Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Preparing to Say Goodbye

Perhaps the holiday season is not the usual time for discussing loss and grief, but life and death do not always wait for a convenient date.

My friend, who shall be known here as D, is dying. D could be the poster child for a "Lust for Life" campaign. He loves everyone and has seemingly infinite energy and enthusiasm for any and all adventures. He’s fought prostate cancer for eight years, which is a testament to his personal fortitude and the amazing advances of modern medicine. But now the cancer has moved to the bone, and will not be diverted from its course.

While the details of cancer’s attack on the body are horrific, and the impending loss of a loved one is heartrending, it is comforting to know that in this post-industrial world where everyone is separated and we rely on machines for our everyday survival, our culture has begun to return to some of the old ways.

D is at home now for his final weeks, attended by his partner and children who are thankful for the existence of Hospice and opiate derivatives, both of which help diminish the physical agony aspect of death and allow them to squeeze in every last minute of togetherness and joy for this man. I’m not an anthropologist, but it seems to me that our species has a long history of ushering our dying members carefully and lovingly into the afterlife. This was lost briefly in the decades of the last century where we sent the elderly and dying to institutions “for their own comfort.” Now it seems there is a trend to keep our elders near us in whatever way we can, and to stay close to them as they die. I know not everyone has the opportunity to spend quiet moments with their loved one just before their death; there are too many things that can kill us unexpectedly. But given the opportunity - and plenty of assistance, I’m not suggesting that people give up their careers or put themselves into bankruptcy in order to keep an elder at home - it seems like home is the best place “for their own comfort.”

Who is D to me? As with most of my relationships, it’s a little hard to describe. Officially, he is the son of my partner’s mother’s late second husband. We are completely unrelated, and yet he is family. But a more meaningful description would be something like this: a kindred spirit, a brilliant artist who simultaneously laughs with childlike glee and takes the weight of the world on his shoulders, a man who assumes everyone is a friend unless proven otherwise, and, most simply, a good man.

Here are a few of the things I know about him:

D is a devoted family man – a son, father, brother, and husband, as well as uncle and in-law to many generations and at many removals.

D is a world traveler - he and his partner have traveled all over the globe, seeing beautiful sights and collecting incredible art objects.

D is an artist – actor, dancer, wearer of magnificent costumes.

D is a vintage automobile enthusiast – he’s collected some gorgeous cars and attended more vintage auto shows throughout the country than he can probably count.

D is so very generous – anywhere he goes, he comes bearing gifts selected with the recipients’ special interests in mind (a collection of vintage hand bags for me); he is always the suave host (even now as he is confined to bed he asks visitors if they’d like something to eat or drink); and he is unfailingly supportive and complimentary of other people’s efforts (the mud-green color I chose for my family room walls was universally hated by everyone but me, until D arrived and pronounced that that very color was going to be the next big thing.)

D leaves an indelible impression – the flash of his brilliant Hawaiian shirt as he inspects a vehicle at an auction; the happy grin as he dances effortlessly past, tossing and twirling a breathless partner; his solemn joy and pride in a special ceremony; the smiles of all his children, nieces and nephews, gathering around him at a picnic.

I wish for you a smooth ride to your destination, my dear friend.


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Caftans, Part Deux

The caftan craze continues: I took advantage of the many sales on Etsy as well as a couple of trips to the Goodwill and Savers, and ended up with an even larger collection of patterns.

My latest acquisitions:

And I scored these lovely Vogues:

This one eluded me for some time:
At first I couldn’t find it anywhere, then it popped up on Etsy for $60. Really, people? $60 for a 1970s pattern? I stopped obsessing about it for a week and then happened to be browsing through patterns on eCRATER, and there it was for $4. I've got you now, my pretty!

So if there are any other intriguing caftan patterns out there, please do not bring them to my attention. I really think eleven is enough. Although I'm still drawn to those Polynesian Patterns...

Caftans are great for burning through those 4- and 5-yard lengths of fabric that somehow get accumulated through free gifts, mystery bundles, and, okay, overbuying. I'll make a few out of odd fabrics I'm not completely in love with (pink and blue striped shirting?), and a few more out of insanely gorgeous fabrics (hello, magenta and chartreuse chiffon!). And as my friend at the local fabric depot says, "if you love sewing straight lines, you'll love making caftans." Straight lines, that's me.

