Baby Showers

I spent the afternoon at a baby shower for a friend. Is there any thing more “Distaff Side” than a baby shower?

Cucumber sandwiches? Check.

Mini pastries? Check.

Fancy teas served in real teacups, with saucers? Check.

I spent a lot of time figuring out what to wear. The mother-to-be is about 15 years younger than I am, so I fell into the trap of decisions – do I dress younger, to fit in better with the 30-something friends, or do I dress a bit older, to blend in with the moms and aunts? Also, it’s an artsy crowd, so I needed to avoid anything normcore.

I went for a “High School Art Teacher” look, with a Babette asymmetical white blouse, my wide-leg black jeans from Simplicity 3688 and my red bomber jacket from Simplicity 8174. I wore Cole Haan booties and this big heavy necklace made of some iridescent stones. The necklace was a big hit. You know you hit at least one right note when some Art History Ph.D. asks you where you got your necklace.

If I am close to the mother-to-be, I will sew up a little gift or even a small quilt. I am not that close to this friend, and I wasn’t sure how well “handmade” would go over with her anyway, so I bought something from her registry – this “Boppy” pillow thing. Whatever is it for? I couldn’t say.

It was a nice party. Thankfully, it was not one of those showers were everyone sits around for an hour watching the mom-to-be open presents. Rather, there was a little speech by the grandmothers-to-be, and otherwise we all mingled and snacked. I met a lot of fascinating people. It was fun to be among all women, of different generations, bumping in to one another and finding common ground.

I don’t have kids, so I don’t get the cultural parts of motherhood. One of the grandmothers-to-be speech was about this greeting card that she got back when she was pregnant with the expectant father. The card depicts an illustration from The Metropolitan Museum in New York. Turns out, the other grandmother-to-be got a photo album with the same image when she was pregnant. And two women among the guests got the same album when they were pregnant. Of course, this album was purchased as a gift for the shower. (Image: source)

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Everyone held this story up as proof of some cosmic connection we all have. The way I figure it, if you’re an artsy type, you’ll buy your cards and gifts at art museums, and art museums probably have a few staple cards they’ve sold  forever, based on items in their collections. So when you have a bunch of artsy people together, voila! Coincidences!

I bought my card at Walgreen’s, so what does that say about me?

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Why I’m Not Doing NaNoWriMo This Year

I flirted with but ultimately rejected the idea of doing the National Novel-Writing Month challenge again. NaNoWriMo (as it’s very geekily called) is a challenge to write a 50,000-word novel during November. That’s about 1,670 words a day, or about 5 to 7 pages, depending on how you write.

I completed the challenge, writing 50,000 or more words, in November 2013, 2014 and 2015. Each of those years, I followed professional writing disciplines, such as outlining the plot and completing character studies. In 2014, I volunteered as my region’s coordinator for the program, so I gave pep talks, set up “write-ins” at area libraries, fielded questions, held hands, and organized parties for the kick-off and the completion celebration.

I ended up with three very rough first drafts of novels, since 50,000 words is really more novella length – not enough for the complexity of my stories. I tried writing mainstream fiction, each based on a “big” concept or theme, such as sovereignty over one’s body, or technology’s tendency to disenfranchise people who don’t get it. Yeah, pretty heady concepts, and pretty pretentious, looking back on it.

I gave myself a break last year because of work pressures, and told myself I would instead work on revising the most promising of the three novels. Rereading the manuscripts, I was by turns delighted and horrified by what I’d written. I couldn’t really make headway on the best of the lot, so I set the whole thing aside for another day.

I have since tried “The Artist’s Way” to reconnect with my desire to write, but a roadblock proves immovable so far.

The work pressure is off this year, but I find myself unenthusiastic about trying again:

