Saturday, May 29, 2010

Wanna drink and look at quilts?

Any readers out there in the Maryland area going to the Annapolis Quilt Guild quilt show on June 12/13? I'd love to meet some of my friends out there in blogland, and we could maybe hit up one of the local restaurants after and do major damage to our cardiovascular systems.

Anybody interested can email me at dontdrinkandquilt at gmail dot com or at my regular email if that's what you already use.

Hope to see you there!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Well, crap


Yesterday I went and met with a trainer at my new gym for my "fitness evaluation." I hate this part of joining a gym. I KNOW I'm out of shape. In fact, I am intimately aware of just how out of shape I am and all I really want you to do is show me how to use the torture devices in the back so I don't rip off my own arms trying to do a tricep lunge. But this trainer was so nice, so personable and easy to talk to that before I knew it I was standing on a scale and letting her put a blood pressure cuff on my arm.

And that's when things got ugly.

She took my blood pressure once. Then again. Then asked me to take some deep breaths and relax my body and uncross my legs. And took it again. All three times my blood pressure was 153/110. She then very gently and kindly informed me that I needed to see a doctor and that I could not exercise again until I had a note from said doctor assuring her that I would not stroke out on the ellipticals.

So, I went to my doctor today, keeping my fingers crossed that it was just the nervous reaction to being in a  fitness evaluation, and having my fitness (read: flabbiness) evaluated (read: judged). BUT OF COURSE IT WASN'T. It was just as high today as it was yesterday, and she reminded me that back in September she had said that I was borderline and that if it continued to creep up, we'd have to start trying medication. She then handed me a prescription for Lortel and said no exercise for three weeks, at which time she'll check me again and make sure it's going down.

THEN she tells me that I should expect to feel unusually tired for the first week "or so" and that I need to not get up too quickly from sitting or lying down. I reminded her that I have small children. She just smiled as if to say, Do you really need to move all that fast when someone starts vomiting on the good couch? Isn't your health more important?

So of course as soon as I get home, I look up this drug online and start reading about all the side effects. Because they NEVER tell you all the side effects there in the doctor's office. No one would ever take any kind of medication of it was the doctor going, "And you may experience weight gain, dry mouth, a persistent cough, edema, nose worms, excessive toe jam, an unusual need to listen to Neil Sedaka in the shower, and a lack of interest in lepidoptery." And reading about the potential side effects, without being a statistician, it's very difficult to determine what the chances are of developing any of the more severe side effects. If you go onto any kind of forum where people report how they did on a drug it's all "MY NASAL PASSAGES SWELLED SHUT AND I HAD TO PRY THEM OPEN WITH GARDEN TOOLS. THEN MY LIVER FELL OUT AND THE DOG STARTED PLAYING WITH IT BEFORE I COULD GET IT BACK IN. THEN MY WIFE LEFT ME OVER ALL THE NEIL SEDAKA MUSIC." The people who do well on meds and aren't hypochondriacs don't tend to participate in forums like that, so you have to take it all with a grain of salt (EXCEPT I CAN'T HAVE ANY MORE SALT, DAMMIT).

Then I get to the end of the side effects list and of course the last one is "loss of interest in sex." Why is this ALWAYS one of the side effects of any medication I have to take? I was on Zoloft for about a year after my second child was born, and I remember the doctor saying, "Oh, and your sex drive may be reduced a bit while you're on this." Because when they DO decide to tell you about a side effect, they have to say it like that. And was she correct? Let's put it this way: on Zoloft, you still want it, and you can certainly still do it, but you just can't...finish it. Like, ever. You get what I'm saying? IT'S VERY FRUSTRATING.

But then she asked if I'd been feeling off lately, any headaches or anything else, and I mentioned the daily headaches that I have had for several weeks now, along with an inability to concentrate. I have been so unfocussed, and it has been unusual enough that it was one of the reasons I finally caved and joined the damn gym. I thought maybe some exercise would do me good and get my brain back on track. She just nodded and said, "The effects of high blood pressure, especially on women, are subtle. They can seem just like the effects of the normal stresses we have in daily life." And having written about heart disease in women, I knew she was right.

