Wednesday, December 26, 2007

I thought I had something to say

but maybe I don't. Skirt Madness abated a bit over the Christmas holidays, although I foresee another couple skirts making their way into the world over the next few days. I'm getting faster, if not better.

In other news, I woke up irritated today, even though the last several days have been quiet and happy and nice. Don't you hate that? You're just living your life and boom! Irritated for no reason.

For Christmas, C bought me my metric tonnage in DVDs and books, and topped it all off by getting me an iPod shuffle, which is tiny and purple and sounds gorgeous. My friend Diane accosted me Saturday night, demanding to know why I hadn't finished the story I sent her the first chapter of, so that's got me motivated to get back to it. And I got to see some of my other absolutely favorite people Saturday night, Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday. That's a lot to be grateful for.

In fact, I have a lot to be grateful for. My year was terrific. Let's stroll down memory lane, shall we?

In January, not only was there a lot of writing, but C set me up with a bitchin' encaustic workshop downstairs so I could learn how to paint with hot wax. This has been the gift that keeps on giving, let me tell you.

February brought lots of poetry because I wasn't writing. Jenny also made me a mod over on the Cherry Forums, which has been wonderful and fraught in equal measure.

March was one of the happiest months yet. I went to see Dave and Carrie (and their adorable child) in Denver, and I also got to see Heidi in Iowa, where there was much talk of writing and many breakthroughs, not to mention collaging and music and her darling daughter Anna and very cool husband Dan.

April and May were hard. C and I had a couple bad days, then my grandmother had a stroke. But we ended that spell by road-tripping out to Arches National Park, which was gorgeous and stunning.

June was spent gardening, painting odd little things with hot wax, and lolling about in the sunshine. I am not ashamed of my lollery. Oh, also, C surprised me with a used Honda Metropolitan scooter. Yes, my husband does rule.

And so, July was spent tooling around on it. I bitched about writing, I made Pat Gaffney's blog (while it was still up), people came to visit, whatever. July was all about the wheels, baby.

August came, and with it some really hot weather. I have blocked it out of my memory. Mostly it was about painting and crafts and this strange rash. August: best skipped.

September was about road trips and babka and fulminating over the Seattle Public Library. Again.

October - month of my birth, all ye faithful - was a great month. There was a gathering of the mighty in Cincinnati; then my mother came to visit, which was a total blast. I turned 38 and I did a lot of writing. October is always good for me.

Then November came and with it, a trip to San Diego to watch one of my favorite people graduate - not to mention some gorgeous crisp fall days, and more writing. I wrote a children's story that I really liked, so I sent it off to a publisher. I won't hear back until something like 2011, but that's OK. The act of writing it and then sending it off, hopes attached, was the main thing.

I also landed in a cast for a month on account of a tear in my Achilles. Have I mentioned I am still in the cast? Longest goddamn month ever, in other words.

And that brings us to December. I sprang into action, reupholstering furniture, baking like crazy, buying a sewing machine, learning how to sew, and making myself some bitchin' new skirts. December: Not a bad month.

So when I whine about not getting as much accomplished with my writing as I hoped I had, all I have to do is look at the other things I did. Life is for writing, but it's also for living. I got to spend time with all the people I really love this year. I learned how to paint and upholster and sew. I moved in a new direction with my writing. This, after all, was a very good year.

Some things that 2008 might bring: learning to work with PMC clay (fine silver clay that you form and then bake in a kiln), getting better at encaustics, and maybe getting a digital SLR and getting back into photography. So there's lots to look forward to.

Thanks for sharing 2007 with me, and see you in 2008, babies.

Monday, December 24, 2007

SkirtFest continues!

During SkirtFest, C and I got to dog-sit for his folks. Her name is Kay. Isn't she adorable?

We decided to dognap her, and sent this photo to her owners with a demand for 1 million euros in unmarked... euros for her release.

They wrote back that we should keep her for another month and then tell them how much we wanted for her. So we gave it up as a bad deal and I continued making skirts.
Turns out that making skirts is an excellent antidote to hellish work weeks. So two more skirts - and a matching wrap! - made their way into Brannon Hall this week. The first of which is a faux suede, as shown below.

That's the leg that isn't in the cast. I like that leg better these days. I have dreams about running, about getting back into the shape I was 3 years ago, before I committed to writing and let my body go to hell.
I need to figure out a way to commit to both. Right now, committing to either is hard.
But I digress. I was showing off my skirts.

