys). Yes, this is the same common foyer that the Ferals like to store extraneous microwaves and dressers in. Apparently they do not understand what being a good neighbor means.

Before
As you can imagine, the stairs act as nothing more than a giant heat suck or chimney. That’s great in the summer, we like it that the hot air collects up at the top of the stairs. It’s not so great in the winter.

So I’ve hung the curtains to enclose the stairs. It’s surprising how much difference those two el cheapo curtains from Ikea make. Not only does the heat stay downstairs where it belongs, I also don’t feet a chilly breeze coming down the stairs.




After

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

I don’t like spiders and snakes

Yesterday I made a slow cooker faux beef bourguignon, and I have to be honest. I didn’t much care for it. I’ve never had the real deal but I suspect I wouldn’t like it either. I tend to prefer my food to be simpler and less complex—when you start mixing things like bacon with beef, well that just tastes yucky to me.

Kent will tell you he doesn’t know all the food rules, he just knows they exist. And I do have food rules; well not exactly rules, but there are food pairings I find utterly disgusting. I guess in a sense those are rules. Granted, they tend to be don’t ever do this rules, but I have positive food rules, too.

Anyway. Bacon is a breakfast food, and in only one case is it suitable for a non-breakfast item: the lovely BLT. You can even put a slice or two of a really good Cheddar cheese on there and I’m OK with it. But I don’t like bacon on burgers or meatloaf or anything else.

The recipe I made yesterday called for six slices of bacon, and that flavor permeated everything. It left such a taste in my mouth that I had to eat some saltines to get rid of it. I’d make the recipe again, because it’s easy enough and other than the yucky bacon taste, I liked it. But I would ditch the bacon and put in a lot of baby bella mushrooms instead.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Bonus post

Plus a kitty video:



What you hear Chloe doing is what she does every single day. I try to make allowances and remember that she's turning into a crotchety old lady cat but holy cow she's annoying.

Boring and mundane

That was my weekend. Also very sweet and affectionate because (gag warning ahead) Kent and I just reveled in each other’s company. He travels a lot for work but it’s sporadic. So last spring when I was mostly gone, he was here. This fall has been a different story and he’s been gone each week for the last three weeks. We’d braced ourselves for not seeing each other for about five weeks when he left last Monday. That things changed just made the weekend so much better.

Yesterday I paid for the tension and stress of last week. I’m normally a high energy kind of woman, especially in the morning. But not yesterday. I woke up tired and got more tired as the day went on. Plus my head started pounding around noon and nothing I did made that headache go away. Low energy days are quite rare for me and I don’t like them one bit.

Now I’m back applying for jobs, filing for my pitiful unemployment and knocking out sewing projects for Christmas gifts.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

While I was waiting

That’s the story of this week.

I’ll summarize:

I’ve passed three interviews with a company—let’s call them Company A—I would love to work for. I had two interviews last week and then an interview on Tuesday. My contact there knew I had a contract I needed to sign and return for the KC job.

And the KC job is through a dear friend of mine. I’d told her a couple of weeks ago that I was still looking for permanent work, and that I was still in the running for the job with Company A. She didn’t seem to care. Well when things heated up more this week, I dropped her an email because I didn’t want to screw up her project by coming on board and then maybe ditching her in a month or so.

We talked briefly right before lunch today and I gave her some names of people in the KC area who might be interested in the job. I just heard back from her about 20 minutes ago that she was able to find someone local.

So on the one hand, I just cost myself a job opportunity. But on the other hand, I am staying home where I belong.

Gotta say my head hurts and I think a glass or two of wine may be in order.

Oh and the waiting bit? Between noon and 4:30 today, I’ve sewn up a fleece jacket. That’s what I did while I was waiting.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Today I

Finished a skirt and jacket (skirt, view E, jacket, view B but without the belt). I added two inches to the length of the skirt and also lined it even though the pattern doesn’t call for it. I didn't line the jacket. Both are made from a dark gray almost denim material that has a tiny bit of stretch in it. I used my serger to finish all edges on the jacket and most edges on the skirt—some of the skirt edges became entirely self-enclosed once sewn so I didn’t need to worry about any unraveling. This material does want to unravel.

And today I kissed Kent good-bye. As I wrote yesterday, he’s off to Poland this week and won’t be home again before I have to leave.

I’m trying to decide if I have it in me to make one more outfit this week before I absolutely must buckle down on a packing/organizing frenzy. Stay tuned.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

It’s like a bad knock knock joke

Only I have no idea how to make it funny.