I have a few already cut and ready to sew, and I’m hoping to get to them later this week. I have a feeling they'll contribute substantially to my quality of life during this uncomfortable (and growing more so) period of my life. I can make all the beautiful wool skirts and fitted dresses I want, but until I stop these raging hot flashes (I call them the "sweat-downs"), I won't be able to wear anything but very loose, very lightweight clothing. Plus, I can imagine myself looking cool and elegant, breezing around the house in my caftan, just like a pattern illustration.

Hope you all scored some great deals during the Black Friday - Small Business Saturday - Cyber Monday extravaganza.


Monday, November 28, 2011

When your novel finally admits it was a short story all along

Yes, it happens. What do you do when you realize that you’ve taken a decent short story idea and stretched it to the breaking point in trying to force it to be a novel?

Actually I came to this conclusion around the 20th of November. I wasn’t completely finished with the narrative of my main character but I knew I had little left to write and forcing more words out would just be a waste of time. I stopped writing for a few days, thinking about the story and writing in general. I considered various alternatives for amplifying the story, even going so far as the possibility of writing a completely new story and adding it in – two 30,000-word works would certainly exceed the 50,000 word minimum. There is no rule that says you can’t do that (in fact there aren’t really any rules at all about what you write). But that led me to the next thought – what if it was the same story told by another person? It’s been done before in books, and more popularly in movies. How interesting to view the same things through different eyes!

So I started writing about another, previously secondary, character in the story. Her personal history and how she experienced the main character’s story, and the later events that befell them together and separately, made up the rest of the book.

I was also wondering about novellas. Whatever happened to the novella? I don’t usually rely on Wikipedia as a primary source, but it does provide a good composite definition of the genre:

A novella has generally fewer conflicts than a novel, yet more complicated ones than a short story. The conflicts also have more time to develop than in short stories. They have endings that are located at the brink of change. Unlike novels, they are not divided into chapters, and are often intended to be read at a single sitting, as the short story, although white space is often used to divide the sections. They maintain, therefore, a single effect.
I like this definition, as opposed to simply applying a random word count to differentiate the shorter novella to the novel.

Judging by Wikipedia’s list of notable novellas, the genre hit its peak in the late 1800s – early 1900s. Famous books include Animal Farm, A Christmas Carol, Heart of Darkness, Of Mice and Men, The Strange Case of Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde.

There are several modern books on the notable novella list, but they are only an imperceptible fraction of the total works of fiction published in the last 30 years.

Why? Is it because of book prices? I suppose if I’m going to pay $25.95 for a hardcover (or whatever they’re going for these days) I would like it to be a hefty tome of at least 500 pages. Short stories are okay, but there’d better be a lot of them for the price.

Or maybe it’s the cost of printing? Or a marketing challenge – which bookstore shelf would feature something that isn’t a full-length novel?

Or is it just that readers don’t know what the novella is and so shy away from it unless it’s from a highly popular, productive author. I may be part of the problem rather than the solution. I don’t think I have ever bought a novella, and if I did, it was because I thought it was a novel.

So, my story is finished, at least for NaNoWriMo purposes, and it's a bit over 50,000 words, before editing. Too long to be read in a single sitting, so it doesn’t meet that criterion for a novella. Plus, it does have chapters. On the other hand, the conflicts are few and complex, and the story ends as the characters are on the brink of change.

I think it is a novella. And I’m glad it's done! Sort of. I think I'll have a few more comments on the topic when I get some distance from it. Soon I’ll be back to happy, crafty, lightweight things.


Friday, November 25, 2011

Changing Traditions

Holiday traditions evolve over time, not just within a culture, but within families, too. Children grow up and start new families, elders pass on, people move back and forth across the country (or the world) in search of better jobs or living conditions. New family units regroup and rethink and plan new ways to celebrate.

Part of the joy of my holidays now is just being alone with my partner to savor some peace and quiet, stuff ourselves with everything we like to eat, and count our many blessings. No more insane five-hour drives in pelting rain to arrive on time for a relative’s turkey dinner, no sleeping overnight at the airport because of delayed flights back home, no worrying that you’ll stir the gravy wrong and piss off your mother-in-law, and no cringing when old Uncle So-and-so gets to the bottom of his third scotch and starts blowing off steam.

