I’m glad it happened, really. Things have been going so well on the Christmas front. Tiny, well-crafted yet frugal gifts; homemade music and Christmas cards out on time (um, today, so expect yours soon), a few home-sewn items, a few excellent purchases from our local bookstore (yay!), several very well-curated bits of goodness (specifically for my mother and kids; I’ve owned it this year). This season people often ask how it’s going and I’ve been able to truthfully say Very Well, very pleased to celebrate and honor friendships and family, but I also laugh and add there’s some mini- (or, and I hope not, major-) disaster on the way –

So today after literally sewing until I bled (Stabby McNeedleson) I put the finishing touches on the lovingly-crafted button-up shirt I was making for my brother, made from crisp and delicious Essex linen/cotton blend and Pam Erny’s awesome pro-weft interfacing, and stitched up all eight buttons with a trademark thread finish, 100% flat-felled seams (yes, including the armscye!) and a narrow hem to die for and a wonderful weight and hand and looking sharp. And I wash the shirt it and remove it to dry and press and immediately perceive THE FUCKING FABRIC HAD FURTHER PRESHRUNK, resulting in thoroughly ruinous interfacing/fabric bubbles that cannot be pressed out and cannot be ignored either as in, I will not be gifting this to my brother, no way. OH GOOD LORD NOOOoooOOOO

I can tell Ralph’s worried about money. By little subtle hints like his IM today that says, “I’m in so much pain right now, worrying about money.” Also more concrete sea changes like the fact instead of the typical breakfast cereal my kids like he purchased Junky-Os, you know the kind in the bag made of teflon-ass so a kid has to tear and tear and get a kitchen knife (unsupervised as I’m all Twittering and shit) and saw and tear and then suddenly BAM! the whole business asplodes all over the kitchen floor, which perhaps may even the financial savings inherent in a lower-grade purchase a bit moot, but my daughter cleaned the whole business up except for a tidy little pile of Os that later the cat was messing about with while tangling herself up in my serger foot pedal since the serger is sitting on my tiny kitchen counter since, even with a super crafty family, we have only one table, one, which is in the sewing room now which means we eat sitting on the floor again, no big deal but still.

Ralph and I are home at 1 AM after wrapping up Christmas presents at my mom’s house, our package for the Portland crew: my sister, my brother and his girlfriend (and her cat). At least I know my mom and the USPS won’t fuck-up the mailing of the package so all that will go well enough.

And that’s just all I have to say about all of that.

short & sweet & utterly spent

Portland: a beautiful and exhausting trip.  It rained all the way down but let up to a bright coldness as soon as we got there.

The Inn at Northup Station was really fabulous. The kids loved it times One Million – the oldies, the roof garden, the very, very BRIGHT colors, the king-size bed and kitchen (the kids tiptoed on stools to get at drinking classes) – the whole bit.  A great rate too – they don’t charge extra for your kiddos and our suite came with a kitchen! Plus, GIANT JARS OF TOFFEE on each table in the lobby!

Candy Candy!


After checking in we ran to the next door suite to check in with Karen and her daughter Ella – both of whom had had been working themselves silly with partner Shelly – then we settled into our room, unpacked a couple things, and ran down to SE to pick up my brother and get a late dinner. Billy suggested Imbibe and it was a wonderful choice. Everyone was hungry, but Billy and I ate and ate and ate. I had a delicious dinner (including seared ahi and a garlicky caesar salad and a burger, hell yes) and a decidedly sub-par bloody mary. I even shared the ahi with Billy and let him have one more piece than me. I didn’t say so right away. At first he ate the garnishy stuff and avoided the last piece, like a gentleman. Then I said he could have it, in my best gentleman-voice. Then he pretended not to know that he was getting one more slice than me, at which point his love of the deliciousness won out over our mutual silent shows of gentility, and it disappeared into his wolfish mystery-beard.

So seriously though I could have eaten about five plates of that ahi.

Back at the hotel I spent the rest of the night working alongside Karen – nothing like a sewing marathon until 4 AM! – then crawled into two beers and fell into bed and had a really rough sleep.

In the morning our kids woke themselves up while Ralph and I packed our few things. This even though they’d stayed up as late as I had!

