Thursday, October 30, 2008

pleading for your vote

five days left! if you're like me, you're oh so tired of hearing about the presidential election and candidates. election season in general really wears on me, but this year in particular because it's gone on for so long. i cannot wait for wednesday. do you realize it's been 20 months since barack obama announced his candidacy?

as exhausted of the election as you probably are, i have to beg you one thing: please go vote, if you haven't already. in california, tomorrow is the deadline for mailing in your absentee ballot if you want to be sure it gets to the registrar's office in time to be counted. otherwise you can drop it off at any polling place.

i feel very passionately about voting. i don't care who you vote for as long as you vote. okay, that's not quite true: i do care, especially if you're not voting for my guy or my proposition, but i also feel that political choice is a very personal decision, like religion, and it's not specifically my place to convince you that you're wrong. maybe i'm wrong, who knows. my political beliefs are shaped by my values and my life experiences, which are totally different from your life experiences, because you're not me and i'm not you.

by not voting you forfeit the right to complain or even be the slightest bit aggravated by anything that happens politically. even if you feel your vote doesn't count. someone told me a couple years ago that he didn't vote in the last presidential election as a protest, because he didn't want to vote for george bush and he didn't want to vote for john kerry. (i didn't either, and i don't want to vote for either obama or mccain, but i'm not about to throw my vote - my voice - away.) fine, but then what right do you have to complain about president bush? he said, "well, i didn't vote bush into office so it's not my fault that he screwed up!" technically that's correct, i guess, but he also didn't vote for anyone else against him. by not voting you're removing yourself from the decision-making process and allowing others to make the decision for you. if you consciously allow others to make decisions for you, then you have no right to complain about the decisions they make.

i've heard people say that it doesn't matter if they vote because their one vote doesn't matter. every vote matters! look at the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections. regardless of whether or not you think the outcomes of those elections were correct or not, they were both exceedingly close elections. especially in 2000, every single vote mattered in florida. here in california, we're an exceedingly blue state, which is often very frustrating for a conservative like myself (though i tend to be relatively moderate rather than staunchly conservative). republican candidates don't even campaign in california because it's such a given that the democrat will carry the state. so if i vote republican, my vote basically "doesn't count" - it's overruled by all those other democratic votes - but i still vote, because that's my voice and my way of being a part of the political process. and hey, who knows, maybe one day we'll vote red. it happened to reagan in 1984, it could happen again.

so please go vote. because today i am thankful - and you ought to be too:

1. that we live in a country where we have a voice in the political process and can vote our conscience. we have secret ballots and don't have to be afraid of retaliation against ourselves or our loved ones if we vote for an unpopular candidate.

2. that we live in a country that recognizes the rights of the individual. voting is not mandatory. sometimes i think it ought to be, but i think forcing people to be part of the political process is wrong. if you choose not to be, that's your perogative. we don't require you to be any particular religion either. you can be whatever religion you want, or none at all. vote if you want to - if it's important to you - or don't. (but i still think you ought to!)

3. that we live in such an amazing republic that functions so well. (many people think our form of government is a true democracy, but it actually isn't.) lots of people say our government is broken and doesn't function, and that may be true to some extent, but we don't abuse our citizens for speaking out against the government or build palaces of gold while inflation runs rampant and people die of starvation in the streets. yes, i'm sure you could cite many specific examples where i'm wrong, but as a general rule, america is a pretty damn good country. i'm also not trying to start a political debate here, so please don't get all over me for what i just said.

i love that america is the only country in the world founded on an idea - not an ethnicity or a religion or anything else. the idea was freedom and equality, and that idea has succeeded for the past 232 years. even more, if you count back to the original settlement on roanoke in 1607. so please love your country as much as i do and participate on tuesday.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

american vs. european (a very limited experience)

tonight i finished burda # 8094. i'm not sure i'm 100% in love with it. it was also not as free as the previous blouse, as i didn't end up having enough fabric for the entire blouse (the bottom print) and had to go get something to coordinate for the top. i also splurged on $2 worth of ribbon to offset the contrast between the top and bottom fabrics (to my eye, the top print is quite a bit lighter than the bottom) and, annoyingly, had to run out in the middle of the project to get 1/4" elastic, which i thought i had but apparently did not. man, i hate that.