Ah, solitude.


Enjoy your holiday weekend!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Big Picture

Although I'm usually the first one to indulge in holiday excess and conspicuous consumption, every so often something reminds me that there is more out there than just myself.

Like this photo which left an entire world nearly speechless in awe when it first appeared in 1972,

a new video has just been released by NASA which should have much the same effect. Even if you don't come to any deep philosophical conclusions while watching, it's still an enjoyable piece of art.

I can't figure out how to embed the video into this post, but if you have five minutes to enjoy a fascinating view of our world, click here.

I wish you all a happy and contemplative Thanksgiving.


Monday, November 21, 2011

Season of Contrasts

Just thought I'd check in with everyone! We're having wonderful days and nights now… highs in the 60s for a couple of days, and an unexpected rain last night.

Mud puddle on flagstone, masquerading as abstract art.

I say unexpected rain, because we even if our meteorologists tell us rain is coming, no one believes them. The general assumption is they’ve all broken under the strain of endless sunny days and no longer have any idea what they’re talking about.

The garden is full of beauty (if I close my eyes to the weeds); the contrast of exotic fruits and flowers mingling with native trees and shrubs to create an unusual autumn palette.

First beans

Ancient lemon tree still going strong

Pyracantha in full flame

Mesquite pods

Baja Red Fairy Duster


I hope you are all enjoying the abundance of this season!


Thursday, November 17, 2011

Into the Closet

Okay, first of all, I have a confession to make. I’ve been cheating on my Writing hobby with my Sewing hobby. Writing knows about it and isn’t sure whether we’ll ever be able to patch things up. I’m afraid I may have to make some sort of faithfulness pledge, and that never seems to work out with my hobbies. Sewing is okay with being the other hobby – but then Sewing has never cared about appearances or other people’s feelings. So while the two of them duke it out over who gets my attention, I’ll share the results of my dalliance.
I’ve had this shoe organizer in the hopper for a while now. I don’t know whether I mentioned previously that this is for The Piemaker’s shoes, which were jumbled in a mess on the floor. He has 20 pairs of shoes, not counting the motorcycle boots, hiking boots, cowboy boots and running shoes which are all piled up elsewhere, like the garage. The ones in the closet are expensive, good-quality shoes, and we were stepping on them and tripping over them every time we walked into the walk-in closet. Thus the need for the over-the-door shoe pocket hanger.

Here’s something I never knew: men’s shoes are huge! In the allotted space on the back of the door, I could have fit as many as 40 pairs of women’s shoes, but in the same space I can only fit 10 pairs of men’s shoes. Shocking.

It went together fairly easily after I did the measurements and math ten times to make sure.

I have to draw things before I make them, otherwise I’ll end up with something quite unexpected. I read a lot of tutorials and looked at a lot of pictures. I think the one I followed most closely was here.

This is the result. The finished size is about 24” by 78”. The backing is two layers of cotton blend canvas, with an additional layer of stiff interfacing between. (You can see my basting stitches which I forgot to take out before the pictures.)
This pretty elephant fabric is another supposedly vintage bit of home dec yardage I got on eBay earlier this year, originally intending to do something kitcheny, I think, like an apron or tablecloth. But it was ideal for this project since the design was in a perfect pocket-size repeat across the fabric. The trim is from a set of Michael Miller Peacock Lane coordinates (quilting cotton).

Each row of pockets is made of an 11” by 48” piece of the elephants with a wide strip of QC to bind and reinforce the top edge. I sewed the pockets vertically first and then folded the base of each pocket to create an expandable gusset (for those HUGE shoes!).

The edge of the canvas is bound all the way around with another wide strip of the QC. All of the bindings are cut straight rather than on bias – it’s easier to make, plus no stretch is required in this project. At the top I folded over the end to make a hem and 4” opening for a rod or bar for hanging.

Sewing big, heavy pieces like this is a pain in the ass and I now remember why I don’t like quilting. Sewing should not be an aerobic exercise, it seems to me, and when I find myself panting and sweating just to lift and manipulate the thing through the machine I just get cranky.

