Thursday, April 24, 2008

Bag Business

Ok, so for the past month or so, I've been having a high old time making bags. It's been fun to drag out the sewing machine and fire it up. I've had fun trying to wrap my brain around the un-necessarily compliclated Vogue pattern instructions for the blue bag I posted over the weekend. Those little loops of fabric that wrap around the bamboo rings? Yeah, first I had to cut out 16 (!!) of those little bastards from fabric, and then another 8 out of interfacing. Someone at Vogue is a sadist. Anway, I digress. The whole goal of this whole bag adventure was to get a shop going on If you've never been there, by all means, go check it out.

Click here to go to Etsy

So, I now need some help from you guys. I need a name for my shop. Something fun and witty. Slightly goofy, even. And some input on what to price the bags. I don't want to charge an outrageous price, but I don't want to shortchange myself, either. Just throw any ideas you may have over my way, and we'll see what sticks! Ok? Now, bring on the witty!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Untitled, Chapter II

more of the book in progress, as requested by a friend!

Now, when someone refuses to tell you something unless you promise not to get angry, it’s a sure bet that they know you will kick the living shit out of them for what they are about to reveal. I sat there calmly and went through a mental checklist of former boyfriends and acquaintances that Celia might think would be a match for me. At last, I thought of who it might be, and I suddenly felt nauseous from the beer and wine I had drank in the short time I had been there.

‘Celia, you didn’t ask Mark Phleps to come did you? Did you?’ Celia sat there on the edge of the bed, swinging her dangling feet like a child. She was fidgety, nervous. I had hit the mark, so to speak. Mark and I had dated for over two years when he suddenly decided that things ‘weren’t working’. What wasn’t working was him.

When we met, he was a student in grad school, mulling a career with the FBI. He was torn between getting his Ph.D. and working for the government. He was a full time student who loved to live a lavish lifestyle. On someone else’s money. At the time, it was mine. I told myself then that there were a lot of women who supported men through college and they went on to have successful marriages and beautiful, smart children. I had just started my catering business, and though it was hectic and sometimes stressful, the money was good, and I enjoyed what I did. Our last summer together, I asked Mark if there were anyway he could contribute something to the household, even if it were just folding the laundry. He became offended, as if I had asked him to murder someone for me, and told me that if I was going to be so demanding, he couldn’t go on like this. He packed that night in late August, and moved out. I was destroyed. I cried and ate ice cream for two months and gained 20 lbs. My business trickled off; it almost went under all together.

After that first Christmas without Mark, I decided to go on with my life, and vowed to never subject myself to the kind of emotional torment he caused. I also decided to never get married or have children, a choice I now regret in my late thirties.

Celia stopped swinging her feet. ‘He’s changed, Grace. He really has. He’s working as a professor, living a stable life. You’re all he thinks about; he misses you. He wants another chance; he told me so’. There was a pleading in her voice I hated to hear, mostly because I knew that I would cave in and stay around to see him. ‘Oh, Celia please! Do you know of any professor that you could even remotely call stable? He misses me? He MISSES me? He doesn’t miss me, Celia. What he misses is someone to hold his hand and help him decide what color socks to wear every morning. He misses his mother, that’s who he misses. Her and his bank officer, maybe.’

‘Don’t you think you’re being harsh, Grace? Don’t you think it’s possible that people screw up, and sometime later in life, they realize how badly they screwed up? You don’t ever want to give anyone a second chance, do you? If someone doesn’t measure up to your impossibly high standards, then too bad for them, huh? They don’t get to bask in the glow of Grace the Glorious do they?’ Celia’s voice rose towards the end, and I could feel her anger burning in my cheeks, just as much as it was in her own. We both sat there red faced and silent. Not looking at each other. I took a drink of wine and passed her the bottle.

‘Do you feel better now that you’ve gotten that off your chest?’ I asked. ‘You can’t do that too often you know, people will mistake you for a boy.’ Celia rolled her eyes and took another drink.
‘You know Gracie-‘ a car honking in the driveway cut her off. We both looked at each other and ran over to the window. A huge, red pick up truck pulled into the driveway and rolled to a stop. Bastard! He had blocked me in, and now I was stuck here for God only knew how long.

