Wednesday, December 26, 2007
I was going to post the final entries (and a few from our eventful and semi-hammered Christmas Eve walk, hello), but alas, there wasn't a lot of time since I left most of my packing for, like, an hour before my flight.
Apparently I'm turning over a bizarre new leaf?
Anyway, I'm back in Rome visiting the aforementioned BFF and will be here eating my weight in mozzarella, funghi, nutella, espresso and prosciutto (probably not all at once) for the next week or so, meaning the posts will be slim until I'm back in town with photos.
At which point, I'll put them all, Fugly lights and ham porn, up here for you to see. Then we'll talk about the insane crash diet I'll be going on to get back in my Sevens.
Sunday, December 23, 2007
So, the Holiday Newsletter...
My take on these things is this: I like them.
Yes, this is true. I like your long ass, rambling summaries on all the yearly goings-on that you recount without ever spellchecking or re-reading for context.
I find them to be an excellent low-committal vehicle for me to find out exactly what's going on with you and your life. And when we finally do reconnect after a really long time, we can avoid the awkward moment when I look at you in horror from the passenger seat of your new minivan and ask you when, exactly, you began picking up hitchhikers and you tell me that, oh, those are my three kids that I had since we saw each other last and I feel like a big jerk.
The Holiday Newsletter is also a good time to also check in on where the hell you've moved in the last year so that I can readdress the holiday card (or perhaps just make a mental note) I sent you that got shipped back to me "addressee unknown" or whatever.
I have to say though, there is something that I have a hard time understanding with these things, not ever having put one together myself, and that is how they end up looking in no way like they belong with their accompanying card.
Because the cards are usually glorious. Glossy, professionally produced photo collage jobs which look as though they've been torn directly from a Vanity Fair spread. Some of the cards are simply incredible and must have cost thousands to produce and mail. And sometimes, they come in those really fancypants envelopes with the gold lining? Supah fance.
Meanwhile, the Holiday Newsletters never follow this fancy detail in any way.
As though you were stuffing your envelopes for holiday mailing and suddenly thought, "Well, *I* know this is the entire extended family during our commandeering of the teacup ride at Disneyland, and that Uncle Horace chunked his pancake breakfast in the shrubs as soon as I snapped the shot, but I only know that because *I* was there. How will *they* know when *they* see this card?? They won't! I MUST TELL THEM."
Then you sneak downstairs and snatch some purple construction paper from the kids' little short-legged crafting table, jam it in the printer and begin banging away the mind-numbing minutia of your Disneyland trip *just in case* those looking at the photos can't derive all the not important details on their own. THEY MUST KNOW ABOUT THE CHUNKED PANCAKES. Also make sure to tell them that Dylan is finally making solid poops and Daisy is having her first dance recital where she'll be dressed like a car tire and dancing to the "Wheels on the Bus".
Then this letter gets hastily printed, folded in whatever way makes it fit in the envelope and addressed with a Burnt Sienna crayon.
When it finally reaches my greedy eyes (see, I like them) I stop short wondering why one would go to such trouble and cost to produce a lovely, customized and perfectly executed greeting card just to wad up a piece of purple construction paper between the folds. Personally, I'd rather leave something to the imagination with regard to the photos than ruin the integrity of the perfectly executed card. But that is me. I am childfree and not a frequenter of Disney, so perhaps I don't have any news so pressing that I feel compelled to capture it on purple construction paper to the detriment of my fabulous holiday card.
My only last "take" on the Holiday Newsletter is this, they go against the concept of my greeting card display thingee since they aren't particularly decorative (see purple construction paper reference) and are a very different size than the cards with which they arrive and for which my display thingee is designed. Logistically, Holiday Newsletters aren't my favorite. But I do like to read them (see entire post prior to this paragraph) and I refuse to separate them from their appropriately sized card counterparts because that would compromise my carefully crafted personal bubble of anal-retentiveness. So, they're up there. I don't include them in my yearly recycling of gift cards because, well, they're not pretty or useful in that way, but they're up there for all to see.
Something to keep in mind when you shun the spellchecker or misspell your children's names. I'm just saying. People might see your newsletter sticking out from behind your card and think mean things about you is all.
But keep them coming. I like to know that you're all out there making sure the earth is being repopulated, Disneyland still has people willing to pay $20 for a churro and that you're visiting places I really want to go but haven't yet (Greece, Australia). They give me a chance to feel like we're still friends because I know what you're up to and also to be jealous that you look real skinny or glad about my same old haircut because you look like Beavis with your weird new "stylish" doo.
Maybe one year I'll go beyond the "We had lots of fun in 200X and hope you have a great 200X!" or whatever and venture into the inner sanctum of the Holiday Newsletter, but not yet. For now, I'm perfectly satisfied to sum up our year with a string of verbs so totally out of context that you're challenged to either figure it out on your own or just do whatever it is you do with holiday cards - not paying a second moment's attention to our yearly word jumble.
Either way, our card will show up with generally acceptable dimensions, spell-checked for accuracy and reviewed for content. It will not include any construction paper, confetti (damn you to hell for this) or crayon marks. I will not have the dog or cat "stamp" the envelope with their paw.
And then we'll all have Merry Happy Holidays That We Celebrate and have a great New Year.
Friday, December 21, 2007
At the holidays I like to defy natural law by finding time to craft/bake/wrap/deliver gifts to my coworkers. It adds to the illusion that I have A Life Outside of Work, which I enjoy perpetuating since it is a much rumored fantasy that a lot of us harbor, here so close to the grindstone.
But I'm always self-conscious when giving handcrafted gifts. Because while *I* may be handmaking gifts because I feel like that is a way to show how much I like you, *you* maybe think I'm being cheap or that the gift is ugly/useless.
Then there's this other issue I have: waste. I hate waste. Which, obviously, is a problem around the holidays when stores are giving away jumbo rolls of wrapping paper or dropping tiny purchases into huge handled paper bags so that you can SOMEHOW make it out to your car four feet away with all your so heavy two chapsticks or whatever.