  • I don’t need a fourth unfinished half-assed novel in my life. I am afraid of failure and always driven to achieve things. Getting the “yay” moment at 50,000 words is nice, but it’s not enough for me anymore.
  • I’d rather spend my time doing other things, such as sewing, taking care of my health, and building my career.
  • The effort is not that great for me, since I can write very quickly and my long commute affords plenty of time. But the project took me away from my husband a lot in November; he resented it, and I felt guilty.
  • I never connected well with anyone in my community like I thought I would. I was hoping to make friends, or at least a colleague I could bounce things off of, but that didn’t happen. This sounds awful, but the people I met were all weird and I didn’t want to spend time with them. They probably regarded me as some entitled snob, which is true enough.
  • The NaNo crowd skews heavily toward genre fiction. I’m not putting genre fiction down, it’s just hard to relate to someone who’s writing what they hope is the next Twilight or Star Trek series while you’re exploring more down-to-earth themes.
  • My new job is more challenging than my old job, where I had lots of time to screw around. Many a time when I was supposed to be working at my old job, I’d be writing my novels instead. A couple times in 2015 I wrote during my lunch break on my personal laptop, but it was a weird thing to do in my office environment and it made me uncomfortable.
  • Part of me feels I need to get over this silly dream and just focus on my career anyway. I’m 47, for chrissakes.

I sometimes miss writing (but hey, I have this blog for that). I toyed with “pantsing” it, that is, writing a novel by the seat of my pants – no outline, no characters, no theme. But my control-freak mind would be most unhappy. I also toyed with the idea of doing something goofy, like fan fiction, just to do it – try something different, get out of the ol’ comfort zone.

Part of me feels sorry that I am passing this by. I really do want to write and to publish one good book in my lifetime. That may not happen for a variety of reasons, but if I don’t do the work in the first place, that will always be reason #1. Corny motivational sayings such as “winners are losers who gave it one more try” and “it’s never too late” are all true. Also, there is never a perfect time, let alone a good time, to do the work. You do it because you need to. You make the time for it. You sacrifice and scrimp and sow resentment if you have to.

There’s nothing magical about National Novel-writing Month. It’s just a month, just a goal, just a structured community to participate. I can do it any time. So why don’t I?

Weirdest Sleeve Ever

I was a guest blogger this week on Sewcialists, blogging about the “generation gap” between younger and older sewists, and their derision or devotion for indie vs. Big 4 patterns. Here’s a link in case you missed it and you want to weigh in. Oddly enough, the WordPress comments mostly were pro-Big 4, while the Instagram comments were mostly pro-indie. And there were plenty of comments from people who like both.

To prove that I am not that old, I do sew indie patterns from time to time. Right now I am working on the weirdest pattern I’ve ever tried, the Joker shirt from Oki Style:

Fascinating, no? I have been obsessed with it since I first saw it while reading up about the designer. Oki is originally from Mongolia and lives in Germany. She says that some of her designs are “experimental,” which is charming and true. But many, including this shirt, also look very wearable.

The Joker shirt accomplishes its asymmetrical shape both from lots of huge darts and pleats, and from asymmetrical pattern pieces. Here’s a picture of the cutting layout so you can see what I mean:

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Cutting layout for the “Joker” shirt from Oki Style.

Piece 8 is the heavily darted and pleated asymmetrical back piece – definitely not a “cut on the fold” job! And it takes almost every inch of a 60″ wide shirting fabric.

I spent 7 euros (about $8 US) for the pattern and $4 to have it printed on large-format paper at my local printing shop, because I wanted to tissue-fit this before sewing it up and the thought of taping this crazy thing together made my brain ache. (This is a good example of an indie pattern that is not overpriced, BTW.) I added extra seam allowances too – 1.5 cm to everything but the collar pieces, just to have a bit more wiggle room. If I don’t need the room and if I feel extra insane, I will flat-fell the seams.

I was mostly worried about the sleeves, since I usually need full-bicep adjustments for my dinner lady arms. They’re sort of a raglan sleeve/yoke combo – piece 10 in the layout is a yoke of sorts, cut on the fold, that has a raglan shape at the neck and also wraps partly down the back of the arms. The unnumbered piece in the layout is the rest of the sleeve, cut on the bias. Here’s how they work together.

IMG_20171029_140133 The fit was fine! Good to know, since I have no idea how I could adjust this. Plus, a bias-cut piece will probably help with fit and movement if it’s a bit tight. Also, I am using some stretch shirting for this. It’s plain white fabric, but I can see this looking very interesting color-blocked or with a pinstriped fabric too.  The wrong side shows a bit at the hem, which could also be interesting, with the right fabric.

It seems like a quality pattern for other reasons. There’s a proper collar with a collar stand, and a hidden button placket, which I adore. Wish me luck!

Don’t Raise Your Hand

I’m back home from an overnight business meeting. Another meeting where men dominated and treated women dismissively, and women (myself included) did dumb things that didn’t help.