Looking out I could see Tom going down the front porch steps and casually walking towards the driveway. Instinctively, he looked up towards our window, and grinned at me foolishly. I flipped him off and he blew me a kiss. Jerk.

I turned my attention to the driveway, and anxiously waited to see who would step out of the red pick-up truck. I would be lying to everyone and myself if I said I never thought of Mark. I always wondered what he was up to, what he looked like these days, if he was dead, married, both. I held my breath as the driver’s door to the truck opened, and he stepped out, squinting slightly as he looked towards the house. Quickly, I ducked down, and pulled Celia with me. ‘Cut it out!” she hissed, and bobbed her head back up to the window.

I slowly lifted my head until I could see out the window. Tom was giving him a huge bear hug, and they were laughing at some inside joke. Finally, Mark stepped back, and I allowed myself to look at him.

He was flawless. I had expected him to turn into a rumpled, Brooks Brother’s professor with about 30 extra pounds and a lot less hair. Instead, he looked like he had been working out; he was lean but muscular, solid. He still had that beautiful sandy colored hair that flopped forward into his eyes. He had a habit of always pushing his hair back with his left hand, and as if on cue, he raked it back as he talked with Tom. He was wearing a tan leather jacket and jeans and a flannel shirt. With the hiking boots and the truck, he looked more like a hunter than a professor.

‘Wow’, said Celia, ‘he looks a lot like the Brawny paper towel guy!’ I poked her in the arm and she giggled as she jumped up and headed towards downstairs. Desperate, I grabbed her leg and spun her around.

‘What are you doing to me? Why on earth would you think that Mark and I have any kind of chance? After what he did to me?’ I was still incredulous that she thought that Mark and I were a perfect match. I’d die before I would admit it to her, but when I saw him down in the driveway, it was like the past 15 years had melted away.

Celia sat back down on the bed, and I got up from my post at the window and sat down beside her. Mark’s distinctive baritone floated up the stairs and begged for my attention.

‘Look, I know what a bastard Mark was back then. But, I also know what kind of man he’s become. Over the years, he’s asked about you, wanted to know if he should call you, wanted to know what you’d do if he showed up on your doorstep. He still cares about you, Gracie. And despite what you tell me, I know you still care about him.’ She hugged my shoulders and stood me up. I was feeling so many things at once. Joy. Fear. Anger. Sadness. Maybe a dash of desire. ‘Come on’, she said. ‘Let’s go downstairs, mingle like good little hostesses and make with the happy. What’s the worst that happens? He bores you with his job description?’

‘Ok, fine. I’ll go downstairs. I’ll play nice. But that’s it. I’m under no obligation to him or to you, Celia. I’m only agreeing to being civil, got it?’ I was doing my best to be serious and business like, but she saw through me as usual. ‘Don’t worry, Grace. You’ll be fine. He’ll be fine. Come on, I have to see if my mom has destroyed anything in the kitchen.’

I tried to smile bravely as we went down the stairs. When we entered the kitchen, Celia’s mother was unusually quite. She was sitting at the table, chopping carrots and celery for the relish tray. ‘Celia, are you going to fix the cranberries or should I?’ She actually spoke instead of yelling, but I could still hear the tension in her voice. Without speaking, Celia grabbed a can of jellied cranberry sauce. She opened the can, and silently, but somewhat violently shook the contents of the can into a bowl. After several shakes, the jelly oozed out of the can with a barely audible ‘plop’. Celia carefully sliced it into thin slices, and then picked up the bowl. She walked over to her mother and slammed the dish down in front of her. ‘There! Bon Appetit!!’ Celia turned on her heel and stalked out of the kitchen. Her mother just looked at the cranberries and shook her head.

I absently took a drink of wine, and realized that Celia Sr. was staring at me. I self-consciously wiped off the top of the bottle and thrust it towards her. ‘Drink?’ I offered. She said nothing, but took the bottle and drank the rest of the wine. Not really knowing what to say, and not really wanting to be in the kitchen any longer, I decided that I might be better off in the living room.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Weekend Wrap-Up

*sigh* Another weekend over! This was a great weekend, too. The weather was finally spring-like, with lots of sunshine and blue skies.

