Wednesday, June 29, 2011

My Planned Parenthood

If you haven't heard already, Shakesville and What Tami Said will be hosting a blog carnival of posts in support of Planned Parenthood on July 7.  If you have been affected by access (or lack thereof) to Planned Parenthood, visit Shakesville or What Tami Said to see how to participate.  I have never accessed Planned Parenthood services myself directly; I'll be posting on the privilege which has enabled me to say that, and why it's important to me that Planned Parenthood be available (hint: it involves valuing affordable healthcare for everyone, even those who don't have the good fortune to be related to someone with a job which provides family healthcare).  If Planned Parenthood or affordable healthcare access is something you value, consider adding your own post.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

More Deaccessioning

The cat and I have been spending some time in the guest bedroom going through things to get rid of before we move.  Currently it's sewing patterns.

I learned to sew mostly on my own and later working in the costume department of a living history museum, like Plimouth Plantation or Colonial Williamsburg on a small scale.  (It was an 1840-1890 midwest town and I also worked as an interpreter, so I was the young lady school teacher.  Also a lady blacksmith.  Also a male soldier. Basically it was the best high school job ever.)

The costume department made our own clothes and the clothes for the rest of the staff and the volunteers, and the museum either couldn't afford bulk licencing from pattern companies or couldn't find patterns correct to the costuming director's standards.  The more experienced folks drafted patterns from their own research, original clothes in our or other museums' collections, or modified slopers.  That was probably the most long-lasting benefit I got from that job--I stopped working there after my second year of college, after four years working there, and never worked up the skill/nerve to draft anything more complicated than a lined jacket, but it definitely gave me the confidence to try later in college and grad school.  (Not trying to brag, but re-reading that, I can't believe I drafted my own lined jacket at 17.  Working with ladies who whipped out whalebone corsets and full hoopskirt dresses and Victorian jackets sans patterns definitely put things in a different perspective at the time!)  I also did some volunteer reenacting in the 17th and 18th centuries and sold clothing to people for several years, so I have a lot of other self-drafted and commercial patterns from that as well.  I kept almost all of the patterns, slopers, and muslins which fit me, and since I haven't done any more reenacting in grad school, they've just sat in a box for the last three years.

I've sorted things to get rid of and keep, getting rid of things that either just wouldn't fit me now or which I could easily redraft.  Do I need a 17th century cap pattern or an 18th century corset pattern in the near-term future?  Probably not.  Will J and I get back into reenacting some time period once he's working a job which doesn't require 80 work weeks in the summer?  Definitely.  In the mean time, what I kept now takes up four manila envelopes in the file cabinet instead of a whole box, so that feels better.

I felt sort of sad going through everything, because those patterns represent a learning experience I didn't really appreciate at the time and cutting ties with an activity and subculture that had and has a lot of meaning for me, which I don't have time to participate in any more.  But deciding to get rid of patterns which I could easily redraft also felt pretty good:  I hung onto them when I moved because I wasn't confident of being able to recreate the clothing which I had given away or sold when I moved to Overcast.  I've grown a lot in my sewing, and if I did it once I can do it again.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

This is why I have a Master's

Chocolate chip cookies + marshmallows = smartest idea ever

(We put our marshmallows on skewers and rested them on a parchment paper covered cookie sheet while the last batch of cookies baked)

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Visibility and Women's Work

Since finding out our moving plans, I've had a bit of a blah.  Like emotionally just being relieved to have a direction, but not having the energy to do anything about it.  So we've made booze (basil vodka, steeped for two days--great with strawberry liqueur and a little ginger ale), and I've been thinking about my own position next year and the year after.

 I've never really thought explicitly about myself as someone who was defined by their job, but really, that's a big reason I'm in grad school.  My father is defined by his job and profoundly unhappy because of it; my mother defines herself (I think) much more as someone who paints, cooks, gardens, and mothers, and is happier for it.  Her job is important to her, but she's managed role shifts and job shifts within her career, and not been shaken by them, and that's always much more how I saw myself.

So I find myself a little adrift this summer trying to self-motivate towards research and writing, with the thought of picking up, moving, and self-motivating elsewhere for a year.  I'll teach in the fall, and I definitely don't see myself primarily as a teacher (although that is an important part of why I wanted to be an academic).  But this whole "you're done with coursework, go write a book!" thing with no road map leaves me feeling a little lost.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Changing Gears

Thank goodness my carefully curated interior design will not be disturbed.