But it’s done now, and it looks pretty good.
Except in this photo, it’s not in the closet yet. Why? Because for the first time in years, I took a good look at our closet and was disgusted by what I saw. How did it get so unbelievably filthy? There was dust on all the clothes and shoes, the shelves were positively grimy, and even the walls were looking dingy. This is a smallish walk-in closet that we share (yes I do let him have space, but just in this one closet), with no window, so the only ingress for dirt is us. We are really not that dirty, I swear. Anyway, that discovery led to an all-day closet-cleaning event. I started when Piemaker left at 7 AM and was just finishing when he came home at 6 PM. I pulled every single item out, washed the shelves, walls and rods, dusted all the clothing, cleaned the hangers (and got rid of about 200 of them), dusted the shoes, vacuumed the floor to death and then put everything back in.

So much for the simple shoe organization project.

Since I’d already cut into the Michael Miller fabrics, I went ahead and made a set of covered hangers. I followed a Martha Stewart idea, but added a sort of neck extension at the top to cover those nasty poky wires. The hangers are not padded, it’s just an envelope of fabric that slides over the wire hanger to keep things from slipping off. However it would probably be pretty easy to add a layer of batting to the fabric when sewing, or you could wrap batting around the hanger before pulling the fabric over. There are lots of padded hanger tutes out there, but they are mostly for wooden hangers, and I really just wanted to spiff up some of the wire ones which we seem to have in abundance.

As my fabric scraps got smaller and smaller, I made a few closet sachets, some with cedar to keep the monsters away (we have moths and crickets that eat our clothing), and some with lavender, just because. Now the closet is the nicest place in the house.

Don't worry! I have not completely forsaken the writing. I have made some progress on the novel and fully intend to return to it now that I’ve had my little affair.

Hope your days are filled with creative pursuits,


Monday, November 14, 2011

Virtual Visit to the New York Public Library

I might have a bit of a slow blogging week coming up here - unless something leaps out and demands a commentary from me, I think I need to focus on my so-called writing.

However, I thought I would share one of my favorite places with you today before I disappear into the cold garret.

Have you ever been to the New York Public Library? I have not, and I regret that.

I must have passed the lions at least a dozen times on my way to do other things. I always thought there would be another opportunity, and I suppose maybe one day I will get a chance to go back.

In any case, I found the NYPL online while trolling around for images of vintage fashion, and what a trove of treasure this is!

There is a blog, which is not just for book nerds like me. The contributors cover everything from the arts to nature to history and society. You can view or download ebooks, scanned books, music, and other media. And, what is most exciting for me, you can see hundreds of thousands of images that the library has scanned from their collections in the digital gallery. The images are all scanned from books, and can be anything from a line drawing to a painting to a photo. The scans are clear and great for viewing online or printing at home. You can also order prints or high-resolution files from the library.

So far I’ve not come up empty on any of my searches. I got 11 hits on my search for “cairn terrier”, 182 hits for “India clothing”, 31 on “men’s bowler”, and 668 on “women’s fashion 1930s.”

I spent hours ogling at the details of the 1930s fashion illustrations:

The NYPL digital library is worth a visit for any type of research, but I especially recommend it if you’re interested in fashion history.



Friday, November 11, 2011

In the Red

I got a few sewing projects done yesterday!

First, a very pretty, very red, plaid wool skirt. I managed to hand-stitch the hem during Sarai’s online fabric lesson yesterday – a rare case of enjoyable multi-tasking!

I wanted a maxi, inspired by this in Vogue Pattern magazine,
Vogue 8749

Sadly, I didn’t have quite enough of this mystery fabric – only 2 yards of 45”. I just love the deep red with the contrasting orange and blue. It seems to be a wool (heavy, scratchy) blend with rayon (drapey, shiny). I’ve had it in the stash for more than 10 years and although I think I might have gotten it at Hancocks, I can’t be sure. We haven’t had a Hancocks here for years, so that adds to the mystery.

The skirt is slightly less flared than the Vogue skirt - I used my TNT skirt pattern, M8474 from 1996.
The hem hits about 4 inches above ankle on me – perfect boot length! Now for some cold weather...

