Thursday, June 4, 2009

Adventures in Judaica

*sigh* I never come over here to post anymore, do I? (Do you like how I said that, as if there was a time when I did come over here to post?) (And do you like how I said that, as if anyone ever reads this blog? heh.) In the interest of full disclosure, I think I only created this blog so that when I commented on other blogs I wouldn't feel like some anonymous phantom, swooping in under the cloak of anonymity. This way, even if it's out-of-date, if someone wants to know who it is expressing that "This is the most hilarious post EVER," they at least get a sense of me, right? In my defense, I have been busy, mostly with sewing and not so much with editing and indexing. It doesn't pay the bills, but it does make me happy.

Eli just finished his first year of preschool and there was a mad rush for all kinds of end-of-the-year gifts. One of his teachers "commissioned" me to make a couple of gifts for other teachers. I put "commissioned" in those quotation marks because how do you really charge a preschool teacher (your son's preschool teacher, no less) true market value for something? So, with the cost of my materials covered, I made one teacher a table runner and matching challah cover, and the other teacher just a challah cover. I'm pretty proud of both of them, and it was nice to move beyond bibs for the first time in a long time.

This first one was for a teacher who is leaving the school to move back to Israel. I wanted it to remind her of the school without it falling into the trap of "let's put kids' handprints all over the fabric because teachers love that!" So instead I took the architecture of the building as the inspiration. The rise and fall of the center band mimics the school's roofline and the tan squares and rectangle represent the natural playground in the courtyard (four stumps and a balance beam log).

The second one was for one of Eli's teachers. The two larger flowers represent his two teachers and there is one smaller flower for each of the children in the class. I hadn't worked with linen before and I have to say, I'm in love. Sewing with nice fabric is why I do it at all. It just makes me happy. And this was also my first time doing reverse applique, which gave me a few headaches along the way, but after two failed attempts, I feel pretty good about the results.

Coming up next... the sewing machine meme from Sew Mama Sew.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

We're attempting a vegetable garden this year. We have no idea whether it will work, but we have a patch of earth right by the front door that was in need of attention anyway (think crabgrass. lots of crabgrass) so we (and by we I mean David) decided to till the soil, get some loam, and plant some seeds. We'll see what happens.

This morning I came across the Backyard Botanical Garden Blog. Lisa, the blog's owner has created a beautiful, ready-made garden. The thing actually waters itself, people! How could you not love that?

We'll probably be on our own next year, but next year? After I win the lottery? I'm all over that thing.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Oh, happy day

I came over just to post the photo you see above, and thank goodness I did because I hadn't remembered that the last thing I posted was actually a deeply disturbing shot of me from the 1980s. So look at that. One day in office and Obama's already bringing change we need.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

I'm trying to win some jeans here, people

The task was simple, really: post a photo of yourself in, um, "unfortunate" jeans. The number of photos (1) I could put my hands on was drastically smaller than the number of jeans in this category that have been in my possession (too many to count). I mean, let's face it, I went to high school in the 80s. Enough said.

This particular photo is from college, probably 1988, just after a squash tournament (hence, the giant squash ball on the wall and my post-match hair-do). Let's count the sins:

The jeans are Levis, which would be fine, except I went and bleached them to make them extra special. (See that blotchy effect? That's exactly what I was going for. God, I was proud.)

I also pegged them myself. Not with the patented peg and roll technique that Katie Holmes has been trying to reintroduce to the world, because that was SO 1986. No, I turned those suckers inside out and put needle and thread to the inseam. This meant they were skin tight from hip to ankle (the hip-to-knee portion thanks to the freshman 15 that had become old friends by this point).

And let's just all praise some higher being that I didn't then tuck them into my oversized socks (which were squeezed into my undersized loafers). I mean, I tucked in my oversized sweater, so it does leave me wondering why I didn't follow suit down below. Thank heavens for small miracles, I guess.

Added 1/23/09: I WON!!

Saturday, December 20, 2008


I took on more crafting projects than I should have this holiday season, but I don't regret a single one--especially now, as they're starting to move into the "completed" column of my to-do list. One important project was actually five projects: creating something for the teachers and administrators at Eli's preschool. There was a group gift that consisted of cash, collected from all of the families. That took me of the hook for making sure it was something practical, so I could just have fun. I decided tote bags were the thing, so I set off to find a pattern. I ultimately decided on Amy Karol's Pleated Beauty, from Bend the Rules Sewing. It was simple enough to suit a wide range of styles, but allowed for a little bit of personalization for each individual. Ultimately I made six bags, knowing that one would be my least favorite (or at least the one I was least confident in). I wanted to make sure I was in love with each bag I gave.