overall i think it's cute, and it looks much cuter on my actual body than on the sewing body. it was significantly less work than the previous blouse as well - that one had 13 pieces including a two-piece collar and a two-piece sleeve with cuffs. not to mention the previously-swore-about 12 buttonholes. however on this one all the pieces except the sleeve are cut on the bias, which i suppose makes for nice give over a growing belly but feels kind of funny compared to the sleeves. maybe i'm just not used to longer-sleeved bias-cut garments. if/when i make it again, i think i'd also put in an underarm zipper. it's a little difficult to pull over one's head without it as there is only elastic across the back and not under the bust and not a lot of give overall in that horizontal seam. i can only imagine what it will be like when i'm feeling cranky and huge and unwieldy in my eighth month. maybe if i make it from a double-faced knit next time?

which brings me to the pattern itself: kind of strange. this is my overall love-hate feeling about burda patterns in particular and most sewing patterns in general. for example, this one had no facings along the neckline of those bodice pieces, but it did include an odd little bias strip to face the back neck edge. the directions were also not super-clear on how to attach it. and the bottom pieces were to be cut on the bias, on the fold. huh?? exactly. imagine how difficult it is to lay out your pattern on the bias to begin with (and how much fabric you feel like you're wasting). then multiply your frustration level by 86. exactly.

i find burda patterns tend to be a bit frustrating like this, in general. i like them because they fit extremely well and are easy to adjust for fit. they specify their model measurements and usually have about seven different adjustment lines where you can lengthen or shorten. i'm very lucky in that for the most part i'm built like a pattern model: b cup, not overly curvy or overly boyish, average height. i'm a bit shorter than patterns tend to be cut for (i'm 5'4"; most patterns assume a 5'6" model), my waist is a bit longer, and my legs shorter, so for me most patterns get lengthened about an inch in the waist and shortened an inch or two across the thigh. the better fit the pattern is to begin with (and the more adjustment lines built in to the pattern), the easier it is to fit. american patterns don't seem to have as many adjustment lines built in to them. mccall's patterns in particular tend to run large as well (vogue, butterick, and simplicity tend to run fairly true to size).

i find the instructions on american patterns to be a bit clearer as well. european patterns seem to assume you already know how to sew, even on an "easy" pattern. it's not a problem for me in particular, as i've been sewing for about 20 years and consider myself pretty competent. but there are still things that even i tend to shy away from (because i'm lazy, mostly). collars, for example. i tend to prefer wearing collarless garments and i sew accordingly. i also don't like to fuss with attaching them and i always seem to screw it up somehow, so it's nice to have a pattern geared to a more novice seamstress walking you through the steps of attaching the collar instead of assuming you understand the general concept. even on an "advanced" level pattern, american patterns will still walk you through it clearly.

man and these burda patterns are all printed in like 2-point font. my eyes aren't that bad, but even i have to strain to read the instructions. i can only imagine what it would be like for my mother to try to read them.

i'm also finding the european patterns tend to be rather obsessive about basting. lots of basting and then stitching. no thanks. i'd rather just pin and stitch. why baste the side seam in place and then stitch it when it's a pretty simple process? again, it could just be my laziness. i just don't understand the point of all that basting.

one nice thing about european patterns is they tend to not have a bunch of extraneous pieces and crap (with the notable exception of that weird bias neck edge piece in this one). american patterns tend to have separate pattern pieces for interfacing, buttonhole guides, and elastic guides. why can't we just measure elastic? why can't the buttonholes just be marked on the front piece (or the front facing piece)?

