Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Day Four Hundred and Sixty-Six

I rarely steal from myself quite this blatantly, but my Facebook posts pretty well summed up this drama so I am going to put them here and let them speak for themselves.  Every year since my children were born, I've made them a pair of Christmas pajamas, usually from matching fabrics, the same as my mother did for my sister and me when we were small.  The idea is that they can open ONE present on Christmas Eve (which always, amazingly, just happens to be the pajamas), and then they can wear the present to bed and wake up on Christmas morning in their new jammies.

I forget, EVERY YEAR, that I do not in fact have until Christmas Day to finish them.  They have to be finished on Christmas Eve, and for some reason this always takes me by surprise.

Last year's Christmas jammies turned into such a saga that I had people asking me in the middle of December if I was going to post running commentary about them again.  I tell myself that it is because last year's posts brought so much laughter and joy into people's lives.  I suspect, however, that it actually has more to do with the number of friends I have who appreciate a good dose of holiday schadenfreude, which says something about my sewing - and probably something about my friends.

December 22 at 6:52 p.m. - Christmas pajamas for the kids.  Red-and-black plaid.  It seemed like a good idea at the time.

December 22 at 9:22 p.m. - Christmas pajama update: When you're making two pajama tops and you notice that you have made precisely the same error not once, not twice, but FOUR times, where part of the front doesn't quiiiiiite line up with the back ... check the pattern before you just trim that bit to line up neatly. It is JUST POSSIBLE that you'll need that extra bit of material for the neck binding.

December 22 at 11:13 p.m. - Plaid. Why'd it have to be plaid?

December 23 at 12:23 a.m. - If you are a creature with one head, one arm, and two torsos, I have a pajama top for you. SIGH. I am going to bed now. (On the bright side, the plaids lined up.)

December 23 at 6:10 p.m. (This accompanied the picture that is posted below on Day 461.) - On the positive side, I now have an iron-clad excuse to watch another episode of MI-5 while I rip out the seam that made this garment suitable only for aliens! (whistling "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life")

December 23 at 10:47 p.m. - Christmas Pajama Update (since I know you were all waiting with bated breath): I narrowly avoided making pajama pants for a creature with two very skinny torsos and two (possibly four) legs. I am sure there will be some disappointed little aliens somewhere out there on Christmas morning.

December 23 at 11:53 p.m. - Good quality loose leaf tea (decaf, sadly), crackers, double Gloucester, and a bit of Cotswold cheese. It may not HELP me sew Pajama Pants For Humans, but it certainly can't hurt.

December 24 at 12:15 a.m. - Do you think that anyone will notice if the fronts of the pajamas are inside out? That frazzly-edged connecting seam between the plaid and the black accent material isn't THAT noticeable, is it? It is? I was afraid of that. (Here is me not chopping them into tiny bits with my lovely sharp scissors, hurrah me!)

December 24 at 1:54 a.m. - We will all pretend that I did not just sew the entire waistband of Peter's pajama pants using the random spool of thread I'd been using up on another section for basting thread that would be removed. PINK thread, did I mention that? Aaaaand that's my cue to go to bed.

December 24 at 7:31 p.m. (since I had forgotten that we had a 2-hour family event an hour's drive away) - I don't believe in jinxes. But I am starting to think that if I post ONE MORE WORD about these dratted pajamas on Facebook, I will discover that I have made a pair of jammie pants suitable only for a three-headed octopus.

And finally, after far too much ripping-out and sewing-back-together ...

December 24 at 9:56 p.m. - Imported British tea, crackers, Double Gloucester, Stilton, white Irish Cheddar, kids in jammies (with proper number of heads, legs, and arms), and Polar Express. Quite nice. (I mean the jammies have the proper number of appendages, not the children. Well, the children do too, I suppose, but I hoped that was a given.)

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Day Four Hundred and Sixty-Four

Remember Items #4 and #5, in which I will supposedly learn French?

I got the Pink Martini album "Hey Eugene!" for Christmas, and fell entirely in love with the song "Ocala".  I am completely inspired all over again to learn at least minimal French, if for no other reason than to be able to sing along with this song with correct diction.  (If I did it right, the name of the song is now a youtube link to it.)

If you get it stuck in your head for the next three weeks, c'est la vie.  You've been given fair warning.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Day Four Hundred and Sixty-One, Part Two

Happy Christmas to me - I paid off my car!  This completes Item #38.  I wish I'd paid attention to when it would normally have been paid off - I'm not sure how early I paid it off, but it's at least a year ahead of schedule and maybe more.  Woohoo for little bits here and there!

I was also quite pleased to get a personal note from the lady at the credit union who managed the final payment.  I've never regretted switching from a big cranky bank to a credit union, and things like this are why.

Also, in the interest of full disclosure, I am sorry to say that I do not in fact drive a silver Transformer robot car.

