Friday, September 30, 2011

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Copy cat

That’s me, and I’m OK with it. In addition to copying a recipe, I’ve also copied this skirt. To be honest, I didn’t copy the recipe, not exactly. I came up with my own variation but the idea was not original to me.

In the same way, the skirt I’ve made is slightly different than the original one. But I wouldn’t have thought to make mine without having seen hers.

My skirt material isn’t ruffles, although I would have used that material if I’d found any at my favorite fabric store. Also, I sewed my fabric to the elastic wrong side out and then flipped it. My fabric is so very soft that I didn’t end up with any unwanted bulk at the seamline.

But the color is pretty darn close to the example skirt and black elastic was the only way to go. I used navy thread for sewing and while the material isn’t actually navy, the thread still pretty much disappears.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Need sleep

Cats have been particularly noisy and rambunctious the last two nights, especially Wally. We've both been so tense lately due to outside stuff that neither of us is sleeping all that deeply. When a cat gets noisy in the middle of the night, we wake up.

I finished a skirt today, and I'll get pictures tomorrow. Plus I have a possible solution to my very low cutting surface. I did some scouting around online and the recommended height for a cutting surface when cutting out patterns is between 36 and 40 inches. We don't have room for a separate cutting table so the small dining room table has to do double duty. But it's only 28 inches tall and my back gets really tight when I have to cut out things all hunched over like that.

So I ordered some bed risers to use on the table. They arrived today, and I am looking forward to trying them tomorrow when I cut out something else. I am on a roll here!

Monday, September 26, 2011

A moment of silence

Let’s all bow our heads as we ever so briefly mourn the passing of the blue knit dress that never quite was.

You may recall I wanted to make this dress out of the navy knit material you can see in the middle of this picture. However I ordered the material online which meant I couldn’t touch it and decide if the knit were too stretchy. Alas when the fabric arrived, I realized that this knit most definitely is too stretchy.

So I decided to make this pattern instead, figuring it might be kinder to very stretchy materials. I wanted to make the cowl neck view and looked it up on Pattern Review to see what others thought about the pattern. It's only been reviewed once but the reviewer said the cowl neck bodice was absolutely enormous. With that in mind, I cut a smaller size but even so I think Kent could have worn the top of the dress and he wears a 46L in his suit. So I cut out the square neck bodice from the ill fitting cowl neck bodice pieces. While the top fit a lot better, the knit was just making things very complicated. Let me tell you, picking out stitches that have been done on a serger is just no fun at all.

What was supposed to be a one hour dress took me all Sunday afternoon and all of this morning until now at about 11:15 AM Eastern Standard Time when I officially declared the dress dead on arrival. I learned a lot but I won't be finishing the dress, at least not out of this material.

Now I am going to go have a salad for lunch followed by some jalapeno kettle chips. They are my new favorite food indulgence, and the perfect thing to soothe my sense of failure.

Friday, September 23, 2011


I asked Kent last night what he would miss from our apartment here in Boston. He thought for a moment and said he’d miss how dark and quiet our bedroom is. That was all he could come up with. As for me, I’d miss our clever solution for the litter boxes.

I won’t ever choose to live in a “garden” apartment again. I’m not a mushroom, I need a lot of light.

If I end up taking a job outside of Boston, the cats would go with me. Kent travels pretty frequently and also the trips can be last second so arranging cat care gets complicated. He said if he got too lonely, he’d get another cat. Um no way do we need FOUR cats! I offered to leave Chloe with him should a move occur. She’s the most laid back of our cats and would adjust to being alone a lot. But as he pointed out, she’s really imprinted to me and might die of sadness.

I tried to refashion my pink dress into a skirt—it’s made from a cheap knit and I couldn’t find my stretch needles for my sewing machine. I’d only sewn about six inches and had to stop because it did awful things to the material. I’m not sure I can fix this problem.

I tried making a baked potato recipe where you slice the potatoes almost all the way through, with the cuts running across the short side, and then bake them with butter and some seasonings. They were good but not entirely baked. I think the key is to make the slices really thin.

Last night we watched the first episode of Walking Dead on DVD. While I’ve liked some zombie books quite a bit, this show isn’t something I want to watch. It had way too much of what I call BOO! scary bits in it. I’m not an adrenaline junkie.

Today is the day for going through all of my clothes and purging, purging, purging.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Why doesn’t Johnny read?

