Saturday, March 19, 2011

My Sewing Room and What We Were Searching For

Yesterday was strange, with a blustery buildup to an electrical hailstorm that knocked out our power for most of the night. But let's start with Chauncey, whom Aidan jointly purchased with his friend, Rebecca. While I was blissfully working on a sewing project with classical piano music in the background, Aidan brought Chauncey home and put him in the terrarium. Aidan then turned on a heatlamp, gave instructions to all of us not to touch him, and left to spend the afternoon with Rebecca, whose mother wisely liked the idea of Aidan having full custody.

I am not afraid of snakes, so having Chauncey in Aidan's room didn't bother me, but when John went to check him out and said, "where is he?" I had that bad feeling mothers get when things go wrong. Brooks, John, and I looked in all the obvious places in Aidan's room, and when Brooks called her brother to give him the news,  he responded in disbelief, with words I will not quote here.

While we were looking, Brooks confessed that she was very uncomfortable with having a snake at large in our house. This is a girl who had lab rats for pets and studies bugs and bones when hiking. She is not squeamish, but she is sensible.

By the time Aidan and Rebecca arrived to help with the search, we had dismantled his room and put many of his possessions in the hallway. I'm happy to report that the only undesireable items found were two Swisher Sweets and one Big Mac that had definitely gone off.  When queried later, Aidan claimed that the cigars were "hella old."

John, who loves looking things up on the web, reappeared with the news that Chauncey's species, Ball Pythons, like to roll up into a ball, and they also like to climb. I was thinking it was more likely Chauncey slithered into the heating grate, even though the kids were sure he was too big to fit. This last bit of information did not make Brooks feel any better, since she hadn't yet seen Chauncey and had been slightly mollified by her assumption that he was small.

With Aidan's room resembling tornado aftermath, we started looking beyond to my workroom, which is pretty tidy at the moment.

Tidy, that is, except for the Closet of Doom, which was conveniently open just enough to create an escaped snake's hiding place. Not to mention that my workroom also has another heating duct, into which a flexible python could easily slide.

The prospect of clearing out that closet made me desperate, so I went back into Aidan's room and stared at the corner formerly known as Chauncey's. At this point we had been snake searching for nearly two hours, and it was not looking hopeful. As an aside, I have to hand it to Rebecca for remaining cheerful and not blaming Aidan for losing the pet they had only just that afternoon acquired. He claimed to have put the top on the terrarium, but sometimes you just never know.

I can't tell you why I did what I did next, but I reached my fingers behind the Hamm's golfing bear on the wall. And then I squealed. Just a little. For when I put my fingers behind the frame I felt something cold, smooth, and fleshy. When I put my fingers back there I found Chauncey.

It took us a few minutes to disengage him from the picture wire at the back of the frame, but when we did Rebecca and Aidan took turns trying to warm him up. So much for not touching him. We also realized that he could easily have pushed the top of his terrarium off. Chauncey is very strong. He also could easily have slid down into the heating duct, if he had travelled that far. He is big, but he is flexible.

All in all it wasn't how I would have chosen to spend the rest of my afternoon, but I am glad I didn't have to deal with that closet. That will take at least two days and a lot of intestinal fortitude.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

What to do when you can't sleep.

My husband John gently opened the doors to my heart in 1974. With his fine cooking and silly jokes, John was precisely the opposite of who I should have paired up with if all the wisenheimers who say you marry your parents are right. We laughed and ate our way through our early courtship, from a first-date picnic at Point Reyes National Seashore to a home-cooked meal featuring the largest stuffed zucchini I had ever seen. At the time I was ecstatic to have met him, but now, looking back, I see I hit the jackpot. What incredible good fortune to find a guy who loved the outdoors, food, and me in equal measure.

So when I woke up this morning to this on the sideboard, I was not surprised.

Instead of tossing and turning after a restless night, John had gotten up extra early and started making soup for lunch. Delicious with melted cheddar on rye.
And conversation -- what a great mid-day break.