Nels, model: “I’m pretty sure there’s a lot more to life than being really, really, ridiculously good looking.” Like bananas and brownies in bed, for breakfast:

Our Little Model

Despite having little sleep and having to leave the much-cherished suite, both kids cheerfully had their breakfast, brushed teeth, got dressed and in all ways re-joined in the adventure.

Nels wasn’t feeling quite right: sadly, he was constipated (an issue we haven’t run across since the very occasional incident in his infancy). He wasn’t in pain but he was apprehensive about the, um, work that was ahead for him. I was very tender to him and, after finding the shooting locale and while we waited for his photoshoot, he lay on the couch with his head in my lap and I stroked him. But when it was Go Time he did his thing like a champ. He had the photographer, her assistant, and a couple moms laughing very hard (I watched some of the shoot, but not all). A lively little spirit.

I can’t post pictures of any of the snaps I took at the Patterns by Figgys photoshoot but I can tell you it took place in the lovely Z-haus in the home of the designer. There were about eight or nine kids running about up and down the stairs and playing outside. It really was a lovely time and even the length of the photoshoot didn’t seem to get the little ones down. Nels’ constipation also resolved (he came out of the bathroom and said, “My condensation’s gone!”) which made him happy as a lark. And truly, I felt relieved as well.

Afterwards our plan (as authored by the kids) was to find a to find a kaiten-zushi restaurant: but after locating Sushi Ichiban and parking we walked around the block to find it closed – from 2:30 to 5 PM (dammit)! We used the opportunity to stop at VooDoo Doughnuts and peruse their fun creations (if you’re into that sort of thing, and yeah I got the maple bar with bacon on top) and a cup of coffee. Then a quick call to my brother (because no, we don’t have a smartphone) to get directions back to the sushi train; we walked two blocks to Sushiland.

Fried Asparagus, Cream Cheese, Roe, Some Kind Of Hot Sweet Mayo Sauce


Closing The Deal

Then to the park to play very rough with daddy.

Nels Waits

Swing, 1

Swing, 2


Portland was a bit sad. Very white (I’ve got nothing against white people, some of my best friends are white), not a lot of eye contact on the street, no children in the park. It was also rattling to be in the bosom of wealth one minute and then amidst many trolleys loaded with the few posessions of those sleeping rough. Ralph gave some cash but of course the number of people made it seem almost futile. Funnily every person we spoke with directly was quite friendly; and although I’d heard rumors of notoriously poor restaurant service I did not find this to be true at all and in fact everyone we came into contact with seemed to like their job.

We hit the road at about 4:30 and came home – Hoquiam never looked so good. I am not suited to undersleeping or rather, after not getting sleep I function best in my own home.

I wish I could express how delightful it is to be with my kids and how impressed I was with their conduct. Ralph and I give them everything we can give them – including their personal freedom and agency – and challenges like these last twenty four hours prove the concept. The truth it is was a long photoshoot today and Nels was both ill-slept and suffering from “condensation”, the latter of which had been causing him anxiety for the past twenty four hours – yet he still did great.

Another test of character: in the Z-Haus Phoenix was given the opportunity to entertain herself while waiting through the shoot. Whilst doing so she also played with the other kids including Karen’s little Ella. Karen so appreciated this – as she had lots of work this morning – that she gave Phoenix a thank you and a cash gift (and the two hugged one another sweet as you please). At our sushi date later Phoenix very adult-like requested to buy the family’s dinner; at $16 plus tip she was able to do so in entirety. A beautiful girl, inside and out.

It was also wonderful for the kids and I to see bits and pieces of the city, a rare pleasure for us (I can’t speak for Ralph, who is a bit more of a homebody). It would be lovely to travel somewhere and stay a bit longer sometime; maybe some day we will find the means to do so.

oh the suspense!

My favorite Hitchcock film – so far, as I haven’t yet seem them all – is Dial M For Murder. The director was brilliant – and yes I realize he had about a hundred and one issues with women, and none of them bore very good results – but. Still.

North by Northwest is another I enjoyed –

And of course, Vertigo. On my first viewing my favorite part was the nightmare sequence (which is, it goes without saying, far better viewed within the context of the film):

So of course, I thought I would make a baby bunting thusly. Because it just makes sense.