This first bag is for one of Eli's teachers. I couldn't get a perfect grasp on her taste, but it definitely tends toward traditional. She's not afraid of color (think: splashy sweaters) but I didn't want to go too bold. I combined a deep red corduroy with a Japanese print for the pleats.

The next one is for the center director who wears lots of earthy colors, along with some brighter ones. I stayed earthy with hers. (I think hers is probably the bag that comes closest to "the one I would have made for myself.") It's wide wale brown corduroy with one of my favorite quilting fabrics in the pleats.

This one is for the teacher I know the least; she's only in Eli's class one day a week, but I didn't want to leave her out (so many gray areas in holiday gift giving!). I went for classic, with a fine wale navy corduroy with another Japanese print for the pleats. This is the first bag I made, so this one has just one interior pocket, which is very large. This is the one that prompted me to shrink them down and do two instead of this giant one. I added pleats to the pocket because it was sagging so much.

This is for the assistant director of the center, and it's one of the ones I'm most excited about it. When I'm making gifts for people (or simply choosing them from a store), I'm on constant "high alert," waiting for the clue about what will suit them best. The recipient of this bag very often wears bright blue, either in her clothing or her jewelry. I didn't want the bag to be too over the top, so I saved the color for the lining and I love how it came out. Now, every time I see her wearing bright blue I get a little giddy about giving her the bag. This one is fine wale corduroy with Alexander Henry prints from JoAnn's for the pleats and lining.

And this one will be my absolute favorite to give because I had the best, best clue for what to do. This is for the lead teacher in Eli's class. One day at the start of the year I was wearing a shirt I'd purchased on Etsy that had Russian dolls silkscreened on to it. She commented on it and told me that she collects Russian nesting dolls. I filed that little factoid away, not knowing if or when it would come in handy. I was thrilled to find this Japanese print and bought it in gray and off white. I hope she loves it as much as I do.

And this one was going to be the "spare," I think because it didn't feel as personalized as the others. And then it just so happened that my sister was in my sewing room and saw the fabric and said, "Oh! Make me something with this for Christmas!" DONE! Instead of sewing in an accent fabric on the exterior, I just followed the lining measurements and pleated the fabric on its own. I think it would have been too busy with something else added. This is the only bag that's not corduroy.

Based on the numerous other blog entries out there about this bag and some of my own preferences, I made the following adjustments:
*I widened the straps by 1/4 inch and added a flannel facing to make them a little cushier.
*I also sewed the straps into tubes and then turned them right side out and topstitched them. That was just easier for me.
*Instead of one large pocket I did two smaller ones, one on each side of the bag.
*I didn't measure the rigid interfacing for the bottom of the bag until the lining was fully constructed. I found that the measurements that Amy provided were just a little shy of how I wanted it.
*I tacked the rigid interfacing at the center as well as at the corners. It seemed to want to flip without that extra stitch.
*I reinforced the attachment of the straps to the bag with an additional line of stitching just above the top stitching that went around the entire bag.

And one thing I would do if I made another of these bags in the future:
*I'd increase the length of the straps by about an inch so that I had more to work with as I attached them to the bag. This would allow me to further reinforce them. I'm not entirely confident in their strength at this point.

Overall, this was a very easy bag to make and lent itself well to multiple iterations and some fun creativity.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


The image I think of when I think of Obama's victory speech. It moves me.

Monday, October 27, 2008

A letter to my parents

Last week, inspired by The Great Schelp, I wrote and mailed this letter to my typically-Republican parents. Both are relatively private about their political choices, but both had indicated they were undecided about the upcoming presidential election. My intent was not to barrage them with emotional arguments because I know my father and I know that would turn him off immediately. Instead, I went for the gentle, cautious nudge in the hopes of winning a couple more votes for Obama. We'll see how it goes.

Dear M&D-

I am writing to you about something that really is none of my business: Your vote. And even though I recognize this, the end result of your vote—or, more accurately, the end result of this election—is so very central to my life that I can’t help but write this letter. A few months ago you (Mom) told me that you had not yet decided who you’d vote for in November. Maybe that’s changed, but in case it hasn’t, I wanted put my two cents in. I’m sending you a letter because I want to be clear that you do not need to respond or even react to what I have to say. Take my thoughts for what they’re worth, do with them what you will.