John's Lentil Soup

In a good-sized soup pot mix:

1 bag dried lentils
8 cups liquid (he used half water and half stock -- turkey, but any flavorful stock will do)
Bay leaf or leaves, if they're puny

Bring to a boil, turn down the heat, and simmer for 30 minutes. Then add:
1 kielbasa, cut into mini bite-sized pieces
1 chopped onion
2 chopped shallots (just because we had them)
Chopped green cabbage, which had been sauteed in a little oil to soften and sweeten
Garlic salt and black pepper to taste

Simmer for an additional thirty minutes, or as long as it takes for the vegetables and lentils to soften the way you want them. So delicious.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

What is this? Why is this?

Many years ago I had a boss who labelled me and my friend, Mary, "activity tootsies." We were always trotting off to classes, where we'd learn things such as how to make creamed corn, Southern style. For anyone who's interested, that would be fresh corn scraped off the cob and dumped into a skillet, along with a healthy slosh of heavy cream. Heat it up til it bubbles around the edges, add a pinch of salt and a few grinds of fresh pepper, and eat.

But I digress.

To this day, I remain an unapologetic student, and last week I had the pleasure of learning from Loes Hinse in beautiful Carmel, California. As a longtime fan of Loes's patterns, I used to sew my entire work wardrobe using her streamlined pieces. Over the past few years I've spent less time in workwear and more in momwear, and somehow I lost touch with Loes's wonderful little jackets and softly tailored pants.

The path to Loes's seminar began last summer, when I attended her day-long seminar for the Peninsula Wearable Arts Guild. That day I got all fired up about her sewing methods, and afterwards I couldn't stop thinking about attending her hands-on intensive. As an added incentive, one of Loes's longtime students contacted me and encouraged me to come.

So I signed up and headed south with a carload of supplies and as empty a mind as I could muster. Why go empty headed? Because Loes often throws conventional home-sewing methods under the bus. Interfacing? Bah! Pretreating your fabric? Phooey! Endless tissue fitting and muslin making? Piffle! Just cut and sew, the success of which was helped along immensely by trying on garments made for her lovely little Carmel boutique.

And if you ran out of fabric or just needed something new, Sharon Lyon was there with all her Casual Elegance goodies. Sharon and Loes make a terrific team,  often playing off each other with questions and joshing around.

Here I am wearing some of Loes's clothes. I finished a pair of these pants, and I have fabric for the lace top and black jacket. Hoping to get to them this week, and when I do I'll share.

While I ripped almost as many seams as I sewed and wouldn't have won any productivity awards, I came away with many ideas and new skills. Of particular value were the way Loes finishes her necklines and sets in her sleeves. I also got familiar with my serger's five-thread stitch, which I plan to use from here on out on all my garments.

Also, I cannot over-emphasize the delight found in hanging out and sewing with other like-minded enthusiasts. We had so much fun at our machines that I forgot to eat dinner, more than once. Unheard of.  

When I complete an outfit, I'll post pictures, but for now here's one that only die-hard sewists will appreciate. This is a sample I made so that Loes would demonstrate how to set in a sleeve.

If not now, when?

A few days ago I read an interesting post  about the power of putting your most important work first, before the day is overrun with stuff that doesn't matter. This got me thinking about how I've been planning a blog since the Mesozoic era. In no particular order, here were some of my roadblocks:
  • my blog would look stupid;
  • people would rather read cereal boxes and no one would ever comment;
  • good blogs have a specific focus, and I am all over the place;
  • serious Buddhist practitioners would lecture me on monkey mind;
  • I would inadvertently hurt someones feelings and/or my kids would be embarrassed;
  • and on and on.
But today, plagued by a full-to-bursting mind and the need to stop oversharing on Facebook, I decided to jump in. Who knew it would be so easy to create a blog? All this time I could have been pestering you with my petty grievances and bad recipes.

As for monkey mind, I have a terminal case. Those monkeys bring me a boatload of great ideas, and my biggest problem is that some people actually expect me to do something with them. But that's another topic for another day. For now let's just say that I'm at peace with my varied interests, and those are what I want to share with you.