The Somewhat-but-Mostly-Inaccurate Roman stola: An Update.

So, the somewhat-but-mostly-inaccurate Roman stola:

I have sewed the sides together and added buttons on the sleeves.

It took me a hour to sew 4 of these babies on, and I had to start over 3 or 4 times on one button. But they sure are pretty!

Hemmed the bottom.

Behold my mighty double hem and despair!

And ta-da! A more or less complete somewhat-but-mostly-inaccurate Roman stola.

I may add embellishments in the future, such as the trim being used as a belt in the picture above. But I consider this project done and have moved onto another. The sewer’s high just wasn’t as intense by week 3 of the project. I was hungering after something for more exciting and complex, so I picked up a new pattern on sale for $2 at Joann’s: an apron for my mother for Mother’s Day.

Yes, I know Mother’s Day was over a week ago. Don’t be so pedantic.

It’s definitely more complex. There are pockets and straps and a constant source of great frustration. I have had a couple of excessively dramatic outbursts over uncooperative seams, given the hems several stern lectures about doing what I have told them to do, and still can’t properly thread the machine from the bobbin side on the first try or the third try or even the fifth try.  However,  it is coming along nicely, and I’m quite proud of my work.  I’ll show you next time.

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Adventures in Sewing: Look, Ma, I can sew!

So, I’m learning to sew.

It’s one of those things I have always wanted to learn to do, like horseback riding and cooking rice without adding an extra cup of water.  In the seventh grade, I took Home Ec – back when they still had Home Ec, of course – and made the bossest hamburger pillow ever.  I really enjoyed the sewing, but alas, having neither a sewing machine nor a crafty mother to guide my budding skills, my interest in sewing fell by the wayside.  I have been jealous of those who can sew ever since, like my crafty friend who sews hand-made Halloween costumes for her whole family. It drives me nuts every time I have to pay an extra $15 to $25 to get a new pair of pants hemmed, and I always leave Jo-Ann Fabrics feeling bereft – all that fabric taunting me, and not a thing I can do a thing about it.

So when a co-worker recently announced that she was giving sewing lessons, I was right at the front of the line.  My crafty friend, when she learned that I was going to take the aforementioned sewing lessons, literally reached into a pile of random junk in her garage and pulled out a fully functional and completely free sewing machine. And just days ago, my mother informed me that my recently deceased grandmother had left behind a bag of fabric and several vintage sewing patterns and now she knew exactly who to give it to.

It’s like it’s meant to be, me and sewing.  And I have proof!

Behold! Pictures of my creations from my first lesson:

My first creations

My first creations: a pouch and a small, zippered bag.

And look! I sewed in the zipper!

Look! A zipper!

See those white stitches? I put those there.

And behold, more pictures! This is the beginning of my first major and current project, which I started at my second sewing lesson – a somewhat but mostly inaccurate Roman stola costume.

My supplies:

Roman Stola Supplies

My fabric, thread, pattern, plus buttons and trim for the sleeves

Step 1: I pinned the pattern to the fabric.

Pinning the pattern to the fabric

My pattern pinned to the fabric. I managed to align the pattern and the edge of the fabric perfectly!

Step 2: I cut out the pattern.

The cut out pattern.

The cut out pattern. Lookin' good, if I do say so myself.

Step 3: I started hemming the sleeves on my brand-new-to-me sewing machine.

Hemming the sleeves.

Hemming away.

Ta-Da! My hems.

My hems!

I know you are completely amazed by my mad sewing skillz.

Exciting, huh? And that’s only the beginning! I will keep everyone updated as I work on the project, so stay tuned for more adventures in sewing!

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Book Review: Needful Things by Stephen King

I finally finished this book.  I started it in August, and now, more than half way through November, I plowed through the last 240 pages in about 4 hours this morning because I had to finish this thing once and for all. I’ve been trudging through it for 3 months and my agony had to end.

