Monday, September 30, 2013

No pictures for this one

Last week at my annual dermatology checkup*, I ended up having my first ever mole biopsy. I've had a few moles removed – always at my request – but never a biopsy. So I didn’t realize that the doctor was going to use what was essentially a small melon baller tool on me. I don’t know what I expected, but that wasn’t it!

She told me to keep the wound covered and to daub Vasoline on it before I put the bandage on it. And being the very compliant person I am, I did just that.

Now I should mention that I react poorly to latex so I already use latex-free bandages. But I knew something else in those bandages also bothered me and it’s gotten worse as I’ve gotten older. Turns out I, along maybe half the population, get contact dermatitis from the adhesive on the bandages. I know my skin is pretty sensitive. I get contact dermatitis from most soaps used in public restrooms, sometimes my rings trigger it, and I definitely cannot wear nickle-based earrings. But I hadn't put it together that in addition to latex, my skin was also reacting to the adhesive.

For the last week, I’ve rotated the fresh bandage in a counter-clockwise direction. My hope was that I could spread the expsure around and let the reacting skin calm down before I had to put a bandage on there again. My strategy didn’t really work so well. In addition to having the round melon baller wound, I now have radiating spokes of very angry red welts coming out from the circular wound – it’s almost like a sunbeam only it’s not a very happy sunbeam.

So no pictures because frankly, it’s kind of gross looking. But the good news is the mole was utterly benign.

*You do get an annual checkup with a dermatologist, right? Skin cancer is no joke. 

Sunday, September 29, 2013

I'm a fan girl

A few more things I've recently discovered and love:

  • FAGE yogurt. Oh my goodness, so much better than Chobani and we won't even talk about high fructose corn syrup brands of yogurt. I put four ounces of the plain Fage 2% yogurt in with a half a cup of the Kirkland Ancient Grains granola for breakfast each morning. So incredibly tasty.
  • Our new Breville toaster oven. We use our toaster oven nearly every day, either to make toast or toast up some tortillas or reheat food that wouldn't fare as well in a microwave. We loved the one we had before we moved to Boston but it was huge. Since we had a teeny tiny kitchen, we gave it to Ben and Jen and got a Black & Decker one. That one was not really worthy of the name toaster oven. We always had to flip the bread and move it from one side to the other so it would toast evenly. And reheating was a crap shoot. If I set the oven any higher than about 300F, the food scorched. The new one is the compact version, although I would never call it small. But! I haven't had to flip or move bread when making toast and best of all, I can reheat things at proper temperatures without them burning.
  • Munro American shoes. I just bought a pair yesterday and I think the company must have secretly traced my foot to use as the last. They come in narrow widths, the heels fit my heels and there's enough room for my long toes. No, they aren't razzle dazzle shoes and who knows if I will like other shoes they make, but I love this pair

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Well this is depressing

The cats are not losing weight. If anything, they are gaining. On the plus side, their super duper expensive food has resulted in less poo in the box. That's always a good thing. But it hasn't resulted in less cat girth.

Here are their results to date:

I'm pretty much stumped at this point. We're trying to do the right thing by our cats' health but clearly this isn't working.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

I have been a little busy

New Look 6071
And I have pictures for you this time. I have a dressmaker’s dummy (form?), which works for showing the clothes. Truth be told, I’m a little disappointed with how it works to use for actually fitting my clothes. I can adjust the thing a bunch of different ways, but at the end of all the dial twirling, it’s still just measurements around – there’s no way, for example, to make the back narrower like mine and forget about getting the bust to be my size. I think this dress form is maybe a B cup. We won’t talk about my cup size – suffice it to say, I’m a bit further down the alphabet.

But the dress form at least lets me show what I’ve finished.

First up is the New Look dress I mentioned last week. I promise the dress doesn’t look quite so saggy on (again, it’s hard to replicate the human body on a dress form) but you can see how the cross over stuff looks. I'm very pleased with the way this dress fits me; best of all, I did no altering.