So sometime this weekend, I will start taking some little pill and wait for the nose worms to set in. And hope that, despite the fatigue, I'll still be able to finish things. I MEANT MY WORK. Geez.

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Bitchy Stitcher: Maintaining Poor Standards Since 2008

Does anyone here still remember that way back when this blog started, it was supposed to be both about my adventures in teaching myself to quilt AND the hilarity of trying to lose weight at the same time? The weight thing kind of fell by the wayside, not because I wasn't trying anymore, but because it was just too depressing an endeavor to write about. But even though I was ignoring it online, I did actually manage to lose some weight, almost 30 pounds at one point (10 of which came back over Christmas, apparently because of all that CHEESE). Even with 30 (then 20) pounds off, I am still overweight and out of shape and hating it. Though the year is almost half over, my original goal for 2010 had been to focus on myself - to write, quilt, and try with sincerity and earnestness to be healthier. I have managed to get in my own way on almost all these fronts so far (not hard at my size), but I made one step in the right direction last week. I joined a gym.

Despite my laziness, I actually love to exercise. I just have a hard time getting started. And I hate being outdoors (too hot, too cold, too many bugs, too sunny, too cloudy, no good place to put my keys, lack of adequate and convenient toilets, pollen makes me sneeze, grass makes me itch, and I know that rottweiler can clear that fence if it's hungry enough). I need a treadmill and a climate-controlled environment, preferably with a juice bar, but that's negotiable. There is a gym not 5 minutes from my house, one minute from Harper's school. They were having a special: $31 a month, $19 initiation fee. We just got our tax refund, which we agreed I could spend on a gym or a trainer or whatever I needed to get in shape.

I went to visit the gym on Thursday, and fell for it immediately. It was full of old people! There is nothing that makes me more comfortable than exercising around a bunch of flabby, wrinkly grannies. It has all the basic equipment, all kind of crammed into the available space. There is a shower, which apparently no one uses, since, like me, they're all just gonna go straight home anyway. It's unpretentious, and I like that. The salesperson used to be a freelance writer and was looking to get back into it on the side, and we bonded over that. It made me very happy.

I went the next day and did the treadmill for half an hour, got all sweaty and heart-rate-uppity, while destroying my hearing with my iPod. It was awesome. Did it again today. Still awesome.

Then, in a fit of energy, apparently brought on from the novelty of oxygenated blood reaching my brain, I decided to make a new table runner (and you thought there wasn't going to be any sewing in this post!).

I found this pattern on the Moda bakeshop site, which calls for several fat quarters. None of my fat quarters coordinate in any way, and I had just received three new ones from a reader who had borrowed my Labyrinth quilt pattern and sent them when she returned it (thanks, Michele!) So I decided to get all crazy and colorful and Freddy Moran-ish. This would be my first experience with flying geese, and, as I suspected, half of them sucked, half were pretty good, and the whole thing came together with the usual what-the-fucks and how-the-hells.

I also stayed true to form:

Because it just wouldn't be right unless I did something backwards, sideways, or upside down. AND NO I DID NOT LEAVE IT LIKE THAT.

I did straight line quilting using painters tape as guides:

And now I'm adding an awesome pink, magenta, and yellow striped binding:

See how my points got cut off? I think any guild lectures I manage to do are going to be called "How to Make Crap and Still Pat Yourself on the Back." Or maybe "Quilts Don't Care If You Curse."

Monday, May 17, 2010

Applique, schmapplique

I have only a few minutes to dash off this post, so we'll see what I can do with the precious time allotted to me today. Devon's daycare is closed today and tomorrow, but I managed to get a babysitter for a couple hours each day. Of course as soon as she got here David called and needed me to run to the bank, and then the guy in front of me at the ATM left his card so I had to park and go in and stand in line to be a good citizen and return it and then I went to the store only to realize when I got to the car that I forgot to pay for a bottle of ibuprofen...being honest has totally screwed with my day.

