Monday, September 29, 2008

My treasures

I thought I'd distract myself from my lack of weight loss by showing you some pictures of the handmade things I own which I categorize as Things That I'd Knock Over A Fireman to Save From My Burning House:

This was the first quilt my mother made for me. She gave it to me for Christmas one year shortly after I graduated from college. I remember crying when I opened the box, because she had been quilting for years at this point and had never made me anything. Unfortunately, the fabric is disintegrating and I don't know what I can do, if anything, to save it. This quilt is also from the time when Mom was still hand quilting everything, so that makes it even more valuable to me.

This quilt she made probably 10 or 12 years later at a Mystery Quilt weekend somewhere in Indiana. I received it on the day I returned to work after a 6-week bout with mono, so it's the quilt I turn to whenever I'm feeling the sense of profound fatigue that reminds me of having mono. This one was sent away somewhere to be machine quilted.

These two were made by my husband's grandma and were given to each of our daughters shortly after they were born. We love these and they are our snuggle-on-the-couch quilts.

My sister and I had a very combative relationship while I was growing up (she is 13 years older than me) and by the time I was grown and married and pregnant with my first child, I had pretty much given up on having anything more than a civil relationship with her. Fortunately, she hadn't given up at all. There's a longer story here, but it starts with these - the gifts she made for my oldest daughter which I received at my baby shower:

There's a lot more so I'm going to split this into two posts.


After a week in which I exercised more and ate the same as the last two weeks, I HAVE GAINED BACK THREE POUNDS.

Since I am clearly doomed to being fat forever, I'm going to go eat several chocolate chip cookies while grinding up vegetables in the garbage disposal. Then I'm going to ask the trash collectors if I can watch while they smash my scale in the compactor.

Friday, September 26, 2008

It's not in the DSM IV

I'm having Quilt Anxiety, or Color-Combo Disorder, or something, over this Bento Box quilt. I've been looking at pictures on Flickr of other Bento Box quilts, and it's quite clear that there's no way this thing is going to look even remotely like them. I have a number of fabrics, but the general colors are red, black, green and white (or cream), and I just can't visualize how they will all work together. I've started mixing around the blocks I've completed thus far, and they just look like I put some random shit together. Frankly, I'm not sure how people come to the final pattern on quilts like this anyway. There's entirely too much left to the quilter (i.e., me) to decide - and at this stage I'd really prefer to be dictated to more: put color A here, put color B there. I can't handle the responsibility of making these decisions on my own. I need a supervisor.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

4 down - 53 to go

Despite the fact that Week 2 in the Bitchy Stitcher Diet Plan was a total failure, I have gotten back on track this week and am down a total of 4 pounds. I don't really know what happened last week except that my little one, Devon, appeared to be teething again, and her black, black moods simply ruined everything we all tried to do. I think I still managed to keep my snacking down, though honestly I don't remember much of the week at all, except for a small girl crying and throwing fits. But I've been determined to get back on track this week, and I made it to the gym both Monday and Tuesday.

Although I love my gym - love the childcare, love the showers - there are always moments there that make me cringe, that make me almost sorry I showed up that day. On Monday there were two women in the showers at the same time as me, obviously friends, and they were talking about those pesky 5 pounds that they just can't seem to lose. One woman was going to try to do a liquid diet for two weeks, while the other was extolling the virtues of a diet doctor another friend had seen (the upshot appeared to be that he prescribed amphetamines). Of course I took a peek at these obscenely flabby women as they were leaving, and, of course, another 5 pounds off of either of them and they would have slid down the shower drains.

I have probably seen a total of 2 women at the gym who look like me - and, yes, that includes me. I know the point of losing weight is for my health, so that I don't end up diabetic and needing artificial knees like my mother, so that I can play with my girls without getting winded and needing a nap. But I have to admit that a large part of my motivation is also just wanting to fit in again. I hate being the only fat mom at the playground, the only fat woman on the block, the only fat woman in the grocery store (no lie - I look all the time). I hate that what everyone sees when I leave the house is not the way I see myself.

When I look in the mirror, this is what I still expect to see:

or this:

but not this. I don't know who this is:

Monday, September 22, 2008

Stag beetle - LOVE IT!

