Saturday, September 17, 2011

But, Wait. There's More!

I was just on Amazon to see what else there was by the knit lady, and there's another holiday themed knit book--Twas the Knits Before Christmas! You know, for the secular knitter. Where's the Crochet Creche?

How to Succeed--a short training program

Ugh. I slept like a pile of rocks glued together with sap until I had to get up for training today. Fortunately, the good folks at Six Flags believe in air conditioning, so I never fell asleep, but I was dragging otherwise today. It's nice to get everything about a company in one place at one time like that, though. I already know what bothers the company greatly, what can get me noticed, and what can get me fired. Good on them. That's the way it should be.
Their big rule is about cell phones. they're off and they don't come out on the clock or in view of guests. Thank you! There's nothing more irritating than taking five seconds to choose between Sprite and Barq's, only to discover that the cashier has taken this opportunity to text his best bud about how lame earning money is. I don't care how old this makes me sound--sometimes I want to take phones out of people's hands and smack them on the head with them. Middle of the sidewalk? Not the place to update your facebook, people, especially when there are other people on the sidewalk--walking! Wait for a natural stop, like a crosswalk, or pull over out of the walkway. I'm looking at you, too, Mr. Texts-in-the-Terminal-While-Sauntering-to-the-Next-Flight. If you can saunter, you can text at the gate, pal. I have a 45 minute connection with a *baby* mister, and I personally think your grey pinstripe would like even better with stroller tracks up the back. Where was I? Phones. People of my world? Most of you are not so integral to the system that you must be connected at all times. Turn off the distraction once in a while, and answer the voicemails in a couple hours. Real friends will understand that you had to turn off the phone for the show, or that you were too busy to answer their fifteen texts asking what you are doing (oddly enough). Focus is not a bad thing.
That's not to say that I don't support cell phones in their place. I dig being able to call my mother from the store to let her know about a cool new thing I found. It's awesome to step out of work and call my husband to let him know that I'm on my way home. I adore a good text message for information rather than a half hour phone conversation. Just like anyone else, I enjoy the ease of connection and the ability to chat with family while in the passenger seat or the post office line or the grocery store. But the cell phone has its place, and when you are using it to remind the people you are with that you would rather not be with them, it's inappropriate. Gah.
J and I went to Barnes and Noble today for a few minutes, since we had a coupon. He got his lego fix with a small architecture set, and then we went to find some all black shoes for me for work. While we were at B&N, though, I found a couple books that make me giggle, both by the same lady: Knit the Royal Wedding and Knitivity. I kind of want to learn to knit now, so I can make the nativity entirely out of yarn for my mother for Christmas. It brings new meaning to the dorky homemade look, I'll tell you that. I tried to call her from the store and then remembered that she was at a Christmas convention today. Up until about five years ago, I really didn't know such things existed, but they make her happy, so there you go.
As you've already guessed, I was a lazy pants and made nothing today. I guess I just have to be better tomorrow.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Mystery Make!

Since my sister reads this blog, I won't be talking about what I made for her today. She'll receive it next week, before her birthday, so I feel pretty awesome about that. I'm still stuck on what to do for my grandmother, though. Perhaps a nice necklace or something along those lines...
We also visited our neighbor who runs a daycare. She's willing to take Lu for the full time for when I work the full day at Six Flags, so we're set there. She has a great group of kids, too, and they already adore Lu big time. She was a little shy to start, but she was making friends by the time we needed to go. Hopefully she'll still be happy when Mommy has to go away.
Then we walked the mile down to the post office to mail the present and pick up stamps. I think I was a bit refreshing to the postal worker who helped me, since I was interested in the different styles of stamps available. The next letters I send out will have scientists, the Statue of Liberty and astronauts on them, which I'm sure will thrill my mother and grandmother, who totally check out what stamp you used on the letter.
When we got out of the post office, Lu was out completely. Her neck looked uncomfortable, so I dropped the back of the stroller down for her. Her little feet looked so cute stretched out and relaxed. I was joking last week with my in-laws that there are many features on strollers that should totally be on wheelchairs, too--the basket underneath for stuff, the reclining back, the cup holders, the tray for snacks, the ability to unfold it one-handed, and the nifty shade overhead for the occupant. I suppose all that stuff would make a wheelchair way too expensive and too heavy for most people.
The mile each way really felt pretty good. With the weather finally cooling down, I think I'll be doing it more often when I get the chance. Doesn't it just figure that as it finally cools down enough to be active in the middle of the day, I have to be active at work again? No complaining, naturally, as I really want to work, but I also really like to take long walks. Alas.
Training tomorrow, and then making some magic in the sewing room. I need to make that 18th century dress mucho pronto.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