This faux suede is polyester, and I thought it was a great bargain until I got it home and started cutting it up - and it erupted in static electricity. Now I'm worried that when I walk down the street, my thighs will start a fire. Yow!
Below is the other skirt I made, a straight skirt that I wore out to dinner with a bunch of friends on Saturday night.
Incidentally, if you're in Seattle and you want to have a marvelous night, gather your tribe and hit Cafe Campagne. The food was terrific and so was the service, and you can't beat CC for ambience. But the company was best of all. We all but shut the place down. I haven't laughed like that in a long time - not since CherryCon.

And I can't help but feel that my skirt had something to do with the festive mood we were all in. I mean, look at it! It even looks bubbly.
Incidentally, that slit is intentionally longer on one side that the other.
Actually, it's not. I lie like a rug. But you know, it looked super-cute on.

Up there is the matching wrap. I used the "wrong" side for the skirt - the less shiny side, which is more pink and less orange, so that my butt didn't look like a neon sign when I had it on. But for the wrap, I used the "right" side, all shiny and nice, all the better to show off my ta-tas.
Note the cockeyed zipper, too. I'm making skirts, yeah? I never said I was making them well.
I probably looked insane, but you know? I felt damn Christmassy. This is a nice change from last year, when I was sinking into the pit of hell - er, depression - and didn't feel a damn thing except tired and worn out. Pharmaceuticals: they're a good thing.
But you can never take a vacation from yourself, can you? There's something I've been struggling with since early November, when I lost it on a group blog. Since then I've wondered how that affects what those people think of me. I've been really worried about it, alternately feeling guilty for going all Type 8 on people and feeling resentful at (perceived) slights.
And it's very possible I'm being oversensitive. I excel at being oversensitive. But I'm also really good at reading other people.
Fuck it. I think I need to put that away this Christmas. How about making this Christmas a guilt-free zone? A zone where we are our own most ardent supporters, where we love ourselves no matter what? I think I'm up for that.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Skirts Were Made

They're Frankenstein skirts, but skirts they are. They have darts and facings and lots and lots of loose threads. You don't want to see the seams.

This is a photo of me wearing the skirt, or rather of my midsection reflected in our filthy bathroom mirror. I made it from upholstery fabric. There's a joke somewhere in there about my ass, but I am too late for work to make it.
Also? The ribbon on the (low, hip-slung) yoke has wire running around the inside of it, which props up my belly nicely. That makes this the first underwired skirt in existence.

In fact, it's given me an idea for a whole new line of women's skirts. Next I will develop an underwire for my butt, holding it aloft. Lift and separate, baby. Lift and separate.
Here's a better view of the fabric, which I love:

Skirty skirt skirt

Those aren't actually polka dots, you know. They're periods.

OK, well, some of them are ellipses.

The Daily Skirt

Skirts have been made.
There will be more.

In fact there would be a photo of the skirt I'm wearing right now if Blogger would just cooperate. It let me get three or four photos in and then cut me off like a bartender at 2 a.m. And I'm late for work, too. Work has been bad this week, bad and dysfunctional and unsettling, and I am ready for everyone to go away for the holidays. The bluebirds, they no longer fly out of my ass, singing a happy tune.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

OMG! Rachel has a blog!
Go check it out! Rachel's the fabbest. She makes me wish I lived in Yorkshire. Well, many things make me wish I lived in Yorkshire, but she's first among them.

Friday, December 14, 2007

One of those days

Some days, I look around and wonder what fairy godmother gifted me with this life, this husband, this dog, this me. I mean, sure, there are lots of other days when I'm snotty and half-crazed, and frankly this time last year I was heading into a dark hole.

But today was one of those blessed days, one of those days where I could see outside myself, see how lucky I am for my life. Blessed is the word for it, whether or not you're religious.

We've worked hard for the things we have, but I'm not talking about things. I'm talking about contentment, deep satisfaction with my life. It's not perfect but it's mine, and it's what I made. So much of life comes down to that: deciding to make something for yourself - something like peace, or comfort, or just a pleasant day - and then following through. Deciding to be happy.

Doesn't work all the time; in fact there are plenty of days when that doesn't work at all. But today, my friends, is not one of those days.

I hope you guys have a day like this soon too. Happy holidays to one and all.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

And that's the way it was

You've seen the chairs. Now, the aftermath: the annual neighborhood progressive party.

First there was the decorating. Many tiny Santas were distributed about the house. Look at them: they're massing. This can't be good.

In fact, I think they are plotting against us.

Green things were draped over everything that was nailed down. This was mostly to slow down the Santas, who are known for scaling banisters and staring at you while you sleep. This is how they can tell whether you've been good or bad, after all. It's a whole Santa network.

We fight back with fake greenery.