Frankendress 1
Next is a dress I cobbled together from two patterns (a Frankenpattern if you will). I’m quite pleased with this dress actually. The original pattern (McCalls 6069) calls for a cowl neck in the back, and I found that both annoying and excessive. So I took the back bodice from another pattern, re-drafted my armscye and here’s the result. The fabric is pretty interesting too. It's a sort of waffle weave, almost like long john material only much thinner. There are tiny sparkled throughout – it's a subtle effect, but they're there. I want to find a skinny black patent leather belt to wear with this and I may take this on our trip next month. If you’re wondering, the dress form has a winter white turtleneck on it. I find the white less distracting than the red of the form. Unfortunately the white sort of shows through plus I didn’t pull the sleeves through (didn’t want you to think this is a jumper).

Frankendress 2
Next is a dress on its third life. It started as this skirt, which I realized was not at all flattering on me and even if it were, I’d never wear it. Then I remade the skirt and added a bodice to become this cowl neck dress (which is, yes, McCalls 6069). Again, there’s just too much material and I never wore the dress. So now it’s resurrected itself one final time. I like the neckline on this dress and I’ve always loved the material. I think/hope it’s a keeper in this form.

Finally, today I did another Frankenpattern. I have a waterfall cardigan that is about as tailored as those things gets. I also have a pattern for a more typical waterfall cardigan but didn’t want swaths and swaths of fabric in the front. So I traced out the front of the RTW cardigan and sweated bullets over the armscye. I like the fabric, I’m so-so on the results. We’ll see if it continues on in this form or if I give up on it or make it come back as something else.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

I'm in love

With a brand of socks. Let me explain . . .

So colorful & comfy!
I’ve always bought cheap running socks. My running socks needed to meet just one requirement: they had to stay up on my heels. You’d think this would be an easy requirement to fulfill, but that wasn’t the case. Things only got worse when the running sock fashion turned to the invisible socks. (Did you even realize there are fashion fads in running socks? Seriously . . . )

Oddly, I had the most success with Target socks. They were made of some cheap technical material so they wicked away any moisture, and they stayed up on my heels. I bought probably seven pairs and used them a lot. Alas, in the last few years even Target has moved on to the invisible running socks and so my supply has been dwindling.

When I got my new running shoes last month, I tried them on with a pair of balega socks. They felt amazing on my foot and helped the shoe fit even better. So I got two pairs.

But they had a problem and for once it wasn’t centered on staying up on my heels. No actually they were too big. If you look at the size chart, technically I’d wear an M in these socks. My feet are nothing but skin and bones, I’ve got hardly any meat there at all. Really I need an S. So I ordered three pairs directly from the company – I got three different types and all three are a size S.

Wow what a difference. They stay on my foot where they should and are just all around amazing. Of the three styles I bought, I love them all but one pair is too thin to use with my current running shoes. That’s OK, I wear other shoes too, other athletic shoes even, so I am positive they’ll get worn.

The only problem now is I have two pairs of size M socks. Kent’s got great big clodhopper feet so he can’t use them. Maybe the cats can play with them.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

When the cat's away

Kent’s not actually a cat but he is out of town for work – he left this morning. So rather than sit around and feel sorry for myself, I cut out and sewed a dress. Disclaimer: no pictures because I cannot seem to take a decent self-picture to save my life. 

Anyway. I made New Look 6071 with long sleeves out of a purple ponte knit fabric. Fortunately I read reviews by others who’ve sewn the dress because the directions get wonky at step 7. That’s unusual for New Look patterns but this time it flat omits making a button hole for the self-wrap front of the dress.

When my photographer is back at home, I’ll get some pictures. I’m just glad to have done something constructive today that had a happy ending.

Friday, September 13, 2013

It lies

And I should have known better. I got a barrette, thinking it would make a nice change from a ponytail holder. Since I have very straight, very soft hair, I knew I'd need something that would really grip. This one claims it's slide-proof.

Wrong! I put it in my hair and within 10 seconds, no joke, it slid right out. Back it goes to the store. I guess I'll just get more ponytail holders.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

I can see clearly now

This is not a 9-11 post, although it is a post about living and dying.