Oh the filthy conflict.
And when I started thinking about what handcrafty thing I would make for gifts I also didn't want to be making something that would get shoved in a drawer/closet/attic/goodwill bag - because that is also waste and I will.not.have.it.
In the end, after all my wavering, I ended up on scarves. Double sided fleece scarves with the handy pull through slot so that you can really cinch that bitch down around your neck in the cold winter times. Good for walking the dog in the cold weather, good for wearing into the office, good to have in the car for a chilly trip out to get more booze (because you realize you just ran out, not because you're already hammered and need more. I do not condone the drunk driving, ok.)
Oh, and even better, roll the scarves up with some ribbon (I'll admit, I bought this. Do not worry, I will use it all. FORGIVE!) and a recycled gift card tag. No paper necessary. No tape necessary. No horrible crippling what-kind-of-a-consumer-asshole-am-I-anyway guilt afterward. Oh yes, this will work.
Thankfully, I found some nice fleece at The Store Which Shall Not Be Named Because The People That Work There Are Assholes and also got some sweet looking cards this year from nice people who have my home address which made for some hot recycled gift tags when cut and punched just so. They masqueraded nicely as Fancy New Gift Tags even though they were Just Old Cards Cut Into New Shapes.
The fact that this new gift card recycling project has turned into a new obsession for me and has caused me to hoard cards with scary regularity will just have to go unspoken, thankyouverymuch.
And with all my holiday gift-giving criteria successfully checked off the list (you knew there was a list, right? This is me we're talking about here.), I baked. And then I wrapped that baking up with Fancy New Gift Tags and ribbon, too. And then I thought about wrapping myself in ribbon and reused gift tags but thought better of it since I'm not sure that is what we're calling Sexy these days in the Finny household.
No. Sexy for us is hooded sweatshirts, fried chicken, gin/bourbon and HD Sunday NFL Ticket. We are so trailer.
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
I know, it seems like I wouldn't have the energy after all my bitching, but well, I do. Perhaps it is all my years of strenuous training?
You might remember the craftiness that I pulled off last year at the eleventh hour, running from house to house dragging Bubba behind me (to carry all the crafty stuff you know - he loves this) so that I could hang festive-ish holiday bundles of breads and jingly things from doorknobs of neighbors we knew by first name.
There were about, I don't know, half dozen of these first name having neighbors. So, the job of hanging went by pretty fast and we were back in the house to get all hermitted out in front of the fire where we belong.
To put it plainly, we (Bubba and I) are not "For Everyone". Much like the color orange, black licorice and snow camping is not "For Everyone". For some - we are a great match, they like our quirkiness and forgive/turn a blind eye to our incessant weirdness. For others - we are as unpalatable as the last sip of warm beer at the bottom of a backwashed bar glass. This is all fine with us, we know we're the only ones who can really stand Us.
But surprisingly, despite our Not For Everyone status, we managed to make nice with at least 7 additional neighbors this year. It is amazing the power of beer.
So, when I sat down to do my random holiday crafting/baking For the Neighbors, I realized we knew 7 more neighbors with first names. Wowza. We met people. This meant we went out of the house and used our words to interact with strangers who live close to our house. Who was watching our TV and holding down our couch or making sure the vegetables grew during all this neighbor meeting time??
Scares me to think about it.
Anyway, after the shock of our Year of Social Interaction wore off, I baked extra cookies and extra bread and made extra of these cute cone things with special adjustments to allow for jingly door hangingness and am about ready to put them all together for this weekend's walk through the neighborhood with Bubba for our annual (this will be year #2, so we can call it annual) festive-ish bringing of goods to doorknobs.
We will perhaps be sweating when we get done hanging these on 13 doors, but it will go faster when I can say, "Hey Bubb, can you hang this on Mike's door?" instead of, "Hey Bubb, can you hang this on the door of the house with the inflatable reindeer merry-go-round and broken rope lights that blink only on one end?"
Because, you know, I'm all about efficiency.
Monday, December 17, 2007
Wouldn't it be nice to just have, like, a few strands of lights brightening up the entry way, or maybe a wreath or what about just a tree in the front window? That would look nice. People would know it was Christmas in that house and that they were merry and festive and were welcoming others to enjoy the holiday spirit or whatever it is that they're trying to do when they dress their house up like a common whore and block out the night sky with their festive overdoingness.
I mean, I assume that's what people are going for: merriment, joy, festiveness. But I could be wrong. Maybe people like to have it look like they pissed off Walt Disney and he sent the Main Street Electric Parade to their house to kick some ass.
Because, to me, that's exactly what this looks like:
And then in other parts of this great nation, the same thing is going on. You know, a low grade Christmas assault on the neighborhood. What is stopping these people from parking a cannon in their front yard and shooting red and green cannonballs across the street at their neighbors?
"Merry Christmas Neighbor I Probably Haven't Ever Formally Met! LOOK AT MY SUPER MERRY HOUSE AND LIGHTS! I am the Christmasy-est ever! BEHOLD MY BIG CHRISTMAS SPIRIT!"
So, I'm trying to be merry, really I am. I've baked cookies. I've baked festive bread. I've been happily displaying all the cute cards you fun people send me of your kids torturing Mall Santa and you torturing your pets with holiday outfits made for babies. I've wrapped gifts and made many crafts and will be walking the neighborhood this weekend to hang a little holiday somethin' from my neighbor's doorknobs. I just don't like the tan I'm getting from being exposed to the wasteland of Wal-Mart's Seasonal Decor aisle that's draped over my neighborhood. So just go ahead and stoppit, you people who *just need to put up a few more lights because OH I found these blinky blinky ones today that we don't have yet in that one empty space in the yard* - stop it now.
I totally get that it's Super Christmas at your house and that you really like inflatable creatures and people (whoa) and you want everyone to know how you care way more that your house has the most lights and also animated deer and snow-blowing contraptions rather than mowed lawn, raked leaves and mail that's been brought in during the last century.
I GET IT.
Friday, December 14, 2007
Dudes. I have strawberries in December.
