Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Momness 2011: and a good time was had by all

I put Mom on a plane this afternoon to head back to Georgia, sad as always to see her go. (Chanel bless her. As we made our way to the airport, she was riding shotgun and hand-sewing the snaps on my latest gift: a tea-length twill coat with a satiny brown and blue lining. Her parting words on the sidewalk at the top level of DIA were, "Bye, I love you, I had a good time, have a good day, and when you're tired of that dress you're wearing, save it--I want to make a pattern out of it.") We did a great deal while she was visiting (which explains why she was sewing as she went out the door), and yet we weren't all that busy.

There were moments while she was here that I would get antsy and would think, "I need to get Mom dressed and out the door so we can do w, x, y, and z." Yet when I think about all that we did together, we had a wonderful time that overall was neither packed nor stressful. We were a little overscheduled on Friday, but after that it was: get dressed sometime in the morning (usually by noon) and then mosey out for brunch and then to shop or walk around a Denver landmark of some sort or other or even just do some gardening on the balcony or go lay by the pool. I realized how ungodly fast I move on a regular basis, sometimes in the name of efficiency and sometimes, I think, just out of habit. When I mentioned this to Mom when she called me upon landing in Atlanta, she commented, "Well, I thought you might like to do a whole lot of nothing on your days off."

That Mama--always thinking of the chirren, even when it's her vacation.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Ask Mom: Mile High 2011 Edition

That's right, errbody: The Momness is in, and is about to drop some knowledge on my playaz up in here. Let's see what kind of questions we have:

Dear Mom: My basement windows have window-well covers that are those cheap plastic kind and they've gotten shredded in the past couple of years from the kids and the snow. My ex had screwed them to the concrete blocks below the siding and when I was trying to unscrew one of the bolts, I banged the screw-head up badly and now I can't unscrew it because there's nothing for the drill to catch on. I do have a set of Grabit drill bits and was planning on using those to try to get the screw out. Is there something I can do to make replacing the covers easier in the future?
Two bonus questions - how do I get rid of chipmunks, i.e. kill 'em good and dead? In the past I have left out poison packs in the garage for them (they dug up through a crack in the slab! and through the frame! in multiple spots!) and while the special candybars all disappeared, the little bastards are still alive. I probably can't sit on my deck with a .22 rifle and they're too quick for a shovel. Ideas?
Second bonus question - I'm having an ant problem in the house. I had sprayed the outside where I think they may have gotten in but they're finding other entrances. Is there a good way to uninvite them, i.e. kill 'em good and dead, without
paying for an exterminator?
Signed, Nancy

Dear Nancy: Windows, chipmunks, and ants. Wow, how fucked can one woman be? Let's take these one by one.

To remove the screws from the concrete block, use a tool called an "Easy Out". You drill through the top of the screw (it's VERY hard bit) down through the center of the screw, then you put another tool (heh heh, I said "tool") into it and twist and pull it out. If you want to go cheap, just cut the heads off of the screws with a cut-off tool (they have them for drills) and cut 'em flush. The cheapest way to fix it back is to drill an oversized hole in the mortar between the concrete blocks, put a soft metal anchor in the hole, and then put the screw into it. The anchor will allow the screw to come back out if you ever need to remove it.

Chipmunks: well, my dogs kill 'em. One of my dogs is a short-legged varmint dog, and she kills them 'til they die from it. Cats are also a good idea: get a mama cat who has already had kittens, get her spayed, and make sure she's got enough to eat--she's got to have strength to hunt. She's gonna hunt, even if she's not hungry--she can't help it, she's a mama. But you're not gonna kill 'em with poison or guns or traps. The only way I've ever seen is to close up their holes to keep them out of the house or any buildings (with metal flashing), and then get one or more predatory pets. They will Fuck. Them. Up.