Next, I made two short-sleeved tops. The one on the left is from a lace curtain,

inspired by this lace shell from Coldwater Creek: Of course the Coldwater Creek version is a symphony in muted sophistication, and I refuse to clutter up my wardrobe with that kind of elegance, so I backed my ivory lace with contrasting black.

The other top,on the right, is an obvious Missoni homage in the crochet knit I got in my fabric splurge of last month. I did try to stay off that crazy zigzag bandwagon, but the colors of this print were so darn appealing.

Both tops are from my TNT – tee pattern M9185 from 1998.

It’s especially good for when I buy a single yard of novelty fabric! The multi-colored outer shell is backed with a white ribbed cotton knit.

So that's three projects off the list, plus major destash points: 8 yards if I count all the lining fabrics.

Still in the pipeline: Shoe holder + hangers; Peasant blouses: green silk, tan paisley chiffon; Caftans, caftans, caftans. Plus, all of the projects I’ve mentioned before, like coats and dresses, that I still haven’t gotten around to.

I’m just glad the book covers are done with – after making covers for 40+ notebooks, I will be happy if I never see one again!

Hope you all have a happy weekend.


Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Story of the Story

Woo-hoo, the word watch widget is up and running at NaNoWriMo! I added it to my right margin.

I am still writing, and keeping up with the daily minimums to make it to 50,000 words. But I’m reaching that point where I’m starting to wonder what I’m writing. And why. This is a point that I expected to hit around day 15, but here it is, only day 10.

The story is about a man who is secretly living in the basement of a family home on a quiet suburban street. This is based on an actual person who was living in my actual house (completely unbeknownst to me) in the late 80s – early 90s. We found his sleeping bag and a bunch of stuff in the crawlspace under our house one day. It was weird! Our neighbor told me later the guy had been living there for a while. Gee, thanks, neighbor!

Anyway, I never got to learn this man’s personal story, so I’m writing one for him. In the story, flashbacks show how he got into the situation, and the story moves forward as he tries to survive.

So far, I’ve kind of written a lot of separate scenes with no continuity and no end, and I’m running out of steam. NaNoWriMo suggests that when you hit the wall like this, you can do something unexpected like add ninjas, drop a bomb, send your characters to the circus, among other story-enlivening ideas. My favorite was to have your main character write a novel (novel in a novel!). Or you can go to a write-in with others in the area. Or you can look for inspiration or rescue on the NaNo forums.

I am mulling the Ninja/bomb/circus idea, not literally, but literarily. Something’s got to shake the story up. I am not a write-in person: it’s way too distracting to be in a room full of noisy people. But I will be trolling the forums for inspiration. Yesterday I found a whole string on “Is your main character depressed?” Perfect!

What do you when you get stuck on a project?


Wednesday, November 9, 2011

In the Garden

The plants in my vegetable garden are at one extreme or the other, depending on where you look. Happy plants are taking over the beds and unhappy plants are refusing to even raise their heads from the soil. Back in September, I planted both gold and ruby beets. The gold ones germinated, grew about ½ inch tall, and died (or disappeared, more on that later). The ruby beets grew so fast and so thick that I had to thin them by two-thirds after a few weeks.

too many beets!

Thinning is always a brutal process and I feel terrible doing it, but at least with the beets we could eat the seedlings I pulled out.

beet leaves for salad

I’ve planted my first two waves of lettuce, but neither wave has responded with a single plant yet, even with all the wonderful rain. In fact, it’s been so long that I had to weed the beds where I planted the lettuce seeds, so they may never come up. Same problem with the spinach: dozens of seeds, absolutely no plants.

The carrots and parsley appeared on the same day, microscopic grass-like shoots that my camera can’t even pick up. The radishes popped up - they are always reliable - although there were not as many as I expected. And I have three pitiful little cilantro seedlings struggling along.

cilantro, looking sad

The beans are growing thick and healthy. These are bush beans, which I have not grown before, so I don’t know how big the plants will be before I see actual beans. That’s okay, it’s just nice to see something growing so well.

bush beans!