I mean had strawberries in December.
Before it became the bone-chillingest cold outside in the last four days and froze my lawn. But last Sunday I had strawberries in December and I will tell you that there is just nothing like going out to the garden, with my big barrel of raked leaves to cover the sleeping garden and finding that WHA? half a dozen strawberries had set mysteriously on the forgotten plants and OMG ripened right there.
And, by some other miracle (not sure if this was the Christmas kind or what) it was actually semi-warm at that moment and right where I was standing with the strawberries so I was able to pick about five strawberries right from the garden and eat them while they were still warm from the sun.
Seriously, I stepped into a summer time machine right there in my yard. For those few moments I was wearing my flip-flops instead of boots, shorts instead of jeans, a tank top instead of a, well, I was not having to wear a sweatshirt and a jacket and my cowl and some gloves over it. Whatever, I live in my wife-beaters year round, so I guess that's no indication of season. WHATEVER - for one minute I had my summer back.
AND I LOVE SUMMER.
It was a very happy time back then less than a week ago because I wasn't having to look in disbelief at my car's outdoor temp gauge because it was saying crazy things like "37 degrees" and worse "34 degrees" and then the worst so far, "28 degrees".
I would just like to take this time to advise the Universe, the Weather and Everything that this is "Sunny California" and I would like to see the warmth that "Sunny" implies make a reappearance even if it must means that the temperature stays above 40 degrees so that I don't die a frozen rigid burrito in my bed, thank you, that is all.
Yesyesyes, I realize that there are scary places in this country and, perhaps, round the world, right now that have crazier, colder, more miserable weather than this weeny "woe is me it's 30 degrees out and why is this sun so blindingly bright" weather I'm bitching about, but I don't live in those places and now you know why. I'm something of a cold weather wimp when I'm not wrapped carefully in my snowboarding best and up to my hips in powder because snow that I can ride is really the only thing that makes it OK for the temps to drop quite so low. And I will tell you that there is no snow (too bad my frozen lawn is extra flat and small) here in San Jose, CA and that means that seeing anything below 40 degrees on my car thermometer is unacceptable.
But for one shining (and also warm) moment last weekend I witnessed the Christmas Miracle of a handful of warm strawberries picked fresh from my garden. Two-fold Christmas Miracle, in fact, since, in addition to the out of season strawberriness, I'm just some random Jew broad that doesn't have Christmas anyway so the miraculousness was just that much more astounding.
Whatever, I'll take warm strawberries in December however I can get them.
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Remember last week when I said that I made a delicious thing for forgiveness purposes because I was all smashy and screaming swears due to Sewing Project Overload? Yes, you remember.
Well, it was chili. But really, it was The Best Chili Ever Almost. And I only say "Almost" because I thought of a few improvements I could make after the chili was halfway in my belly. But still, it was so excellent and is officially my favorite chili recipe. Which, if you're me, is a big thing because I do love my chili. (And Beano, but you know, we don't speak of such things as Ladies and all.)
And just to forewarn the meat fearful out there - this is not a vegetarian chili recipe. And that is because good chili, to me, means meat, and meat means two kinds of meat: beef and bacon. So if you're all "Ew! Meat is gross! And OMG bacon? ACK!" or whatever, go away so I can talk about the meat in my Best Ever Chili Almost. Later you can come back and we'll talk about tofu (which I also like) or something less freaky for you.
I've spoken of The Best Chili Ever Almost before, but back then it was just Good Chili and I wasn't getting all "The Best" about it or anything. That's because I had yet to include my secret weapon: a lot of canned homegrown tomatoes. And I can tell you, these babies made a big diff - taking Good Chili to The Best Chili Ever Almost in one fell swoop.
See, to use a term I've overused in the past, these tomatoes just make the whole flavor much lustier. And since the recipe calls for canned tomatoes and tomato sauce, I had the opportunity to bring the lustiness to new heights as I had on hand both the canned homegrown tomatoes and the disaster sauce from my run-in with the food mill/grinder/whatTHE HELLever you want to call it, ok. All crafted (albeit not necessarily "expertly") from the two tons of tomatoes grown in the garden this year. It was like the perfect storm of chili, people, and I was very excited.
I also made a few other tweaks to the recipe (I still love you long time, Sunset Magazine!) to bring the fabulousness to greater heights even. I will admit that some of these tweaks are based on my laziness/inability to properly follow a recipe BUT WHATEVER it makes it good.
Now, for the improvements that would cause this to become The Best Chili Ever. Recall the Best Tomato Sauce Ever, if you would. Well, the crucial part of that recipe is the oven roasting of the tomatoes. The char (which I'm constantly reminded is bad for me and causes cancer and a lot of other health things that are not as important as fabulous tomato sauce so stop telling me) is what really brings this sauce around.
And as I sat there canoodling with my bowl of chili (and cheese and sour cream, I will not lie) asking myself and, indirectly Bubba since he was right there doing his own chili canoodling, WHAT could POSSIBLY make this chili any better because oh my gawd it is just so good, it occurred to me.
What if I roasted the tomatoes. WHAT THEN? Oh OH OH -- and what if I actually made The Best Tomato Sauce Ever and roasted the canned tomatoes and then made all my other recipe tweaks (mistakes)??
It would be The One of chili.
Sadly, this did not dawn on me until I was halfway through the bowl and beyond the point of being able to make any recipe adjustments but, dude, I will so be making The One of chili eventually. At which point, I will return to this blog with a post entitled The One of Chili and then you will know that the moment of great food is upon us (and also, get some Beano.)
Unfortunately, The One of Chili will require the conspiring of inharmonious events like summertime (when the tomatoes are ripe on the vine) and my desire to make chili (when it's cold out) - but the promise of The One of Chili might be enough for me to sweat out a hot evening over the stove. I mean it is The One after all. It doesn't get much better than that.
Until then, however, I'll leave you with the chronological photos I took during the making of The Best Chili Ever Almost (because I took them all and want to now post them, not because you couldn't follow this recipe without them) and the promise that this chili is very good and would be lovely with a frosty brew, a fire in the fireplace, football on the tube and an agreeable man across the coffee table. Or none of the above and just the chili - your choice.
