Archive for January, 2010

Sweatshirt Set

January 30, 2010

No, I haven’t been playing with photoshop – there are two of them.  This is actually a project from a couple of weeks ago.  I made up the green shirt first based on  my memory of a beloved sweatshirt from several years ago which was destroyed in a freak bleaching accident.  I made the muslin pattern based on a couple of shirts I like and tinkered a bit to get the raglan sleeves to set in properly.  The second (gray) one went much more quickly as I had already worked out the fit … although I did play around with ways to edge the sleeves and waist for a while.  Eventually I just turned the fabric backwards to create edging – since its sort of a terry cloth material it makes a nice little contrast.  Pretty neat huh?  Real shirts made by and fit to yours truly.  I feel like quite the seamstress and I have the muslin pattern pieces labeled and marked with grain lines and notes etc so that I can make another whenever I please.


Ginger Moon Cookies

January 29, 2010

Tonight is Driftless Farm’s Pyrofest – a big party to celebrate all things fire appropriately situated on the Friday full moon closest to the winter cross quarter point (that’s Groundhogs Day this Tuesday if you didn’t know).  There is going to be a big bonfire, some talk of fire jumping, a lesson in starting fires by hand.  It should be quite the event.  Here’s my contribution: ginger moon cookies.  (Yes I just made up that name.)  Its basically just my attempt to spiff up normal boring sugar cookies.  I used an egg yolk glaze and then sprinkled part of them with chopped candied ginger and the other part with a large grain sugar.  The dividing line was created by “occluding” part of the cookie with the same round mold I used to cut them into circles.  They taste pretty interesting too – the ginger really punches up a standard cookie.  I’ll judge them by how fast they disappear at the event tonight.

Progress in Plaid

January 26, 2010

So my latest sewing project is providing a very pleasant challenge.  Last week I watched an episode of Heroes which featured (among other plot lines and devices) a really adorable plaid double breasted coat with princess seams and a gathered waist in the back.  It was still in my head on Friday when I went to the fabric store without a clear agenda in mind and found they were having a really good sale on wool.  Sale or no sale I decided it would be better to begin making a pattern from scratch with a less expensive fabric so I found this chenille plaid in the bargain bin for just a few dollars a yard.

It is being really difficult (read: fun) to try to get all the plaid to line up properly in a coat with this many seams and I think when I go back for the real fabric … I’ll go easy on myself and get a solid.  However the plaid may turn out to be presentable enough to wear on its own when I’m done.  In any case I’m having a great time figuring it out.

I’ve been trying on and measuring all my other coats and jackets (I seem to have a bunch that I actually never wear) and also just making leaps of faith with the scissors.  And doing a LOT of basting and unpicking.  But its coming along nicely.  This is a shot of me trying to get the grain of the sleeves to match perfectly with the line of the main body. Read the rest of this entry »

January Thaw

January 25, 2010

Today is the end of an odd little January thaw.  I spent the weekend wearing my spring/fall raincoat* over a hooded sweatshirt and forgetting my gloves on purpose.  After the unpleasant freezing rain of Thursday and Friday and the much more pleasant simply warm days this weekend most of the snow banks along roadsides and sidewalks have simply melted away.  Sometimes this means they’ve melted into huge puddles over the street drains which are frozen creating ugly obstacles to pedestrian behavior but mostly they’ve simply disappeared as if never there.  Snow is such an interesting phenomenon – so light and insubstantial as it falls, then mounding into rock hard boulders and blockades after it compacts and finally melting away to watery nothing.  I couldn’t help my body feeling like spring was on the way all weekend long but in my head I know its just a January thaw.

And here’s the proof: its snowing again.  I don’t mind it.  Now that we’ve cleared the streets and regained a few feet of width for parking on 8th Ave, I’m happy for a new layer of cleansing whiteness to descend.  Maybe tomorrow I’ll get up early and go snow shoe in it.

*its my favorite coat because of the length.  More on this in an upcoming post.


January 23, 2010

That card holds a refrigerator carton's worth of floppy disks, and a soda can's worth of those cards could hold the entire iTunes store's music library.  Mmm.

I’m always a little weirded out when an xkcd is posted just as its topic seems relevant to something going on in my life.  In this case … I finished the post about Alcatraz III (a book about evil librarians) and then cued up the latest xkcd only to find “Libraries are unnerving enough.”  Odd.