Now, ants: you have to barrier spray. Not just where they're coming in, but the whole exterior. The spray stinks, but spray the entire perimeter or foundation. The granules are good--look for the ones that say "barrier" in the name or description, and shake 'em around the house in a path about three feet wide. At the exterior doors and windows, spray all they way around. Put your sugar in the fridge, and put your kids' cereal in airtight Tupperware--don't give them any sugar to draw them inside. If you have pet food sitting out, set it in a ring of diatomaceous earth. If you eliminate what they're eating, you eliminate the final thing element that draws them inside. (Even Twinkies--they're deadly to humans, but ants will still eat them.) Another good way to get rid of ants: make them fight each other. Get a scoop of two different anthills and dump them on one another. You'll see a decrease in population--Armageddon. Works best on fire ants and Congress.

Dear Mom: Can you describe some fashion Wins and some fashion Woes for us girls whose chests are able to hold a place setting for 6. I have the damnednest time finding things that don't make me look like I'm either a street walker or a carnival tent.

Hugs from your Alabama niece in Las Vegas, Scarlett

Dear Scarlett: One word, and it's not plastics. It's tailoring. Go up to the larger size and have it altered. Nothing makes you look better than clothes that actually fit. Who gives a fuck what the number on the tag says? A corollary to this is good editing: don't have a closet full of clothes that kinda fit, but go instead for a small number of clothes that totally fit. you really don't need a massive closet: render unto Tyra Banks' what is Tyra's.

What else? Oh, stay away from wide belts if you're short (i.e., under 5'-6", rly sry Pixie) and ruffles regardless of height: 1734 called and it wants its jabots back. Also, the bit about no horizontal stripes is true, especially on the top. Avoid satin unless you're Calista Flockhart--satin stretches in the most unappealing ways across even the most luscious body. It shines and makes round things look rounder, so if you have a little tummy, you look like you're seven months along. Oh, and for God's sake: stand up straight. Nothing make tits look worse than trying to hide them.

Sadly, most off-the-rack clothes just aren't made for a woman with titties. And that's gonna get worse as America gets heavier--it's like fashion wants us to hide under muumuus. Learn to sew or make friends with someone who can (or find a good tailor). A good seamstress can make a $20 dress look like $1000 with a nip and a tuck.

Dear Mom: Elebenty years ago I made Roman shades out of silk fabric just like that. And for almost as long I've had the pieces for a shell for me cut out of the remnants. I'm stuck because I want the lines to go crossways [I'm flat-chested] and I haven't settled how to deal with the unravelling problem yet. How would Wilderness Gina handle it?
Signed, St. Blogwen

St. Blogwen, Wilderness Gina would start by laying the fabric on the sewing table and pulling the pattern out and staring at the two. Then she'd put the pattern away and take it out again a couple more times, maybe once a week. Then she'd put all of it in a closet for a few weeks, out of sight and out of mind. Then, the solution would come to her after a couple of months of this game of couture chicken. She would then acquire a fifth of vodka and a serger.

A serger (or a zig-zag pattern) at the edges is really your best bet. If you're not going to do that, you'll need to use twill tape in the stress areas, like around the armholes and neck, and that shit takes some getting used to wrestling with. You could use Fray Check (or that's what they call it at JoAnn's and Hancock in the South), but it will change the color and texture of your fabric in some cases. Try it on a corner of the fabric to see how badly it's affected before you get too goo-happy.

Any more questions? Send 'em on, kids: The Court of Mom is always in session!

Monday, July 25, 2011

While Shopping with Mom: Fabric and Loathing in Las, Denver

At Allyn's Fabric Store and Millinery Store.

Pixie: Okay, so, what do you think you can make from this...?
Mom: Umm...well, this embroidered organza is nice but...
Pixie: What kind of fabric are you looking for to make another wrap dress for me?
Mom: Do they have anything more...whorish?

Mom: This is more like it.
Pixie: Hell to the yeah! It's an ombre shiny jersey! Can you make a wrap dress out of that?
Mom: Yeah, I think so, I'd need an extra yard or so, though, to lay it out right.
Pixie: [Beavis and Butthead voice] Huh huh-huh huh, you said "lay".
Mom: [absentmindedly] could probably get laid in a dress made of this...
Pixie: Huh-huh-hu---ewwwwww!