The Best Chili Ever Almost (aka Smoky Beef and Bacon Chili from Sunset Magazine) with my personal adjustments:
2. Increase heat to medium-high and add ground beef; break it up with a wooden spoon and stir gently until it loses its raw color, 6 to 8 minutes. Stir in spices and 1 tsp. salt and cook 1 minute. Add tomatoes, tomato sauce, beer, and Worcestershire and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover partially, and cook 30 minutes.
3. Add beans and cook 10 minutes, uncovered. Season to taste with additional salt. Serve warm, with toppings on the side.
Makes 6 servings
Monday, December 10, 2007
"I can't decide. Just use them all. BUT - be sure to leave a random bald spot on the lawn. We don't want to be obnoxious."
"Everything in the 'Christmas Lights' box is going up. Regardless of whether it works. And, no, I don't plan to ever look at it, so I'll never know."
"You can only be so heinous with static lights and I will not be restrained."
More soon - cheers.
Thursday, December 06, 2007
Take a moment away from your five thousand holiday projects to revel in the joy that is Announcing the Big Winners from this year's In Stitches-along. Go get tea, coffee, a beer - whatever, I'll wait...
If you recall, Amy Butler, the woman who created the incredible book from which we've been crafting all year, agreed to judge from all entrants in our Flickr pool and choose two Big Winners to prize with hand-selected fabulousness from her collections.
From the very busting-at-the-seams pool she chose two incredible entries. One to be announced here in Finnyland, one to be announced in AfricanKelliland. And because I can't think of anything else to say to draw this out and make it more dramatic ...
One of the two Big Winners of an Amy Butler hand-picked prize package is...
Rohanknitter and her sassy sushi placemats and napkins!
Phew...I couldn't take any more suspense. Really. Without another beer anyway. I totally just felt like Bob Barker right there. I mean, not with the beer. YOU KNOW.
So, Ms. Rohanknitter, much congrats and, of course, extra nice job on these placemats. They are very perfect and excellent. So much so that you should be receiving a nice prize in the mail very shortly from Amy Butler herself. And, no no, you don't even have to send your address or anything to either of us ATgmailDOTcom because we went ahead and gave it to her already.
IT IS WAY TO YOU RIGHT NOW!
Couldn't you barf from the excitement? Maybe that's just me and my beers, whatever.
Anyhoo, congrats to you and to all of you for sewing along with Kelli and I this year. We've really had fun and *gasp* learned a few things (quilting with masking tape - best thing ever) and are now hatching our evil plans for the 2008 Sew Along with Book To Be Announced which you can vote on right here. Don't you want to just keep sewing along? We do. Obviously.
And lest you think we forgot about the November/December project (sorry, did you think you were off the hook?), we'll be announcing the winner in January along with the new 2008 Sew Along book and ALSO a very special other thing that you do not want to miss because it is so rad. Promise. I'm hand sweating right now just thinking about it.
So, go over to AfricanKelliland (I'll stop calling it that now) and see who the other fancy fabulous winner is. And then vote for your 2008 Sew Along Book of choice here. And then go have a nap because you are probably as exhausted as I am from these big announcements and beers.
Happy Holidays and Sewing Along!
Tuesday, December 04, 2007
When Kelli and I decided to call the Nov/Dec project, "Dealer's Choice", I knew exactly what I was going to make.
See, Bubba has been taking his shirts to the dry cleany lately because he, like me, detests ironing in a very enthusiastic manner. To the point where, rather than hanging up shirts out of the dryer (or in my case any clothing at all), the shirts just get left in the dryer to be "warmed up" when one needs to wear them. And while this is an effective method for keeping the major wrinkles out of clothes, it does mean that you're always getting dressed in the kitchen, your collars are doomed to be all crinkled up in an annoying way and your wife (me) gets all bitchy she goes again to throw wet clothes in the dryer and she is met with the same pile of semi-warm, semi-wrinkled man shirts.
I will spare you the details, but there have been some dramatic "discussions" in our house about the logistics of two people separately laundering clothes and how this can be accomplished when the:
A. Dryer is acting as a warming closet.
B. The weekend is only two days long.
Anyhoo, Bubba took it upon himself to devise a much more effective means of achieving wrinkle-free shirts - he packs them up and takes them to the dry cleany to be cleaned and pressed and returned on hangers which can be hung in our closet so getting dressed doesn't have to include "ducking behind the dryer when the neighbor opens their window".
Frankly, I applaud this effort. On a few levels, actually, because I can never get my crap together long enough to gather dry cleanables on any regular schedule even though I have a dry cleaning service at work and even though I have plenty of crap that could use a good press.
Ah well, this is why so many of my clothes come from Target. Land of the machine wash/dry.
So, when I saw him wadding up his shirts and throwing them in the back of the truck, my mind immediately went to the Oversized Laundry Bag pattern in InStitches. What better way to say, "Hey man, thanks for being smarter than me and doing what I should have been doing all along!" than to give him a proper sack in which to carry his dry cleany shirts?
And bless him for giving me a big enthusiastic thumbs up when I suggested it.
I was reassured of the "fun" status of this project when I asked Bubba what kind of fabric he had in mind and he said, "Dunno - how about astronauts or Peppy Le Pew or KC Chiefs or or or...something like that."
I believe it was at this point that I started to drool.
I knew that I was going to get to go to the fabric store and pick out the most fucked up looking patterns that I normally look at and go, "Who would ever buy this and WHAT would they even do with it and how come I have to buy something with pleasing colors and shapes when I could have skeleton pirates and flames??"
Well, I didn't know about the pirates or flames at that point, but I knew I wasn't going to have to be all why don't they have a blue that matches this blue and where do they keep the baby fabric and for gawd's sake where do they keep the damn 10 oz. canvas in this shithole and what not.