The meeting was for an industry group of people in technology. There are six women (three of whom are lower-level staff people) and 20 men (including two senior male staff people).

Monday night, at a dinner at a steakhouse (natch) where do I end up standing during the cocktail hour, but with two of the women, who talked the whole time about their kids and families while all the men talked shop. I peeled myself away and tried in vain to insert myself into more substantive conversations.

Then for the meal, determined to break in with the real action, where do I end up sitting but at the “girls’ table” with the three other women! I ran to the bathroom before the meal and when I returned, all the seats were taken except for two, next to the other three women and one of the women’s male coworkers. Those seats were vacant, of course, because none of the men wanted to sit at the “girls’ table.” I made the best of it, and we had good substantive conversations, but the worse tendencies of men and women in business were off to a bad start.

One of the men who led the meeting is always welcoming and engaging. The other one literally ignores me – it’s like I am not in the room. I made it a point to say hello to him and to engage him in conversation.

At the meeting today, I intentionally crossed the room to avoid the other women and sat in the middle of a pack of men. I engaged them in conversation and we had a good meeting. Then during a Q&A after a presentation, I could not get my question in. The men kept talking over me. At one point I actually raised my hand like a schoolgirl, which just made it all worse. Eventually I half rose out of my seat and just talked over another man  – the jerk I mention above – to get my question in – really just steamrolled him the way everyone had steamrolled me. The question was answered and sparked a good debate.

At the afternoon break, over coffee, the man who did the presenting actually said to me: “Did you get what you needed out of the presentation? You didn’t ask a question.” “Yes I did!” I shot right back at him. “I asked about X.” “Oh yeah,” he said, backing off, “that’s right.” I grabbed my coffee and walked away.

The meeting concluded with a man in the group taking credit for an idea I have been pushing for a year. It was a minor point after everything else that day, but it just felt like the last straw. I took an early train home.

If you find yourself in this situation:

  • Don’t stand around with a gaggle of other women shooting the shit. Look to see who everyone else is talking to, and talk to that person.
  • Never sit at the girls’ table.
  • If you have a question, ask. Don’t raise your hand and wait to get permission to ask. Just do it.
  • If someone does something sexist or even just thoughtless (hard to tell sometimes), call him on it, right away.
  • Be in the present. Get your ideas down early, speak up, repeat yourself if you need to before the men will listen.

Appreciating the October Garden

The trees are just starting to turn here in Connecticut, but the weather’s been unseasonably warm and sunny and we haven’ had a hard frost, so flowers are still blooming. It’s a funny time of year for the garden, with pruning on the agenda, as we wait for the leaves to fall and for the annuals to die.

I harvested the last of the tomatoes and basil, and pulled them out of the raised beds for compost. I’ll process the basil with some olive oil and salt and freeze in mini plastic containers to use all winter. The frost had kissed, but not killed the green basil, and there was a little of the red basil left. It didn’t produce that well this year. The tomatoes were spent.

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I harvested more broccoli but left the plants alone for the most part. Despite harvesting almost every day, eating a lot and blanching some to store in the freezer, some broccoli flowers and goes to seed. I love these humble broccoli flowers, and so do insects. You probably can’t tell from this picture, but there are at least 9 species of insect feeding off these plants, including four kinds of bees, two kinds of moths, a ladybug, some other small flying bug I can’t identify, and one noisome garden pest – these gray aphids that form huge masses on the plant and suck the life out of it.

I prune off aphid-infested stalks and let the rest of the flowers go. The bees get rather aggressive at this time of year, as the flower supply dwindles.

While autumn color is still a few weeks away, my blueberry bushes are doing their own thing. I have three varieties in my garden, and they’re all donning their autumn colors on their own time.

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The fully green bush to the left is the “Blue Crop” variety, a midseason berry. Its scarlet neighbor is “Jersey,” a late season berry and the coppery neighbor to the right is “Earliblue,” an early variety, of course.

We pruned the lilacs and holly bushes so they won’t crowd the driveway and sidewalks this winter. I still need to do the roses, but that will have to wait for another day.

Cheap and Easy… and I Am Not Talking About Myself

I finished my first project from my Magic Quadrant for Sewing Project Selection: a sweatshirt from the “cheap and easy” quadrant, in the “need” category.

 

The pattern is out-of-print Kwik Sew 3452 (copyright 2007) and I added the kangaroo pocket from the dress in Simplicity 8174. It’s just the right size to hold my cellphone. I am going curling Saturday night, so I will wear it then. It ‘s made of a light 100% cotton sweatshirt fleece – the perfect thing for layering.