The Bento Box quilt continues to progress bit by bit:

Harper, my oldest, declared last night that I had done it all wrong because the colors don't line up right. I reminded her that she regularly puts her clothes on backwards, so she might not be the authority on such matters.

On Sunday morning, we dragged the girls out for our usual weekly grocery trip, and decided to stop by a new store that opened this summer: Fresh World International Supermarket. This place is so fresh, they don't even have a website (I have no idea what that means), though they do have a few locations in the D.C. area. It caters largely to the Asian community, though they also carry a good number of Latino items. On this trip, we found that they had begun stocking some Indian goods, but the selection was not quite what we had hoped for.

But no matter - because there's plenty there to keep eaters like us happy. We're basically willing to eat anything that comes from any other country, with specific emphasis on Asian cuisines. We weren't really prepared with any recipes that we needed ingredients for, so we just ended up buying stuff for fun (not a smart way to grocery shop these days - but this place is pretty cheap as well).

This is what I had for lunch today:

which is like a Thai version of Top Ramen. It had several packets of flavoring to add: an oil, dried vegetables, the soup base, and chili powder. Not only was it tasty, but Harper - she who only eats plain spaghetti and cheese pizza - loved it and kept stealing noodles from my bowl. then we had dessert:

It has these cracker/cookie sticks that you dip into a little vat of chocolate icing. The best part of the whole thing is that the crackers are printed with little pictures of an animal, and then some brief saying related to it, like "HORSE - GALLOP AWAY" or "OWL - ACTIVE AT NIGHT." These were my favorite:

I want to make a t-shirt that says STAG BEETLE - LOVE IT!

We also got a bunch of other noodle soups and our other favorite Japanese chocolate snack: Pocky. Pocky are thin pretzel sticks covered in chocolate. We got the dark chocolate, which is, apparently, more masculine than milk chocolate:

Next time we go, I'm going to take pictures of the HUGE live fish they have in the seafood section. And if we're lucky, there'll be eels!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Love the little old ladies

I finished the Flea Market bag, despite the inscrutable instructions, and while I was sure I would end up hating it, I actually quite like the little monstrosity:

The strap is just long enough so I can wear it like a messenger bag (the pattern actually has the correct length for a messenger bag, but I didn't have enough fabric - so I just made it as long as I could) and that means I have a nice lightweight bag for keys and a cell phone when I take the girls on walks (none of my pants have pockets). I took it with me this morning when I went out to my fave fabric store, and all the little old ladies who work there pounced on it immediately: "Oh what a cute bag! Did you make that? Helen, look at this bag - isn't that cute? It's reversible? Helen! Look - it's reversible! You've only been sewing since July? And you taught yourself? HELEN!..." These are women who have made things far more complex and difficult than I ever will and they are cooing over my half-assed bag. LOVE THAT STORE!

And now I am starting the Bento Box quilt. I think that when this is finished it will represent every sushi-themed fabric that exists in the world right now.

Now if they just had quilt fabric with Dr. Pepper and Reese's cups, we'd have a theme quilt for me!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

If only they'd consulted me.

Now, I don't know about you. Maybe you like this sort of thing. Maybe it's perfectly normal, and everybody does it, and I should just take my provincial attitudes back where I came from - but I just don't think the instructions for a pattern should be so vague that you have to go to the website to get the detailed version. And it says right on the pattern "go to the website for tips," and when you go there, and you click on "tips," there's only one tip - and it's for the part of the pattern that makes no fucking sense!

Let me elaborate. Here are the aforementioned instructions for how to attach the handle to the bag:

"Carefully turn strap at corner"??? What the hell? However you try to turn it, you end up with a flap of material you don't know what to do with. So, then I consult the website, and it turns out you have to make this crazy cut UNDER THE PRESSER FOOT. The cut allows you to turn the fabric at the corner of the bag and - guess what! The strip of material that you are sewing to make the straps is also the sides and bottom of the bag! That extra material turns out to be the corner! Would have been nice to mention that somewhere; maybe I'd have had a fighting chance at UNDERSTANDING YOUR FREAKING DIRECTIONS.