more baking

I was tired today, so I baked a loaf of lemon bread while Lu napped. Sometimes when you're that wiped, you shouldn't be around scissors and moving needles. J was my hero when he came home--he took care of Lu while I laid down and read my birthday present--The Help!
My gig has been moved up at Six Flags, so tomorrow is all about finding Lu some childcare. Our babysitter of choice does not watch kids past 5:30, and I know that if J and I carpool, it's going to be after 6:15 most nights when we can pick her up. My major hope right now is the daycare across the street works out--the location can't be beat, and she's really nice. Oh, I hope.
After that, tomorrow is about going into the sewing room. I watch Project Runway every week, and I get inspired, though sometimes in the "Holy cats! Who wears that?" way. I need to make some more interview wear, as I've been assured that I'll be getting a callback at another place--this one would be full time management with benefits! It's hard to tell how many people are up for it, or where I stand, but they seemed to dig me, and my mother is utterly convinced they would be lucky to have me. How lucky I am to have a Mom who believes in me!
I also need to make my sister's birthday present and my grandmother's, first thing in the morning so I can send them out immediately. It's one thing to be maybe a couple days late, but I tend to be a couple weeks late or not at all when it comes to the September birthdays, and that's not fair. I think I have a good design idea for my sister, but I'm going to need to sit in the sewing room for a while for an idea for Grandma. I know she will appreciate and enjoy anything I send, but I also want to be doing something fantastic for her. She crafts for herself as well, so it's not like she's lacking for wallhangings and pillows and such. She does enjoy a good Lu picture, though, so we're going to do a photo shoot tomorrow. Maybe we'll get more than two steps out of her!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Hey, Look! Cookies!

Tonight's make is a batch of chocolate chip cookies for J to take to work with him, done off my mother's recipe, which is the 1960s Betty Crocker. Which is not the same as the 1990s Betty Crocker, we've discovered along the way. 1960s Betty believed in more shortening, since these are cookies and not health food. Jolon assures me that they will be quite popular.
Today was about catch up, it seemed. I took a pattern for a hoopskirt over to the same friend who is making the chemise, and we had a good laugh at some of the methods suggested. Something tells me that hoops that are connected with twist ties are not built to last. She just wanted the general idea of the hoopskirt and the dimensions anyhow, so it should work out beautifully. Lu and I were going to go to Babies Love Books next, but halfway across town, I heard peaceful little baby snores from the backseat, so I decided to do a couple errands instead.
Next, we were off to Six Flags to fill out all the initial paperwork for employment. Alas, I brought Lu's Social Security card instead of my own. Whoops. When we finished, J was getting off for lunch, so we enjoyed it together. It was wonderful to see each other in daylight on a weekday, and Lu continues to looooove strawberry banana smoothies. I just have to do training, but I'm just about in.
However, I need a uniform, and as part of the entertainment backstage area, I need to rock all black. Luckily, I found a couple sets of not-terrible pants a few weeks ago, so that just left me with polo shirts. I figured it would be easy, since the Target near home had them on clearance. And yet. The Vallejo Target didn't have them. So I figured I'd check the thrift stores for the shirts. Might make things easier, you know? It was just not my day after that. Not only did I not find any shirts, but I had three near misses in traffic, I got the finger for daring to stay in my lane at speed limit, I got cut in line, and I discovered that my favorite thrift shop is having its parking lot redone, so the competition for parking was fierce. I ended up giving up on that particular shop and heading for home. I stopped off at the Fairfield Target and acquired my shirts, after discovering that I left Lu's wipes at the park. Rawr.
The day was bound to get better. J's poker game is cancelled, so I get to go out to dinner with my family for my birthday tomorrow, and I heated up a fantastic potato leek soup that I found at Grocery Outlet for fifty cents. I know it's an hour before my bedtime, but I'm considering turning in early. Maybe one of my skills books has a section on putting frustration behind you.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Thrifty, Nifty and Wise