Sadly, I did have to do some hunting for 10 oz canvas (btw: no canvas I saw came with a weight in ounces so I just used some I had at home, whatever), but there was very little color matching going on and the only baby fabric I got had pink giraffes on it and is very rad, so everything worked out.
Then I went home and sewed and sewed with the scary ass fabric while watching the 49ers lose (LOSERS) and the Raiders win (LOSERS) and in the end I had a very sweet and awesome Oversized Laundry Bag to present to The Mister who couldn't have looked more pleased. I even customized the bag for his specific use by excluding the bottom portion of the bag to keep the size in check for the Just Shirts type of laundry he'd be handling.
The real beauty came when he stuffed it full of shirts and threw it in the truck. Just like my vision! Except now with pirates! And he also said "yarrrr", I'm sure of it. And I said "Avast ye maitees!" for no particular reason except I'd been staring at pirates all afternoon and could.not.help.myself.
Tell me, are eye-patches still in style? Just you know, because...
Dude, right? Every time I go to the Flickr pool I get all verklempt just looking at the number of members. Every time I go there's more! There are so many fancy crafters out there. I KNEW IT. Which makes me feel like less of a weirdo when my Saturday To-Do list consists of "go to the fabric store...go to that beading place...go to Michael's...etc" and I'm excited about it. Anyway, we all know I'm a little bizarre, no need to go on about it I guess.
But that's not even considering my totally shameful star struckedness (this is a word now)! Truth be told, I totally started to hand sweat when Amy said she'd choose AND prize our final winners. Dork, I know. Anyway - you're in good company with all that.
So, there's been that thing in the back of my head, you know, since this year has been so fun and we've made so many groovy things. That thing being - what are we going to do next year?
We must go on. We must make more groovy things.
But which book will supply the patterns and ideas from which we make the groovy things?
I was thinking that one of these might be good choices:
Bend the Rules Sewing
Simple Gifts to Stitch
But I can't decide. Plus, I was wondering what all you crafters would want to do.
Do you have a new sewing book that is burning a hole in your machine? Have you been, like, totally fantasizing about starting a project from *gasp* another book aside from InStitches and haven't said anything?
Don't worry - totally OK. But tell us! Then maybe we choose it for the 2008 sew along and you don't have to closet-sew like a fiend, all behind closed doors and what not, making your neighbors nervous that you might be one of those "loners who always keeps to themselves" and then ends up killing all the neighborhood squirrels or whatever.
Anyway - take that as you may, but if you have suggestions for a great fabulous sewing book that can stand up to monthly projects, my ineptitude and Kelli's crave for all things embellishy (also a word now), comment and let us know.
We'll announce in January along with the Nov/Dec project winner.
Monday, December 03, 2007
This weekend was a glorious blur of craftivity. I set out on Saturday AM with a list so dorky even I shuddered a little when I realized that it had fallen out of my pocket (seriously, I almost passed away when I realized it was gone - YIKES.) and that someone normal might see it and wonder about the Supah Dork that had written it out with her pen that has a big yellow flower taped to one end.
Any list with separate sub-lists for places like Michael's, Hancock Fabrics, Eddie's Quilting Bee, See's Candies, that random bead place downtown and Petsmart can really only belong to a Supah Dork like myself. I don't think the extra anal sub-listing and sub-categorizing and *maybe* color coding did me any favors. But I bet whoever picked up my list got a good laugh out of it. Which is good because I nearly cried when I realized I'd lost it and then would not be able to cross all the things off of it which I'd just finished doing.
That is right, I had already finished everything on the list. So, my freak-outingness was over the fact that I wasn't going to be able to sit in my car and triumphantly cross all the things off my list, not because I wasn't going to be able to remember what I needed To-Do. This is a list that only I was going to see, mind you. And no one was holding me accountable for any of it, save for the trip to See's where a back-up list (thank you Bubba) had been texted to me in the unlikely event of a lost Master List.
I told you, my hold on reality is tentative at best. And I'm obviously a pretty significant dork. Two things which Bubba clearly knows well and for which he has created some pretty useful Plan Bs.
About that crafting though...
A while back my very good friend surprise gifted (best kind of gifts, yes) me Amy Karol's Bend the Rules Sewing book. And, at first, I was all hopped up excited to make some things from it, but then I got sidetracked with Life and Everything and, as such, set it aside for The Future. When I would have time to do things like sew from a book that doesn't have a self-imposed monthly time limit. Not that I don't love and adore our monthly sew along (because I do VERY MUCH), but with it comes the necessity to prioritize and with prioritizing comes realizing that I, myself, can not work on too many projects at once if I want to keep my sewing machine in one piece AND if I want to continue my marriage. I get all moody and smashy with too many projects (and instructions telling me what to do) under foot, so I've learned to limit myself a little bit.
Anyway, The Future was here this weekend because two influencing factors converged, which made hauling out TWO sewing books necessary and possible all at once. The two factors being Goddaughter Who Needs a Fabulous Christmas Gift and I'm Going To the Fabric Store Anyway.
Against all odds, I actually completed two projects without any bloodshed whatsoever and I am fairly certain that Bubba is still talking to me. Although the reason he is still *maybe* talking to me will be the fodder for another post this week. I will tell you it is delicious and not X-rated, in case you were worried/excited/drooling in an unbecoming way at the thought.
FO #1: Swing Smock, Bend-the-Rules Sewing by Amy Karol
I have seen the millions of cute ass smocks Lera has made over the past year or so and I keep commenting and telling her that "Oh, I am SO making one of those and with a special twist", which has been a total lie (not that I meant to lie, but time, people, I need more time!) until this weekend when I finally found the most perfect fabric ever from which to make the perfect smock with the perfect twistiness for my, also perfect, goddaughter.
First, you will notice the perfectly cute pink giraffes. Aren't they so? I don't even like pink and I found this fabric irresistible. Bubba said it was cute, too - without very much prompting, so I feel like that is another check in the cute/perfect column. I do, however, like giraffes, so there's that.