“You’re right, we can’t let that happen. We’ve got to stop it.”

January 23, 2010

Here are some of the gems I just had to share from the third installment of the Alcatraz Smedry series.  The second book was delightful and so was this one.  Very very unfortunately I think I’ve run up against the end for now and will have to wait impatiently for the next book.  I hate it when that happens.  I really hope Brandon Sanderson (oh I’m sorry, Alcatraz) is one for a speedy publication.  I hate waiting around for years to find out what happens to my favorite characters.

I know I didn’t post about the second book – I was doing other things at the time and read it very quickly anyway – but I did read it. Not to have read it would have been a serious breach of readers etiquette.  Here’s what the author himself says on the subject:

… if you haven’t read book two, you missed out on some very important events.  Those include: a trip into the fabled Library of Alexandria, sludge that tastes faintly of bananas, ghostly Librarians that want to suck your soul, giant glass dragons, the tomb of Alcatraz the first, and — most important — a lengthy discussion about belly button lint.  By not reading book two, you also just forced a large number of people to waste an entire minute reading that recap.  I hope you’re satisfied. Read the rest of this entry »

“slattern, slattern, slattern, FISHWIFE!”

January 21, 2010

So … I mentioned in my last that I spent the weekend in Chicago for the purpose of seeing Tracy Michelle Arnold in Private Lives.  The experience really needs its own post to do it justice.  I thought the production was brilliant for any number of reasons and I’m really tempted to go back down to Chicago and see it again before it ends the run. I’m not even sure where to begin with its greatness: Read the rest of this entry »

Shard Mosaic

January 19, 2010

photo by j amor on flikr

Last weekend I was in Chicago for a little sister fun time.  By far my best christmas present this year was a gift certificate for two tickets to a show at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater.  She suggested that I use it soon so as to catch their current production of Noel Coward’s Private Lives with one our favorite APT actresses, Tracy Michelle Arnold, starring in it.  Accordingly I set it up for this past weekend.  We booked a room using Priceline and set off merrily early on Saturday morning in order to catch a museum or two before evening.  The whole weekend was positively ideal with one minor exception – I forgot the memory card of my camera.  I really kicked myself when I saw the condition of the river, which has fractured into a mosaic of trangular shards and then re frozen into a beautiful pattern.  As soon as I got home I raced to flikr to see if other people had noticed and documented the beautiful sight.  Here are some of their pictures.  I wish they were mine.

photo by Justin Kern

photo by Deniz Merdan

The Boston Three-Decker

January 16, 2010

Apropos of nothing, I was in Boston last summer and fell in love with their pervasive architectural form the three-decker.  The friends I was visiting live on the second floor of one and I find it quite a charming abode.  They’ve got autonomy over their walls, a passel of architectural detail and interest, views and light out every window and a nice neighborhood.  But interestingly, although three-deckers are now seen as a characteristic regional treasure they were once reviled as havens for the undesirable and early zoning administrators worked hard to legislate them right out of existence.  I spent a day in the Boston Public Library during my trip and this is what I came up with on the subject. Read the rest of this entry »

“That’s why most books aren’t true. Sorry, kids.”

January 14, 2010

“I’d like to take this opportunity to point out something important.  Should a strange old man of questionable sanity show up at your door – suggesting that he is your grandfather and that you should accompany him on some quest of mystical import – you should flatly refuse him.

“Don’t take his candy either.

“Unfortunately, as you will soon see, I was quickly forced to break this rule.  Please don’t hold it against me.  It was done under duress.  I’m really not used to being shot at.”

If you didn’t know it by now I’m addicted to the library.  I was passing through on an unrelated errand a week or two ago when this book cover (a notable one you might note) caught my eye.  I tossed it in my bag and it ended up on my bedside table under a stack of Trixie Beldon I treated myself to during the holiday.  When I finished them, this was what my hand hit next.  I love un-expected reading delight.  Of course its great to anticipate the next wonderful installment of a series by your favorite author but … sometimes its even more magical when you happen a book completely by accident and it turns out to be great.  Annie Dillard said books are like landmines that you want to go off; you want them to blow your whole day.

Well last week  Alcatraz versus the Evil Librarians blew my whole evening and it was a delightful way to spend it. Read the rest of this entry »

The Span Of Life

January 11, 2010

The old dog barks backwards without getting up.                                           I can remember when he was a pup.