Monday, September 15, 2008

I hate patterns

My pattern for the Flea Market Bag arrived today, so I've been hunched over my worktable, trying to affix paper to fabric (low-tack tape or pins? super glue? fairy dust?) and then cut out shapes that look like the ones on the paper. I hate cutting out patterns.

I also received my Bento Box quilt pattern and I'm really itching to get started on it, but I have to pick out fabric. I really want to use some of the same fabrics, plus others in the same vein, that I used in my sushi bag. The quilt will be for my husband - he is a sushi fanatic, and also wastes large amounts of time looking at pictures of actual bento boxes on Flickr

Oh! And here is the update for Week One: The 3 glasses of water a day - total failure. I think I drank two on the first day, maaaaybe one the second, and not a drop since. I am sure to develop a kidney stone the size of my head. However, the 30 minutes of exercise 3 days a week was a success. On top of that, I somehow stopped snacking between meals. In our last few grocery trips, I just haven't bought any of my usual treats, and I've been doing a lot of cooking. Since breads are another of my weaknesses, I've made an unspoken rule for myself that any bread I eat - I have to make it. So I've made 3 loaves in the bread machine, plus popovers, pizza dough, and I've even made homemade pasta twice. And except for my beloved Dr Pepper, I'm attempting to eliminate as much high fructose corn syrup as possible from my diet.

Net result: lost 2 pounds! If week 2 progresses as well, I'll know there's hope.

So, on to Week 2:

1. Try again with the water
2. Keep up the exercise
3. Add at least one vegetable to at least one meal each day.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Take the kids to another room

I'm finally ready to post pictures of the beast. I decided to make a strap just like the bag handles and use fusible web to secure it over the seam that began ripping apart after I turned the bag. It's a misshapen monstrosity BUT I made my own covered button (which I realize is totally easy, but I need these little victories) and I now know not to use Peltex 70 when the directions say fleece.

I am heartbroken

Just moments ago, I found out that the writer David Foster Wallace took his own life on September 12. I cannot express how much this saddens me, how I haven't even begun to fully comprehend the grief that is welling up inside me. His work wasn't everyone's cup of tea, but no one can dispute his influence over an entire generation of writers. Needless to say, I loved his work, every novel, every short story, every magazine article. I can't believe he's gone.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Day 2: the beast amongst us

The captain has locked herself in her quarters and refuses to heed our calls. There is nothing we can do now but pray and commit the events of these last few hours to paper, that someone may happen upon these writings amongst our mangled bodies and inform our loved ones of the manner of our deaths.

The captain snared the beast she called "Lily Beth" only days ago, keeping it in the hold along with the munitions and victuals. She visited the beast daily, circling its cage and musing upon it. We knew not what the captain thought about on these visits, only that she would return to her quarters thereafter where she could be heard muttering about fabrics and darts.

Finally, yesterday afternoon, she decided the time had come to tackle the beast and I was summoned to bring it to her on deck. There she waited with her weapons at hand: sewing machine, fabrics, thread - and interfacing.

As soon as we saw the interfacing we knew the captain had brought us all on a fool's errand.

"Captain, please, that interfacing. It cannot work. You cannot mean to-" And here she whacked me squarely in the nuts.

"Structure! I demand structure - and, by God, this bag shall have it!" she roared. Her last two bags were considered triumphs by all in this crew, and yet she remained sullen, insisting that she must have a bag with substance, a bag to stand on its own. And despite every sign, every warning which any soul possessing reason would recognize and turn away - she proceeded down the dark path that has led us here.

At first she was triumphant, having slain the darts over which she had long obsessed. Then, the sky darkened, and the beast began to stir.

With every stitch into that dreaded interfacing, that stiff, unyielding matter, the signs grew clearer. Seams had to be trimmed in order to be turned, and she trimmed too close, dammit, too close! By the time she had assembled the blasted thing, though it had been oozing green slime, befouling the air and sickening our bellies, she was too far gone to care. We would all die, and she with us, but the beast would be made whole.