So, I want to show you the progress I've made on my plane ticket benefactor's quilt because OH BOY is it looking good. But of course, I have to post a buffer picture first so that she can't see it right away. So here is a picture of the bar and the inside of the bar fridge at my parents' house.

And now here are all the blocks I've made on PTB's quilt so far:

I'm not sure how many more I can do with the strips I have, since we're getting down to ones that don't really go together well. But I'd like this to be a good lap size quilt. I still need to figure out what to do for sashing.

Oh, and before I have to go - I have decided it's time. I've been putting it off and putting it off, and I just have to give in and do it already. I'm going to teach myself applique.

The sign from above (or below, more likely) that told me I had to get on this now was a promotion that was being held among several online fabric stores, and each store had a pie recipe and a pattern for a pie themed quilt block. And those of you who know the story of my brother and the cherry pie know that I've been wanting to make him something with a cherry pie theme. Turned out there were only two quilt blocks, and the better of the two was an applique pattern.

Then I discovered this blog. Something about Erin's photos and way of explaining things just made sense, in a way that other blogs, websites, and books have not. So I'm going to try it. I bought a bunch of fat quarters today, as well as some heat resistant mylar, fabric glue, and a wee little iron.

So, I don't feel so bad about the fact that today's post isn't very funny. I've just set myself up for comedy gold.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Told you I have phone phobia

I finally got in contact with Gwen Marston today for the article I am working on. Let me say that again: GWEN MARSTON. Who is, in my mind, one of the most fascinating, most influential quilters out there. She's been on the road for a while, and I happened to catch her at a good time.

I find interviews difficult on the phone, because I do so much better in person. I can read people's body language and get a feel for what kind of an interviewer I need to be to get the most out of them. When I talk to people in person, I usually have a hard time getting them to shut up.

But it always bothers me if I can't tell if someone is rolling their eyes or looking bored, plus I have to write down everything they say, which often creates long pauses while they wait for me to finish. Then I get the nervous habit of repeating what they just said as I'm writing it so they know that's what I'm doing, and I sound like a big idiot. Fortunately, by the time I call someone, I know enough about what I'm going to write and how it will all be structured, that I can get the quotes I need very quickly.

When I get nervous, I get flushed, but it doesn't look normal. It only appears on my neck and upper chest, and it looks like a goddamn rash.

This is what talking to Gwen Marston on the phone did to me:

Looks like I've either been rolling around in poison ivy or I ate some bad clams.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Pinch me

You know, I was having a perfectly normal day yesterday. Got the girls up, dressed, and fed. Drove everyone to their destinations. Went to the grocery store.

I am still in the habit of checking my Blackberry every 20 seconds for emails, even though the reason I needed to do so - my job with a local, regional magazine - no longer exists. Still, blog comments are forwarded to me as emails, and I will freely admit to pretty much freebasing my emotional highs off every compliment that y'all leave here. You're like my own personal brand of heroin. 

So, I think I was carrying groceries into the house when I checked for mail, and there was a message on the new gmail account I have set up for just the blog. It was from the Program Director of a local quilt guild, who had read my work in Quilter's Home, found the blog, and wanted to know what my fees were for lectures/presentations and whether I might be available in the next year.


After I picked my jaw up off the floor, slowed my heartbeat to reasonable levels, and changed my underwear, I immediately called my husband, who of course did not answer, forcing me to leave a long and slightly hysterical message.

Now, doing lectures/presentations (I think for what I do, they should be called "routines") has always been a part of The Big Plan, a plan which includes publishing a book in the next two years. But I always assumed that hitting the road wouldn't happen without the book, and the book won't happen until I have more published work under my belt. As odd as I am about certain social situations, I actually love public speaking, and think that I would be really good at taking this show on the road, so to speak.

But never in a million, bajillion years did I think that someone would jump the gun on me and ask me to speak NOW.