Day Four Hundred and Sixty-One

In pursuit of Item #78 (sewing for the kids), I stayed up past the point of grogginess working on Christmas pajamas. 

I just made a pajama top for a creature with one head, one arm, and two torsos.

I think it is time for bed.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Day Four Hundred and Sixty

Remember this, about music and good black boots and things not turning out the way you expect?

Here's the final product of that photo shoot. ( <== That whole sentence is actually a link to the site where I'm featured, but Blogger is being irritating and it won't let me underline it so you can tell.) You can ignore the picture where I sort of look like a surprised toad, and just look at the ones where somebody finally, finally took a picture of my hands the way they look to me when I play.  I am so very pleased with those.  This doesn't really fall under any of my 101 Things, but I thought you might like to see it anyway.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Day Four Hundred and Fifty-Four

Here's one more for Item #33 (knit or crochet 20 items for the homeless).

I really enjoyed making this one.  Some shades of brown are not so nice, but I really like many of them - the deep chocolate browns that are nearly black, rich warm browns, soft tans that look like coffee and cream, such friendly colors.  I've used Buddy for my model in this picture, since I have finally, regretfully, accepted the fact that I look perfectly horrible in brown.

It's not for lack of trying, either.  I had a brown silk shirt in college that went beautifully with a silk scarf my mom had given me, a watercolor-inspired blend of leafy greens, warm gold, and soft browns.  Nope ... not even with a scarf.  My natural hair color darkened in my late twenties from a dark ash blonde to a not-very-interesting medium brown, and I thought maybe then I could wear brown.  No dice.  I rebelled against the encroaching strands of silver in my mid-thirties and went back to what I consider my natural color (i.e., the shade my sister's was in her early teen years, which I coveted with a passion that probably walked the fine line between venial and mortal sin).  Surely with my lovely, shiny, expensive golden hair, I could wear brown!  But no.  Successfully wearing brown was simply Not Gonna Happen.

It all comes back to the original brown silk shirt in college.  (Don't laugh at the next bit - it was 1993 and I make no apologies.)  I would get all dressed up for class in my light blue straight-leg jeans, my brown suede ankle boots, and my brown silk button-up shirt (tucked in, of course).  My beautiful silk scarf would be arranged just so over my shoulders, my hair would be braided back and secured in a coordinating olive green silk scrunchie (QUIT snickering), and my treasured earrings made from some beautiful rich Eastern wood.  I'd wear warmer-toned makeup in a final effort to coax my pale skin and blue eyes to get on board with this whole earth-toned experiment.

It never failed - I'd get to class and someone would take one look at my complexion and ask, "Oh my gosh, are you sick?  You poor girl, you look awful!"

Hopefully someone out there in my city will be happy for a warm scarf this winter.  My first goal, of course, is to do something kind for someone who needs a little extra warmth and personal effort poured into their life.  But if this scarf helps them to stand up a little straighter and smile a little more because it also makes them look fabulous- mission more than accomplished.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Day Four Hundred and Fifty

I should have said in Item #28 that I just wanted to go to a major museum, not specifically the Portland Art Museum!  My mom, sister and I are all going to the Picasso exhibit at the Seattle Art Museum over the Christmas break as our present to each other.  I am very, very excited about this.  Then again, if I specify the Portland Art Museum, it's another excuse to go when they have an exhibit I want to see.  So, good call after all, self.

Nobody ever writes letters any more!  Well, not NOBODY nobody, but not very many people.  I have a few friends who occasionally write, but with the advent of Twitter (short! cute! incessant!), texting (i m 2 old 4 this), and Facebook (everything out there for all to see including your socks and your cookies and your niece's ballet recital), you're lucky to even get a decent email these days, much less anything with a stamp on it.  I've been re-reading Robin McKinley's novels again, and I think when I finish Sunshine (for the fifth time, I think) I will write her a letter and take care of Item #45.

My goodness, I want to see a Shakespeare play.  I haven't seen one in years!  It looks like if I want to drive down to Ashland some time in 2011, I can see Measure for Measure (which is being featured at this year's Oregon Shakespeare Festival), Julius Caesar, Henry IV (Part Two), or Love's Labor's Lost.  Hmmm.  What do you think?

I was going to go for a walk this morning (sort of working on Item #56), but it was raining.  It has been raining for three days.  It is supposed to rain every day from now until December 21st, which is as far as the weather forecast goes.  I love rain, but I would love it even more if we could have a half-hour sun siesta at 2:30 every afternoon.

So, did it work?  Did I successfully obscure the fact that I have not in fact done much of anything at all on this project this week?

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Day Four Hundred and Forty-Seven

I'm not sure #9 on this list is going to happen.  I wouldn't be too stressed out about this because there are other items on the list that probably aren't going to happen either, but this one has ramifications that make my head pound a bit.