Pixie: What in the name of Coco Chanel are you going to do with green and black-and-white plaid taffeta?
Mom: [slowly and menacingly] Anything...I...want.

Mom: What about a shirt for Audrey made of this green taffeta?
Pixie: Totally! Wait--what's up with the hat?
Mom: You need this hat. We'll get a button or a feather to put on it and make it all spiffy.
Pixie: But I don't wear hats!
Mom: [walks away holding hat] You do now.

After buying elebenty million dollarz in fabric, Pixie and Mom go get a snack in Cherry Creek North and then engage in a little window shopping.

Mom: Oh good Lord, what is this happy horseshit?
Pixie: Well, I'm betting it's a Lanvin, maybe a Chloe or Narciso Rodriguez...?
Mom: Hmph. I'm sticking with Horseshit.

Pixie: Mom, look! It's a--
Mom: No.
Pixie: Well, I bet it's an Yves St. Laure--
Mom: No.Mom: [sarcastically] Gee, I wonder why this is on the clearance rack?
Pixie: I think it's a Lanvin...[checks tag] yep, Lanvin. Usually those are kinda streamlined outfits, but...
Mom: Jesus, I can't even figure out...[moves the shirt around on the hanger] how is this made...?
Pixie: [lisping theatrically] "I am animal...I am...a shirt!"
Mom: Good Lord, it's on the hanger inside out! That's a shitty outfit if you can't even tell it's inside out or not?

Pixie: Can you make this dress?
Mom: [snaps photo] Shit yeah. I just have to amend a pattern I already have. But no belt. And no pockets.
Pixie: No belt? And no pockets? Why not?
Mom: It gives you saddlebags. No woman needs that.

Back at the Happy Kitten Highrise...

Mom: How do you like the lining of your camelhair-looking coat?
Pixie: I like it! Can I have a dress made out of it?
Mom: I can do this. This [holds up part of the lining] is fashion worth having, not shapeless $1300 pieces of viscose, Narciso Rodriguez or not.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Rly sry, partying with Mom, kthxbai.

Put down the goddamn camera, put your shoes on, and let's go--there's a margarita somewhere in this town with my name on it.

Mom is here, and we're having a marvelous time. A spa visit followed by Cheesecake Factory lunch, then off to dinner and drinks with Audrey, and then some shopping (both real and window) plus sewing and goofing around for the next few days. This is why I'm ignoring this blog, folks; I'm having real fun in real life.

Thanks for all the questions for the Mile High Edition of Ask Mom. I'll be getting those posted in the next couple of days, and I'm sure they'll be packed with rich insights. (About time something on this blog was informative.)

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Momness in T minus 20 hours

I've been ignoring WAD for the past several days so that I could get some work done at the office plus prepare for Mom's arrival tomorrow. The work involved having to work yet another weekend in order to get through my DD set and make redlines and notes for my trusty and excellent interns to work on while I'm out for most of the next week. I'm at an offsite meeting for Uber MOB with Gestalt (we're reviewing the DD set with their headquarters via web conference back east) for two days, and then I'm out of the office playing hooky and having a good time with Mom for two days. Thank God for a long-ass weekend and a cool-ass mom.

In an effort to provide maximum Momness, I'll be attempting another "Ask Mom: Mile High Edition" in the next week or so. (See an example of Ask Mom on my sister's blog here.) Perhaps you have a burning question for my mom, or maybe you'd like advice from a woman who can assemble formwork for cast-in-place concrete just as easily as she can assemble a pattern for an amazing vintage replica dress. Whatever the case may be, feel free to ask a question, either in the comments or via email over on the side. Meanwhile, there will be plenty of other drivel and photos from our always-entertaining (at least for me) shopping and on-the-town excursions to share.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Down with the Momness

"They want $1100 for this piece o' shit? It's single-ply sweatshirt material, and it's not even hemmed!"