And look what is hiding in between the bean plants: a few volunteer tomatoes!

hidden tomatoes

This happens fairly regularly, since I compost all my vegetable waste and garden cuttings. Some of the vegetable seeds that go into the compost bin come out and make new plants. We will just keep our fingers crossed for these little babies – it’s not the best time for young tomato plants, but we may be able to keep them alive through the winter.

The peas are another matter. There has not been any sign of a pea seedling, even though I planted them a month ago. Granted we did have a few weeks of over 100 temps after that, but underground they should have been safe. If they haven’t appeared after the wonderful cool rains, I don’t think they ever will. And I think it might be because the seeds are no longer there. I suspect this little fellow, who has been found guilty of mysteriously disappearing seeds in the past:

the suspect!

Actually, probably not him, since this is a photo from my 1996 wildlife book. So it is one of his relatives, and the reason I suspect him or her is that I find little depressions in the bed occasionally, little holes that look like they could have been dug with little squirrel feet. Right where the peas used to be.

We have always had a squirrel or two living in the back yard, and I used to let the dogs run free in the vegetable garden to discourage squirrel activity there. Then I discovered that two dogs can eat more vegetables in less time than one little squirrel, so now the dogs have to stay out.

I sometimes imagine myself in full sustainability mode, with my own chickens and beehives. The life of an urban farmer! It sounds great, but once again I have to be realistic about my ability to deal with the summer sun. Maybe one day... And for now I have plenty with my tomatoes in spring and beans in the winter and herbs all year round.

Hope you can all take a moment to enjoy a garden today!


Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Piemaker Strikes Again

It was my understanding was that we were taking a break from pie making until Thanksgiving. This is because we had a freezer full of pies and we had to make room in there for the upcoming holiday excess. The Piemaker usually makes two of everything and freezes one, or in the case of devastatingly decadent layer cakes, he puts half in the freezer. So I’ve finished off some buttermilk pie, some pumpkin pie, some german chocolate cake, and some apple cream cheese bundt cake in the last two weeks. This is why I maintain three wardrobes – one in a size 8, one in a 10, and one in a 12. We are pushing the upper limits now, and I still have to get through Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Then this appeared on Sunday: a chocolate-pecan chess pie. I swear the Piemaker is trying to kill me with deliciousness. He also made grilled shrimp and pineapple skewers with sesame rice on the same day.

I’m not convinced this is a true chess pie, since I thought those were simple custard pies. However, I’m no expert since I’m only ¼ Southerner (Grandaddy from Alabama) and all the rest is Yankee. The recipe is yet another from Southern Living Magazine. I’m just going to cancel Martha Stewart and go with Southern Living now, their recipes are easier to make and consistently taste better than hers. Sorry, Martha!

We have 2 weeks to finish this one up, and then the serious holiday baking begins. We’re now in negotiations over the Thanksgiving offerings, but two are already established by tradition-we always have pumpkin and apple. What should our third pie be? Will I still be satiated with pecan, or should I put in a request for that? Something completely different maybe? Key lime would be great, but our lime tree decided to take the year off – not a single fruit on it! Ah, but the lemon tree is going strong – maybe lemon meringue. Never mind that we do not need three pies. That is beside the point.

I should probably also embark on an intense exercise program, starting immediately.

Is anyone else as pie-obsessed as I am?


Monday, November 7, 2011

Abundant Rain to Refresh the Weary Land

We were blessed with rain on the weekend. This is such an unusual event for us that we turned off the television and went outside to get cool and wet. We opened all the doors and windows to let the smell of desert rain into the house.
Palm trees are a common sight here in Phoenix, but pretty blue skies and puffy clouds are not. This is the post-rain clarity that will turn brown again in a few days.

“Abundant rain?” It’s a relative term. Here in Phoenix our annual average rainfall is between 7 and 8 inches, depending on your neighborhood. This year we’ve only had 3.2 inches so far, and that’s including the summer rainy season. Every time the sky turns gray or the humidity rises a fraction, all desert souls turn unconsciously toward the sound of thunder, even though it may be 40 miles away. Even domesticated house-dwelling creatures like ourselves remain connected to the earth, as thirsty for moisture as the native animals. I feel myself breathing deeper and expanding slightly in the rain, like the plants that survive as brown dry sticks 90% of the time and then burst into bright green leaves at the first drop of water.