She reached into its gaping maw to turn the outside in, to give the beast its final shape and form, and in so doing the seams began to rip apart. The cheap fabric she had used for the lining could not hold to the damned interfacing. The beast screamed and howled with an unholy voice - and then, in one horrible gulp, devoured the first mate whole, spitting out his bones upon the deck and looking to the rest of us to satisfy its hunger further.

By this time, the captain was gone, having abandoned us to our fate. Fully half of us are dead now; the rest of us wait and listen for the sound of fabric sliding across the decks, the evil tidings of our sad fate.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

I like my metaphors nutty

This afternoon I read Tuesday's post on How About Orange about how Jessica started sewing and later, as I was putting the girls to bed, I started thinking about how I might describe my own beginnings as a seamstress. I thought about how I started my next handbag today, laying out the pattern pieces and cutting them out from the fabric, and how I just couldn't manage to hold enough of the instructions in my head at once to accomplish that task in an orderly way. I wasted so much fabric, because I didn't gather all the pattern pieces for each fabric and lay them out in the most efficient fashion. Nope, grabbed one, taped it down, started cuttin'. Wasted oodles of fabric.

The word "flail" always occurs to me as I think about how I go about this. Like a little kid blindfolded and batting at her birthday pinata. I do hit that fucker a lot - but the rest of the time I'm just whacking my dad in the nuts.

Case in point: I finished one half of the bottom of the front (or something) this evening and I suh-LAMMED those darts! I sewed those bad boys down!Then, feeling all flush 'cuz I hit the pinata, I proceded to start the other side. Lined up the notches for the two fabrics and - whoops! - thread got caught up coming off the spool and I had to abort the seam and start over. Okay - no problem. Put it all back together - exactly as it had been - and triumphantly pulled it off the machine...and I sewed the two fabrics right side to wrong side. WHAM - squah in the nuts.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


Anyone out there have any good ideas for a homemade gift for a baby just turning one? I've been taking care of my friend's baby girl in the afternoons when her and her husband's shifts overlap (they are both cops) and she is just such a funny, sweet little shmoopie:

I'd love to give her something handmade by her Aunt Meggie, but I don't think a six-pocket handbag is quite the thing (the only thing I am confident I can make between now and October 2). She's got eight million relatives working on quilts for her, so I'd like to do something other than that. Any ideas would be most appreciated - as long as they don't involve, you know, darts.

Save yourselves

That bag? The Lily Beth one? It has...darts. DARTS. ON A HANDBAG. It's bad enough that this is an actual pattern, one I will have to pin to the fabric and then cut around - as though that's actually possible for real human beings who do not possess super powers - but, darts? I tried that whole dart thing on that wrap skirt I made earlier in the summer, and they were, lets say, crappy. No idea what I was doing then, no idea now. I hate to use such lovely fabric on what will surely be the instrument of my demise. Maybe I should get some muslin.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Wishing I had a good bag pun

The pattern I ordered to use with my new fabric is taking a while to arrive - I failed to notice the Etsy shop alert that the proprietor would be away until this Wednesday. Until then, I have found this:

Only eight bucks and it's a PDF - comes right to your email!

My need for instant gratification probably bodes ill for my diet plans, not to mention my sewing.

Sex on a Plate

Assuming, that is, you like, you know, sex. I lost my libido somewhere around 2005 and haven't seen it since. But considering how much my husband talks about it - it must be pretty good!

Also pretty good are homemade crepes with chocolate Grand Marnier sauce. I had never attempted crepes before, having been taken in by all the propaganda that says they're really hard to make. Bullshit! Obviously lies from the Pancake Council, who want us all enslaved to the thick, baking powder-enhanced slabs we've become so used to. Crepes are absurdly easy, and you can quickly cook up 2 or 3 for a quick snack and keep the batter in the fridge for later.

And besides, my goals for the week said nothing about delicious chocolate yumminess.