I spent most of yesterday doing the usual domestic stuff; laundry, and some cleaning. I also finished a new bag. I love this one! I carried it today as part of some 'product testing'. Take a look-

Today, we ran some errands. Kai was due for a haircut, so we did that and then I needed a new pair of jeans, and Macy's was having a sale. Macy's is not always my favorite place to go, but then they have a sale, you can score some good deals. I got a new pair of Levi's, and then I headed off to the lingerie department to see what I could get there. I picked out two bras that were half price (yay!), and then went to wait in line. And that's when I saw the crazy lady. OK, first of all please let me preface this story by saying that I really try not to judge someone on the basis of their nationality or skin color or anything. I judge people by their actions. This Asian lady was straight up crazy. The store was having a promotion on some brands, buy two, get one free. Somehow this did not register with her. She literally stood next to the sales lady (yes, behind the counter!) and the sales lady had to ring up the sale FOUR different times before Miss Swan (name that show) finally comprehended that she would have to pay for two bras to get one bra for free. The total came to $63.00, so Miss Swan paid with 63 one dollar bills. WTF is that? The whole time she's laughing and giggling, so I think she totally knew what she was doing, and I know that by the time I had stood in line for almost 15 minutes, I was giving her some serious death glares. I could have gone to another counter, but I wanted to see how all of this played out. Once the show was over, it was my turn, and surprise! The two bras I had that I thought were a great deal on clearance, were buy one, get one free. I totally get that concept! So it was all worth it to stand there while crazy lady got her jollies trying to drive the lingerie lady to a nervous breakdown.

After all that foolishness, we headed off to an early dinner at On The Border, and then back home. Now it's time to get ready for another work week.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Ha! It wasn't just me!

Ok, so last night Tim and I went to a planning meeting for the 2nd grade class picnic. The other room parents were there and we got to talking about our children's teachers this year. The mother of one of Kai's classmates was there and surprise, surprise, her daughter has been dealing with all of the same bullying and nonsense that Kai has this year. It absolutely breaks my heart to know that another child had to suffer like Kai did. When your 7 years old, going to school should be fun. It should be about learning and exploring and growing. Not about having to watch your back every second of the day. But as sad as I was to hear that her little girl had to deal with this foolishness too, I was relieved to know that we weren't alone. This entire school year, all we have heard from the teacher and principal was that they 'just weren't seeing anything' unusual.

We also found out that the principal has put in her resignation. I hope that the new principal, whomever they may be, will be someone who's a little more willing to tackle tough issues like bullying, peer pressure, etc. Because whether we want to admit it or not, these things start at a much younger age than we want to believe.

So, the best things we can do as parents is to listen, listen, listen to our kids. If something's bothering them at school, be their voice and be a loud in your face one. Make it known that neither you nor your child will be a victim, and hold the adults accountable for their actions or inactions.

In other news, I finished a totebag, and am now working on a nifty clutch bag that will have bamboo handles. Photos coming soon!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Mad Libs!

Oh how I loved MadLibs as a kid! They were my most favorite 'road trip' game. Let's play one- (post your madlib in the comments if you want)

Sick Note

SILLY WORD [1] _______________________

LAST NAME [2] _______________________

ILLNESS [3] _______________________

NOUN (PLURAL) [4] _______________________

ADJECTIVE [5] _______________________

ADJECTIVE [6] _______________________

SILLY WORD [7] _______________________

PLACE [8] _______________________

NUMBER [9] _______________________

ADJECTIVE [10] _______________________

NOTE: Some words may occur more than once.

Dear School Nurse:
[1] [2] will not be attending school today. He/she has come down with a case of [3] and has horrible [4] and a/an [5] fever. We have made an appointment with the [6] Dr. [7] , who studied for many years in [8] and has [9] degrees in pediatrics. He will send you all the information you need. Thank you!
Mrs. [10] .

Friday, April 11, 2008

Cruel Shoes

Cruel Shoes-
by Steve Martin

Anna knew she had to have some new shoes today, and Carlo had helped her try on every pair in the store. Carlo spoke wearily, "Well, that's every pair of shoes in the place."

"Oh, you must have one more pair ..."

"No, not one more pair...Well, we have the cruel shoes, but no one would want..."