Monday, October 27, 2008

lazy seamstress (or, how not to sew)

since the burda patterns finally arrived (three and a half weeks after i ordered them), this weekend's project was the maternity blouse from # 7889. this turned out to be an uber-cheap blouse (love those) as the only money i actually put out for it aside from the pattern was about $2 for the ribbon that makes the waist tie. the fabric came from my mother a couple years ago, the thread i had on hand from years and years ago, and the buttons were an old harvest from one of brian's old buttondowns:

when i laid it out on the floor to mark the buttonholes it looked monstrous and i thought i would swim in it, but then i tried it on and i think it is cute. brian thinks so too, thankfully. i hate making all those buttonholes too (12 of them) as i do them the "old-fashioned" way - adjusting the zigzag stitch and going back and forth. i have been too lazy to figure out the buttonholer my mother included when she gave me her old machine.

i tend to kind of be a lazy seamstress and most of the time it is not a problem. for example, when i sew for myself (and most of my sewing is for myself) i don't always finish my seams. [i never leave raw edges when i sew for other people - i usually do french seams, which are a little more work than just serging but look insanely classier.] usually i find this is not a huge problem. on straight-grain cuts the fabric just ravels a little in the wash and then generally stops and i've never had a problem with raveling all the way to the seam and causing a hole. on bias cuts the fabric isn't going to ravel anyway and i don't like to deal with additional seaming because if you're not careful you can stretch your seam out of whack and then it ripples and hangs funny. the problem with being lazy and not finishing your seams comes when you have long sleeves that can be rolled up and you forget that you need to finish those edges (though i guess i can still go back and serge them) then the seams look yucky when you roll the sleeves. so, caveat to not finishing your seams.

in the past i was actually lazier and took even more shortcuts. i never staystitched my necklines or armscyes, i never basted if i could help it, and i would only stitch one row of basting stitches to ease my sleeve caps. i didn't press my seams or my topstitching and i didn't steam my curves or my bias tape. i didn't even pin my edges before stitching. talk about laaaaazy. while i'm not sure i'll ever get around to religiously finishing my seams (imho it's kind of hard to do a french seam on an armscye, though i guess i could serge it), i do those all those things fairly regularly now, and i end up with nicer garments in exchange for the extra little time i spend doing those seemingly useless things. for example:

1. staystitching: the purpose of it is to keep the edge from stretching and shifting, which is especially useful on the back of a neck edge or the bottom (armpit) curve of an armscye. this way your neckline doesn't stretch out of shape or ripple funny when you attach your facing or collar. ditto for sleeves, and anywhere else your pattern recommends staystitching.

2. basting: the purpose of basting is to keep things in place temporarily while you do other stuff. i don't always baste, but i do more often now. it's just easier than trying to pin through 86 layers of fabric and not sew over the pins, and even with pins things can shift slightly. i confess, i do hate removing basting stitches, which is why sometimes i skip it in favor of just doing final stitches.

3. basting stitches for gathering: two rows seems like such a waste of thread, especially for a cheapskate like me. however, two rows helps your gathering stitches lay straight (instead of getting all slanty in the direction of the feed dogs) and helps you ease more smoothly (crucial for sleeve caps).

4. pressing seams and topstitching: i learned last year from my mother that the one of main purposes of pressing (as opposing to ironing) is to sink the stitches into the fabric and make them less visible. this is especially nice for buttonholes, topstitching, and flat-felled seams.

5. steaming curves and bias tape: the purpose of steaming is to help shape the fabric the way you want it to go. with bias tape this is especially important or else the tape won't lay flat and then your neckline or armscye will turn a little and look wonky. on curves (especially bustline curves) it helps the fabric curve around the bust the way you want it to for a smoother fit. you also need to steam the curve into the sleeve cap to be able to ease it smoothly. an invaluable tool for this is a tailor's ham.

6. pinning: this may seem obvious, but it really is the "pin"nacle (hah!) of laziness when you don't pin ahead of time. if you don't, your seams can shift while you're sewing and your garment looks all wonky, and who wants that?

so, there you go, lazy sewing and my guide to what not to do.

Friday, October 24, 2008

my babies

today i am thankful for:

1. my kitty - my baby. he is so silly and sweet and cuddly and loving, and i worship him. he is my little man. he is at the vet today getting his teeth cleaned (and two pulled) and it breaks my heart because brian had to leave him there and i bet he was scared and lonely. he will get lots of cuddles tonight when he gets home from the vet, because brian and i feel so guilty, even though we know this is what is best for him in the long run.