Kent leaves for Poland tomorrow. I am almost certainly leaving for KC Friday morning. Kent gets back from Poland Friday night.

We’re both pretending tomorrow isn’t good bye for a while. We’ve been taking turns telling the other one “hey no getting sad” and so far it’s sort of working. It probably won’t work so well later tonight.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Ahem—I have an announcement to make

I don’t want to leave Boston.

There, I said it. I mean it. I want to stay. Now of course I will probably be leaving, and isn’t that just the way of it? You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone (and yes, they paved Paradise and put up a parking lot).

Kent and I have been talking a lot over the last month about what makes living here hard. We have met some fantastic people who are now very dear friends (hi Fiona, David, Mikael, Daniel, Shima, Steven, Kathrine, Andrew and the rest of you). They’ve stuck with us through good times OK well not so good times and most definitely the bad times. So it’s not really the people.

Well it’s not most of the people. It’s where we live, not our neighborhood but our building, and a few of the people who live here too. Plus let’s not forget the fun we’ve had with water. Oh and the utter lack of light. That’s a big deal. I’m tired of taking massive amounts of vitamin D.

Earlier this month, we had a brief moment of hope when we thought we might actually be able to put our place on the market (alas for our futile hopes), so we talked about where we’d like to rent. Yes, rent. We’re done with owning for a while. Given the economy and our precarious job situations, we need more flexibility. Anyway—we started talking about where in Boston we would rent.

I realized I don’t really want to leave the South End. I like it here. I would love it if I were on a second floor with big ol windows and nice or at least beta neutral neighbors. Heck if they were just not utter turdballs, that would be an improvement.

Now let me also say very quickly that a couple of the other folks in our building have been wonderful (hi Peter and Tony). And they’re also stuck here until the nastiness is settled. It’s just that the Nasties and the Ferals are so, well, nasty and feral that it completely drowns out how nice Tony and Peter are.

And of course I don't want to leave Kent and the kitties. That's the biggest reason of all.

But all my wishing is for nought, at least right now. I can’t find a job here and I have an offer of a six to nine month contract in Kansas City. The money is decent and pays a heck of a lot more than unemployment. So it looks as though a week from today, I'll be driving my trusty little Fit halfway across the country. I’ll wave at you all as I pass through your states.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The unmade bed

I didn't have the heart to disturb them:

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A tale of two woes

Jury duty was mostly boring and a little chilly because the 28 of us sat for nearly three hours in a drafty room before anything happened. I was prepared for boredom and a long day—I brought both my Kindle and my lunch.

We were on tap to serve on one of three cases; by 10, one of the cases had been resolved short of a trial (exact words from the Officer of the Court). Around 11, we were taken upstairs to a court room to be empaneled for a criminal case.

The empanelment process is pretty simple: the judge asks a series of questions, some of which are specific to the nature of the charges involved and some are just basic questions about things like innocent until proven guilty, or the burden of proof being on the prosecutor. If you need to answer yes to any of the questions, you raise your little juror tag which has your number on it (mine was 29—there were a fair number of no shows and the numbers actually went all the way up to 46).

This trial involved some sort of vehicular misdeed although not homicide. I felt a little sad for the defendant because he wasn’t dressed very well at all, so I’d guess he didn’t have money for a really sharp attorney, and his (probably court appointed) attorney was older than Moses. I could have served on that jury and been fair about everything. But my number wasn’t called, I think the highest number called for that case was 23.

We all trudged back down to the jury pool room and waited some more. We got called back upstairs for a second criminal trial around 12:45. Keep in mind we hadn’t been given our lunch break yet either, so people were getting hungry, grumpy and chatty. I was really glad I’d brought my lunch and I wolfed down my PB&J right before we went upstairs for the second time. Good thing too, since that empanelment took over an hour.

This second case was different, at least for me. The defendant had been arrested for loud and disorderly behavior in her home, keeping a disruptive home and resisting arrest. The question that got me had to do with whether or not I could be fair to the defendant given the nature of the charges. In all honesty, no I couldn’t. We live beneath loud, obnoxious people who are never bad enough to cross the line into a police call but who negatively affect the quality of life here.

I was called to the side bar and asked about my answer to that question. I told the judge, the assistant DA and the defense attorney that I wished I could be fair to the defendant but in complete honesty, I wasn’t sure that I could.

I felt sorry for that second defendant too. You’ve seen her before, she’s the one with brassy blonde hair and horribly dark roots, smokes cheap cigarettes, wears jeans from the 80s, and lives in a trailer in a bad section of town (or she would if there were trailer parks in Boston). She’s probably never gotten a break in her life, people have probably always been crappy to her, and she is one angry woman. Something happened, something snapped and now she’s looking at jail time. And I still didn’t think I could be fair to her.