I had no idea what to say, and, honestly, no idea what sort of presentation she was expecting I might be prepared to do, so I immediately contacted Jake Finch, one of my editors at Quilter's Home. She has tons of experience in this arena, being a lecturer/teacher herself, and so I knew she would give me good advice. About two minutes after the email went through, I got a message back: I'm calling you in 5 minutes.

Jake seemed very excited and at the same time not the least bit surprised that someone would want me to do this. She told me I need to have several presentations for a guild to choose from, at least 3, and that there must be a visual element to it. I can't just stand up there and say funny stuff for an hour (oh, and that's another thing - AN HOUR?). And even though some people do slide shows, she said having tangible items, even if they aren't all quilts, was vital, and that there should be at least 20 things. TWENTY. I don't think I've even made twenty things yet, and the next three things on my slate are going to be given away. She also had a lot of good advice about contracts and payment and mileage, and that I should absolutely NOT censor myself except for maybe not saying "fuck" so much. Or, like, at all.

I think Jake truly thought I should come up with three presentation possibilities immediately and go ahead and book my date with the guild for 2011 so I'd have time to prepare, but I just couldn't do that. Even given a year to get ready, it just seemed dishonest to go, "My fee is $300, plus mileage. I require 3 bottles of San Pellegrino mineral water, chilled to EXACTLY 38.6 degrees, placed by the podium on a stool that has been carved from the bones of Moroccan camel herders AND EVERYTHING SHOULD BE PAINTED WHITE AND NO RED M&MS!"

So I wrote the nice lady back, and said that I was floored and flattered by her request, but could not book a date until I was more prepared. I also asked if they would care to be my guinea pig audience for my first presentation, free of charge.

So, now that I've gotten some advice from an expert lecturer, I need some advice from an expert audience: you. Would you be interested in some sort of Bitchy Stitcher-style presentation at your quilt guild? Do you think such a presentation has to be accompanied by several quilts and or other items? What do you think makes a good lecture? What do you hate about lectures that you think I should never, ever do? Keep in mind that I have absolutely nothing to teach anyone about quilting. Okay, I could teach someone who has never touched a sewing machine a lot about quilting, but guilds aren't full of neophytes. Anything I would do would be about humor and fun, and would not be instructive (unless you want to learn how to come up with really creative obscenities).  Would you want to listen to someone for an hour who wasn't teaching you anything?

As always, I am indebted to you all for your help and support.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

I always forget this part

The quilt pattern I am using is called Boxy Stars and can be found here.

A winner!

The winner of the large (medium) t-shirt is HRH Gigi! Congratulations, your royal highness. I'm sure it will match your crown, or at least not clash with it.

Gigi, an email is on its way to you now so you can give me your address.

Monday, May 10, 2010

People who have given me a plane ticket are NOT ALLOWED PAST THE CUTE KID

Today I finally made some progress on the next non-humorous article I have been assigned to write for Quilter's Home. My kids getting sick put everything off and I wasn't really able to get started until last week, and then I hit a very annoying wall. It turns out that when you are trying to write about quilters who don't use cell phones, or email, or - apparently - answering machines, YOU CAN'T GET IN TOUCH WITH THEM. Of course, it doesn't help that I am a procrasti-dialer. I overthink every phone call I ever make, and always fear that I'm calling at a really bad time. In fact every conversation I have ever had with someone I didn't already know well has begun with "I'msosorryifthisisabadtimeIcancallyoubackatamorereasonabletimeofyourchoosing."

I talk fast AND have ridiculous neuroses.

So I sit to make a call and go, "Well, gee, it's only 10 a.m., and some people like to sleep in. I better call at 11." And then at 11, I think, "Well, gee, it's so close to lunch. A lot of people eat early. I better wait til 1." And so on. I'm not sure what I think is going to happen. One time I met a friend's girlfriend, and I really, really liked her and wanted to befriend her (which I never EVER do) and one day I came up with an excuse to call her. Her boyfriend answered, and I told him I wanted to talk to her, and I heard her say as she came towards the phone, "Megan? Why is she calling me?" I guess I think THAT is going to happen, plus maybe a pop quiz or something.