2. my hubby. he takes care of our little "family" (me and woody - spot doesn't count yet, because spot is still my responsibility since it is still in my belly) so well. he took woody to the vet even though brian was worried about the anesthesia they would have to give woody to clean his teeth and do the extraction. academically, he knows he will be okay, but in his heart he still worries. brian has such a big heart and i love him for it.

3. spot - our soon-to-be baby. we had another ultrasound yesterday and spot waved his/her right arm at us! brian thinks that means it will be a boy because it has a good arm for playing baseball. i said it looks like it will be a swimmer (which brian says is only for girls - sorry michael phelps). we'll find out in two months whether we will have a baseball player or a swimmer.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

because i can't go barefoot to work

oh heck yeah. bauble ballet flats from old navy for only $15. the only crappy thing about them is they also had them in this awesome grape color but not in my size, grrr, and when i went online to see if the grape was still in stock in my size (it was not), i also discovered that online they were only $9.99. double grrr.

this of course came about because i decided to get some maternity clothes, and of course pregnant girls are supposed to wear flats. i think it's more for when you're huge and top-heavy and off-balance, but there's no shame in practicing now, right? and at least i'm prepared.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

yeah yeah

i forgot t3 last week. actually, i remembered on wednesday and then thursday was crazy busy and it slipped my mind. in my defense, there is something about pregnant women and forgetfulness...

1. today i am thankful for my baby. last week my friend jaimey birthed and lost her son jonathon, who was born with anencephaly. i've been following her story since she found out about this neural-tube defect and it breaks my heart all over again every time i think about her.

2. my husband, who always does so much more than i give him credit for. he is pretty awesome and i don't always see that or acknowledge it to him. i am working on being a better wife to him and appreciating him more.

3. our upcoming housewarming party! i am so excited to have our friends and family over to see our new home and just get to see people that we have not seen in quite a while. we have been a bit reclusive since we moved, since we have both been so exhausted with work and trying to get settled into the house and now the baby thing. we are calling it an "open house" party, so if you want to swing by, email me for our address and directions.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

new obsession

today's obsession: the blog it's lovely! i'll take it!, dedicated to ridiculous listing photos.

i mean, where else can you find this?

and you just can't beat the snarky commentary. love it.

Sunday, October 12, 2008


with the housewarming party upon us (next weekend) we decided it was high time we got around to finishing up some of those decorating things around the house that we've been meaning to do. one of those things was finding a console table and mirror to define our entryway since it is part of the living/dining rooms and rather open instead of a clearly defined space (which i would have preferred, but you can't have everything). we found this lovely table which happened to match our dining table almost exactly, and then i fell in love with this random mirror:

it's a fish. stood on end (that was the way the hangers were). how odd is that? the more i looked at it, the more it grew on me, and i was able to talk brian into it. i don't know if he is as entranced with it as i am, but i love it. it's interesting.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

pattern update

HAH! it seems my email worked! here is what i sent yesterday at 350p:


I still have not heard anything regarding this pattern order (# 65034). I contacted Burda directly and they indicated that I needed to contact you as you handle the US shipments of their patterns. However, I have not received a response to my email last week, nor have I received a call back regarding the two messages I have left. Please contact me as soon as possible regarding this order.

this morning when i came to work i found this email in my inbox, sent last night at 830p:

Hi Erin,

We apologize that you did not receive a prompt reply. There have been some unexpected fulfillment delays with some of the pattern companies. Your order will be shipped tomorrow with 1 backordered pattern.

Thank you,

at least they responded and let me know what is going on. but aren't they supposed to give you some kind of status update? i.e. one of your patterns is backordered so your shipment is on hold, we will notify you and ship your order as soon as we can? and shouldn't they do all this without me having to get all cranky at them?