There were 21 of us for that second empanelment. The judge wanted a jury of eight but had to settle for six. For one reason or another, 15 of us didn’t think we could serve on that jury. Sure, at least one guy was saying anything at all to get excused (seriously he held his card up for every question—jerk), but most of us had given just one reason.

On the T ride home, I realized it’s probably a lot tougher to seat a jury for cases like that. Chances are good most people in Boston have lived near a really loud obnoxious neighbor who made things miserable. That's part of what happens with this kind of urban density.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

But I don't WANNA

I have jury duty for sure tomorrow.

Let me rephrase that: I have to be at the courthouse by 8 AM tomorrow morning. I have no idea how the selection process goes so who knows if I get picked or what.

Man, this is coming at a bad time. I may be leaving for Kansas City a week from Friday for a six to nine month contract. I have things to do, people, lists to make, sewing to finish, cats to hug just in case I do go. But I am also in the running for another job so stay tuned for those details if that works out.

What’s been good this job search go-round is that I’m getting a really good idea if a particular job is right for me or not. For example, I knew 15 minutes into the interview with Detroit that no, no, that job was not a good idea for me. I’m leaning that way on another job as well—and I realize that makes me sound both greedy and picky. But if I’m going to take a permanent job elsewhere, one that requires me to not live with Kent on a daily basis, then yes. I’ll be greedy and picky.

I got a lot of sewing done today—no pictures, some are gifts and some of those recipients read this blog from time to time. But! I did master the art of making scrunchies. I’ve never worn them myself, not even when my hair was what counts as long for me (just past my shoulders) so this was uncharted territory.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Random bits

It’s our anniversary today. Eight years and that’s not nearly enough. He's amazing and I'm so very glad to be married to him.

Yes, I have a Facebook page for my cat. I made to cheer up a friend who was going through some pretty bad times. It’s harmless entertainment for her and easy enough for me. So why on earth do some people need to post mean and/or nasty comments on the page? Very clearly the content is rated G and if someone doesn’t like the page, why become a fan?

I have jury duty on Wednesday. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not opposed to doing my civic duty (by the way, that’s plastered over the envelopes the state sent me: Your Civic Duty!). But this is coming at a really bad time, and if I’m selected I really need this to be a one day case.

We’d bought certificates for massages before I lost my job and we used them Saturday. What a fantastic treat.

I have to brave Joann’s today. That place scares me but their prices on patterns are better than any other brick and mortar store nearby.

We’ve had a last gasp of amazing summer weather over the weekend and it will be beautiful today. Maybe I enjoy it more because warm, sunny weather is rare here.

Friday, October 7, 2011

More offensive grooming plus a bonus



Within 60 seconds of the end of this video, Eddie resumed his offensive grooming. Wally got disgusted and left.

Here's Chloe on her cushions and her bear. She loves those cushions and I suspect she may be getting arthritic; she's at least 11 and possibly 12 years old. I've had her 10 years this week.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Hugh was right

In an earlier post, I mentioned that the cats, specifically Wally, are making sleep next to impossible. The situation hasn’t changed—I’m now on about day five of sleep interrupted and I’m getting pretty cranky. You know it’s bad when the cat commotion cuts right through the fog of Tylenol PM.

Hugh made a comment about how his dog, Sam, was the family barometer and would pace at night when things were stressful. Clearly, Wally is our barometer and he’s wound up tight.

Yesterday, I made a point of waking him up all day long, but nicely. I petted him, I tossed endless Velcro strips for him, I got out some cat nip, I held him and walked him around the apartment. It didn’t matter. He still acted out most of the night.

If he understood words better, I’d tell him I get it. I’d tell him I’m stressed too but one way or another we will always take care of him and be there for him. He’ll be with one or the other of us and we won’t abandon him.

But he doesn’t understand my words, he only picks up on my emotions. So today I will rouse him again, all day long. I’ll do my best to be sweet to him even though I’m so tired I could cry. Tonight will probably be a Tylenol PM night again because I am desperate for sleep.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Mixed bag

Last week I had a phone interview with a company in Detroit. As described, the job would have meant stepping back a few years in terms of my career, plus I'd have taken a $12k pay cut. But as described, it would have returned me to technical training development and delivery so I was interested.