This is the first King book I just flat out didn’t like. A lot of people accuse him of needing a strong editor to cull back the bloat, and until I read this book, I had never much been bothered by his excessive words before. It took far too long to built up to the confrontation between Wilma and Nettie, and I hated every moment I had to read about Danforth Keeton because King seemed to love dwelling on his insanity. I liked Alan and Polly as characters, but most others were despicable or uninteresting or both. I felt like I was reading Under the Dome again, even though Needful Things was the elder of the two by about 15 years. Same basic good guy character, same basic town councilman bad guy, same hateful townspeople. Sometimes it seemed that the only difference between the books was that the characters had different names. The reason why I think I enjoyed Under the Dome more than Needful Things was that it just had better pacing.

That being said, there were some highlights: the references back to Cujo, The Dark Half, and The Body, the slight allusions to the Gunslinger world when Ace Merrill picks up the Tucker Talisman in Boston, and the scene when Polly fights the grotesque and growing spider in her bathroom. I was on the edge of my seat – I have a particular terror of insects and bugs, especially giant insects and bugs – and it’s too bad the rest of the book didn’t live up to that scene. The last two hundred pages were more interesting than the first two thirds of the book but not interesting enough to make the preceding 500 pages worth it.

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Book Review: The Last Unicorn

I read The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle in a fit of childhood nostalgia. The 1982 animated movie is a one of several dimly remembered childhood movies that include the likes of The Rats of NIMH and The Dark Crystal. I have vague memories of the gawky, inept magician Schmendrick and the creepy carnival and the unicorns emerging from the ocean; the last, especially, is an image burned into my memory along with the rats raising Mrs. Frisby’s home in The Rats of NIMH and the creepy bird things from The Dark Crystal.

The book, though, just couldn’t stand up to the force of my nostalgic expectations. Perhaps because as an adult, I could see the underlying themes of the simple fairytale I remember from my childhood. The theme of lost innocence and purity and the pain of never being able to regain it: poor Molly Grue demanding to know why the unicorn waited so long to appear to her, when she was so much older and world weary, and the unicorn forgetting who she was when she fell in love, and then never being able to return to her fairy tale after her time as a human.

Story-wise, I would give it only 3 stars because of the lull in the middle when the unicorn becomes the human Amalthea and I had to force myself through those pages. It officially gets 4 for the gorgeous prose and unique imagery. I put it down with a feeling of sorrow, for lack of a better word, and though I’m glad I read it, I sort of wish I hadn’t ruined the nostalgic haze. Sometimes things are better in hindsight.

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The Great Shoe Room Clean Out

I have a room in my house I call the Shoe Room. It was originally meant to be my office, but now it’s pretty much just the room where the shoes live. And the shoes, they migrate.  They start off in a plastic bin the in the closet and spread out across the floor as in the picture below.

The shoes in their natural habitat on 6/1/11.

And that’s only a part of the shoe collection. After they spread out across their natural habitat, they are forced to migrate out of the Shoe Room due to a lack of space, natural resources, and jobs. Most often, they come to rest in my bedroom where they occupy the space in front of the closet, tripping me when I try to get dressed or make my way to the bathroom in the middle of the night, until such time as I get fed up and deport them back to the Shoe Room.

Please also notice that the shoes are kept company by a slew of other native flora and fauna: the vacuum cleaner, an empty purse, various books, plastic bags, luggage, my hair dryer, cumpled winter scarves, the wireless router, a tv I’ve had since college, paper I can seem to neither file nor dispose of, and dust. A lot of dust.  You can’t see it in the picture, but trust my sinuses, it’s there.

The Shoe Room from another angle. Yes, that is a thigh master. DON'T JUDGE ME!

Every morning, I enter the Shoe Room to blow dry my hair in the full length mirror and a little part of my soul wails in despair. There’s just so much clutter: shoes that refuse to stay put, errant luggage, and a clutch of bags in the closet that I have intended to take to Goodwill for months now, but which merely sit there, mocking me with their girth and overstuffed plastic skins.