– Robert Frost

A Follow Up, Agribusiness

January 6, 2010

So I’ve been fuming a lot since my raw milk rant in the last post and am reminded of a couple of more positive things on the subject I wanted to share.  Last summer I heard Anna Lappe speak at the Kickapoo County Fair at the Organic Valley Headquarters in La Farge, WI.  The setting couldn’t have been more picturesque – a little gathering of tents on a small flat lawn surrounded by stunning wooded hills and valleys.  Ms. Lappe was talking about Hopes Edge, the new book she has co-authored with her mother Francis Moore Lappe. In the course of promoting it she’s been traveling around to a bunch of conferences like the “American Grocery Chain Summit” and the “Factory Farming Conference.”  What she saw there was both alarming and hopeful.  The presentations at these conferences all seemed to be making claims about how biotech and big business farming are actually good for nature and biodiversity.  This is actually hopeful news.  The fact that big business is trying to call itself “green” means that they are aware that more and more people care.  The meta-myth that they are promoting is that the industrochemical path to agriculture is inevitable.  Proponents of organic farming know that we are not a fringe movement.

So now we need to go out and shout it from the rooftops that the local food movement is growing.

If we’ve got the attention (and the ire) of agribusiness then that has to be a good thing.  Now we need to make sure the general public is just as aware.  As much as we are food consumers we are also Food Citizens.  We need to accept that responsibility, go beyond the plate and advocate for ourselves.

Alice Waters, the mother of the local food movement, says we need everybody to deliver the message about organic local food.  We need to get involved.  With a garden you don’t need to say a single word and there is so much value in what she calls “feeding people the message.”  It says so much more than a lecture.  So I guess the thing to do is to keep supporting local farmers, talking about the issues and voting with our dollars to keep the kind of agriculture we want.  I’m not going to give up hope.

F**k you, too, Agribusiness.

January 5, 2010

I get a daily digest of news from google about a few topics that interest me, one of them being raw milk.  Today it turned up this depressing story from a website called  The Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation held its 90th annual meeting recently and established some new policy directives.  In particular they “expressed support for Wisconsin’s prohibition on the direct sale of raw milk to consumers.”  Why?  Why would they support this?  What harm can it possibly do them?  Well their point of view is clarified by a later mention in the notice:

And in the wake of the controversy that surrounded the selection of author Michael Pollan’s book “In Defense of Food” for UW-Madison’s “Go Big Read” program, Farm Bureau members adopted policy that encourages the UW System to incorporate literature into its curriculum that reflects a balanced perspective based on sound science and technology when discussing food production systems.

Its funny.  I was speaking to a dairy farmer at a raw milk event in November and asked him what he thought the backstory was behind DATCP’s new crusade against raw milk was.  He told me that he thought it was big business and the conventional farmers it employs who were rattled by all the press local foods were getting here in Wisconsin all of a sudden, in large part due to Pollan’s visit to Madison this fall.  I smiled and nodded but I didn’t really believe him – it seemed to far fetched that they would even care let alone start pouring their money and influence into stomping out the tiny farmers who are involved in local milk operations.  But apparently its true.  I’m almost more surprised by the fact that they are being so ingenuous as to say so straight out in their own press information. Read the rest of this entry »

Design Dilemma

January 1, 2010

So I’m trapped in my apartment today because the pipes in my building are backed up and my sink has been burping up the contents of other people’s sinks at random intervals.  Sometimes its just a little soap suds, sometimes its a dozen gallons of oily ooze.  Twice now its overflowed onto the floor before I caught it and started carrying pot fulls to the toilet one at a time to drain it.  And … its new years day so the janior is off duty and can’t help me out.

Its OK though.  I made a little project for myself and have been sewing all day (in between pot carrying sessions).  I just got to the “almost done” phase and hit a dilemma. I tried it on before attaching the sleeves and realized its cute as a vest too.  I’m not sure if I should add them or leave ’em off and come up with a different way of finishing the arm holes. Read the rest of this entry »

January First

January 1, 2010

The year’s doors open
like those of language,
toward the unknown.
Last night you told me:
we shall have to think up signs,
sketch a landscape, fabricate a plan
on the double page
of day and paper.
Tomorrow, we shall have to invent,
once more,
the reality of the world

–          Elizabeth Bishop