I've been reading two books called "How to Build a Fire" and "How to Sew a Button" for the past couple weeks. They're about things our grandparents knew that for one reason or another we just don't. A friend of mine and I got to talking about them a while ago, because she was picking up the grandmother one for her almost-daughter-in-law. They're both filled with a variety of old-fashioned skills that we all should know, some of which we already do. I know how to sew a button, but I learned with rapt attention how to make bread and some of the other skills. I've been pulling them out of the library, but I think I might try to pick them up on the used market. There are a lot of little things that are important to know--how to darn socks, how to properly build a fire, how to clean your entire house with vinegar, how to comfort a friend, how to write a love letter. We need these things nowadays, and they've gotten lost in the shuffle.
My mother-in-law is coming up on Wednesday with a couple friends to plant Jolon's Christmas present--a few new plants for the front yard. I need to prep the house. It's not that she will be inspecting it--she's just not that kind of mother-in-law. It's just that I want to present a pleasant home to guests, and my home just doesn't scream gracious and lovely currently. It screams, "Someone who throws toys and food on the floor lives here, and she keeps the grown-ups busy enough that mopping doesn't always happen at the right time. Watch where you step!" I spent this evening on dishes and general tidying, and then I'll hit it hard tomorrow during breakfast. After Babies Love Books at the library, we need to run down to the HR department at Six Flags to register and get set up. I'm their newest overhire! Yay!
J has ice cream. I want some. But first, I need to cut his hair. I'm off to make the world better!

The day off!

