Holey Crap! Don’t Throw That Out!

It’s been a lo-o-o-ng winter here in Portland, Maine.  Now nearly March, snow tickles the windowsills and blackens the streets.  People warned us of the ugliness of this time when we moved here five years ago.  They urged us to look inward, to remember that spring is on its way, to ignore the permafrost on every surface in this salt-lick of a city.  But in truth, the snow itself, the mountainous banks lining every parking lot, even soot-gray, are a novelty.

Continue reading “Holey Crap! Don’t Throw That Out!”

Sewing Project 2.5: The Shower Curtain

This is technically my THIRD sewing project since getting my beautiful new machine, but I am bumping it up to the 2.5 position. Project No. 2 – a skirt for yours truly – is at a stand-still. Technically not my fault, since I assembled the body correctly, but having been shafted a sheet of directions I have no idea how to install the zipper and finish the waistband. We will speak no more of that now. Project 3 has been bumped to the front of the line. And it has REIGNED SUPREME.

We have an issue in our third floor bath. For some odd reason our shower curtains are waaay tooooo loooooong, so when in use the extra inches of material line the tub & get totally soaked. This leads to mildew problems and general ickiness, neither of which I like. So now that I have my brand new machine, I was going to hem our shower curtain. Which I’m still planning on doing, but since I had to launder the sucker before I could work on it anyway, I decided to try my hand at making a brand new one. And I couldn’t be happier with the results. Here is the material:

I’d purchased it some time ago. It is a soft Indian cotton. Yes, it is cheery. I thought it would look terrific in our bath, with its sunny yellow tile. AND IT DOES. WHICH MAKES ME SOOOOO HAPPPPPYYY!!!!!!

So even though I didn’t have a pattern or anything, I knew I could handle this one. And truly, making a shower curtain is about as easy as it comes. I didn’t even need to read the section of my manual on how to buttonhole b/c the material I’d purchased came with ties at the top.

HOW GREAT IS THAT! It did however come as two panels. Initially when I bought it (from the thrift shoppe, of course) I thought it was supposed to be curtains. But as each supposed “curtain” was (no joke) 12 feet long, I quickly concluded I’d been wrong. I still don’t know what the heck they were intended for, but they do work fabbbbulously as a shower curtain. So, I pinned the two panels together, stitched up the seam. Hemmed the whole thing to a perfect length and SHAZAM! Shower curtain extraordinaire. Not bad for an hour of work. YAY!

My first sewing project.

Yesterday I was positively GIDDY with the glory that is my brand new sewing machine. So after finishing up all of my housewifely chores, and reading half the manual, I decided IT WAS TIME. I put my younger daughter in the car and off we went to find my very first sewing machine project. And since I just knew my younger daughter would soon be demanding huge amounts of my attention, attention which would otherwise be captivated by the glow of the light on my new sewing machine, I was also looking for a foolproof bribe. Which I oh-so-conveniently found in the form of a 15 piece paint-your-own plastic suncatcher kit; the best $4 I have spent in quite some time.

As a complete novice sewing champion, I wanted to select a pattern which wouldn’t tax my repertoire of skills and throw me over the edge. Here is the pattern I selected:

It does look sort of complicated, but reading the back of the package I decided it would fit the bill, requiring only fabric, thread and the pattern itself. It was waay less complicated than the prom dresses featured prominently in the racks, and slightly more practical than the patterned scrubs, especially since I am not employed as a vet tech – well, not professionally anyway. I was not eager to undertake anything requiring elastic, buttons or zippers, since I hadn’t gotten to that section in the manual AND I WANTED TO SEW NOW!! I then chose a 100% cotton batik print from India, not only b/c I found it attractive, but also b/c I knew its busy pattern would mask any less-than-perfect stitching and/or slip-ups. It looks like this:

YES it IS PRETTY. Thank you.

So by mid-afternoon I’d delved headfirst into the wondrous world of My Very First Sewing Project. And then the fun began. Because I never knew how truly colorful my vocabulary is, nor just how thin I can stretch my patience.