Anna interrupted, "Oh yes, let me see the cruel shoes!"

Carlo looked incredulous. "No, Anna, you don't understand, you see, the cruel shoes are..."

"Get them!"

Carlo disappeared into the back room for a moment, then returned with an ordinary shoebox. He opened the lid and removed a hideous pair of black and white pumps. But these were not an ordinary pair of black and white pumps; both were left feet, one had a right angle turn with separate compartments that pointed the toes in impossible directions. The other shoe was six inches long and was curved inward like a rocking chair with a vise and razor blades to hold the foot in place. Carlo spoke hesitantly, "...Now you see why...they're not fit for humans..."

"Put them on me."


"Put them on me!"

Carlo knew all arguments were useless. He knelt down before her and forced the feet into the shoes.

The screams were incredible.

Anna crawled to the mirror and held her bloody feet up where she could see.

"I like them."

She paid Carlo and crawled out of the store into the street.

Later that day, Carlo was overheard saying to a new customer, "Well, that's every shoe in the place. Unless, of course, you'd like to try the cruel shoes."

Here are my beautiful, yet cruel(and yes I will wear them again!), shoes-

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Completely Random (just like the rest of my life)

Today has been a rough day. It started off we me oversleeping because I forgot to re-set my alarm last night. Nothing gets your blood pumping like waking up and yelling 'holy crap' because you realize you slept an hour longer than you intended. I ended up only being 1/2 hour late to work, so it wasn't really so terrible, but still. When I wake up like that, it puts me in a foul mood for the rest of the day. The rain didn't help matters much, either.

Since I rode a later bus to work this morning, I had a different bunch of people to watch. To the lady that gets off at the IRS, please, for the love of all that is Holy, either a. get some jeans that fit, b. wear a longer shirt, or better yet, c. wear some underwear. While I personally may not be a fashion icon, I'm fairly certain that ladies don't wear their jeans below their gut and show off their plumber's crack the way some men do. I was still trying to wake up, for heaven's sake.

To the cute Aussie commodities trader: How you doin? [/joey] I was already to be annoyed by you because you boarded the bus without correct change, which is a big no-no. But that accent and those eyes put you on my good side.

Yesterday, I wore my new shoes that my friend Lori sent to me. They are red. They are beautiful. They are deadly! I am thinking that once you become 'a certain age', 4-inch heels may not be your friend. The shoes are gorgeous and make my ankles look slim but if all I can do in them is sit at my desk and be pretty, then I'm kind of sad. One of my co-workers suggested that I wear them around the house to break them in. The only thing I would be breaking would be a leg and possibly my tailbone as I'm pretty sure I'd slip and fall on the wood floors, or one of those skinny heels would get caught in those stupid tiles in the front hall and cause me to sprawl all over the place. It ain't pretty when a fat girl falls, people.

Kai is doing great! Grades and attitude are both improving dramatically. The patch has made a world of difference in his life. I see him being more confident of him self, too. His teacher is amazed at the difference in him. I'm very proud!

Friday, April 4, 2008

Story Corner

Ok, I'm trying something new here. For a long time, I've wanted to write a book, but have never gotten past the first two or three chapters. I get on a streak and then quit because I think the story is too 'harlequin romance-y' or what have you. So. I'm going to put the first chapter up here. I would love, love, love it if you would be so kind as to read it and give me your honest critique. I'm a big girl, I can take it!

This doesn't have a title, hell, it's not even finished! It's my attempt at a comic romance. The main character is Grace Larson, a caterer. Grace is single by choice and semi-loving it. Her best friend, Celia has invited her to her house for Thanksgiving dinner with her big Italian family. Ok, that's the background. Time to get reading!


Distance was usually what I was most thankful for every November as I sat down to a dinner for one. Two if you counted the cat.

For a couple of years, my best friend has been desperately inviting me to her home for Thanksgiving. What I relished as being alone, others saw as merely lonely. Celia began pestering me over the Labor Day weekend to attend dinner this year. She was relentless for two solid months, and I finally gave in around Halloween. She caught me in a moment of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup induced weakness. I agreed to come to dinner and bring a dish if she would agree to shut the hell up.