The left hand finally figured out what the right hand is doing.  The granting organization which thought it wouldn't let us know until July has, with some gentle nudging from my department chair, director of graduate studies, and advisor, realized that they need to respect university deadlines, and let me know today that I got the grant.  Which is good!  It's only one day before the deadline for a lot of stuff, and about three months late for notifying my landlady about whether we're renewing our lease, so it means a lot of scrambling, but it also means that I came in with five years to finish my dissertation, and now I have six.  Considering I'll start Year Four this fall, that's good news.  And it lets us stay to finish our CSA and our garden.

When we thought that we wouldn't know until July, J and I started to make plans like we would both be moving at the end of his current contract in September.  We made plans about what to sell when (most of the furniture, mostly in August).  We started looking at the apartment markets in cities we're likely to move to.  So we've got all these plans in motion which need to be put off six months.  J's job in theater is mostly on an academic year schedule.  There's summer theater, and there's winter theater, and they more or less line up with the academic calendar neatly, which is great for us long term (It just worked out that way.  I had just gotten into grad school and he had just declared his theater major when we started dating, so we hadn't really thought about the long-term compatibility of our career choices).  There is no theater in Overcast during the winter, and jobs elsewhere start in September, so he's moving in September no matter when I move.  We did two years of long distance already; I'm not looking forward to another semester of it.

But.  Getting this grant puts me off the academic year calendar.  Our current lease is on the academic calendar, which makes dealing with the move in December or January pretty complicated.

ETA: There was originally a lot more whining about our lease situation and how terrible life is generally, etc, but after a. a trip to the farm to pick up our CSA share b. talking with a good friend on the way there and c. talking with the landlady about renewing our lease for the fall only (until Jan 1), life looks much better.  We're moving Jan 1.  We have a firm date.  J may move before then; we may be long distance between September and December, and we may not know yet where we're moving, but at least we have another six months or so to figure it out.

Monday, June 13, 2011

So. Many. Pictures.

Due to some camera/camera cord/computer issues, I've been taking pictures but not been able to upload them reliably.  Everything's fixed now, so on with Me Made June!  There's more than a week's worth of pictures, so click through to read (if this clogs up your reader, I apologize)

Friday, June 10, 2011

(Not a) Crafty Book Review

Ok, so this doesn't exactly fit with Freeze-dried's summer book club, but considering it's media and I hated the book I selected for this week's reading, I'm going to go ahead and review the videogame Kirby's Epic Yarn.

The book:  I tried reading Yarn by Jon Armstrong for this week, with emphasis on tried.  I couldn't finish it.  I think I've put down without finishing maybe four or five novels in my life.  It's got decent reviews on Amazon, and apparently got good reviews in Publisher's Weekly, the LA Times, and Locus, and was nominated for a Phillip K Dick Award, but I hated it almost as soon as I opened it.

Why?  It's supposedly fashionpunk, a twist on dystopic cyberpunk, and the story focuses on a master tailor who worked his way up through crime and intrigue from the neo-feudal corn based wastelands of America's heartlands to the global center of fashion.  I was pretty intrigued by the concept, since I love me some dystopic fiction and sewing, but I was very disappointed.  I've read my share of cyberpunk, and this was basically cyberpunk with programming replaced with sewing: the author seems to have a pretty good understanding of fashion and sewing terms, but threw them in in a way that, even as someone who knows the terms and is used to encountering a lot of jargon in genre fiction, I found off putting.  The writing, both dialogue and descriptive, was otherwise terribly stilted, with overly long, complex sentences put together with the same repetitive and boring adjectives.  And don't get me started on the gender politics: the only women I saw in about 150 pages were literally sex objects presented for the male gaze.

So that's how we get a review of a videogame rather than a book.  J and I picked up Kirby's Epic Yarn for the Wii on super-discount sale, so I'm not sure if I would love it as much if we'd paid full price (50USD), but for 20USD, I love it.  I tend to play a lot of games, but I would identify as neither a gamer nor the new-to-the gaming industry "female casual gamer" demographic.  Shooting zombies or matching jewels? No thank you.  Turning into a yarn robot who unravels sweater snowmen? Yes please.

I've never played anything in the Kirby franchise before, but the game doesn't require it to be enjoyable.  It's a platformer side scrolling game with about as much storyline as any Mario game (which is about maximum amount of story I want in my game, frankly).  There's no princess to save, and it's cooperative two player rather than competitive.  The aesthetics are awesome for someone who loves sewing/knitting/crafting, because the designers obviously put a lot of thought and care into tying both the game design and the game mechanics together aesthetically.  The image above doesn't really do the design justice: the fabric detail of the backgrounds and worlds are really detailed and beautiful, and the fabric design has a lot to do with the interactivity of the game play.  The point of the game is to collect points and objects to unlock more game, but a lot of the levels have such fun mechanics (ie, swimming as a dolphin, bouncing, etc) that they're very replayable.