This was my first experience using Spoonflower’s printing service (you can view my brother’s uploaded designs at their site). I was very disappointed in the results of the twill, which faded quite a bit upon my initial wash (gentle, in cold water). However, I am not done with Spoonflower by any means. I’d like to continue to work with them (and if you, dear reader, know of another custom-printing house for small batches, let me know) although I feel some consternation I do so potentially at my own peril of lost-materials cost. An in-house screenprinting studio is hard to negotiate given we four live in a two-bedroom house… but my wheels are turning as I’d like to be able to do more with the fabrics I use.

Lined With Organic Cotton Softness

(Hee hee, lined in the iconic Vertigo poster art!)

You can read more about the construction and materials of this in the Flickr tagset. I put it up on my homesewn sub-site. And I’ve decided I need to make, oh… like a billion more sci-fi, classic, or B-movie-film-based clothing items.


Reaching out for something to hold / Looking for a love where the climate is cold

Today while sewing the Project of Ravelling Fabric Fuckery I had the pleasure of my husband’s laptop and a Rhapsody station. During the first half I elected listening to Hall & Oates. I should probably confess I have this deep and secret fantasy where my brother and I dress as the duo for Halloween (I’m telling you, the resemblance is already halfway there). Included in this little fantasy is also the fact we’d be performing some of their songs, I’m not sure how or in what venue, and this really makes little sense because I’m not sure either my brother nor I can sing, especially not at the levels of prowess this “blue-eyed soul” (Rhapsody genre names are fun!) pair evidences. Oh and my brother probably wouldn’t do this, ever. But a girl can dream, can’t she?

(Until today I’d misheard the line as “broken eyes still melt in the sun”, a gruesome image from my childhood, and P.S. I sincerely want that fashion for myself!)

More goodness, and I love how Oates is just kind of lurking back there:

(Two points: Oates’ MAGIC EYE BLINKS at 1:30 et al are awesome; secondly my sister is an actual private eye, which is obviously quite relevant, although as young ones we dressed up as Boy George (her) and Blondie (me), and Yes I’ll dig up a picture soon!)

Another one from my childhood. Even today this song strikes me as deeply moving but also very corny. I guess I really like that combo. Plus it reminds me of that time I went to that strip club with the pre-tornado Kansas wheat field theme:

(Embedding was disabled but you can view the video I remember – a better one – here.)

Video exposure to Tina Turner and Chaka Khan in the 80s was the first time I remember having the distinct pre-pubescent knowledge of a beauty I could never have. No jealousy or envy or confusion; I was unabashedly enamored with and amazed by their presence, their embodiment of Diva (although I didn’t know that word yet). I can still remember exactly where I was sitting and at what house I first saw the latter’s video for “I Feel For You” (I couldn’t find this video but I did have a great YouTube surf looking for it). I like feeling like a kid again every now and then.

Reliving this hit made me titter at my sewing machine. Probably because of the Scary Movie send-up, but the video itself is not without a giggle… Especially because the lyrics also sounded so inappropriately stalky and the video apparently decided to go with that:

(OK, a rather beautiful song but still. Phone calls like that? Don’t do ’em. Also: blind girls. EXTRA-SMILEY, virginal, passive and adorable – and far easier to stealthily follow!)

More Lionel Ritchie, but my point is I had the hots for Mikhail Baryshnikov when White Nights came out. I don’t remember anything about the film at all. Except Baryshnikov’s pants. Look, I was about eight. I still really like to watch men dance well.

In other news this performance came through the tweetstream today. Seriously, every time I watch Freddie Mercury live I feel so sad, joyful, fierce, weepy, amazed, enthralled:

OK, now don’t stay up all night practicing your white-guy hopping-and-bobbing-around dance movies!

wishin’ and hopin’ and thinkin’ and prayin’

The last few days have included much I’ve photographed but have not otherwise documented. A walk from our house to Casa Mia, a cool two miles, to meet my brother and his ladyfriend for dinner while they were in town. Along the way we experienced many illustrious things. Like:

The “Lowered Expectations” bridge tour:

Rod’s Diner (gone now fifteen years but we remember it fondly):
Gone Now 15 Years

A lovely bloom (as-yet unidentified because I haven’t made the time to crack my book and look it up!):
What Bloom Is This?