The ocotillo usually looks like a bundle of dry thorny sticks, but within a few days of rain it will be covered with small leaves.source

When I lived in Northern California, I used to curse the rain as it interfered with my daily commute and conspired with the icy wind to freeze me to death. Even with my hat, trenchcoat, and boots, the soaking I would get just running from my car to a store front, or from the bus stop to work, would leave me damp and cold all day. I got so damn tired of it. There years when there were floods everywhere – parking lots, basements, schools, even streets would flood with a branch or a bit of litter stuck in the drain. Hilltop houses would collapse and slide to the bottom of the slope in a tide of mud.

Of course those years went in cycles, and when we were in a non-flood year that often meant we were in a drought year. I remember many more drought years as a child, so many summers with the dirty cars and brown lawns of water rationing. The constant rain and flooding I remember happening more in my 20s and 30s, so you have to wonder: did the climate actually change in that short a time, or is it the difference in perspective of a school girl with few responsibilities compared to a young adult trying to manage a career and family?

Now, of course, I miss the cool moist climate of the Bay Area. In the deathly dry heat of the desert summer I really miss the California rain, but at the same time I try to avoid thinking that it would be easier to live there. The grass is always greener… Ha ha!


Friday, November 4, 2011

New Inventory Accounting Method

One of the things you learn in accounting classes is the different methods of inventory accounting: first-in-first-out, last-in-first-out, weighted average, and others. I don’t know how I’d describe my fabric inventory, but I'm pretty sure there's no accounting method that could handle it.

When I reported my stash status at mid-October, I noted that I was in a little-in-much-out position. Now, looking back at the end of October, I find myself in the opposite, much-in-little-out situation.

What happened? I only used up about 10 more yards. That’s not counting all the pieces I’ve cut out for a plaid skirt, three tops, and the hanging shoe holder, because none of those are finished projects. I guess I got slowed down by these book covers taking longer than expected.

More Book Covers!

Plus I got into another fabric reorganization project, trying to clear some space and find some things while I was moving everything around.

Fabric organized! (temporarily)

And I suppose I had other things going on – local meetings for NaNoWriMo, finishing holiday cards, unexpected home repairs. Still, it’s amazing how you can get to the end of a week, or two weeks, and wonder what you did all that time.

Also, I had a lapse, well, actually a complete collapse, of willpower and got 44 more yards in a massive midnight online spending spree at Fabric Mart. I was doing sooo well up until then. But Holy Moly, have you seen their sales? It’s just not right! I resisted the wool sale and the poplin sale and a whole series of 50% off campaigns, but when the 99 cent and the $1.99 sales hit at the same time as the 5 for $2.50 sale and the free 10-yard mystery bundle, it became too much to resist. Those Fabric Mart people are total enablers.

Got some of this (crocheted zig zag novelty)

and this (striped denim)

Actually I only bought 28 yards plus the free 10-yard bundle, but what with all the generous cuts and extra tidbits they like to throw in, I ended up with 44 yards. Whew! And that was after the big reorganization, so now it all needs to be re-reorganized to incorporate my new treasures.

I need to get it together and finish some sewing before the end of the year. And since I'm only writing for a couple of hours each day, there's really no excuse not to. Except for the beautiful weather. And the garden. And addressing Christmas cards. And lolling around in the blogosphere enjoying other people's wit and style. And the stack of sewing books I want to read. And the romance novels I want to read. No excuse at all.


Thursday, November 3, 2011

An Itty Bitty Update

Just thought I'd pop in and give an update on the writing project. First, thank you so much to my dear readers who have offered encouragement! You are wonderful!

It is going quite well so far, in spite of headaches, procrastination, and my refusal to follow any sort of process. No plan, no outline, no research, nothing.


I just sit down each morning and poke away at the keyboard for 2 to 3 hours, end up with 1800 to 1900 words, and post it to the NaNo site. It's a little too easy, really, which makes me think I must be missing something! It's only the third day, so I'd better keep my eyes open for obstacles down the road.

Actually I think all the excitement and anxiety about writing for 30 days straight is that hardly anyone has the luxury to do that - we're all working, going to school, raising families, or a combination. I can see that it would be difficult if not impossible for someone in those situations to sit down for 2 to 3 straight hours after a long tiring day. And how would they find that much uninterrupted time?