So I had a wonderful day off yesterday. I started off with taking a chemise and pattern to a friend who is going to be doing Dickens Fair this year. It is my favorite chemise pattern because (a) it has minimal sleeves, so it can go under anything; and (b) there isn't a yoke that makes the bust start in the wrong place. She now loves it for the same reason, and she doesn't have to shop for the pattern. I love helping people this way--just give them the tools and they can make their choices. It's a friendlier way of doing things than being a period Nazi. There are places where being perfectly period matters, and there are places where it's time to recognize that you should be period to a point. Unless you handstitched everything or used a treadle machine, you're cheating anyway. Pick and choose and remember that you're there to have a good time, not to audition for a museum exhibit. Rant #1 completed.
Then I headed off to the antique mall, which is in an old railway car. It's fun, and they tend to have solid wood furniture for not-terrible prices. I got my stunning antique rocking chair there last year for what I considered to be a good price (comparable to the new ones, which were all festooned with hearts, which isn't really my deal). This time, I found Lu a cute little child-size rocker, since she enjoyed the ones at her grandmother's house so much. I then wandered around to see what else I could see.
Okay. When did the stuff at my mother's house become fodder for antique malls? I saw my mother's spice canisters (the little metal boxes that spices come in, nothing fancy), the wood basket that stood next to our fireplace, Masonic pins from the 1990s, and a few small furniture pieces. I stood in front of my grandmother's ordinary footstool and seriously considered it for my living room, since I remember being able to sit on it from toddlerhood forward, so Lu might enjoy it. These are the fancy antiques and vintage finds? How did they pry them away from the people who were probably still using them? And then I remembered that my family is considered odd to the outside world.
My mother, as taught by my grandmother, believes in "buy decent, keep until it falls apart." There are very few pieces of furniture in the house that I recall her buying in my lifetime. What was purchased was usually picked up at neighborhood rummage sales and surplus sales at the university. As a result, almost everything in her house is solid wood, built to last (with the exception of the bookcases in the basement, which did not react well to the moisture or my parents' penchant for storing actual books on their bookcases. That's a tale of bad particleboard waiting to be told). When the place needs updating, you add new throws and lamps, maybe reupholster, but you don't just throw everything out and try again. That's just not done. Those spice cans? They're still in the house because Mom buys her spices in bulk and then refills the little cans in the spice cupboard. It seems foolish to her to pay twice as much in order to throw things into the recycling bin.
This is what people need to realize about the green movement--it's not about buying green--it's about buying less and more intelligently. I shop at rummage sales for a lot of things because it means that a new item doesn't have to be manufactured. J and I tend to pick out furniture pieces that can be set up in new and different ways so we don't have to buy all over again if our lives change. Does it make us unhip? Perhaps. Does it keep us just a little more financially afloat? Definitely.
Back to my mother. She also picks out clothes she likes that she also knows will be reasonably in style for a few years. She then wears them until they wear out, and when she can't wear them outside even to rake the lawn, it's time to let them go. Some of the towels from her wedding are still in the hall closet, though most of them are used as rags now.
J observed to me the other day that it's time to get a new microwave. When pressed for a reason, he told me that it makes "a funny noise." I still can't figure out what funny noise the microwave is making, since it sounds precisely the same to me. It's not even ten years old. I don't completely see the issue here. It heats things up in a reasonable time, doesn't cost much to run and isn't smoking. Maybe it's not as fancy as some, and maybe it takes a little longer than his parents' microwave, but that doesn't mean it has to get ditched, right? I told him we could look at a new one at the sales over the next three months, but I still don't completely believe there's a problem.
Next, I saw The Help, which is a pretty good movie. I can see the stereotypes that people were complaining about, but I still enjoyed myself. I was only taken out of the story once. At one point, one character pours another a cup of tea, and I said to myself, "Hey! That's my Mom's teacup!" It was one of the white and blue Corelle unbreakables with the gold band from the mid-fifties. Mom inherited her set from her grandmother after she died, because there was still a lot of good use in them. Grandma has the red set. Part of what took me out of it was this: who drinks tea out of those cups when they are so clearly perfect for dyeing Easter eggs? I mean, duh. I bet that the prop master was tickled to bits to find the one teacup and saucer in such great condition, since dishwashers take all the gold bits off and anyone who owns this set and has a lick of sense isn't letting it go. I think those things are going to be around after the nuclear apocalypse. Honestly. If they survived the four of us, they are going to live forever. Thanks, movie. Now I want to go home and dye some Easter eggs. No other cup is as good for it--short and wide with a nice little handle and the base is shaped just so that the egg doesn't drift around much.
Then I thrift shopped and came home to my adoring family. I feel much better.
I also spent some time remembering September 11, 2001. I was twenty, a junior in college, and using the TV as background noise while I did my theatre history homework. What really struck me was how casual they were about it on the Today Show at the start. They had just finished touring some starlet's home or something, and Matt Lauer showed up on screen saying that there would be a special report right after the commercial. At that point, they thought like we all did, that this was some kind of crazy navigational issue and that there was no way it was as big as it was. Then they showed the second plane hitting live and everyone started to look scared. I called my Dad, because I knew my parents' routine: as soon as Mom left for school, Dad would turn off the morning news, mostly because he couldn't stand Katie Couric, and go into the living room to read in the morning sun. Mom would have left for work an hour before, and he needed to know what was going on. We talked about what it could all mean, and then I hung up with him. I still needed to shower before class. It wasn't like class was cancelled or anything. When I got back to my dorm room, he called me. "Turn the TV back on. This just turned into a Tom Clancy novel."
Frankly, I'm conflicted about 9/11. I don't doubt that a lot of innocent people died, and I don't doubt that it changed the world, but I also worry that it made war just a little too convenient. It also gave rise to the self consciously patriotic movement. In some sections of our society, the situation quickly devolved from "What can I do?" to "What can I buy?" The 9/11 anthem none of the radio stations were playing yesterday was Barenaked Ladies' "Shopping," which was written as a reaction to George W. Bush telling Americans to go out and buy stuff to defeat the terrorists. What?
Lu wants to play. More later.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