This was indeed a cheap and easy make. I got the pattern for free from a friend at PatternReview.com, got the zipper for $1 in New York’s Garment District, and the fabric cost about $10 from Fashion Fabrics Club. The biggest expense was thread. Since this has 1/4-inch seam allowances, I constructed it on the serger. I needed to buy three cones of red serger thread, which set me back $12. Since red is my favorite color, I decided it was a worthwhile investment.

So far, so good with the Magic Quadrant to help me select sewing projects. I decided that for every two “needs” I sewed, I’d do a “want” project. I also decided to do cheaper “needs” and save my money for a big “want” project in the “expensive and difficult” quadrant (upper right). That left the two “needs” in the “cheap and difficult” quadrant (upper left):sewing plan 3

I flipped a coin and got “button-up shirt.” To keep costs low, I’ll use fabric and a pattern from stash. I have 2 yards of really nice white stretch cotton shirting, bought last year at Banksville Designer Fabrics in Norwalk, Conn.

For patterns, I have four choices in stash, all of them “difficult”:

  • Crazy asymmetrical “Joker” shirt from Oki Style.
  • Adapt McCall’s 6696 shirtdress to just make a blouse.
  • Camicia 10 from the August/September 2016 issue of “La Mia Boutique” an Italian sewing magazine similar to Burda Style.
  • Camicia 37 from the same magazine.

Adapting the McCall’s shirtdress to just a shirt may be more trouble than I’m willing to take on, and I want a long-sleeved shirt anyway.

The two Italian sewing magazine shirts are nice-quality patterns and I was delighted with the fit on the sleeveless blouse I made earlier this year. But these are more complex projects and my Italian is not up to the task. Plus, Camicia 10 is really more suited to a silk or rayon georgette or other light fabric than a stretch cotton shirting. Camicia 37 has cool details, such as armpit gussets and interesting pockets, but it’s “plus size” (in Italian called “donna piu” or “more woman”). The smallest size would be big in the bust, so I’d need a sad “small bust adjustment,” but the fit would be good for my waist and hips. And it requires a bit more than 2 yards of fabric.

So, I chose the “Joker” shirt. It fascinates me, with all its darts and asymmetry. Plus, we at PatternReview.com have a little sew-along right now for “lonely” patterns that have no reviews. So I called “dibs” and now I have to deliver.

Blogging About Weight Loss

When I lost 50+ pounds several years ago, I ate controlled portions of real food, I exercised, I recorded everything, I weighed myself once a week – all pretty standard weight-loss disciplines. I also kept a blog that I updated almost daily. This blog was a big factor in my success. It was hosted on a platform restricted just to dieters, so I never encountered trolls, but rather took in a lot of encouragement and good ideas. I made a few friends, although I don’t hear from any of them anymore.

I kept the blog from 2010 to 2016, when the blogging platform shuttered. Right before it did, I copied all my blogs (more than 1,500 of them) into several Google Docs files, so I could have them for all time. I even copied many of the comments.

I was looking for some info in an old blog recently but I found myself reading every blog I wrote in 2011. It took a couple of hours. At that time I weighed a little less than I weigh now, fluctuating 8 pounds or so. It seems like a long time ago, and it seems like yesterday.

How many of the same issues still bother me? A blog about a binge. A blog about a fraught family meal. Some health issues. Some work stresses. Shopping trips full of joy at smaller sizes and stylish looks. Resolutions to swear off sugar, or alcohol, or whatever else ailed me at the moment.

I will never change. I will fight to keep the weight off as long as I live. It’s part of the deal, sorry to say. I have accepted that.

I have not written much about weight loss here because I feel like I said it all already in that other blog. Besides, who cares? It’s one thing to write in a dedicated platform, but quite another to put struggles and ideas out there for everyone to see.

I realized something, however, when reading my old blog. I really wrote the thing for myself. If other people read it, commented, and formed friendships with me, that was great. But mainly I wrote the blog so I could remember what the weight-loss struggle was about, because I was dedicated to the idea that someday I would lose the weight, and on some distant day, I would not remember what it was like to be so overweight and unhealthy.

That has been 100% true.

So, I may post about weight loss from time to time. It’s definitely a distaff-side pursuit anyway.