As you know, I am a strong Barack Obama supporter. I think I’ve always voted Democratic, primarily because there are some fundamental tendencies of the party that I align myself with, the most important of which include education and other domestic/social policies. I simply agree with the approach that the party takes. So it was no surprise to me that I have chosen to back Obama. What has surprised me, however, is the conviction with which I support him and my increasing fear of what a McCain presidency would do to this country.

To whatever extent things like a conservative Supreme Court or an extended war in Iraq are important to you, you have already considered them and I don’t need to re-hash them here. I will say, however, that one of the core reasons I have supported and do support more liberal candidates is their investment in ensuring rights, liberties, and opportunities for all people. I believe that the inevitable Supreme Court appointments made by the next administration will have a significant impact on our future in that respect, and that when it comes to issues of social progress, an Obama administration would offer strength, while a McCain administration would create significant, even insurmountable obstacles. The direction they wish to take the country in is not a direction I would ever choose to go.

Undecided voters have received a lot of media attention in recent weeks because this election appears to hinge on them. (On you.) And each time a person who has not yet made up his or her mind is interviewed, I want the opportunity to say this: If the policy differences have not already swayed you, please just look at the approach that each man has taken to his campaign. Look at the steadfastness and integrity displayed by Obama and contrast it with the negativity and (I’ll say it) desperation displayed by his opponent.

Early on, when it became clear that McCain would be the Republican nominee, I said to David that I don’t agree with him politically, but at least McCain is a man I can respect. In the last few months my respect for him has all but disappeared, as I have watched him change his approach numerous times, always arriving at a less honorable way of attacking his opponent. I actually still believe that McCain is an good man (and I think this is best evidenced by his unwillingness to himself repeat the attacks made on Obama by his running mate, and by the grimace on his face each time the attacks are mentioned in his presence) but ultimately this is his campaign and he can control whether those tactics are employed. He has chosen to allow the campaign to take this path, and for that reason my respect for him has diminished to almost nil.

I do not agree with the pundits who argue that a candidate should not be judged by his or her running mate. On the contrary, I think the choice says a great deal about the candidate and, as importantly, the qualifications of the vice presidential candidate need to be considered because so little stands between him or her and the Oval Office. My thoughts on this subject are not original: Sarah Palin is a smart woman with what was most likely a promising political future. But “future” is the key word here. She is simply not ready to lead the country. I believe she has learned a great deal about foreign policy in a very short time, but I also believe that once she has had the time and experience to form her own opinions about what she has been spoon fed, that she will do so, essentially making her a wild card. Moreover, McCain’s argument that she will “shake up Washington” is questionable at best, as she receives more and more scrutiny for the ethics of her behavior.

McCain’s selection of Palin as his running mate flies squarely in the face of his slogan, “Country First.” If he really and truly wanted to put his country first, he would have chosen someone with enough experience under his or her belt to help mend this country from the moment they took office. Instead, I believe, he chose a political gimmick to boost his numbers. I lost respect for him and confidence in his ability to effectively lead this nation.

As you know, Colin Powell recently endorsed Barack Obama, saying that his plans for the economy are more sound and that he has the ability to lead this country out of Iraq. I do not know your feelings about Colin Powell, but I think it would be difficult to disagree that his opinion on the matter is well-reasoned, informed, and relevant. He has spent time with both candidates and is intimately familiar with what it takes to run this country. If you have not seen his interview on Meet the Press, it’s worth watching. (The video is on-line, and I can send you a link if you’d like it.)

Your ultimate decision is not my business, and I hope that my mailing you this letter has not given you a the impression that I think otherwise. But there seemed to be an opening to share my thoughts about why I would choose Obama over McCain, and I took that opportunity in the hopes that you might be swayed in the direction that, I believe, will make this country better for your generation, my generation, and the next.

I’m relatively certain that I haven’t said anything in this letter that you haven’t already read or heard somewhere else, so I think it makes sense for me to end by telling you something that you could not have heard elsewhere: I care about the outcome of this election more than I have ever cared about the outcome of any election before. So, if after reading everything I have already written you are still on the fence, and if after considering whatever other sources you have chosen you are still undecided, and if ultimately there is no other factor that sways you in one direction or the other, I ask this of you: Vote Obama because it matters so much to me. Trust that I have considered many factors in my decision and that I believe an Obama presidency will begin to create a better place for your grandchildren to inherit.