As I laid out the fabric and removed the pattern from its paper sheath, I wondered WHAT THE HELL I’D GOTTEN MYSELF INTO. It’s been 20 years since Home Ec at Abington Jr, and a lot of other baggage has been crammed on top of the Suitcase of Sewing Knowledge in the interim. I pondered the thin tissue pages, I studied the pattern directions which seemed to have been written in some secret cuneiform for sewing professionals. I am a cook. I know basting, but WHAT THE HELL IS BASTING?? After several online consultations and a whole lot of worried sweating, I just said Screw It. and I started. I knew it wasn’t going to kill anyone if it wasn’t perfect, I AM NOT NASA.

So as I pinned, and pondered, and carefully cut, I simply prayed that this undertaking would not render me so angry I would throw my beautiful new sewing machine out the front window. And as I stitched and bitched, basted and un-basted, and jammed the bobbin for the UMPTEENTH F*CKING TIME, I knew, thread by thread, that I was earning my stripes. I was rediscovering the joy that is creation, and seeing what every creator sees. The wondrous beauty in form. Round about midnight (with a dinner break in between) it was DONE. Well, technically I still have to slip-stitch the bodice liner to the inner seam, but as you cannot SEE THAT IN THE PICTURE, it is DONE.

My first sewing machine.

Just a quick post this morn b/c I am OFF to explore the greatness that is MY VERY FIRST SEWING MACHINE! YAY!!! Here’s what it looks like:

Isn’t she PRETTY?? I feel just like a proud new momma.

I did a lot of research yesterday (mostly to ward off depression at my mother’s departure), and upon mommy’s recommendation checked the Sears website. My mom has been a devoted Kenmore user for years, and yippee! I found EXACTLY what I’d been looking for. A 43-stitch machine, very basic, with 5-star reviews across the board. It’s perfect. Okay, well it looks perfect – all I’ve done so far is take it out of the box, plug the thing in and make sure the needle moved up and down. But in comparison to my last experience, I feel like I’ve already won the marathon.

Weekend with Mommy

My weekend in one word:


And in two:

CHA CHING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

For those of you who are vision impaired, Saturday night I won $738.50 at the Borgata Casino Hotel & Spa on a slot machine. I will NOT tell you which one b/c it is now my secret luckiest winniest machine ever and MINE ALONE. Plus I do NOT want to encourage anyone in the folly that is gambling. Let’s face it folks, you are probably better off going into the bathroom, taking out your wallet and flushing it down the toilet than to try to WIN AT GAMBLING b/c it ain’t gonna happen. EXCEPT FOR ME!!!!!!!! WOOHOOOOOOOOOOO!!!

What a magnificently crazy fun-filled weekend!! Today I am trying to get back into the swing of things, but frankly I’m really not feeling much inclined. And who can blame me? The prospect of laundry and chores, bleech. I haven’t even brushed my teeth yet, and I might not now b/c I AM RICH. I am ready to retire for good. Like my good friend Jim next door who has thrown in the towel after 36 glorious years. And I am not speaking of 36 years of WORK – Oh NO! He is 36 and has decided to retire. B/c THAT is West Philly living and I LOVE IT!

SO where was I?? Oh yes, the weekend was grand. Well to be honest it started out a little shitty, but what else could it be when a sewer line backs up into your basement? Ahhhhh. Nothing like the smell of poop in the morning. Or the afternoon. Cause that’s how long it took us to remedy THAT lil problem. And by US you know of course I mean my beloved husband, b/c he’s the one who had to touch the stuff. YUM-YUM. Here is a photo for your enjoyment:

Look at that hand. He joked that he was going to rinse it in gasoline, but I do not think he actually did. At least not while I was watching. He had to go to the Home Depot and rent a big giant snake. It is a tool for plunging out your sewer line and not the fanged animal of course, though that would have been preferable to the poo. So the weekend’s festivities got off to a bit of a late start, but you can see how Saturday night finished, so who cares. right? My husband is the BEST.