Or maybe it should be Why won’t Johnny read?

First you need some necessary information. My resume, which goes back to 1997, could be outlined like this:
Most recent job: manager of training and development
Next job: highly technical consulting job for a company that needed their learning management and content management systems evaluated and possibly changed.
Next job: highly technical training development and delivery position with a consulting firm working with clients’ IT departments.
Next job: highly technical training development and delivery positions that also included project management on highly technical training development and delivery projects.
Catch the theme? Recruiters don’t. No, I’m serious. Last month I submitted my resume to a recruiting firm that was looking for a technical instructional designer/instructor. I got an email back saying the recruiter didn’t see where I had technical experience.

Yesterday I finally got a call from a company for a technical training position. The only reason I got a phone call was because I have a solid connection to the company (Kent). The utter lack of enthusiasm in the recruiter’s voice was obvious as he told me that the position really needed someone with a technical background who also had training experience. It was pretty clear he didn’t think I had that experience. When I pointed out that with the exception of my most recent job, my experience was exactly what he needed and that I had been doing that work since 1997, he got really excited. I almost asked him if he'd actually read my resume.

What’s worse, later when he called Kent to clear up something regarding relocation (which sort of irritated me that he would call my husband about a job I'm apply for but I’ll set that aside for now), he flat out told Kent he had rejected my application. Holy crap, no wonder people can’t get jobs. The recruiters aren’t even reading the applications.

I’m in the running for two positions right now. Should neither of them pan out, it’s clear to me I will need to reformat my resume into a functional rather than chronological resume, one that spells out my experience using simple, first-grade level language. That way even recruiters with poor reading skills should be able to recognize what kind of experience I have.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011



I tend to buy clothing because I like the color and feel of the fabric. Only later when it's too late do I realize that whatever I bought doesn't fit all that well. The pink sweater in this picture is a perfect example--I love the color, and it's a cotton/silk knit. But it's just a boxy ugly thing on and I found that I'd pull it out, maybe put it on only to take it off and hang it back up again.

Since I wasn't wearing it anyway, I cut it apart and used a Simplicity pattern to make another top.

I didn't actually have enough material so the top is more fitted than the pattern would normally be. But that's fine by me. It's no longer boxy or ugly.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

All finished

I finished two sewing projects for me and they are big accomplishments in the world of Elizabeth. First up, I made a skirt from Simplicity 2451, view C. What's more, I fully lined it even though the pattern didn't call for it and in fact didn't have directions on how to do it. Hurrah!

But wait, there's more to the skirt story. I also inserted an invisible zipper with the amazing invisible zipper foot my mother kindly sent to me. You can see--or rather, you can't see--the zipper in this picture. The loose threads at the top are because I haven't yet sewn the skirt to its lining.

I also found a really great tutorial on inserting invisible zippers here, plus the same site has another great tutorial on machine stitching your facings here.

Today I finished New Look 6028, view A but with long sleeves and no trim. It too is fully lined and clever me made it from the same material as the skirt so now I have a suit look in a beautiful wool blend.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

I remember Dimples

I finished reading The Help on Tuesday, just in time for our IFBC deadline (other reviews are here, here and here). I would never have picked up this book to read on my own, but that’s partly why I wanted to be part of this book club. I get stuck in reading ruts and having someone else make the book choice pushes me to shift a little. But I have to say I didn’t want to read this book at all, mostly because I thought it fell in the chick literature category. I still think that it does and don’t see myself looking for other, similar books in the future.

However, it wasn’t as bad as I feared, although I still found myself frequently annoyed with the way in which the three main white female characters behaved. I mean, seriously, did none of those women have a spine? I leave it to others in the club to provide a proper literary review. My take on it is different because the book reminded me that my mother and also my stepmother had help sort of like the maids in the book.

My mother and father moved to Nashville shortly after my brother was born. My brother is only 11 months younger than I am, so much like the young, Southern women in the book, my mother was a 23 year old woman with two tiny children. I vaguely remember the house we lived in. I believe it was a white house, with a porch that had immensely tall pillars from my perspective. I’m sure they weren’t tall at all but to my eyes they were.