Outdoor couches:
Outdoor Couches Right after I took this photo I looked up and was startled to see a young man on the porch with a very large knife. But he was merely seeding a melon and throwing the remainder into the yard. I thought of how much my chickens would have loved those melon scraps.

Today? Like the immortal Ren McCormack said in that wisest of films Footloose, “We sewed our asses off,” except he said “dancing”, but who are you going to trust, it was not some stunt-gymnast in my sewing room today but me, for realz, and I sewed so very much, of which I shall show only one photo. Today’s installment is brought to you be Dusty Springfield whom I listened to for the afternoon (followed by Adele), stylish diva with impeccable vocal stylings somewhat squandered on perhaps the most pathetic torch songs ever committed to record.


And finally – more pickles! So many different kids I’m making. These look to be extra-awesome. Because of that motherfucking jalapeño you’re getting a glimpse of. It’s saying to me, “Hey, guess what, I’m going to be delivering some awesomeness to your face soon.”


Life is almost leaving me in the lurch; time to collapse into bed. It’s my nine-year wedding anniversary today (the 8th) and as of yet I have nothing much planned.

my whole life spins into a frenzy

Today’s video goodness is dedicated to my brother Billy.

You know, there was an era of music videos where they were good. Not mind-blowingly transportive, or overblown productions in excess of a small Eastern European country’s total governmental budget, or trying to do the Smuttiest Thing Ever, or dressing up celebrity stars in as many sexiful/outrageous outfits with enough jump cuts to induce epilepsy – Just: entertaining enough they’re fun to watch.

Any favorites, readers?

of flannel and warm fuzzies

August 4th, 2010
(I have three whole followers on my little food-update Twitterstream – and one of them is my own husband! Make no mistake at just how much of a nerd I am who does a bunch of stuff hardly anyone else cares about!)

Today one of my ladyfriends L. came to visit. She’d been a student of mine at GHC winter before last. I really like her. She’s sweet and funny and since she likes sewing and fabric well, we have plenty to talk about. I was a scattered hostess, trying to cook up the daily fare and talk sewing and try to keep my wits about me under duress because the neighbor kids were in and out and they were a little rambunctious. Within their first five minutes in my home they’d broken my back screendoor and put their hands in the goldfish bowl and smeared the results (combined with the extra stuff on their hands, a few of them are routinely very dirty) on my front door. While L. was here I made a chicken pot pie for the kids tomorrow and a devil’s food cake with fresh strawberries and cream for the lot today, which incidentally when I served the kiddos I only got back three out of seven forks; the rest are outside God-knows-where.

I enjoyed L.’s visit very much as she’s a person I genuinely enjoy. She brought me fabric gifts and I cut off a length of a lovely deep-purple satin for a project for my daughter.  Before she left I asked her what she might need. Her eye fell on three yards of a lovely Alexander Henry flannel I had on my shelf (dear reader, I image-searched to find you the pattern and now I am weeping and gnashing my teeth with fabric-lust! And I didn’t find the fabric anyway). It was a wonderful bit of yardage and perfect for the pajamas project she was contemplating. I rarely have more than a yard of any particular fabric anyway, as I am rather quick to sew up what I buy. Seeing this L. asked if I was sure I wanted to gift it. But I felt like absolutely; I’d had the yardage for about four years now and had stashed it away as one of those “precious” items but had not cut into it. It felt wonderfully freeing to gift it, part of this was happiness at giving a present that was well-received and part was happiness at letting go of my hoarding impulse.

In other news I am buried under email despite my best efforts. Some email provides a respite, something lovely to read. Some is designed specifically to get my goat. For instance, my husband and my brother Billy like to call me Bird and make fun of my beak and dirty feathers, delivering various pathetic attempts at wit and commentary now and then or emailing me pictures of fat and/or clumsy birds. They especially like to tease me if I’m sleepy or have had something alcoholic to drink.