Anyway, the twisty part of all this was that I wanted to add a divided pocket to the smock, to aid in the carrying of all sorts of art supplies which I feel all children need. Frankly, I find pockets in my aprons (which are really smocks) very useful for hauling around all those things that I refuse to pick up during a "second trip" (more on this another time) and what child would want to be without her So Big Crayons for even one moment?
So, divided pocket it was. Although getting this right added an annoyingly time consuming dimension to the already semi-annoying pattern which "had" to be enlarged on a printer by 129% or something before I could use it.
FYI: I don't like this. This is like getting all your ingredients home to make a fabulous dinner and then realizing that, whoopsy, the whole thing has to, like, marinate overnight or something equally deal-breaking. LAME.
But, because I am who I am (stubborn, time-constrained, living in a house that does not come with office equipment like copiers that can "enlarge" things), I opened the book to the "pattern" page, folded my giraffes in half and then freehand drew the pattern at approx 157% (or what THE HELL ever %) the size with my now fully functioning blue pen. It looked pretty damn close and good to me. Until I cut it out and, while remarking at my amazing freehand drawing skills, realized that I'd cut it so that the giraffes were head-down instead of head-up like normal. These were not ostriches, so, needed to be vertical so as not to confuse the child. I toyed with ideas like, "The giraffes are head down, obviously, so that she can enjoy them while she's wearing the smock.", but I knew I'd fold under questioning.
Anyway, I re-freehand drew the thing and re-cut it out with the giraffes facing up and all was well. I even did a bit of the sewing (because there are, like, two seams) while I talked to my mom on the phone, which is a new feat of efficiency of which I was very proud. Then I set out to sew the pocket to the front and ran into some logistical issues with getting the seams just right without top-stitching and a bunch of crazy crazy crazy later, I was ready to sew on the bias tape and begin my serenade of four letter words.
The thing with bias tape is this, it looks easy, it sounds easy, everyone says it's easy, it looks really nice, I want it to be easy - but it's not. No. I have a billion issues with this stuff every time I use it and no matter how awful it gets, just one inch of success and I'm like, "WOO! This is easy! And look how good it looks! Awesome! I will use this all the time!" Then the fabric slips out of the fold again and I'm back to saying loud swears that get the neighbors calling the cops.
I think what it comes down to is this, it is easy. I'm just retarded and not so swift with the cutting of fabric or the general use of a sewing machine, so it's going to be a little tougher for me to do simple things that can be easily accomplished by a five year old given all the right equipment.
Funny note: Upon completion of this project, I'm of the "This is awesome!" opinion with regard to bias tape. Because I ended on a completed project rather than a pile of useless crap. In which case my opinion would have been the opposite, obviously.
So, with that, the Swing Smock with added Pocket Twistiness is done and ready for gifting, complete with So Big Crayons and the obligatory Crayola markers in the Classic colors.
FO#2 this week. And then the mind-numbingly detailed recount of what I made so that Bubba will forgive my smashiness and yelling. And then some Big News about the sewalong. And then I don't know what but probably some more making fun of ugly houses.
Friday, November 30, 2007
Well, as of the day after Thanksgiving, I have a new poo to hunt, and it is much better lit than any other poo I could care to find.
And with that, I kick off this year's Fugly House parade.
See, people, if you didn't know it already I spend the month of December taking pictures of every horribly decorated house I see so that I can put the pictures up right here and make snide comments about them for my personal satisfaction and perhaps your enjoyment as well.
And, yes, I realize that it is only November right now, but if people are going to be assclowns and start putting up ridiculous decorations the day after Thanksgiving when, I'm told, we are all to be out shopping, then I am going to take pictures of them while Jada pees on their blinking lawn decorations because if they are starting early with the shitshow, then I am starting early with the shit talking.
Besides, I'm already standing there anyway since it's easier to find her poo when it falls near a glowing Sant-y Claus or one of those stupid animated reindeer, so why not take photos in the mean time, right?
To start this year's hot mess off on a thematic note, I thought I'd feature a montage of one of my most hated holiday decorations, The Always Crooked and Stupid Looking Light-up Candy Canes.
And this is from just ONE walk with the dog. Imagine the goodness that will come from 45 nightly walks.
Christmas is only 26 days away you say?
Pish-tosh, you know that no one takes their Christmas lights down right after the holiday just like they should and I pray for.
In fact, I could probably provide daily updates of illuminated neighborhood ugliness for the next 90 days if I had the inclination because that is how crazy this whole decoration mania has gotten. Ugly insanity if you ask me.
Anyway, expect to see a few more posts like this one. Where I capture the poor decisions of my neighbors and then speculate on their mental well-being. And if you should care to throw a gem into the ring here, I'm all ready to give your neighbors the same treatment. Just take a photo (whether your dog is currently pooping in their sidewalk patch or not) and sent it to finnyknitsATgmailDOTcom.
And if you don't like this little activity and would rather I go back to bitching about sewing even quilting lines or hemming over how to fit four billion loaves of holiday bread into my freezer, do not despair. There will plenty of that to come, as well, and I'll even try to tone down the swears, honeybear, for those posts if that makes you more comfortable, you big cry babies.
Monday, November 26, 2007
No, I did not run the 10K on Thanksgiving, in case you were doing some uneducated secret wagering or anything. I ran the 5K and came in with a 10 min/mile pace, which for me, is good and an improvement.
Especially given the obstacles the race organizers set before us on that great day of Thanks.
I will sum these obstacles up in a hackneyed holiday list of Thankfulness, yes.
I am thankful for:
- my ability to recognize the letters, "V-Z", from across a sea of sporadically bobbing ponytails and ballcaps, despite the inopportune placement of the registration area
- my ability to balance on one leg while simultaneously zip-tying a ChampionChip to my shoelace, dodging occasional blows from passing doublewide strollers (really, people?) and giving directions to the alphabetically challenged toward the registration tents which were LIKE RIGHT THERE CAN'T YOU SEE THEM?