I think that’s when we had Dimples. She was a fat, black woman and that’s about all I remember about her. My one firm memory is actually after my parents divorced. I was probably three and certainly no older than four. Dimples came to see us in the duplex my mother found (an upstairs/downstairs duplex—we lived on the first floor and I loved the upstairs neighbor). Dimples had a real thing for Doug, she just adored him and he loved her right back. I remember her sitting in a chair, I think a kitchen chair, and my mother saying she’d come to see us. That’s all I remember about her. But it would make sense that my father would hire someone like that because he was all about appearances and he loved wearing all the accoutrements of a successful life.

He immediately remarried following the divorce, and he and my stepmother and her four children moved to Philadelphia. In a most unusual custody agreement for those times, he had Doug and me every summer for eight weeks. The year that I was in sixth grade, Mom and he swapped the custody agreement and we went to Philadelphia for the school year. By then, Priscilla was living with Barker (father) and Marian.

Priscilla was a large black woman from Memphis. She had a bedroom on the second floor in the house and shared the upstairs bath with several of us kids. She cooked, cleaned and did shopping, laundry and child sitting for Barker and Marian, and had Sundays off.

Even though it was Philadelphia, a lot of the details about the things the maids did for their employers were spot on for what Priscilla did for us. She had a set routine for when she cleaned what, when and how laundry was done and which meals got cooked on which days. She never met a vegetable she couldn’t turn into gooey mush (which is why I still to this day detest most strong leafy greens), her fried chicken was to die for, and she always served a pitcher of sweet tea and a pitcher of unsweetened tea to us at dinner. She never ate with us.

So the book acted as a catalyst for me. I would love to know more about Dimples, because that’s the vaguest of memories for me. I remember Priscilla quite well because she was around for most of my childhood. I know my brother remembers her, too, although I’m pretty sure he doesn’t remember Dimples.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


By the last day, Wally was willing to come closer to everyone, even the kids.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Point counterpoint

Ben offered this picture as a counterpoint to Eliot looking more like him than his brother, Jordan:

Ben did admit that he is a few years older in this picture than Eliot is.

I have scissors

I finished the sewing project from hell today.

I was making a pair of bathrobes as a wedding gift. That right there made me less than thrilled because bathrobes aren’t usually all that creative. They are just huge boxy things and the only good thing about making them is wearing them in the winter.

Then I couldn’t find the fabric I wanted to use. In my mind, these robes were going to be made out of a white, sort of waffle weave material—what you’d see in a spa. Only no one carried anything remotely like that. So I chose two different materials that complimented each other without being identical.

However, that leads us to my second major area of woe: the material for his robe was a one way stripe with a nap and more stretch than I realized. And it shrank like crazy. So between the nap , the stripe and the shrinkage, I didn’t have enough material. Not to worry, I am creative so I bought a solid contrasting color for his robe’s lapel and a different, contrasting color for hers too. Only hers ran and ran. I washed that stuff three times and it still kept bleeding. OK fine, I set it aside and figured I'd finish his damn robe first and then solve that issue.

Only the pattern I used has the stupidest shape for the collar and neck—basically a curved piece of material has to be sewn to a piece of material that’s cut as a right angle. Normally this is not an issue but remember the stretch? Yeah, it became a big issue. I tried using parts from a different robe pattern as a work-around but the pieces were shaped far too differently. So before I ruined any more material, I set it aside too.

Then Kent proved he really does pay attention to my blathering and he suggested I order material from one of the online fabric places I found. What? Really? Just start over? Well yes, it’s not like I wouldn’t use the original (really secondary) material for other things, right? Right! So I ordered 10 yards of white terrycloth, which was a lot closer to my original vision.

Have you ever tried to wash 10 yards of terrycloth in a compact stacked washer/dryer? It doesn’t work very well. And the fabric took probably two hours to dry. And then I had to cut the damn things out. I’ll tell you what I want for Christmas—a cutting table that’s closer to 40 inches tall so I don’t turn into a hunched old lady.

They sewed up OK, although I had some fits along the way. The fabric actually came with some flaws in it and working around those was awful. Plus I used my new marking pens—one side has the disappearing ink and the other side has the stuff you put on the disappearing ink to make it disappear. Only it didn’t disappear. I was really afraid I was going to have to dye the damn robes to make them be OK but thankfully that stuff came out when I washed the finished products.

The robes are all done now, washed and folded on my dining room table. I need to wrap them and then figure out when the lucky couple is actually home so I can get the robes out of my sight forever.