The other thing I like about it is that it's challenging and varied but not difficult or demanding.  That is, there's enough puzzle solving to hold your attention, but it doesn't require you to try a level over and over to succeed or to memorize a bunch of nonsense key combinations to beat the bad guys.  I find overly dense interface to be a real barrier to my enjoyment of a game, so if I can't understand it without a long tutorial or memorizing a bunch of junk, I just don't play anymore.  Kirby has a good combination of being pretty, fun, and easy to play in short bursts while having more goal and variety than something like Bedazzled or Farmville.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Summer in a glass

It's still not quite local strawberry season in Overcast, but when the first strawberries of the season showed up a few weeks ago in the grocery store, I had to get some for eating and some for booze.  This is probably my favorite of the liqueurs we've done so far, both because it was easiest and because it's retained the flavor of the fruit best.  (We've done blueberry, orange, banana, and fig besides this).  I didn't really measure, just putting enough hulled and halfed strawberries to loosely fill a quart mason jar, with enough vodka to cover.  They sat for about two weeks, turning into the horrible pale alien fruit things you see above.

With just draining, the yield was only about 2 cups/12 ounces, but squeezing the strawberries in a cheesecloth bag brought the yield up by half again to about 3 cups.  Since it was still at this point basically pink vodka, we added a little more than a cup of 1-1 simple syrup and a little lemon to round out the taste and dilute it a little. Verdict:  It's basically a perfect little sip of summer.  I'm thinking there might be strawberry mint spritzer in my future.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Crazy Knitting

I've started what might be a crazy knitting project.  The image above is of a "coffee cloth" from Marianne Kinzel's First Book of Modern Lace Knitting, and I love me some lace knitting.  I haven't done any lace knitting in the past few years a. due to time and b. I never wore the scarves and shawls I made, so I stopped making more.

I never wore them because I'm not really a shawl person, and although I liked lace knitting, I wasn't really a lace wearing person until recently.  I spent the last few years of college and the first few years of graduate school trying hard to look grown up and professional, so there wasn't much room in my closet for frilly things. Due in part to having more room in my life to not dress professional (hello next year of no teaching!), my own changing taste, and more confidence that I can be taken seriously while wearing ruffles and lace, I wanted to go back to lace knitting.

But I'm still not really a shawl wearing person.  I do wear a lot of circle skirts, though, and I had several balls of a wool/silk blend in my overflowing stash.  (I have a newfound concern with clearing out my stash besides our impending move: I found another ball of 100% wool which had many of its wraps snapped, I assume from being eaten by moths.  We've never had moth sachets in our house before, but we do now!)

So here's the plan: I cast on and knit a stockinette stitch yoke to a little more than my waist measurement, leaving the ends unconnected so there will be a slit to get me in and out of the skirt.  I gradually increased the yoke so that it measured both more than my hip measurement and had the right number of stitches to repeat the lace pattern. (Rather than starting with the very center of the pattern, which was all just [k1 yo] rep to get the piece to size, I started a few rounds down where the actual lace pattern started).  When the yoke got to the right size, I connected the ends and knit a few rows in stockinette in the round, then started the lace pattern.  The original pattern has eight repeats of the pattern; my skirt has twenty five.  And rather than wearing just the lace, which is intentionally see-through, I plan on making a silk or other light fabric circle skirt to go with it, and stitch them together at the yoke, leaving the hem of the lace to do its own thing.

Does that sound like a crazy project?  Have you ever had a technique you wanted to do, but didn't know what to do with it that would be wearable/useable for you?

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Summer Book Club

I've finished my first summer book club book!  Admittedly, I picked it for my first book because it's super short: more of a novella than a novel (~140 pages/20K words).  I read Bone and Jewel Creatures, by Elizabeth Bear.  I've never read anything by Bear before, but I read occasionally, which often has single book reviews and combined reviews of books with queer characters, strong feminist leanings, and other features of sff that don't get talked about enough.  Bear is a contributing writer over at Tor, and her books pop up frequently over there, so she's been on my radar for a while.

Anyway, the book at hand:  short and awesome.  It's not short and sweet because, well, it's not sweet.  It's pretty unsettling, but not in a horror-genre way.