I recently decided that I can take no more. Life is too short to be ruled by clutter and dust and shoes that ooze and undulate ever outward from their bin in a mindless, globulous mass. Most of the shoes only do seasonal work, and some pairs only work once or twice a year, and I ask you, why should I let the shoes roam wild and free, eating up floor space and sponging off my charity, when their sole purpose (Ha! Sole purpose! Get it?) is to convey me from place to place and prevent the my delicate feet from being mutilated by concrete and asphalt and covered in unsightly dirt?

It all ends now.  I have decided that I shall clean the Shoe Room this summer. I shall declutter, dust, recycle and reorganize. I shall  get rid of the things I no longer need nor use. I shall recycle all that paper that has been accumulating since about the second Ice Age, being sure to file away important things like last year’s taxes and various employment contracts.  But most importantly, I will confine the shoes in their container with the explicit orders not to ooze, undulate, migrate, or spread anywhere without my specific permission.

And so today,  bored with various police procedural marathons, I girded my loins, sharpened my metaphorical sword, and forged into the morass of dust and paper that is the Shoe Room. Within two hours, I accomplished the following:

  1. The shoes were pushed back, though not entirely removed form the floor.
  2. The winter scarves were folded and put away.

    After today's cleaning spree, the Show Room now looks like this. Notice, the shoes remain on the floor, but gathered together in mutual fear. The sight of a pair of their compatriots going into the Goodwill bag sufficiently cowed them.

  3. The Goodwill donations were moved into the hallway so that I will be reminded to deliver them or trip over them in perpetuum.
  4. Luggage was stored in its proper place, as wasthe vacuum cleaner and important papers.
  5. Much paper was been recycled.
  6. Sensitive papers that require shredding were arranged neatly in a colorful basket until such time as a shredder has been purchased.
  7. Books and notebooks were placed on shelves.
  8. A single pair of shoes was sacrificed to the every hungry Goodwill bags just to let the other shoes know what can happen to them if they don’t obey.  The shoes know their place now, by golly!

It was a glorious day, though there is much left to do.  Dust must still be dusted, papers shredded, shoes and holiday wrapping paper alike must be stored in their proper places. But the shoes and the clutter of their Shoe Room habitat shall not prevail, and by the end of the summer, the Shoe Room will fill its original purpose, that of a pleasant and well ordered office. Until then, I can only take pride in my small victories and plan my next attack on the shoes and their soul destroying clutter.

The Shoe Room, on its way to becoming the office I once envisioned. Bask in its semi-decluttered glory.

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In which our heroine finally runs

I finally sucked it up and bought a pair of running shoes.

I’ve been talking about it forever – buying running shoes and running, being all athletic and stuff – but it took me a few months to actually do it. And wow, running is hard. Now, given, I haven’t really run for, oh, twenty, twenty-five years, but wow, hard. All the elliptical machining I’ve been doing in the past year is keeping my heart from feeling like it’s going to explode, but I still end up huffing and puffing at the end of a two minute stint of running. And that’s on the treadmill. I can’t even imagine how hard it will be on the actual ground, the kind that stays still while you move, with all the inclines and hills involved therein.

That being said, I’ve decided I’m going to run a 5K on April 23rd. It’s a nice due date; it’s about 6 or 7 weeks away, and there are several going on that day. Plenty of time to train for it and go to one out of town if I don’t want anyone I know locally to see me. Because me running after 25 years? Not exactly pretty. But I’m will do it, especially now that I’ve gone and said it in public and all.

But yeah, my shoes.  Aren’t they just… hideously ugly?  Or conversely, maybe they’re gorgeous, as far as running shoes go. Either way, they’re purple, and that’s the important thing here, right?


Additional running information only interesting for our heroine:
Saturday, February 26: 40 min, combo walk and run.
Monday, February 27 – Tuesday, March 2: Owowowowow, my legs.
Thursday, March 3: 40 min, combo walk and run, 2.05 miles.
Friday, March 4: Ow. My quads when going up and down the stairs.
Today: Going for a run later. Watching The Losers right now.

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