I tried to get the dog into the act with a pair of antlers a la The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, but she was having none of it. This is her "You violated me!" face.

Actually, I believe this is her "FEED ME" face. The two are surprisingly similar.
But I had bigger fish to fry than slipping her Snausages, so I proceeded to make a lemon tart, my mother's brownies, a couple pumpkin pies that didn't make the photo-essay cut, and the piece de resistance: Ina Garten's chocolate cake, that four-hour festival of cake bakery.

This is the icing. It's fiddly as all hell, but by the end of it, you want to take a bath in the mixing bowl. That there's some meringue, about to be joined by well over a cup of butter and 18 ounces of melted bittersweet chocolate.

And here is how it looks when it's all mixed together. This is roughly when I start thinking, I don't actually need the cake, I can just make the icing. And then eat it ALL.

But good sense prevailed, and cake was made. If anything, the cake batter is even better than the icing, so the fact that I actually managed to get two cake pans relatively full of cake is a Christmas miracle.

More miraculous, the icing actually ended up on the cake. Well, most of it did. I screwed up the icing so I told people it had "flakes of bittersweet chocolate" in it. That's spin for you, folks.

And oh my, the cake, she was good. But I figured we didn't have enough chocolate for little grabby neighbor-kid hands, so I made my mom's brownies.
That's where the trouble started.
My stove, she is old, and she has little spinny knobs that spin and spin, particularly if you brush against the oven while, say, BAKING SOMETHING. Something like brownies. Doing that makes the temperature knob spin from a nice bakey 350 to a nice broily 500 degrees. Luckily I smelled them blackening--I swear, burning chocolate sets off a race memory equal to that of a forest fire--and pulled them out before they really got charred.
The real news, however, is that the resulting mini-temper tantrum convinced my husband to take matters in hand. Later that night, he whisked me off to Sears under cover of darkness, and in about 15 minutes I had a new stove on order, not to mention a new refrigerator and a new dishwasher.
My husband: I think I'll keep him. Here are the brownies that began it all:
As if that wasn't good enough, the real coup of the evening was the lemon-curd tart that I made up on the fly.
Ina Garten has a recipe for lime-curd tart that I looked at and dismissed as too fiddly (this from the girl who spends four hours making a chocolate cake, mind you), so I zipped over to the local food pornery, bought a couple pots of lemon curd and a tart pan, whipped up a pie crust and covered the top with raspberries when the tin foil got a little too cozy with the lemon curd. And voila! Lemon Curd Tart was born.
And let me tell you, this sucker was gone in 15 minutes. My neighbors sucked it down like their mouths were Hoover attachments.
Everything kind of fell apart after that. The next day I fell perilously ill, got the news that I needed to get back into my walking cast for at least another month, and heard from my husband that the new stove wouldn't fit, and furthermore, the new refrigerator was too big for our century-old house's kitchen.
So more trips to Sears were made, the walking cast was bitched about, and I am out of Kleenex. Balance has been restored to the universe.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

If I'd really been thinking,

I would have started that post below with something like "It all started because of the bathroom curtain."

Or possibly, "I blame Heather."

Oh well. I have 40 people coming over for dessert tonight. I have to bake.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Still Life with Staple Gun

This is one of my dining-room chairs. That grey stuff in the seat? Horsehair. Notice how it picks up the dirt in the rug. Now that's coordinated decor.

These chairs, and the table that goes with them, are family heirlooms. Mom gave them to me in 1996 and made me swear on my life to protect them*, in a scene not unlike that one from Fellowship of the Ring where Frodo's just, you know, doing some gardening or whatever and Gandalf goes up to him and hisses, "Keep it secret! Keep it safe!" as his eyes roll around in his head.

They're about 100 years old, made in London and imported by some chichi person to Houston, Texas, where my mother snapped them up and kept the whole set clean and perfect for years and years before handing them down to me.

They are fabulous, no? The history! The little curvy legs! The disintegrating leather!

I never even thought about having them reupholstered. My parents never had them redone, so I figured I got a pass, too.*

At least, that is what I will tell myself, late at night, when I realize that I lived with these chairs for eleven years while they steadily deteriorated. I had people over! I made them sit in these chairs! They probably caught something.