My daughter-in-law ran a half marathon a couple of weeks ago, a really tough one in the heat at Virginia Beach. Partway into the race, she and her running partner turned the corner and saw an apparently fit man who’d collapsed. He was being given CPR, EMTs were on their way as was an ambulance, but it was not enough. He died.

My DIL wrote a very moving post about that event, the thoughts that went through her head when she saw him, and her struggle both that day and the next week to make sense of something so random and arbitrary.

Years ago I either read or heard in a sermon (don’t recall now which it was) something that made sense to me. Basically, the author or speaker said, until we come to terms with the facts of our deaths, we’ll have a hard time making sense of our lives. I took that to mean that if I want to live a purposeful life, and feel as though at the end of it all I spent my life doing things that matter to me, then I need to be deliberate in what I do and how I live.

As another friend of mine posted today (and I’m paraphrasing), you just don’t know if today’s the day you’re on the wrong plane or in the wrong building. I think J would agree – she’s comforted by her faith, and she’s aware now in a different way that yes, life is fragile and arbitrary. We don’t know when the end comes. Better to live deliberately and to enjoy the moments we do have.

I have a tattoo of a sun face. I got it in 1999 as I came out of a particularly dark time in my life. That tattoo was a permanent, visible commitment to myself that I didn't have to live in a mud puddle or stick around with negative, emotional vampires. About five or six years ago, I got it recolored; I want it to stay vivid. I always want to remember that commitment and even more I want to live it.

Monday, September 9, 2013

No cats on the counter!

Yeah . . . right.

Chloe is the best cat in terms of staying off counters. As we're fond of saying, even her poop doesn't stink. Eddie doesn't get on the counter either, but it's not because he's virtuous. I think it's because he's hauling a lot of mass and getting up that high can be a challenge.

Wally is different. It doesn't matter how many times we holler at him or simply pick him up and remove him from the counter, he's positive it's his. I came out to the kitchen the other day and found him curled up on the counter taking a nap.

He's a brazen cat.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Another day, another dress

Yesterday I finished up Simplicity 3833 – one of Simplicity’s vintage 1960s dresses. I love this pattern a lot. Empire waistlines are a great look on me, and the way this dress is designed to skim the rest of the body does kind things for my . . . shall we say lumpier areas. It's got two very deep darts that start almost by the waist and angle up into nearly the center bust area (hard to see those darts in the picture, I know).

I made this from a cotton/silk waffle weave I got from Fabric Mart. Originally I was going to make a shirt from it but it seemed a little too crisp for that. The crispness works well with the lines of the dress and helps the dress hang better. I will say that pressing this stuff was painful, because if I let the iron get too hot, the fabric would get shiny. So I used a pressing cloth all the way through.

I did line the dress; the waffle weave fabric would have been slightly see-through and I’d like to wear this dress to work. I should add that I do not own nor do I want to own any slips, so lining the dress was the better option.

Here's a close up of the fabric so you can better see the texture.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

A success

I figured I should post one of my sewing successes. This is Simplicity 2215, a Cynthia Rowley pattern. Fortunately, I read the reviews before I started so I knew going into this that there was a lot of ease. In fact, there was so much ease that I cut a size smaller than my measurements indicate I need, and still ended up taking in the dress about an inch all the way around, and also bringing the waist seam up about an inch.

I chose not to make button holes; there’s an invisible zipper on the left side seam so I didn’t need the buttons to actually work.

I got the fabric in Boston about a year before we left. I’d made a top out of it and loved the look and feel so much that I went back and bought them out of the rest of it. It's a cotton gauze-ish material with enough weight to it that I didn't need to line the dress. Matching the plaid was a nightmare as it's a crazy one way plaid. I did well to get the rows matched across the bodice front. Fortunately it's a busy enough plaid that the non-matching seams are almost unnoticeable.

I don't think I'd make this dress again. While it's great for summer casual days, the way it fits is not how I generally prefer my clothes and it's not enough of a winner in terms of design to go to the trouble to alter the fit. But hey, it's done, it's cute and that's good enough for me.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Need some sewing advice

I've asked on a sewing forum, I've mentioned to some other friends and I'm asking here. I've just about finished version 2 of the dress that melted all over the iron two weeks ago. I've run into problems that are (once again) entirely self inflicted. This time it's because the fabric I chose is a little stiffer than it should be for the lines of the dress. You can see what it should look like at this link here.