(If you're looking for a funny blog post today, this ain't it.)

I have wanted to go to graduate school for years.  I know which school, and which degree I want.  I know professors there who want me to come (so I can accompany their students), I'm excited about the classes and the practicing, and it would be VERY good for my future job prospects.  But every year for the last five or six years something has gotten rather seriously in the way of applying - finances, schedule, life in general, always something.  I got a little more serious about the concept in the fall of 2008, and started taking private piano lessons at a local university so that I could get a program learned and memorized for my audition to get into the program.  That year was the "life just got so complicated I'm doing good to get my shoes on the right feet" year, and I quit lessons and dropped the graduate school plan entirely for a while.

Even though I hadn't gotten very far into my preparations, though, I had had the nagging sensation that something wasn't quite right about my ability to memorize.  I wrote it off to the fact that I've never been a strong memorizer (good sight-readers often aren't), and that as a professional accompanist, everything I play is with the music.  It was a reasonable enough explanation, and I didn't think much more about it until several months later when I started noticing that music wasn't the only place my memory was slipping.

I'd had one too many conversations where I heard a piece of information for what I thought was the first time, and someone would say, "Seriously?  I just told you that YESTERDAY!"  I would have no memory of the conversation.  Events stay in my head all right, but things I hear don't seem to be sticking very well.  This was distressing, but I wrote it off to stress (also a reasonable enough conclusion over the last couple of years), until a Facebook friend started chronicling her husband's recovery from a head injury, and all of a sudden this sounded very, very familiar.

At the beginning of December 2007, I managed (with my usual grace and style) to slip on the stairs in my house, landing so hard on my backside that I gave myself a concussion.  I didn't know this was even possible, but indeed it is - if you land on your butt hard enough, it jars your spinal cord which joggles your brain which smacks into your skull, and voilĂ !  Concussion!

I felt a little dizzy and cross-eyed, but went to work that evening anyway.  Work, in this case, was the senior recital of an oboe performance major at the college where I work, so that meant full concert attire, hair, makeup, high heels, and playing three major works in front of an audience.  I figured I'd be fine, and it wasn't until we got backstage and were waiting for our cue when I looked across the darkened backstage area and saw this:

 There is only one exit sign.  It is not normally fuzzy.  We had a problem.

Thankfully, the oboist's position at the end of the piano was just barely within the cut-off point where my vision went double, and we got through the performance with nothing more noticeable than a couple of trills in the Mozart concerto that weren't quite as clean as I'd have liked.

On the good side, I had a reputation for the next two years as "that one accompanist who played Katie Roberts' recital WITH A CONCUSSION!", spoken in awed tones.  (Yeah, OK, I kinda liked that.)  On the bad side ... it was a serious head injury, and almost exactly three years later, I am starting to realize just how serious it must have been.

I don't know what you do, when you're a musician and your memory gets slippery.  My job is nice that way, in that I don't have to memorize things.  But now that I've been paying more attention to this, I've started noticing that it seems like I'm sightreading a LOT these days, even on songs I thought I'd played before.  I had played them before.  I just forgot them.  Much of my free-lance work is due to my slightly uncanny sightreading abilities, so I have managed to keep my work going and do well at it.

But learn and memorize a full audition program, when a simple Chopin Ballade won't stay in my head?  I don't know.

I don't know.

On the bright side, I can read the whole Twilight series again for the first time!  (Or, going by what I've heard, maybe it'd be better to pretend I never read it in the first place?)

Monday, December 6, 2010

Day Four Hundred and Forty-Four

This is the view directly to the left of my office chair. I don't especially care for it, and not just because it's ugly.

I am a lot better at starting things than finishing them. I am actually quite amazed that I've accomplished as many things on this list as I have, since I have a lifelong propensity for starting projects that fizzle out, overwhelm me, or (in extreme cases) get thrown out half-sewn because I've changed dress sizes three times since cutting the darn thing out. This project, though, is going to HAVE to be finished since this is my office, and I can't leave it this way, because I would hate that even more than I hate painting.

I like the idea of painting. You know how in the movies, people buy these amazing little houses with wood floors and high ceilings and lovely wood-framed windows and fireplaces (of course they have to have a fireplace), and music plays and there's this golden-lit montage of them painting walls in rich shades of tomato red and butter yellow with their hair adorably tied up in bandanas, and the paint all comes out right and never gets spilled on the rug? THAT is what I envision.

What actually happens is that I optimistically buy supplies, get all set up with my old newspapers and paintbrushes and tape, and enthusiastically start in on a random piece of wall. I step back to admire my work. I think, "Wow. That looks a lot darker than it did in the store." I paint some more. It looks better now, and I have good music playing, and it is starting to feel vaguely like the movie version of this project - look at me with my adorable bandana! (Ignore my horrid pink T-shirt and outdated jeans, please.) Here I am, painting away! Paint, paint, paint!