Monday, September 12, 2011


I’ve got plans today:

  • Finish the sewing project from hell so that I can turn to some of the fun refashioning projects I want to try for myself.
  • Mail a box to Lemming’s daughters.
  • Keep a yellow cat awake today the way he kept me awake last night.
  • Pick up more coffee.
  • Maybe finish The Help.

Uh that’s about it. I lead a wild and crazy life.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

10 years

I learned about the first tower being hit by a plane from my best friend, Kerry, who worked in the same office. She liked to listen to the news on her radio, and that morning I heard her start crying.

That afternoon, I had a requirements meeting with some Israeli vendors. They never mentioned the attacks and really, what could they say? Hi, welcome to what we live with all the time. I kept wondering, though, how they did live with the threat of terrorist attacks like that.

That night I skipped class (computer science math), and stayed home with my son. We watched one replay of the towers collapsing. Jordan was moving to Dallas and was scheduled to fly there that Friday; his plane ended up being one of the first flights allowed out of MCI. Logically I knew the chances of anything happening were slim, but it was really hard to take him to the airport.

9-11 was also a few weeks after I’d told Kent we probably shouldn’t date because he hadn’t yet sorted out the kids issue. I’m not sure why, but the attacks caused me to start reevaluating my decision and thinking maybe I’d made a mistake. On October 6, Sprint laid him and 5,999 other people off and then I knew I’d blown it.

I also remember that our fall foliage was probably the most beautiful I’d ever seen it be. The Midwest isn’t known for brilliant leaves in the fall but that year it was stunning. And I thought it was so very unfair.

Now I live in a city where two of the flights originated. Their departing gates have American flags hanging outside from them. I haven’t flown United in years so I haven’t used that gate; I’ve flown American, but you have to be outside to really see the flag.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Ben didn’t want to hear this

But I think Eliot looks a bit like Ben’s older brother, Jordan. I don’t have many pictures from the boys’ childhoods—their father has them—but the few that I do have show some resemblance. What do you think?

This is Jordan at 13 months. His hair is much darker than Eliot's (and is nearly black today as an adult).

Here's Jordan again, slightly younger than the first picture, but I think you can see the resemblance even more.

Here's Eliot last Friday at the park.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Shears in Boston!

Despite Boston showing some (typical) crappy weather on Tuesday and Wednesday AND despite the flight issues Ben and Jen had getting home last night, I think a good time was had by all. I know I thoroughly enjoyed having the four of them here and would do it again.

Our plan of having them stay in our apartment while we stayed in the bed & breakfast across the street worked out perfectly. They had more room to spread out, we could hang out with them after Eliot and then Alison went to bed and they could be as noisy as they needed to be. The only drawback was that since we have just the one bedroom, the kids had to sleep in the same room as the parents—that wasn’t hard on the kids but I know it made for harder sleeping conditions for Jen. Ben could sleep through exploding hand grenades so I doubt he noticed anything.

Kent picked them up Friday from the airport and once they got to the house, we headed over to a nearby park. That gave the kids a chance to run around and play while we could start sorting out what things they wanted to do here. We ended up touring the New England Aquarium and the USS Constitution on Saturday; Sunday we headed over to Boston Common and the kids played in the Frog Pond, plus they rode on their first ever carousel. On the way home, we stopped by Dunkin Donuts so Alison could have her first ever Dunkin Donut experience. She’s now completely hooked.

Monday we checked out the zoo—if you look on the left side of Alison, you can see the hind legs of a napping male lion. Tuesday was pretty dreary but the rain held off long enough for us to walk around the North End. Later that afternoon while the kids napped, Kent and Ben took a tour of the Sam Adams brewery (you may have to provide your birthdate to enter that site). Yesterday we took the Red Line to Harvard Square and then had lunch in Cambridge.

I’m sure you are curious about the cats—and too bad if you aren’t since I am going to write about them anyway! Overall, all three cats did well. Both Eddie and Wally tend to hiss if they smell other male cats and Ben and Jen do have a couple of male cats. So Wally and Eddie were a little hissy at first. As usual, both Eddie and Chloe stayed out where the action was. I think they do that so they know where the trouble actually is and can run away if the situation calls for it. Wally had a harder time of it since he really is a big scardy-cat. His tail was down most of the time and he hid in my closet in the very back behind a suitcase—unfortunately that closet is in the bedroom, where of course the kids slept. So we had to make sure a door was ajar so he could escape during nap time.