Here's what I'm dealing with:

Front view

Side view

Yes, I could use a pin or brooch to sort of collect that fabric in the front but that's not the solution I'd prefer. I really want to have it drape in a cowl the way it's designed to. So any ideas? I'm considering getting a chain weight a la Chanel and hand-stitching it in the lining of the cowl but boy, that will make washing the dress quite difficult.

Got any ideas?

Thursday, September 5, 2013

A new neighbor

We have a grill out on the patio, but in all honesty we haven't used it this summer. It's just been out there collecting dust on the top and leaves underneath. Now it's also become part of the anchoring for a spider's web.

Our spider is no teensy, weensy spider crawling up the water spout. No, he's pretty big, easily half dollar size, not one you'd want to run into in the dark. The other day, a locust/cicada blundered into his web and it was good bye bug.

Seeing this spider makes me think of my older son who as a little boy and even into his teen years was utterly terrified of spiders. If he even thought for a moment that he'd seen one, he'd run shrieking out of the room. Once he got stuck in his bedroom on his bed because he'd spotted a spider but didn't know where it got off to.

So this picture is for him:

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Multipurpose cat


Hamper cat*

Lap cat
*Pay no  attention to the dirty clothes in the hamper. Please. 

PS This is my 1000th post. Wow I'm awfully long winded.

Monday, September 2, 2013

The way things were

Ben, me and Jordan
My timing on life transitions has always been a bit off. I got married incredibly young and had both my children within a couple of years. I’ve always been ahead of the curve for child-oriented milestones. I was 27 when my older child entered first grade, 29 for the younger one, and 39 and 41 respectively for their high school graduations.

Getting divorced in my mid-thirties had an unintended side effect of pushing me into the mostly empty nest phase way ahead of schedule. My ex believed, and I mostly agreed with him, that the boys should be with him. He had a stable job, plus he could be the male role model we both felt they needed. So in spite of my very strong wishes to the contrary, my children didn’t live with me.

Let me tell you, it’s really odd to be a woman, a mother in your mid 30s and not have your children living with you. I experienced a lot of judgment (I must have been a bad mother to “lose” my children or no, maybe I was an unloving, selfish mother who “gave away” her children), I wrote endless bad poetry about how wretched that felt, I questioned my role in life, my identity and my worth because my children lived with their dad.

(They did both end up back with me but that’s not the point. I went through that transition and felt every awful bit of it.)

Now I have friends going through similar big life transitions – divorces, kids moving out, or entering high school or junior high or first grade. I watch them go through the same feelings I did and I’m oddly reassured that what I felt was quite normal.

And I want to tell them what they’re feeling is normal. That yes, you do wonder who and what you are when your children no longer need you 24/7. You wonder if you don’t exist for your children, well then what do you exist for? And how do you fill the time when you don’t need to cook and clean and clean and cook and do endless loads of laundry and drive them around or loan them the car. What do you do?

If they asked, I would tell them to feel their feelings but don’t get stuck there. That’s a dangerous place to be stuck, squarely in the middle of a big “I’m useless” mud puddle. I’d ask them what they did before they had children, who were they then? Because they are still those women today only even more so. After all, they’ve given birth and raised those kids and no one goes through that process unchanged. I’d say the changing is good, the transition – while painful – is also good even if they can’t see it now. And I’d tell them that they will be needed in far different ways as their children move to adulthood, ways they can’t imagine now (or at least I couldn’t), and that being needed by your adult children is even more amazing than raising the helpless babies, getting through the toddler years, and even better than the high school years (which I personally loved).

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Maybe it's a plateau

Do cats hit dieting plateaus also? That's the only explanation I have for the cats' current weights.

  • Eddie: 17.4 (same from end of July, down .4 from two weeks ago)
  • Wally: 14.8 (UP .3 from the end of July and worse yet, up .4 from two weeks ago)
  • Chloe: 11.6 (same story, up .2 from the end of July and two weeks ago)

So cats are whining for no good reason other than they don't like the new dry food.