cleansing the palette

I got a little burned out on Lu this weekend. To be fair, I've been the primary caretaker for a while now, and she's turning into quite the handful now that she is getting more mobile. We are so very very close to walking--she just needs the confidence! Back to the burnout, though. J has given me a full pass for tomorrow--I can do anything I want. I'm thinking of just being alone somewhere for a while--just haven't done that for a good while.
As for tonight, I let J take Lu over after he got home from the all-day golf game, and I hung out in the sewing room, watching the last half of The Cutting Edge and all of Chasing Amy while doing the most repetitive thing I could think of--pin pleating ruffles! I picked up a roll of wide bias from the thrift store a while ago, and I pleated about three quarters of it. Since it's a cute little floral print, it's going to become either adorable baby clothes or unbelievably cute aprons, much later. Tomorrow night is going to be all about clearing surfaces to make the 18th century. It will be done by the end of this coming week, I swear. Or at least close. I hope.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

I'm Back!

So, it's been a while. As I've told several people in the past few weeks, life got in the way, big time. A little background: my father was diagnosed with a form of leukemia just before Lu was born. It was pretty dicey at the time, and he went into an experimental treatment program that we joked was the Freemasonry of chemo: rather than killing the bad cells, they made them into good ones. We were out of the woods there for a while. When I flew out with Lu in June of last year, he was on the upswing, finally ditching the walker and having enough immunity to go to a buffet. He stayed on the upswing for about a year, and then it started changing. This summer, he was diagnosed with acute leukemia and told there was nothing left they could do, since he had a weak heart. We had already scheduled a trip out to Michigan for the end of the summer, since it had been obvious for a while that travel was not in the cards. I decided we could swing another trip out earlier in the summer, and so we booked a week at the end of July. And then it got worse, and Mother asked us to come sooner. Thus, we spent the last two weeks of July in my hometown.
Dad died the day after I got back to California, and J came with us to Michigan for the memorial. We lost the fight, and it's a bit like any time your team loses--it's sad, and you try to focus on the games you won and how well you played this particular game. We had more years than we ever expected, and I know that we made him very happy over the years, but it still hurts. I don't have my Dad anymore, and while, I have many wonderful people in my life, none of them can change that fact.
Mom wanted a little company and some unquestioning labor for the end of August, so we kept our original tickets and went back. This time, we went through closets and dressers and organized the office. Like any time you're dealing with that kind of situation, we dealt with what we felt we could, and left the rest for the time being. Masonic rituals and paraphernalia were collected into one area to be sent back to the organizations, suits and dress shirts were packed to go to siblings and the Costume Shop, medications were given to the free clinic and the police to dispose of, and the suitcases were cleared out and checked. It doesn't seem like much, but Mom now has a couple clear closets to work from, and the easiest stuff to decide on (non sentimental clothes, medications that could do good things for other people, and stuff that really didn't belong to us) got cleared.
Now I'm home again (jiggity-jigg!) and have gone on several interviews. Now it's just a waiting game. Hopefully one of them calls with a fantastic job for me, so I can stop worrying about everything. Mom let me go through her box of old fabric, so I have an entire suitcase of vintage materials, some already cut out into projects. I have ideas for some of it, that's certain. I think, though, that I'm hitting a point where I need to create a whole bunch of things before anything more can come into the sewing room.
Oh! And I fit the mock-up! I'll cut it out in fashion fabric this weekend, and then put it together. It fit pretty well, considering that the model was smaller-busted than my dress form, and one of her shoulders is markedly higher than the other. Whoo-hoo for fitting!
I've been cleaning through the house at a slow pace. I've realized that all the books and articles I've read about organization can be boiled down into a few basic principles:
1. Have less stuff than storage.
2. Give everything a home, so you can find it again.
3. Put everything back in its home when you're done using it.
4. Get everyone who lives with you to do the same thing.
Sounds easy, no? Surely I will be Martha Stewart by this time next week! There's nothing holding me back but me! Me and my issue with buying supplies when I'm worried about money--if I buy one more tube of toothpaste, J will probably want to have a "talk" with me. And by "talk," I mean "intervention."
On that note, I need to shred some more paper. And label some more boxes. And file something. Anything.