Look at that. It's like chair mange.
OK, so now that you've seen my chairs, imagine what my old bathroom curtain looked like.
And now imagine that 30 of my neighbors are going to be trooping through my bathroom on Sunday. In other words, seeing how we really live.
Obviously this could not stand. Heather had told me that Pacific Fabrics and Crafts was packed full of interesting prints, and so I skipped down there yesterday at lunch to find a couple yards of fabric that I could safety-pin to the curtain rod in the back bathroom.
I avoided the quilting section because if I see fabric with cowboys on it, I will buy it, and I do not want to look crazy in front of the neighbors.
So I headed for the back of the store, where there are huge bolts of non-crazy fabric--among them a lime-green Nubuck. I fell in love with it, and it hit me: I could reupholster something with this.
Something like the heirloom chairs malingering in my dining room.
But there was only the one color. I stood there, trying to convince myself that C would not leave me if I recovered our 100-year-old chairs in lime green, knowing otherwise. So I gave it up as a bad job, found some fabric that looked like something an adult might hang in her bathroom, and headed for the check-out counter.
That's when I saw the 50 other bolts of Nubuck, in every color a person might want, including a light sage green that looks gorgeous against old oak.
And that, my friends, is when I became an upholsterer.
See below, Step 1: Flip the seat thingie out of your chair, prop on table, gasp at the sheer number of tacks, staples, and itty bitty nails you will have to pry out.
Here's what they don't tell you about Step 1: when you are done, your hands will be completely sliced up, and the chairs look like they are completely fucked. Your mother's words from 1996 are still ringing in your ears, and you have just dismantled the dining set she holds dear.
So really, you can only hope the injuries to your hands will result in your swift death. You've got a pretty good shot at that, actually, since your wounds are covered in century-old horsehair.
But never mind. Staunch the bleeding and keep at it. Your husband is away on a business trip but he's coming home in 24 hours, and you're hosting the annual neighborhood do in 72 hours. You have no choice but to persevere. And drink.
As did I. This is how my chair looked in its denuded state. It's very Zen, no? Reminds me of an assignment in my 10th grade drawing class.

Note how tightly the leather was wrapped through the corners. I documented this, assuming - wrongly, as it turned out - that I'd be able to duplicate it. Ha! Those London upholsterers knew their shit.

They somehow figured out how to fold the corner bits so that when you pull them, they accordion up, but otherwise lay flat. This, I never managed.

Note the wineglass in the background. Never use a staple gun without fortifying yourself first. I think it says that right on the package.
Why did I need fortifying? Because when I finally peeled years and years of burlap and horsehair and strange, lightweight material from the bottom of the chair, this is what I found.
My chairs, the family heirlooms that were made in London back in 1911, the table and chairs that every single other person in my family lusts after?
Those chairs were once a dartboard.
So much for some artisan toiling away in a basement.

This is one of the other chairs. They're a matched set. And actually I don't think they were so much a dartboard as some price wall in a mercantile or a grainery or something.

Once I figured that out, I figured the hell with documenting this; next thing you know I'll find out that they're actually the illegitimate children of faux Shaker and Danish Modern, and they only look old.
So I spent the next four hours laying down two-inch foam, covering it with batting, stapling the shit out of it, and then stapling the Nubuck over the whole mess, really really tightly.

I have to say, this was the best hundred bucks I have ever spent. Look how pretty! At first I worried that the seats were too poufy, but you know what? COMFORTABLE. I no longer feel like a penitent at Mass.

And look at that corner, will you? It's a thing of beauty. And they all turned out like this! Shocking! I don't actually have to leave the state!
Reupholstering: I highly recommend it. As long as you have plenty of wine and bandages.
*Both of these statements are completely untrue.

Thursday, December 06, 2007


There has been some baking lately, my friends. My ass is once again threatening to burst free from its trappings and shake the world into earthquakes. But oh, how good it is to bake.

Baking something for someone you love just feels good at the bone level. You know you're introducing something sweet into their lives. How could baking ever be bad?

Well, ask my blood sugar levels.

This all started with CookieFest 2007, over at the fabulous Heather's, where I met brilliant and funny people and ate my weight in sugar and champagne. Then C jetted off to Florida for some work thing--having the nerve to grumble about it, too--and as he was packing, we learned that we're hosting the dessert portion of the annual neighborhood progressive dinner. This Sunday. For 30 or so. Which means there will be more baking to come.

So last night I cruised through all eleventy zillion of my cookbooks, looking for recipes. Lime curd tart, chocolate cake, pumpkin pie, my mom's brownies - they've all made the cut. But they pale compared to the cinnamon rolls I made last night.

The recipe's from a Cooks Illustrated book (New Recipes) and it could not be simpler. The rolls come out beautifully with a minimum of fuss, the recipe is precise and easy to follow, and the rolls themselves are sheer heaven. And by that I mean they are capable of putting you in an insulin coma within seconds. Mmm, insulin coma! Bring it on.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

To Do

I suppose it is about time for a check-up...