- Bubba coming equipped with an enormous amount of patience so that when some old bag snarks at him for letting the dog pee on the grass in the giant park which is usually home to a thousand homeless people and their dogs, he does not hit her square in the jaw and remind her that she has probably already stepped in worse, you stupid woman
- the powerful brakes with which I apparently come equipped. Without which I would have 100% crushed a small woman hovering over the starting pad while she waited for space to clear ahead of her small self, thus allowing her to have a more advantageous chip time while the other 6,000 of us tried to advance at any pace in order to avoid said crushing
- the fact that I didn't realize there were any hills on the race course until they were upon me
- the 5K turnaround
- my wisdom in forgoing the cheesy race Tshirt and post race "goodie" bag because I think we all know that stuff is crap anyway
Apparently the group organizing the event underestimated the staggering drawing power of the Thanksgiving Day Eat All You Want and Don't Feel Guilty About it in Your Stretchy Pants Free Pass, which is what got me there, lest you think otherwise.
I mean, it was 40 goddamn degrees outside and I was not there just to test out the CoolTech in my new long-sleevy running top. Even though, I will say that it was nice, as was my vest, and if my toes weren't little frozen nubbins until mile 2.5 when they turned to hot fiery toe coals, I might even say I was almost comfortable. Except for the toe thing. And the bruises I sustained while trying to dodge the doublewide strollers that did not heed the "Families and Strollers in the Back" rule.
Can I just ask The Universe one thing, here: Why do we have rules, Universe, if no FUCKING one is going to pay attention to them but me? Also, why do people wear those Batman tool belts full of Accelerade for a 3 mile race?
Thanks, Universe. That's all I want to know. Just because I know it clearly said in all the race materials that there were no headphones or dogs allowed on the race course and all the strollers had to be in the back of the crowd, but, like, there they were, all rocking and trotting and rolling around with the rest of us. As though they were allowed to be there, ramming into us and making a big stink about how come it's taking so long to get across the starting line when they're not even supposed to be running the race to begin with.
I'm just saying, you know.
After all was said and done though, it was a fairly decent way to start a Thanksgiving Day. Especially when I had specific plans about how many (four) desserts I was going to be eating and how little movement I was going to be participating in until faced with said desserts. Plus, we supported local charities and walked the dog long enough to justify a two hour truck ride to my folks'.
I was also very thankful for Race Fries and Bubba's steadfast dedication to the rule that all races must be followed by the consumption of Race Fries and their usual accompaniments (cheeseburger and DC).
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
And now the Turkey Trot is tomorrow and I'm thinking I'll run the 5K and then go to my mom's and have four desserts.
My thinking is this: most people in the US probably don't do ANY exercise on Thanksgiving, so I'm, like, ahead of the game. You know, even though I'm cutting my distance in half and having twice as many desserts.
Yes, your math is correct. I normally have at least two desserts on Thanksgiving, because duh, it is Thanksgiving. Oh, and I drink beers.
But whatever, it's the Turkey Trot's fault because they don't make you sign up for a 5K OR a 10K, you just sign up as a stupid general participant and then apparently decide how far you feel like running when you get there in your stretchy pants and long sleeves in the 40 degree weather and your mom (who is the best cook ever) has beers and a trough of mashed potatoes waiting on the other end.
Who, I ask you, would be, like, "Yes, I will forgo my Thanksgiving feast of beers by another half hour" when they (me) could just as easily be like, "I will just slam my way through the 5K and be on my way to drunken mashed potato eating in half an hour" instead.
WHO I ASK YOU? No one, that's who.
So, I will be running a 5k tomorrow morning (or trotting, as the race name indicates) and then hauling my ass (and Bubba and dog) to my folks' for some madcap mashed potato and pie eating with the small comfort that I just ran a race and can afford the extra one million calories.
And then maybe we arrive back home and the final pieces to the Extreme Patchworking Project will have arrived and I will be able to close the book on this Extremely unnecessarily complicated project.
See, when I finished with the project before, I was apparently also a little heavy in the Crazy department because I thought that I would make it extra special (and then also Extra Complicated) by going beyond the pattern and making it Useful as well as Finished. Two things that do not always coincide in my world of Just Getting the Fucking Thing Done.
The issue with this project was that, while cute, this bag was essentially useless to me as a purse and I couldn't really conceive of passing it off as a gift unless I could demonstrate its usefulness somehow.
So I consulted Bubba by holding the purse up at eye level and asking him what HE thought I should do. His idea was to take it to the grocery store and use it as a bread bag. Size-wise this makes sense, but insisting that Already Bitchy Safeway Cashier put my bread into the proprietary bag is about *thismuch* guaranteeing that the bread will be a smooshed useless wad rather than the perfectly packaged loaf of Bubba's dreams.
However, when re-evaluating the bag for potential usefulness, by holding it up to my own eye level and asking the question, "What size thing fits in here?", the answer came pretty fast: Knitting needles.
Like those big long annoying-because-they-don't-fit-any-of-my-needle-cases needles that you want to use but can't take anywhere because of their annoyingly long size that I keep talking about. But now there is a bag for just such annoying things. A bag that will let you take a project and a pattern AND the annoyingly ass long needles all at the same time and in a very patchworky fun way.
Oh and what if there was a matching patchworky needle case for the bag that would hold the long ass annoying needles? YES. We are there.
There = Finished and Newly Useful Extreme Patchwork Bag
So yes, it is finally done. Albeit not in the ultra supermost neato way I was originally imagining (there were secret pockets and fold out this and thats, etc), but in a way where I can give it as a gift without that someone looking at me with that, "Hey thanks for this thing I don't know what it is" look. Which I do get sometimes with my handicrafts.
So, someone, if you get this as a gift, now you know what it is and please don't look at me like that because I'll cry.
Monday, November 19, 2007
I know you have this pile.
It is a pile of things which you love but somehow haven't managed to work into your surroundings. So, they end up in a pile. Or a bag. Or tucked neatly into a hand-wrapped Moroccan drum and set on a high shelf with the other homeless but desirable things with the understanding that *someday* you are going to have the perfect place for them but until that day comes, they will just hang out in the pile/bag/drum while Bubba makes quiet but pointed comments about where is that cool thing that his mom brought back from Bali and did we ever unpack the penis gourd from our last move.