And finally, the day arrived. I was up at 6 AM baking a cheesecake, and dreading going to the dinner. I took my time getting ready that morning, cursing my friend for ruining MY Thanksgiving tradition of sleeping late, watching the Macy’s parade, and eating dinner in my pjs.

‘How dare she inflict her Norman Rockwell crap on me’, I muttered as I took the cheesecake out of the oven to cool. I entertained the notion of calling her and telling her I was sick. But I didn’t. Celia and I have been there for each other through thick and thin, and unlike family, we can tell each other when we’re getting on the other’s nerves without a lot of hurt feelings and insult slinging. Ok, at least without a lot of hurt feelings.

After I got ready, I took a long look at myself in the mirror. I still get startled sometimes by who I see, it’s always my mother staring back at me, that look of ‘where did I go wrong?’ etched into her face. Because I chose not to marry, have children, and stay at home and play house, I am an utter failure in her eyes. Even worse, she thinks she’s a failure because I didn’t follow her career path. Looking closer, I saw a glimpse of the girl I once was mingled in with who I am now. I saw the woman who made choices in her life that distanced her family from her, or was it the other way around? Not wanting to think too much more about my family, I grabbed the cake and headed to the car.

The drive to Celia’s house was long, but pleasant. The trees were past their glorious explosions of color, and now were muted burgundies and gold. The sky was overcast, the air slightly cold. Nonetheless, I drove with the windows down and the stereo turned up. Van sang to me of moondances and brown eyed girls as the faded trees passed my windows. I lost track of time while driving, and was surprised when I almost passed the road I needed to turn on to reach the house. I pulled into the driveway precisely fifteen minutes before dinner. Early, I told myself, but not so early I’d have to interact with Celia’s family and in-laws. I had heard all of her horror stories, and these, along with the handful of times I had encountered them left me nervous and longing for the quiet of my own home.

I went around to the back of the house, and let myself in the kitchen. There was a flurry of activity, the kind of chaos that the holidays always seem to bring; too many cooks in the kitchen, desperately trying to get something done, or to remember if they forgot something. My arrival was perfectly timed to land me right in the middle of a fight between Celia and her mother.

‘How could you not serve cranberries?! It’s Thanksgiving! What in the HELL is Thanksgiving without cranberries?’, Celia’s mother shouted. Celia’s mother is very deceptive. Her physical appearance is that of an older Celia; a slight, petite Italian girl with huge dark eyes. Then she opens her mouth and you are instantly reminded of Joanne Woorley from Laugh-In.

‘Mother, I don’t eat cranberries, Tom doesn’t eat cranberries, the kids don’t eat cranberries, NOBODY eats the GODDAMNED CRANBERRIES!!!!’ Celia acknowledged my presence by rolling her eyes, mouthing ‘crazy bitch’ while pointing back at her mother. For a second, I thought she might have meant me.

‘Hello, Grace!’ Celia Sr. shouted as she hugged me tightly. We had met only a handful of times, but to her I was family. ‘What did you bring?’

I tried to disguise the fact that I was struggling for breath, ‘a pumpkin pecan cheesecake’; I gasped as I set it down on the table.

‘Oh, tres gourmet! Did you order it from Junior’s?’ Before I could answer, Celia said, ‘for the millionth time, MOTHER, Grace is a caterer! Do you think a caterer would order a cheesecake?’ ‘Well, she would if she didn’t want to slave away in the kitchen all damned morning!!’ Celia Sr. screamed back. What I desperately wanted was to run and jump in my car, back out of the driveway at about 65 mph, and fly home as quickly as possible. Instead, Celia grabbed me by the elbow, guided me out of the kitchen and into the living room where the rest of her family were watching football. ‘Everyone, this is Grace. Grace, this is everyone, and you know Tom’. The men grunted ‘hello’, and a couple of children looked at me with disinterest. Celia and Tom’s own daughter was 14 and suddenly too cool for ‘retardo family reunions’. She opted to sulk in her bedroom listen to old Cure albums. Celia smiled at me and slipped back into the kitchen. The yelling between her and her mother resumed.