An hour passes. I am still painting away, on the same wall. Paint, paint, paint. This is not quite so fun any more. This bandana is making my head too hot, so I take it off. Why do I always think a brush will be better than a roller? I go and find the roller brush and the paint pan, and immediately spill paint on my clothes. I wipe it off the best I can and have a moment of relief that at least it didn't get on the carpet. I start rolling paint onto the wall - oh YES, now I remember why I don't like roller brushes: It's because I always start out too fast and it flips tiny drops of paint into my hair.


I paint with very bad grace for another five hours, and remember why I despise painting. I mutter foul imprecations against the people in Hollywood who find it amusing to depict home remodels which apparently only take 2.5 minutes, spill no paint except for the tiny dab of green on the heroine's perfectly smooth left cheek, and NEVER, not even ONCE, end up with our bedaubed young lady swearing at the mirror while she tries to comb dried paint out of her hair.

Painting party at my house, anyone? I will give you cookies.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Day Four Hundred and Forty-Three

I think I can safely say that I have started Item #15 (make a patchwork blanket for each child). This one will be for Boo - the idea was to start it when she was ten and finish it by the time she turned eleven. She had her eleven-and-a-halfth birthday last week, so unless I suddenly discover time travel, it'll be a little late.

She and I settled on a quilt pattern that comes out looking like square-edged puzzle pieces, all fitting together. It makes both of us happy - I like the way it doesn't make me do a whole bunch of curved edges (which would likely result in a blanket that's more three-dimensional than either of us have in mind), and she likes the way it will have a zillion different colors in it.

It has ninety-nine "squares", if you count each puzzle piece as a square. Each color is actually cut out in seven precisely sized rectangles and squares in order to create the final illusion of a solid interlocking puzzle. It is a lot of cutting. I'm OK with that, because part of me doesn't want to finish it too quickly (and with ninety more colors to cut out, I definitely won't be setting any speed records).

I know it just looks like a pile of colored fabric, pinned in stacks of matching pieces, and that's a completely valid way of looking at it. But I see so much more already, and it's not even sewn together yet. She loves all things sparkly and striped and speckled and spangled (I keep thinking of the Gerard Manley Hopkins poem "Pied Beauty"), and the piles of fabric saved for this project reflect her tastes over and over.

I look at this pile and see the candy-corn nightgown I made her with Halloween fabric, bought on clearance, in the spring, just for fun.

I see the red dress I made for her first day of the fourth grade, and I wonder how much longer she will tolerate a dress for the first day of school.

I see the camo-and-butterflies cargo pants her exceptionally cool Aunt Boo (Boo's named after my sister) bought and sent in the mail for her sixth birthday.

I see the purple flannel nightgown that I just washed and folded, which she has not yet put away - I probably should remind her.

I see the pale pink and white flowers of one of my favorite-ever Easter dresses - I think it had a little white straw hat with it, when she would still tolerate being put in a hat for Easter Sunday.

The white material with brilliantly-colored fruit takes me back to her pre-school years, from a mix-and-match set of shirts and shorts I made for her. They lasted for years, since she kept getting taller but stayed the same size around. (I'm not kidding. She's eleven, and she can still wear a circle skirt I made for her in the first grade.)

The blue-and-white check with daisies dates back to her toddler years - did I make a matching hat? I remember a hat. It's possible ... Buddy hadn't come along yet, and there was still time then for sewing impossible things like hats.

The navy blue with gold stars takes me back to Boo as her two-year-old self - even then, I realized that this tiny little person was bursting with so much personality that gold stars only hinted at everything inside there, all that energy bouncing around in her little body and mind, flowing and bubbling and sparking out, in words upon words upon words.

They are good memories. We've had some happy times and hard times since then, and there are surely more of each ahead, as there are in any given set of days and months and years. But the memories make me smile, and I have hope - real hope - that this blanket will keep her warm in better days and months and years ahead.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Day Four Hundred and Forty-Two

And there's recipe #16 - Chocolate Peanut Butter Balls! They have no calories at all, you can tell just by looking at them.

I got the recipe 10 or 12 years ago from a Secret Santa, and since it was a secret she didn't put her name on it ... and as a result I have no freakin' clue where I got the recipe. So, Secret Santa from the late 1990's, if you recognize this candy, thanks - they were great!

Real butter, peanut butter, powdered sugar, and chocolate chips. It hardly seems difficult enough to consider it an actual recipe, but since it's a pain in the backside to dip anything more complicated than a strawberry in melted chocolate, I'm counting it.

I should have had Item #8 be "try 100 new recipes". I'm sorry to be almost finished with it! I mean, not that I can't still try new recipes ... it's just that after I finish the item, I no longer have any rational reason to post pictures of them.