So Billy writes, “Hey, I found a clip of you online.” and sends me this:

And finally. There’s something insulting about how much I run around trying to get shit done with THIS under my nose at every turn:

You probably aren’t even noticing Laurence’s back leg extended at maximum pleasure-stretch while he sleeps!! WHO LIVES LIKE THIS?! The only thing they like more than sleeping on my down comforter is sleeping on a pile of warm laundry on the down comforter. They get up to this about twenty hours a day. The rest of their time is spent eating food and liberally pooping in the litter box. Then once we’re in bed they form a rift in the Space-Time Continuum to make MORE time to fight viciously, usually in my hair, until my just-fallen-asleep ass has to re-stumble out of bed and throw them in the bathroom to sleep. And I am not even joking, they immediately stop horsing around and sleep. All night.

It’s a good life. (For them.)

nothing feels obligatory about it in the slightest

Just about every year for Thanksgiving we take in a person, or two, or three or four who either doesn’t want to be with their own family for Thanksgiving or doesn’t wanna, and we host them for the big dinner.  So yesterday morning my mom asked about this tradition of ours – if we were going to invite any “orphans” over.  I realized today – picking up the naval orange for one of my two cranberry sauces – that I don’t like the phrase “orphan” because it implies a sort of forlornness or wretchedness on the part of those who aren’t going to be with their relatives, and thus makes normative a certain type of family over other types – the latter chosen by will and intent, say, rather than just biology (to be fair, it was one of our “family-less” – as in, someone who had a family but didn’t want to be with them – guests who initially came up with the phrase “orphan”).

The holidays can be pretty damn painful for people.  Even when they’re mostly okay and things go pretty well, I know people sometimes feel deep pockets of sadness or lonesomeness or a descent into nightmarish familial patterns or a sense of wrongness.  Even if it is only an urban legend that suicide and depression rates are higher during holidays, it can sure feel the case (just today I received a message online looking for a man who’d driven away on Friday and who had friends were worried about him).

See, I know my mother pretty well, and I think her Thanksgiving isn’t turning out too awesome – yet.  Two of her three children aren’t coming up for it.  And although my mom is awesome in that she would never hint or guilt-trip them or even in the smallest corner of her heart think that her children “should” come up to see her (and neither do I), I also know that nothing pleases her more than when everyone does.  A thing to remember about my mother, sadly, is that even when she wants something it is very unlikely she would actually ask for it.  It’s taken me many, many years to really listen to what my mom really wants.  And to be honest, I don’t always listen, because sometimes I’m busy being directly asked for shit by my kids and husband, who are less likely to play the coquette.

Back to Thursday: my mother is not going to have dinner with her boyfriend in attendance, either.  They are still very much a couple (and are playing annoying hippie folk music upstairs as I write).  But he’s going to a place and she’s not going with him.  So, OK.

And all of this is okay, and no great tragedy.  And in the way of the suffering of many, many women I know, my mom’s little sadnesses generally don’t inconvenience anyone (ladies are good that way!) or even make themselves known to others.  In my mom’s coping and rarely-if-ever-asking-for-things-she-wants and always being so “laid back” (or at least, wanting to convey this appearance) one could forget she’s only been a widow for a little over a year.  You know, after being with my father for over 35 years.

I don’t really know the heart of my mother – although I suspect now that my dad is gone I’m the closest person who does.  For my part I plan to do my own, deliberate little bit to help her keep from a case of the Holiday Sadkins.  This morning I told her I’d like to cook all the food, if she would only buy the turkey.  She agreed to this with such alacrity I was immediately glad I suggested it.  (Let me tell you, this offer of mine did not come from an obligatory sense of rescue or my role as the matriarch to the family here at 6th and M.  It’s about 85% caring deeply for her emotional well-being and 15% because every goddamned year she annoys the ass off of me by saying, “And this year let’s make it a simple kind of thing, you know, not so arduous for us both.”  This makes me angry like a poo-flinging monkey because in no way do I find cooking a big meal arduous, I completely enjoy it! In fact no one has any evidence, anywhere, that I don’t really, really like to cook)*.

“Family” is a funny thing; we choose to be with those who comfort us, or feed us, or those we genuinely love. And before I was an actual mother to my biological children I thought a lot about myself and what I wanted. And now I think a lot about what other people want (even if I miss the mark a lot too – and I do).  I am not at all saying this post-natal experience of other-care is Natural or Universal (in fact, I think neither).  It’s just my experience.