For the crepes:
2 cups all-purpose flour
4 eggs
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 1/4 cups milk
1/2 stick butter, melted

In a food processor or blender, mix together flour, eggs, and salt. Add milk and blend, then melted butter and blend. If batter has a few lumps, just pour it through a strainer into a plastic container and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Lightly spray a non-stick, 6 or 8 inch skillet with cooking spray (you will probably only do this once) and heat on medium high. When pan is hot enough to evaporate a drop of water on contact, pour a scant 1/4 cupful of batter into the pan and swirl to coat the bottom of the pan with batter. When the edges are brown and the middle is pocked with bubbles and no longer looks wet, flip using the thinnest spatula you have (I use an offset icing spatula). Cook for only a few seconds to lightly brown the second side, then flip onto a plate. Make as many as you desire and store the batter for later. The batter can officially be stored for 48 hours, but I've gone 3 days with no problems. If the butter separates in the fridge, just whisk it back in.


1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon Grand Marnier

Combine the chocolate chips and cream in a heavy saucepan and cook over medium low heat, stirring constantly until chocolate is all melted. Add Grand Marnier and stir. Sauce will firm up in the refrigerator, but only needs a few seconds in the microwave to melt.

The crepes can be folded on a plate and served with a little ice cream and sauce. I just roll 'em up and dip 'em.

Enjoy! If you, you know, like that sort of thing.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

The time has come, the Walrus said, to lose some fucking weight

By all the measures available to me - online, at the gym, in books, at my doctor's office - I am not just fat. I am obese. Oh-fucking-bese. I can no longer use any sort of euphemism to describe my excess adipose tissue, and now the word "fat" no longer does the job. And I haven't even officially hit the 200-pound mark yet!

Last Christmas, we packed up the kids and went to stay with my parents in Tennessee for a week. The day we arrived, I happened to notice a pamphlet lying on top of a low bookcase, a pamphlet which appeared to be the instructions for a glucose monitor. After a day or two, it was hard not to notice that my mother was not partaking of the ridiculous feasts that my father insists upon preparing for each meal when we visit, and instead seemed to be eating very simple and measured meals. I waited in vain for her to mention something herself, until finally I couldn't take it anymore and I asked her, "So, are you diabetic now, or what?"

Her response was "Goddammit, John, you were supposed to get rid of everything!" Apparently, she intended to hide her recent diagnosis of Type 2 diabetes (my mom is definitely obese, and has been for many, many years now) from all her children at Christmastime because she didn't want us all "making a fuss." Not that we are, in general, a family of fuss-makers. We can raise a good stink, but we're not as talented with fuss.

But I think now that she wanted to hide it so that we wouldn't be able to scold her when she clearly fell of the wagon a matter of months later. My dad told me earlier in the summer that she claims to be testing her blood glucose levels regularly, but she hasn't asked him to pick up any supplies for her monitor in a long time. Then, when she had knee surgery in July, the doctor mentioned that her glucose levels were something ungodly.

And I totally understand, because even in the face of all the health problems that I know are associated with obesity, and knowing that I almost certainly have diabetes in my future if I don't lose weight, I have yet to maintain a diet for more than, oh, a few days at a time. Of course, I usually go at it the way I go at everything: all or nothing. I decide that I will never, ever, ever crack open another Dr. Pepper, and by day two I am sneaking them in on errands so that I can drink them in the car where they don't "count."

So, this time, I am going to take a different approach. Each week I am going to try to meet two goals. And they have to be reasonable goals, not anything grandiose (I WILL FLUSH ALL CHOCOLATE DOWN THE TOILET. I WILL NEVER EVEN THINK ABOUT SUGAR, MUCH LESS EAT IT.) And I will document those goals, and my success or failure in meeting them, here.

So, here we go. Are you excited? I can tell you are.

• Drink 3 glasses of water each day. (I realize the recommended amount is 8 glasses, but that, to me, is a "grandiose" goal. I will work my way up to that gradually).
• 30 minutes of exercise 3 days a week. (I currently have a free gym membership, thanks to my magazine job, and I LOVE this gym. Mainly, I love the showers, where I can actually shave my legs without having to tell some small person to stop opening the shower door and PUT DOWN THAT TOILET PAPER. They have a very nice child care center, reasonably priced, AND for 30 minutes on the treadmill I can listen to This American Life on my iPod. Why I'm not there every goddamn day, I simply cannot explain.)