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

when is a bathroom more than a bathroom?

when you decorate it up to feel blissful!

well, maybe blissful is stretching it a bit, since these are the two small bathrooms in our house. (we have yet to figure out what to do with our master.) but i wanted them to be pretty places, a room that feels good to be in instead of just functional. i was craving a ledge for the upstairs bathroom, for the nook above the toilet in the water closet:

and tried to create a "natural garden" feel with the green linen shower curtain, green candles, and framed cutting (from our front yard!). you can't see it, but on the facing wall i found a pretty clock with flowered grasses embedded in it. there's other framed cuttings and an orchid in the outer wash area.

then brian complained that the upstairs bathroom looked so nice and i didn't do anything with the downstairs guest bathroom, so i got another ledge. i love ledges. they are such an easy design element. just pop it on the wall and arrange a couple items on it and instant style:

a fancy framed greeting card, a shell and coral from our honeymoon, a candle, and a seashell clock for a beachy, "vacation" feel. i think the shell and candle need to be a bit taller, but they were laying around the house and they'll do for now. hopefully guests will feel like they are on vacation and can relax and come back to visit more often!

my biggest fan

our master bedroom is upstairs with a nice vaulted ceiling and two big west-facing windows. while the sunshine is nice, it sure gets hot up there. we also have a severe lack of lighting options at night, which was really getting to be a headache. there are two reading lamps (oddly, mounted directly over the bed instead of over where nightstands would be), but only one on a hot switch. i have a distinct aversion to floor lamps (lamps in general) but for the past few months we have had no other options. until now. i give you... our brand-new ceiling fan with light!

i admit, ceiling fans - especially ones with light globes - are not the swankiest of design elements. nor was this one my top pick, but since my top pick cost more than double what this one did.... also, the globe echoes the bell globes on the light fixture above the vanity in our en-suite and the colors are similar to other tones found in our house, so it doesn't look like an afterthought. and boy was it nice to flip a switch and have the room be nicely lit - and to sleep with the fan circulating cool air last night.

and the best part - i installed it myself! yep, that's right. me. all by myself. including wiring it into the ceiling, which was admittedly simple since the electrical box was already there and we were already wired for a chandelier or ceiling fan. but still... i am very proud of myself for handling minor electrical work. and i think it's like children - you can overlook their imperfections and love them mindlessly when they're you're own.


i ordered maternity patterns two weeks ago from burda and they still have not arrived, nor have they charged my credit card - which leaves me wondering, what is up with my order? i emailed them last week and got no response. i even called them directly early this morning - all the way to germany, no less - and they told me i had to contact this company because they handle shipments in the united states. i've left two messages with that domestic company and no response, and i fired off another email. i admit, that email was not quite as friendly as the first email, but if it gets a response (and my patterns!) - hey, it was worth it.

on the bright side, this domestic company is just that - domestic. and long-distance calls on my cell phone are free, so all i have to explain to hubby are three one-minute phone calls and one two-minute phone call to germany (because their phone system kept hanging up on me).

moral of the story: do not buy your burda patterns online. i still trust mccall's, butterick, vogue, and simplicity, largely because they are domestic companies and therefore wouldn't have to hassle with shipping overseas or using a distributor to ship overseas for them. but not burda, never again. the problem is burda patterns - which are awesome patterns imho, true to size, well-fit, easy-to-follow instructions, and stylish - are not generally carried at large chain fabric stores. the other problem is that the other major pattern manufacturers above have about 7 maternity patterns combined, and none very stylish, while burda had nine patterns alone and all rather fashion-forward. but i will never order again online. if i desperately want a burda pattern, i'll drive to a store that carries them, or make do with another manufacturer.

Friday, October 3, 2008

belated t3

yesterday was not a great day and i forgot about t3, sorry. so i'm making up for it now. i am thankful:

1. that my husband is coming home tonight! i miss him. it's been like a mini-vacation with him gone, except that i prefer to share my vacations with him. what that means is that while i enjoy the peace and quiet and freedom from cooking that him being gone affords me, i'd much rather not have those things and have him around. also, it's lonely waking up without him.

2. that i feel better today. morning sickness has not been too bad, mostly just a sour stomach in the morning. i just have to be careful about what and when i eat. yesterday was bad, though. today was mucho better.

3. netflix movies. i heart netflix, and i got to watch a lot of movies while brian was gone. sappy crap and chick stuff that normally he would good-naturedly give me a hard time about. no flak this time. and the movies just keep coming! i heart netflix.