Despite being very short, the characterization is both detailed and subtle.  The narrative sort of dumps us at the end of what could have been an epic multi-book fantasy series, full of court intrigue, political maneuvering, love and backstabbing, but without being about those.  It's more about what those people do with their lives once the epic change is accomplished, and what legacy they leave in the lives of those around them.  

The story centers on a very old woman and her relationship with a grown apprentice and a small child, in a way that is nurturing but not exactly mothering.  The main character's central power is to create life from death, which, when you think about it, is pretty metaphorical.  It's unusual to see older women in sff, or other fiction, and it's a book about self-determination and sacrifice without being about the idealization of sacrifice for women.

The main character is both strong and frail, and she is both strong and frail as a woman without the book centralizing her femininity.  For example, the plot centers around a long-past love triangle, and the betrayal and hurt that it caused, but her character hinges more on her friendship with another woman.  Her accomplishments and strengths are not exactly gender neutral, but they are more about the pursuit of intellectual accomplishment and teaching, rather than being about mothering.

(I guess in this case I would classify nurturing as more of teaching and supporting, while mothering is a more sentimental, emotional nurturing.  Not a perfect distinction, and not to say that there's something better about non-mothering nurturing than mothering, but it's not common to see older women in fiction in non-mothering roles).

I once had a conversation with one of my committee members, who is A Very Big Deal in women's history, who asked me what I thought feminist history ought to look like, if it necessarily had to be about women, and if you could have a feminist history that was not necessarily about women.  After a while of going around about what feminist history might look like, we arrived at this: while feminist history could be explicitly feminist and say that up front, it could also be only implicitly feminist in its presentation and interpretation, like a secret feminist handshake.  Bone and Jewel Creatures has a pretty firm handshake.

Friday, June 3, 2011

A placeholder

I did a lot of academic work today which did not directly result in writing (translations, organizing photos, etc) and a lot of hand wringing over my grant status.  The grant which was supposed to notify me around May 15 is now saying July.  July!  This is a university organization, and I have to file my fall status with the university by June 15 or pay a massive late filing fee to the university.  

The left hand knows not what the right hand does.  If this were a completely outside organization making this grant, I could understand that they might work on a different schedule.  I've applied for grants at institutions in the United Kingdom, which are on very different schedules; I know how that goes.  But this organization is within my university, and makes the same grant to many, many graduate students every year.  Presumably they would have knowledge of the schedule said graduate students work under.

So, in lieu of actual content or progress, I give you a cat picture.  Please enjoy.

(Yes, he's leaning on the screen; yes, we've checked it to make sure it's sturdy and he won't fall through it).

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Me Made Kickoff

Me made June at chez Construct is rolling, although we had some technical difficulties yesterday--my camera is broken (and on its way to being fixed by my dad) and J takes his camera to work with him to document things they make at the shop.  I don't think I've mentioned yet, but J transitioned May 1 from working at the liquor store to working at the theater scene shop, and his work clothes for the shop are mostly me-made--I've patched and remade all of his pants, and made some of his work shirts.  

Anyway, back to the lady clothes.  The top above is self drafted from a bias cut thrifted Express top that I love.  And, despite not really being a ruffles kind of girl, I've caught ruffle mania from the rest of blogland and had to put ruffles and some lace on this. 

 This is a Vintage Vogue pattern that I had a terrible time getting to fit right, but I just love it.  When I first put it together, the shoulders were so large and so far apart, and the waist/bust so large, that it literally did not stay up on me.  It took a lot of cursing and modifications to get the neckline narrowed, but it's now one of my more comfortable go-to dresses because it's light enough to wear in summer but heavy enough for layering in the winter.

And finally, the air plant, because that's sort of how I'm feeling today.  I don't usually wear my hair down in public because A. it gets bigger as the day progresses B. it gets in my way when teaching and C. people touch it.  I ran errands today, and while I love getting compliments from strangers, I do not love being touched by strangers.  While walking, I had one man stop me and tell me I had "dropped my smile" and a lady waiting in line with me ask if she could touch my hair.  And then another woman touched my hair without asking.  People!  Leave strangers alone!  Young women do not exist in public for the gratification of strangers.  I appreciate that you may want to tell me how "wholesome" and "all-American" I look (code words, I think, for white, non-threatening, and retrograde, and things I am frequently told by strangers in public, at airports, in banks, at grocery stores, etc), but do not touch.  It's an invasion of personal space that I've never heard that a man of my acquaintance has experienced, like being told to smile.