Today at the store I stood in line behind a handsome man about my age dressed in fancy-looking tennis shoes, new jeans, and a North Face jacket.  He was well-groomed and quiet – his voice so low that when he turned and smiled and said something to my daughter I didn’t hear what he said.  I noticed we were fixing to have the same meal – spaghetti – for dinner tonight.  He was having a simple version – a small parcel of pasta, canned pasta sauce, and a loaf of bakery bread – while I had a basket full of parsley, baguette for toasting the bread crumbs in the meatballs, organic beef and pork, Parmesan cheese, crushed tomatoes, romaine lettuce, and butter.  In noticing his groceries I noticed he didn’t have a wedding band.  And I almost – almost – asked if he had a Thanksgiving plan, and if he’d like to come to our place to join us.

But I didn’t.

Who knows.  Maybe the guy isn’t single, just not wearing a wedding ring, and neither he nor his partner care to cook.  Maybe he’s happily single and that’s his favorite meal.  Maybe (likely!) he has somewhere totally awesome to be on Thursday.  Maybe he doesn’t give a fiddler’s fuck about the holiday.

Or maybe like so many other strangers I’ve offered a meal or a kindness to, it would have made his night just a little more pleasant to be asked, let alone attend in two days.  I will never know because didn’t get the ovaries up to check.

I hope at least he felt my friendliness behind him in the checkout line.

* No, really.  This is insane. Every year she talks like we’ll have a SMALL meal (we never do), and that whew-won’t-that-be-a-relief, when in actuality I look forward to cooking the meal.  Something I hate: when someone tells me how I feel – instead of listening to how I’m telling them I feel. Especially when they get it completely wrong. Especically when they’ve known me since I was born!

yes, i’m listening to confide in me: the irresistable kylie

When I ride or walk around my hometown a forgotten house, a sight of a neighborhood tree or the feel of the air, some small synapse gets triggered and I am suddenly reminded of someone I knew or something that happened I had completely forgot about until the moment it hits me. Today it was a surfaced memory of my brother and I. I think I was in ninth grade and going to go to a dance. I found this electric blue, fitted (but not whorish)* lace-overlayed dress. It was perfect for the semi-formal I was attending and my mom bought it for me from – what was the name of the shop? Jay Jacobs? It was just a bunch of shitily-made clothes for teens and young women but exciting to browse in the preoccupation of liberating oneself from kid-hood into female-ness.

So at home I put this dress on and was looking at myself in the mirror, my under-average-height 130-lb body and new perfect boobs and feeling very pretty and different. And my brother came into the room and I said, “What do you think?” and he said, “Oh…” and I said, “I feel kind of self-conscious because, you know,” and I gestured to what must have been the world’s least-significant slight potbelly (a “flaw” I sensed, rather than felt, would be a detriment). And my brother, Hades fuck him, said, “Well, yeah.”

I didn’t wear the dress; I returned it. Whatever burgeoning confidence I felt evaporated – maybe not because of what my brother says, who knows – and I remember what it felt like to hate my uncooperative and vaguely displeasing body. I of course excuse my brother who was as much a victim and participant in the gauntlet formed against young females as I was. What mostly I think is, I will kick my son’s ass if he ever says anything less than worshipful for his sister’s beautiful body (no worries so far; he loves her fully and completely). And of course, I remember how much I loved the blue of the frock, which I have never seen anywhere else (thank you, Taiwanese textile factory!).

Today I discovered my father is super-excited about Popular Science‘s DIY messenger-bag-cum-solar-cell-phone-charger. I don’t even know where he got the idea (it’s too bad the link doesn’t show a picture; it is kind of cute). Not only does he want to make one (with my husband’s help in choosing electronics), he thinks we should make them and sell them (WTF? I think maybe he was smoking some of his medicine). However despite the fact it is semi-strange for him to be soooo excited, Ralph and are actually so happy he has a project that involves us. I said, “You can show it to Ralph when he comes over tonight,” and he snorted, “What, time to borrow the lawnmower again?” (actually a software install for mi madre).

* Here’s another nice tidbit from dinner at my FOO’s the other night: totally unrelated to this story of the dress my mom, telling my husband how much she was glad I didn’t dress provocatively as a young woman. “I know, I know,” she crowed, “You’d think by her personality she’d be … you know … [a slut!] but she was actually very modest.” O-kay.