Sunday we took in the last day at the Philadelphia Flower Show. They were not being persnickety about which door you used either, much to my relief. Though of course you had to buy tickets which of course did not come cheap. But that’s o-kay b/c our weekend was ON THE BORGATA. So the flowers were fun, the swarming masses much less so. We ate lunch across the street at the Reading Terminal Market. We had cheesesteaks at Rick’s, which is still there, at least until the court date in June. I had not eaten at Rick’s for quite some time and realized why. No offense to Rick’s, but they are one of the few (if only) Philly cheesesteak joints that 1) don’t chop their meat, which I don’t care for, and 2) offer the “works” aka lettuce & tomato on the steaks. As a Philadelphian I have to say this is weird. I have eaten steaks all my life and have yet, until this weekend, to see hoagie fixins on one unless it’s a HOAGIE. Oh well. It was otherwise o-kay. And of course we had Bassett’s which rocks above all others. I had pumpkin AND peach on one cone and it was simply Heaven in an ice cream.

Yesterday we spent the day at Peddler’s Village in Lahaska. My parents used to live minutes from there in New Hope, and my mommy hadn’t been back since moving to Atlanta. Almost a year and a half ago. So we took the tour and tooled past her old pad. It was not looking too bad, but it just wasn’t the same. We spent the rest of the afternoon eating and playing games at Giggleberry Fair, the Peddler’s Village (slightly) less commercial equivalent of a Chuck E. Cheese. Since it was a Monday afternoon, it was D-E-A-D. My mom took the girls on the carousel and the older man who runs the thing let them stay on waaay longer than normal. I believe out of sheer boredom. It was great fun the first 5-10 minutes, but after that all three of them looked a bit queezy. My husband & I were both very glad to be watching from a bench. Afterward, we hit the outlets. My mommy bought the girls a HUGE bag full of stuff from the Children’s Place, they must have gotten like 5 outfits each. Everything was BEYOND CHEAP, like 99 cents, $2, $3. CRAZY. I think she spent $70 total on the whole lot of it. I really like the Children’s Place very cute & colorful clothing, but some of their stuff can lean distinctly towards trampville. Hoochie mama gear on women is mildly entertaining; on a 4 year old it is criminal.

My mommy also bought me the rockingest pair of shoes. They look like granny shoes, here I am wearing them:

YES they ARE COOL. They will look better w/out my fuzzy polka dot socks, but they still look great even with them. WOW. I love these shoes. I used to have a pair like this back in the early 90s (that’s 1990s NOT 1890s, though they probably looked just like this back then too). My friend Daffy just bought a similar pair. Yay! Okay now all you crazy salivating foot and shoe fetishists can MOVE ON.

SO I had been thinking of buying a sewing machine with my remaining Borgata winnings, but when we went to JoAnn Fabrics yesterday to check out the machines all they sold were Vikings. I’d read great things about Brother machines; not only are they inexpensive but they are supposed to be FABULOUS. So I passed on the $400 unknown Viking. I am going to continue researching. or maybe I will stumble into one at a thrift shoppe for an irresistible LOW LOW price and go for it. I am lucky, you know. But now that my mommy has once again returned south, the whole idea seems less pressing. Or maybe just less fun.

My mommy left at the crack of dawn this morn, leaving behind the faint scent of her perfume and the familiar dull ache which has returned once more to my heart. I know that there are people out there who have awful mommies. and I feel so badly for them. BUT I do not exaggerate when I say that my mommy is simply THE BEST MOMMY IN THE HISTORY OF THE WHOLE ENTIRE WORLD. Unfortunately for us, she is also a successful executive who now lives 800 miles away in ATLANTA. SO unlike yours truly, she can’t just hang out in West Philly for all eternity not brushing her teeth. Don’t get me wrong, I am beyond proud of my mom. To me as well as the rest of the world she is a certifiable SUCCESS in every way. And being a success is a good thing. But being on the receiving end of success sometimes truly sucks. I miss her. I wish she didn’t have to work so hard for people who don’t really care about her. My daughters sob when she leaves. And so do I.. Which is better?

All-in-all, this weekend of fun with my mommy has reminded me of several things. Poop smells. Gambling does not pay unless YOU WIN. And I would rather be with my family and have less money, than be rich & successful apart from them. YES money can be great, especially when you are poor. But it cannot buy you happiness. A lesson that Eliot Spitzer should have learned, but. unfortunately some never do.

Sewing basics: A Parable of Life.

Props to the lovely Lee_ahh over at Only Partially Insane for inspiring me to relate my own tale of sewing machines. and Life.