But I finally reached someone, and we had a lovely chat. I forget sometimes how much normal people like to talk about themselves. I'd be hard pressed to come up with much to say if someone wanted to interview me. "So, what's it like being the world's greatest - and possibly only - quilting humorist?" "Um. Good? I guess?...Can I go now?"

But what was even better about today (oh, besides the fact that I also started my next humor column and - not to toot my own horn or anything, but let's just say I smell Pulitzer!) was that I made two blocks of my plane ticket benefactor's quilt and HOLY CRAP are they awesome. Now I know she reads this pretty regularly, so before I show you the blocks - which I have to do - I will show you a picture of my children. You know, as a buffer.

Cute, huh? Want 'em?

Okay, now here are the blocks I made today:

HOW COOL ARE THEY? I am just so pleased with how they turned out, even though they are made with Hoffman Bali Pops, which, for the record, suck. Apparently they are cut in Indonesia where the fabrics are manufactured, and Hoffman figures, Eh - what're gonna do, they're Indonesian, which is another way of saying Too Cheap To Give A Shit. And while the fabrics themselves are lovely, they are clearly cut by people who aren't paying attention and don't care, and, really, who can blame them? My own personal rotary cut strips are way more consistent than these things, which I guess means I'm a better rotary cutter than some under paid, Third World sweatshop laborer. Um. Yay me?

I still have to figure out what to use for sashing, but I think this is going to be a really nice quilt. I'm actually looking forward to giving it away.

I can't believe I actually said that. I better go find something I hate about it so I can sleep tonight.

Friday, May 7, 2010

T-shirt Giveaway!

Good gracious, I have been down in the dumps this past week. I really don't know what crawled in my butt and died, but perhaps getting sick with the Asian Hamster Flu, followed in close succession by both my children, plus owning a husband with a cracked, infected tooth, had something to do with it. Or perhaps I've just been contemplating the specter of my own mortality and found myself unable to reconcile my ultimate demise and my addiction to Bejeweled Blitz 2. Or PMS. One of those.

I did, beset though I was by the moony mopies, manage to make Devon a second skirt:

And I even made her a doll quilt out of the blocks I never used for the baby quilt I recently finished:

I think I may also finally have a handle on what to make for my plane ticket benefactor, but I'm going to have to clear away the fog that has built up in my synapses in order to accomplish this. It involves a set of Hoffman Bali Pops and a pattern that I found online. Now I say "pattern" but what I mean is "a loose set of instructions put together by a well-meaning blogger." Notice how I didn't make any reference to half-wits on crack? Because quilt bloggers get a free pass. Solidarity, and all that.

But it is a wee bit confusing, and I'm going to have to go against my nature and plan out exactly how to cut my strips and organize them to make the piecing go as smoothly as possible. We don't need another performance art installation, not with the mood I've been in.

Did I mention something about a giveaway?

Ah, yes. I had built up some credits in my Cafe Press store account and decided that I needed to actually own some of the merchandise I keep trying to persuade you people to buy (and those that have - THANK YOU!). So I got me a t-shirt and a bumper sticker. Here's the bumper sticker:

I can now attest that it is indeed sticky, and adheres to a common car bumper with ease and, dare I say, grace.

I am not going to show you a picture of the t-shirt because, for one thing, it looks just like the picture on the sidebar, and it turns out that they run a wee bit small. I bought a large, and, well, while I can get it on, and it's not like it's cutting off circulation or anything, it is just way too snug in the busticilogical area for my taste. I know some people like that kind of thing (my husband, for one), but it just not me, you know?

So, I'm going to give it to one of you. A Don't Drink and Quilt women's v-neck t-shirt, white, size large (think medium). To enter, please leave a comment and include a way for me to reach you, should this largesse become yours. No grammar questions this time. Become a follower to get a second entry (and current followers already get one entry, so your comment counts as entry number 2). Winner will be chosen at random. Deadline to enter in midnight on Monday, May 10. Winner announced on Tuesday.