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.

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.


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


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.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Check it out

Here's my new cutting layout--those risers give me another 8" of table height. That extra height has made a huge difference. I cut out a dress the other day and my back didn't get tight at all.

And per Sabrina's request and with Jeanne's encouragement, here's a picture of me in the new gray skirt and one of me in the remade pink sweater.

I've almost finished my DKNY dress; it's got a bit of excess fabric under my arms so I'm letting the dress hang overnight and will tackle that issue tomorrow.