You did notice the phrase “as described,” right? Yeah, the job I actually interviewed for was pretty different from the job description on the company’s career board. This would have been pure instructional design, with essentially no delivery or at least none for the six to nine months. On top of that, this group is tiny—two instructional designers—and tasked with crazy deadlines. I was so very glad to get the call almost immediately from the recruiter saying I didn’t have the kind of technical experience they were looking for. I did feel for the guy, though. He’s got the impossible job of filling a req that doesn’t accurately describe the position. He told me that he doesn’t think the qualified candidate exists. I assured him they do but they almost certainly won’t move to Detroit for that pay.

The second job I interviewed for was in Milwaukee. I’ve never received the kind of update I got today. I think they’re saying they’re still looking but will include my resume in the next round of candidate evaluations if I'm still interested. So if that’s the case, I might be good enough at some point in the future . . . I think? I’ve sent that email on to Kent to get his take on it. Usually I just get no answer, a rejection or a job offer. This is certainly new.

So onward I go with the job hunt. In the meantime, if you know of any jobs I might be suitable for, just holler. I would not mind in the least leaving Boston.

Monday, October 3, 2011

T minus three

Christmas is less than three months away and we should be finished with the gifts we're giving by the end of this month.

Oh I can tell you that planning ahead is especially important for us because we (a) live far away from all recipients and (b) have a greatly reduced family income from which to get the gifts. But really, it's because I like to stay organized. I dislike the retail craziness in December and will do just about anything to avoid shopping, even online, during the holiday season.

The first year Kent and I were together, he was a little dismayed in September that year when I asked him where he was in his gift planning process. Thankfully I’ve learned to nag far less than I did when I was young, dumb and even more impatient (I know, hard to believe I was ever less patient than now because I’m sure not very patient even yet), so I didn’t harangue him about the evils of his unorganized ways. But he did notice that I was finished in October and not scrambling around in late November and December, making mad dashes to the mall or looking online.

The next year, he joined me in the planning process and it’s continued that way ever since. We have scaled gifts up and down as our financial resources have increased and decreased but we still give presents and we don’t go into debt over them.

We have a shared spreadsheet on Google Docs that lists names, need by dates, ship by dates, delivered by dates, the gifts themselves and also a column for interests.

We're making a lot of our gifts this year. Some are from fabric, others involve food and all are going to be made with as much care as we can possibly give. I don’t want someone to get a gift from us and think it’s a tacky thing. Yes, it's the thought that counts and we think highly of our family and friends.

I’ve got what I need to make gifts for five people, plus I know what I’m making for another half dozen or so. In a way, I hope I stay unemployed for the next month because I have a lot of work to do.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Aha!

I read some more in my various fitting books today and figured out why I have problems with getting things to fit properly in the bodice area.

For those who don’t sew, sewing patterns are not based on the weird arbitrary sizes used by various clothing manufacturers—those vary from line to line and heck even within the same maker. So the size we buy in clothing stores has nothing to do with the sizes used in sewing. Sewing patterns are all based on actual measurements at specific points on the body. For women, that includes two bust measurements—a high bust measurement and a bust or full bust measurement, plus the waist and the hips.

I run into two problems when selecting a pattern size. First, based on my frame, I've finally realized I shouldn’t use the bust or full bust measurement to pick the pattern size for the bodice. I need to use the high bust measurement, which is taken below the armpit and across the top of the bust. I have a smaller back and my fitting books agree that it’s far easier to increase the full bust area on a pattern top than it is to tighten up the high bust, the back, the neck and so on. When I use the full bust measurement, as I have always done, I have too much material above my bust and often too much across my back as well. This isn't a new thing, I'm just paying a lot more attention to it now.

The direct opposite is true for bottoms. There I should continue doing what I’ve been doing and use my hip measurement. Then I take in a lot through a taper up to the waist.

The other missing piece in my fit dilemma is the area directly above my bust. I have what one of the books calls a hollow chest. That means I’m very lean above my actual bust.

If you look at the pictures I posted yesterday, you can see it. The reworked pink top looks really good—that material has enough stretch to pull a bit tighter across my upper chest. The white shirt I wore in the picture with the gray skirt has some excess material there and doesn’t fit as well.

That’s the problem I faced with the purple dress. Even now after taking in over three inches through the bodice and tapering out through the hips, there’s still too much material in the bodice and especially above my bust. So I’ve learned a couple of things from this project. Going forward I need to select patterns that don’t have a lot of excess material in the bodice area and if the fabric has stretch, then I really need to be careful which size I cut out. I also need to start making a muslin or test garment first.

I do love the color of the dress and I love the fabric. Kent assures me it’s a flattering look in person but I am a little disappointed at the end result. I hoped for a perfect fit and I’m not there yet.