Eddie started seeking out Ben for petting by Saturday night and Chloe did too either Sunday or Monday. Last night, Wally finally really came out. His tail was up, he hopped from my lap to Kent’s lap while the kids were very close by and he also finally stopped hissing. I sort of think maybe Ben and Jen started smelling more like us and less like their own house, plus we’d done a few loads of laundry which I’m sure got rid of some their cats’ smells.

All in all, the cats adjusted just fine. I don’t know that Wally would ever seek the kids out for attention but at least he did no harm.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

A quick picture

Both of the kids are sitting in my office chair, getting ready to watch one of their videos.

Friday, September 2, 2011

It’s like Christmas

Ben and Jen and the children get here early this afternoon and I am like a small child myself, just about dancing with excitement. This will be the first time they’ve stayed with us as houseguests ever—when they would visit the Kansas City area, they stayed with Jen’s parents in Lawrence. Honestly her parents have a perfect set up for houseguests with children and even then, we didn’t. Nor do we now but we’ve prepared as best we possibly can.

We’ve rented car seats, a booster seat and a baby bed and we’ve got some age-appropriate toys on hand for both kids. While we can’t entirely baby-proof our house, thankfully it’s a small enough place that keeping an eye on an avid exploring 16 month old shouldn’t be too hard. In fact our place is so small that we are staying across the street at a bed and breakfast, and they are staying in our apartment. So far the weather looks to be decent which means when the kids need to run around and get crazy, we can head over to the park about two blocks away and let them go nuts.

We’ve planned out all the dinners and Kent made a big excursion to Costco to stock up. Our fridge has never held this much food. In fact, it’s a little on the overstuffed side right now but that will change quickly.

I’ve been inordinately amused at the new things Kent’s had to do: buy diapers, buy baby wipes and of course the funniest (to me) of all, put two car seats in his car. That cracks me right up. Even if my car hadn’t been so damaged last week, we still would have had to use his car since mine is too small. I’m not sure his is big enough though, and I won’t be going with him to the airport. With luck and a whole lot of squeezing and shoving, they will get everyone and their luggage in the car.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

A bit of a ramble about sewing, wardrobes and minimalism

I like to sew, although I also get frustrated because what I make generally doesn’t entirely capture what I see in my mind when I start. A lot of that has to do with my lack of skill—much like any other endeavor, I’ll get better as I sew more. The downside for me, of course, is that fabric and patterns cost money in addition to the time spent making the items, so failures are doubly expensive.

I’m motivated for reasons other than creativity though. I am drawn toward the idea of a small, almost capsule-style wardrobe, where everything goes with everything else, fits beautifully and the colors are perfect for me. So it’s sort of a cross between minimalism, frugality, style and creativity. If that makes sense . . .

For some reason I assumed most sewers (sewists? seamstresses?) had similar mindsets and weren’t engaged in the endless pursuit of acquiring more stuff—that somehow, people who sew their own clothes aren’t caught up in getting/making more, more more. That assumption is dead wrong. The blogs I’ve been reading for a few weeks are full of people who have huge stashes of fabric and continue to sew and sew and sew and then bemoan that their closets are full of nothing to wear. Yet they continue to participate in various sewing challenges where they make a set number of pieces every season. Well if you make three or four pieces each season and you do that for years, you will have the same problem as those who buy clothes over and over again at the mall. You still end up with that overstuffed closet and have nothing to wear.

Believe me when I say I’m absolutely not judging—mostly I’m confused and also a little lost. I’d hoped that I would find others who have already done what I want to do (cut down on the number of pieces in my closet while simultaneously increasing the versatility of my wardrobe). And yes, there are a few like-minded people out there in blogland.

It’s just I’ve realized that the sewing industry isn’t any different from other businesses selling their products. Any successful business must create a need or a perceived need in order to be profitable. So new patterns come out every season, and new fabrics in different colors come out too. But how many different patterns do I need to make a knit skirt or a tailored blouse?

If I were to buy this wardrobe I have in mind, I know the types of styles I’d pick. They wouldn’t be tied to the trendiest trends, but would be more classically tailored. The current trends can be echoed for so much less money and space in my closet by things like scarves or necklaces or earrings. I need to keep that in mind as I collect patterns and improve my sewing.