Tom came up and hugged me. ‘Celia and I are glad you came. Would you like a drink?’ I replied and although I asked for a glass of wine, he brought me a bottle of beer. ‘Is everyone here?’ I asked as I took a drink. The beer was cold and upon tasting it, I realized that I really did want a beer. ‘Not yet, we’re waiting for a friend of mine. He’s single too!’ Tom said the last part in a little singsong voice and suddenly the beer felt like it was gasoline burning down my throat and into my stomach. I realized what this was. Blind Date- the Holiday Version. I was going to kill Celia.

I spun around and went back into the kitchen. I had barely stepped into the doorway when a phonebook went whizzing past me in the air. It stopped short of hitting Celia in the back of the head. ‘That’s it!’ Celia screamed. ‘I’m not having this goddamned dinner anymore!! If anyone wants to eat, help yourself! If not, fuck off!!’ She turned and stomped up the stairs to the bedroom. The bedroom door closed with a resounding ‘SLAM’. Celia Sr. stood there with her mouth hanging slightly open. ‘Can you believe the mouth on her? I didn’t raise her to talk like that!’ Nothing was said of the flying phonebook. I looked at Celia Sr., then at the phonebook on the floor. ‘Why don’t I just go upstairs and make sure she’s ok? I’m sure she’s just stressed’ I realized that I was now doing with Celia’s family what I always did with my own, smooth things over. I grabbed a bottle of wine, and a corkscrew; Celia Sr. just looked at me as I went up the stairs.

I knocked once on Celia’s door and walked in without waiting for an answer. She was sitting on the bed, trying to hold back angry tears. I opened the bottle of wine, took a drink and handed it to Celia. She took two huge gulps and sighed. ‘I’m a terrible daughter’, she whispered. ‘I don’t think your mom is going to win the Nobel Peace Prize if it makes you feel any better’, I said. ‘Anything else you want to tell me? Who is this ‘friend’ of Tom’s?’ Celia sat there quietly for a moment. ‘Before I tell you who’s coming, you have to promise not to get mad. Do you promise, Grace?’

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Stuff (and a bag to put it in!)

So we've decided to renew our lease on our house, because we love this neighborhood (despite the carjacking 6 blocks away last night) and Kai loves his school (now that the bullies have either moved or knocked their crap off). When we first moved here, we signed a 4 year lease and last year we renewed it for another year. At that time, I discussed signing another long-term lease with our landlady, and she said she would be open to it.

This past weekend, I talked with her about signing another 4-year lease. This would allow us to stay here until Kai is done with grade school and we could move the summer before he starts junior high. Well the landlady told me that she would have to raise the rent an additional $100 per month. I don't really mind because we've been at the same rate for five years, and I understand that taxes have gone up, yadda, yadda, yadda. I told her I would talk it over with Tim and let her know.

Monday morning as I was speed-walking to the bus stop (not a 'being healthy' thing, more of a being late as hell thing), she pulls up beside me and asks if I've talked with Tim. I told her that yes, we would love to sign another 4 year lease. At which point she tells me, 'I think legally I can only do 2 years'. WTF?! What was that 4-year thing we signed the first time around? Does that mean for 2 years it was invalid? Does that mean she owes me a refund of 2 years rent? I think I know what she's trying to do. She wants to sell it and probably sell her house too, and retire. I don't blame her really, I would probably feel the same way, but when people try to hose me around, it pisses me off. Especially when I told her specifically that we wanted to do a 4 year lease and the main reason why. I'll sign your lease, crazy heifer, but you'd better fix some crap around here. Some insulation in the walls in the family room would be nice, for starters.

Anyway, I finished another bag. This one I don't like very well. It's too damned little! I put my ipod and phone next to it, because those two things are about all I could fit in there. I love this fabric though, and have a ton of it. I'll probably make a clutch-style bag out of it next.

Don't you just love the fancy photo studio I've made out of my printer on the corner of my desk? Someday, I'll take real pictures! This picture was a challenge tonight; I had to keep switching my batteries back and forth from the camera to my wireless mouse.

I'm now working on a quilted tote bag that I think is going to look really great when I'm done. I sat down tonight to sew on it, and discovered that I've run out of thread! It's no regular color, either, like black or white, so I'll have to have Tim go to the fabric store tomorrow to get me two spools of the thread. Surely he can manage that. Yeah, you're right, I'd better go get it!