About a year ago, I was feeling a particularly intense urge to start sewing larger projects, things that would necessitate purchase of an actual sewing machine. I had wanted one for a coon’s age, but had never made the investment. So I did a little online research and quickly concluded I couldn’t afford much. Yes there are amazing machines out there, but most of them are way out of my league in both price and function. I was looking for something along the lines of my 7th grade Home Ec machine. This would be the model with 2 buttons, 2 functions, and dingus-proof threading. I am a handy gal, but I know my limitations. And since it had been a good 20 years since I turned out that last hot dog pillow and pair of bermuda shorts, I was going to need some help. My mom agreed to walk me through everything when she came on her next visit. Check and Check.

I began looking for a very basic sewing machine at a very basic price. Since I don’t do an awful lot of sewing, and had been acquiring fabric strictly at thrift shoppes, I hadn’t realized that many sewing shoppes have shuttered since I worked in one circa 1991. If I were a sociologist I might be interested in researching the reasons for this decline. The prevalence of women in the workforce and their corresponding lack of time for hobbies, the advent of technology and rise of global outsourcing. But as I am not, I will simply say Home sewing seems to be a dying craft. The expense & time involved in making your own things – clothes, housewares – is too great to make it practical for most women. Sad, but true.

With my closest sewing shoppe now out-of-business, I turned to none other than my beloved Target. And I was not disappointed. I picked up a sturdy looking simple Singer machine, along with notions, for about $100. YAY!! I brought everything home and set it aside for that weekend’s visit with my beloved parents. My mom – in addition to being an amazingly beautiful intellectual powerhouse and nursing exec, is also a SEWING EXPERT. She no longer has the time to undertake projects, but back in the day she made clothes for me & my sister, costumes, clothes for herself. She even used to make all her own clothes in high school. I KNOW I AM BRAGGING, but she is my mom and she rocks.

So that weekend rolled round, and I pulled out the sewing machine. And of course, as this is MY LIFE, it was inevitable that something would be slightly.. off. Or in this case, way more than slightly. I knew as soon as I opened the box that something was wrong. First of all, the cord was stuck on top of everything, not packaged properly at all. Upon further examination, I noticed there were several sections along the cord that were completely melted through, and the foot pedal was noticeably damaged. What the HELL?? I took the machine out of the box. The case below the needle that holds the bobbin (I don’t know the technical term for this) had cloth STICKING OUT OF IT along with knotted jacked-up threads. The machine itself was filthy, like someone had smeared it haphazardly with axle grease or their lunch. It had without a doubt been used – and not just used, but USED. DAMN! The old scrooge-a-roonie. Some a**hole had decided to buy a new Singer, plop their old nasty broken one back into the box and return it for a big fun freebie. And of course no one at Target had thought twice about looking in the box. Why would they? People are honest. Right?

Of course we took it back. That goes w/out saying. But it mandated no less than 2 trips to Target b/c that is how my life goes. When they finally took the stinking thing back – the SECOND TIME – they actually asked me whether I wanted to go get another one off the shelf. I politely declined. Yes, I know it was a complete fluke, my getting this broken machine instead of a new one, but WHY THE HELL RISK IT AGAIN? My mom had already left, taking with her her arsenal of sewing knowledge, so even if I did get another one, I wouldn’t know how to use it. YES, I KNOW I could read the manual, but I didn’t want to. I wanted my MOMMY. I wanted her to spend the time with me, bonding, and hanging out – laughing while showing me HOW TO THREAD THE DAMN THING. And since on my own I didn’t know anything about anything, I decided it was simpler to just say NO. Of course, I still want a sewing machine. One of those idiot-proof models, b/c that is the kind of person I am.

The parable of this simple sewing story is, in essence, the story of my life itself. I am a person who tries to be honest, to stay focused and determined, to enrich my life and the lives of others. To value the simple. And yet, I seem to – in some odd cosmic twist of fate – inevitably receive the shaft at nearly every turn. In this Case of the Sewing Machine, I was thwarted in my attempts to sew by the clever deception of others. And as in everything, I somehow managed to stay positive, to keep my sense of humor, even in the face of such adversity. I am not a paranoid person, but as the years pass and these weird and weirder things happen, sometimes I wonder whether the great cosmos has a bone to pick with me. Or perhaps it’s more like the case of me & my bird. I am just a favorite toy and have to be played with an awful, awful lot.