And if I meet my goal? DOUGHNUTS!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Dude, I need to go "destash"

After finishing the two bags, I am down to remnants in my fabric box (I know you're supposed to call it your "stash," but that, to me, still suggests a hidden cache of pot. NOT that I would know anything about that, of course). I suppose I could whip up some wallets or something to go with the handbags, but right now, I've got purse fever and no pill's gonna cure my ill - just more bags! I've been trolling the various online fabric stores, searching for my next inspiration, and eventually, after endless minutes in front of the computer (my day's kinda full) it all starts to blend, an endless sea of cotton.

I had purchased the sushi prints from - a great store for its vast selection. I placed the order Sunday evening and it was shipped on Wednesday, arriving via Priority Mail on Friday. This time, I'm going with an Etsy store, Fabricworm. She carries great sets of fabric that you can buy in half-yard sets, or yard sets, or fat quarters - or just yardage of individual fabrics. And the thing I love about Etsy stores is that they usually ship that day, so I expect to have my new fabric as early as tomorrow. Oh, and here's what I got:

They're from the Erin McMorris Park Slope collection. Can't wait to get started and I think this is what I'll make:

(Update: this pattern can be purchased here.)

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go clean up the eggs that my husband has been throwing at the TV screen tonight.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Bliss in a bag

It has been a full weekend here at Chez Bitchy. Number One Daughter turned five, and we used what funds we might have spent on a more elaborate celebration on a violin instead. Her daddy was a cellist, back in the day - when I was a young, impressionable, recent college graduate and he was a young, horny, recent grad school graduate. I always tell people that he convinced me to marry him by playing me the Bach cello suites, but that's not actually what he convinced me to do (if you get my drift). I guess he's feeling a bit deprived lately, because he got out the cello for the first time in a few years and the kids were quite impressed. N.O.D. decided that her instrument would be the violin, and from that moment on, we heard nothing else, talked about nothing else but violin, violin, violin. So yesterday we made a pilgrimage to the music store to rent a 1/8 size student violin. She loves it so much she asked to sleep with it that night.

Then the next day I arranged a movie date with her "best" friend, a 9-year-old who tolerates N.O.D.'s worship of her with uncommon grace. We saw Wall-E, had lunch, and came back here for ice cream, cake, and more presents. And even after all this, she threw a hissy fit later because it just wasn't as "exciting" as she wanted her birthday to be. I reminded her that on MY birthday, a mere 3 weeks ago, NO ONE did ANYTHING. No cards, no cake, no "let's take mommy to dinner." Nothing. And when I pointed out to the girls' father that he had dropped the ball, can you guess what he tried to do to make up for it? NOTHING. I didn't hear anymore about her sucky birthday after that.

And as for me, as soon as I finished that ugly quilt top, I started in on the six-pocket bag. Thank god for all the half-assed sewing I've done so far - it has all prepared me for THIS:

That's not to say it wasn't fraught with difficulty. My seam on the bottom edge looks like I was having seizures while I was making it, the pockets don't line up on one edge, and I couldn't understand the instructions on how to box the bottom, so I just didn't do it. And I was certain that my machine would die upon being asked to sew through as many as 10 layers of fabric (the straps are folded 3 times) and two layers of batting, sending needle fragments flying and blinding the children. (It didn't!) But even as frustrating as it was, I made it all in one day, and it was insanely fun. It was so much more satisfying to have made something I could immediately use, than a quilt top that still needs to be quilted and bound (and lord know when that will get done).

I felt rather proud of myself. And so, drunk with power, I made this the next day:

I had purchased that fabric the day I discovered my hidden-gem quilt shop, thinking that it might work as a backing for my first quilt top (it didn't. Once I finished the bag in 3 fabrics, I thought I'd give it a whirl in only one - and I quite like the result. AND - I found this fabulous tutorial on how to box the bottom, which now makes me want to go back and fix the first bag.

Until I made these, I had forgotten that part of my original inspiration to try this sewing thing was this bag I bought from Etsy:

I love this little bag so much, and when I got it, it really hit me that someone made it, probably at home, with her sewing machine - and maybe I could learn to do the same thing. And now, just a couple months later, I'm two quilt tops and two handbags closer to my goal.

I think that deserves a doughnut, no?