It just reminds me of how incredibly fortunate I am: my parental units find themselves in a rare period of concurrent wellness, my partner carries on his day to day activities with or without me, I have no job or coursework demanding my attention, so you could say I've got it made! I have to take care of the plants and the animals, and myself, and that's it! I can write for two hours a day or twelve, or not at all. It took some work and some difficult times to get to this point in my life, and I sure do appreciate it while I'm here.

Enough procrastinating, now I have to go create another 1667 words!

Tomorrow I'll have more to talk about; in the meantime, I hope you all have a wonderful day.


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Demon Migraine - Part III

And we’re back to the topic of migraine. As I mentioned last time, there is no simple answer to the migraine problem, at least not for me.

I’ve been treated by five neurology clinics, six internists, two dentists, and an ophthalmologist. I’ve tried chiropractic, acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, massage, yoga, biofeedback, meditation, and TMJ therapy. I’ve tried over the counter medication, blood pressure drugs, prescription pain killers, anti-depressants, anti-seizure drugs, tranquilizers, at least a dozen herbal and other nutritional supplements, and three generations of migraine drugs. And that’s not counting the double-blind drug trials where I don’t know whether I received an active drug or a placebo - in any case, there was no improvement in the migraine. I try to keep up with the latest migraine news and check with my doctors every year to see if they have any new ideas.

been there, done that, and that, and that

I’ve gone through two complete diet overhauls, I don’t drink alcohol, and I limit the caffeine. I monitor the weather for upcoming storms, I wear sunglasses all day everyday even when it’s cloudy, I go to bed at the same time every night and get up at the same time every morning. I limit my time on the computer and the sewing machine. I do jaw, neck, face, and shoulder stretching exercises three or four times a day. I’ve adjusted my lifestyle to accommodate every possible trigger: no work outside the house, no driving or working outdoors at mid-day, no parties, no restaurant food, no exposure to perfumes. My only shortcomings in this anti-headache regimen are inconsistent exercise (hard to stick to a daily program when you lose several days a week) and my love of sugary snacks.

And I still have migraine headaches every week – one or a few or sometimes even seven. In the last three months I had a total of 46 migraine headaches. Some days I would just drag myself out of bed long enough for a meal and then return to the darkness.

(Or maybe I’m turning into a vampire)

My mother assures me that the headaches will stop or at least lessen after menopause, but I’m not holding my breath. I do maintain some optimism, but I’m not going to book a round-the-world tour or apply for a full-time job until I actually experience this miraculous cure.

To finally wrap up this exposé, my point is that migraine is not just a headache that goes away with a couple of aspirin.

To those who don’t personally understand the experience: people with migraines may seem dull or annoying, they may appear to impact production in the workplace, and they may decline your social invitations. But they really are not just being difficult or making excuses, in fact they are probably working harder than everyone else, just to overcome a constant obstacle. Migraine is disease that can be incapacitating, or at the very least, cause extreme disruption in a person’s life. But we are always fighting back.

To my fellow migraineurs: do not be ashamed or feel inadequate, do not subjugate your health to others’ demands, and do be aggressive and proactive in your search for that combination of therapies that will be your personal cure. And laugh! As my mom has always said, “all you can do is try to find the humor in the situation, and laugh about it. Because if you cry, you’ll give yourself another headache.”

There are millions of us, we are tough, and we WILL get through it!


Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Not the Most Auspicious Start

I spend most of Monday in bed with a lethal headache, so I had to pretty much write the whole day off. We had no little monsters at the door, so it wasn't even much of a Halloween.
Therefore, I've decided to just pretend the week is starting today, Tuesday, and that Monday never happened. Easy enough, since today is the beginning of a new month, and also the first day of NaNoWriMo. In case you're already sick and tired of hearing about it, I'll just say that I did get started, right on schedule (although not at 12:01 AM) and am busily tapping away to meet my word quota for the day.
Apparently the almighty powers who somehow manage to keep NaNoWriMo up and running are human after all, as several of the promised functionalities are still "pending." Well, I guess that's none of my business, since my job is just to write.
I'll be posting a few things later in the week, until then, hope you're having an excellent start to your month!