See, your life is just like mine. I knew it.
This past weekend I decided to face The Pile. Which is a scary idea since The Pile has things in it so varied and obscure that dealing with The Pile has become a task that I often approach but inevitably end up backing slowly away from while whispering, "I'm not ready. I'm not ready."
See, The Pile has things in it like a Moroccan drum, Costa Rican maracas, prayer rugs, African masks, a tradesman's knife, a cast iron elephant, embroidered tapestries, batiks, wax-dyed fabrics and the penis gourd. So, obviously, all things I love and cherish but also things that really need *a special place* in which to be properly admired or pointed at while going,
"What is THAT for? And why is there a saucy little feather at the end?"
I'm sure you can see why it's taken me so long to deal with these things. I mean, how long did it take you to unpack and properly showcase your penis gourd? See, I bet yours is still packed away in the penny saver wrap at this very moment.
But Sunday was the day. And it was the soonest possible moment that I could have tackled this project, I assure you, because the *special place* in which these treasures were to be showcased wasn't ready until then.
And that is because we finally had rewired and arranged the office just right, with my new white couch in just the right spot across from the new desk on top of the clean rug with the two bookcases and wasn't it all just perfect and ready. Because, as you know, I am crazy and OCD and want to have my cake and eat it too and then have it for dessert so I tend to obsess over things and not budge an inch to make them happen until I know it will be just right.
Imagine if you will, the picnic it must be to be married to me.
Thankfully the stars were properly aligned this past Sunday and I was able to unveil and arrange almost all of The Pile's treasures throughout our perfect canvas of an office, thus satisfying my inner crazy to the point where I was then able to relax and watch football while napping intermittently.
Oh the sheer bliss.
Of the items in The Pile that I was most eager to display was this gorgeous fabric that Kelli brought back for me from Africa a million long years ago.
When she gave it to me I knew a few things right off the bat:
1. I loved it very much and it was perfect.
2. It would become a very groovy set of pillows for my future sofa bed in our future office which would set off the future decorating that I would do. In the future.
You can imagine how much the "in the future" part of this equation annoyed my Crazy since I am a woman of little patience AND one who desires instant gratification. Such a hard, hard combo to manage. Just ask Bubba.
Thankfully "the future" was this weekend and the fabulous fabric that has been taunting me from its side of The Pile for so long was sliced and sewn and stuffed with pillow forms and arranged *just so* on the couch for all (me) to enjoy. I'd like to think that Bubba can appreciate the mind energy that has gone into bringing these pillows into existence, but he is closer to Normal than I am, so probably just appreciates them in the normal way one would usually appreciate a pillow. Like maybe as a cushion for one's back while reclining on a couch.
I don't know what normal people do, I'm just guessing here.
Anyway, my big vision for the office, The Universe and Everything is coming together nicely and thank god because if I had to stare at that fabric in its uncut and unrealized potential state for ONE. MORE. DAY. I probably would have spontaneously combusted from the energy it was taking to hold back the Crazy.
And if you're wondering where is the rest of The Pile and where did I put the penis gourd, well, you're just going to have to wait until it's all put away *just right* so that I can take a perfectly staged photo where nothing has dog/cat/my hair on it and I can pretend that we always live in a house so clean and perfect.
So, like, probably not real soon, but I'll work on it.
Monday, November 12, 2007
Because it is almost empty.
Like, it only has a few smallish things on it and that's all. There is actual room for, I don't know, things. In the event that I need space for something linen-ish, or hall-ish, or whatever-ish - I have a space for it!
Give it a minute - the excitement will get to you, too.
Wait for it...
Whoa - see. That is rad. The feeling of available space. Ahhhhhh.
I will tell you that in our perfect-except-for-the-fact-that-it's-evil-small house, space is a commodity. Even one shelf can make a difference between keeping and Goodwilling something. And we're at the point where I've edited and sifted and cleaned out our stuff so many times that when I'm trying to compromise and make space I'm choosing between two things I really like rather than one thing I'm currently using and one thing that was purchased in 1983, still has the store tags and is so heinously ugly as to be unforgivable.
And if I ask Bubba to store one more thing in the garage he is going to divorce my ever-shopping ass.
So, how did I come to acquire something as rare and exotic as a free hall closest shelf (mostly)? Only buy buying the best sofa-bed known to man which has the most ingenious sofa-to-bed mechanism as well as a perfectly fabulous storage compartment within the sofa itself.
And don't you know that it was set up for approximately 17 seconds before I raced off down the hall (short race) to the closet to grab the spare comforter, pillows, sheets and mattress pad quick like a god damn cat.
That's how fast I was.
It was nearly a religious experience tucking the comforter (with new groovy duvet donchaknow), sheets and pad into the storage compartment and sliding the bed closed like nothing ever happened.
So, the first time I tried to overstuff it. Yes, obviously, because that is who I am, The Queen of Forcing It, but when it became obvious that two pillows AND a KING comforter AND a mattress pad AND a sheet set weren't going to fit in there I surrendered gracefully (ie. no crying or throwing of scissors) and moved the pillows back to the high shelf in the hall closet. It was a hard moment for me *tear* but I made it through.
It was the knowledge of having at least one shelf free that carried me through. And also that when the time comes to put the sofa bed together, I won't have to go hunting all over the property for the sheets and then the comforter and then where are the damn pillows and wait these sheets are the wrong size and what about a mattress pad and then let's just see if they mind a sleeping bag in the yard.
Plus, there's the chance that next time I need to store something I won't have to go weeping topless to Bubba begging for a little space in the garage because I'll just be able to slam it into the fourth shelf in the hall closet and call it a day.
Exciting! And a little sad for Bubba, I guess.
So, now you know that I like/like a shelf in our hall closet and that I've worn out my welcome when it comes to Bubba and his man-space, The Garage Mahal.
The big question remains, however: how long until I fill up the shelf and OH WHAT WILL I PUT IN THERE THE ONE OPEN SPACE IN MY WHOLE HOUSE WOW?