Mom will be here for a week at the end of July, and thank God for it. She was last out in October of 2010, and we wanted to get her out here when she might be able to enjoy better weather, i.e., weather in which we could go for evening walks after work without being wrapped in polarfleece. Supposedly she's making me a dress very similar to the one she's mocking in the above photo, but we'll see. Not that I doubt her desire or skill, but she's been working on some commissions as well as some baby blankets and clothes for some relatives, so she's been busy. While we do still have her sewing machine here at the house (it hasn't moved from where she left it in 2010), I don't want her working like a galley slave or sewing like a 10-year-old Malaysian the whole week. It's her vacation. So far on our agenda for her visit, we have:
  • A visit to the Denver Botanic Gardens
  • A spa visit (massages and facials and pedicures, oh my!)
  • Happy hour with my boss (and one of DA's partners), Audrey
  • Fabric shopping at the legendary Allyn's on 6th Avenue
  • Window shopping/heckling in Cherry Creek North
We also have the baking of a turkey planned. I know, it's July. But taking the time to bake a turkey and eating well, plus having some turkey left over for other recipes...well, NOM. Plus, I'm sure we'll have some material for an Ask Mom, Mile High edition. Even better news: my usual Friday morning meeting got canceled for the Friday she's here, which means it looks like I can work out a four-day weekend with her. SQUEE!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Monday Visual Inspiration: Mile High Gardening 2011, or looking like a fool with m plants on the ground

As with everything in my life lately, my balcony garden has suffered due to a combination of too much work and too little energy to do anything else. I've resigned myself to the fact that a lot of this year's balcony bounty will just have to involve annuals and/or sacrificial perennials as accents to the band of usual suspects that I drag in and out of the house every year, much to Guy's chagrin. In this top photo of the 2011 Mile High Balcony Garden, you can see a few of those Mile High mainstays, including my two Chinese evergreens on the right, several pots of pothos and some sort of arrowhead plants in the midground, and the massive arboricola in the background that we've named Feed Me Seymour.

Shooting the other way, we fully absorb the fact that, on the right, I've killed a boxwood and have yet to pull it out of its pot. I'm calling it a golden boxwood; Guy says I've just made an example out of it to the rest of the plants. Either grow or die, but don't fuck around. At the far end of the balcony/porch, we see a few new herbal additions to the garden that, God willing, will survive to join the rosemary and parsley plants in the kitchen come October.

First new addition: Greek basil. They're both blooming, whatever that means. (I'm always amazed when I see plants bloom in my care. I never know if it's because of or in spite of me.) So far, it smells good if you touch it and it tastes great on a pizza.

Next up, a veteran from last year: the Virginia creeper. I thought I'd killed it during the winter by letting its roots get exposed, but one branch/tendril of it managed to burrow its way out of the cold, hard potting soil and arise yet again. In keeping with my habit of giving my plants inappropriate monikers, we're naming the Virginia creeper Jason Voorhies.

Oh, look, Pixie finally bought a lavender plant, about 12 years after everyone else put one in their garden. She's so innovative with her gardening, such a visionary. Well, at least it's blooming.

And the tomatoes, which we always do for pizzas and chili/soups. This year, we're doing a cherry tomato (left) and a Roma tomato (right). Not sure why the Roma is so bushy. Should we tie up the branches or just let them get spidery?

And finally, no porch garden, and indeed no porch, is complete without a porch kitteh. Hazel like to snuggle up in a wee ball of tabby indifference whenever I'm outside. She lays pretty still while Gracie runs laps around the porch, into the kitchen, back through the dining and living room, and back out onto the porch again. Hazel only leaves when Guy comes outside to hang out.

When I talk about my balcony garden, I say "balcony" but think porch. In the South, you put plants on your porch and sit out on it to watch the world (and your neighbors) go by. My grandmother covered her screened-in porch with massive ferns and would sit and watch cars go by on the country road about 200 feet from her house. If an ambulance went by, she'd get up slowly and go in the house to call a friend down the road: "Hester, they's uh am-bulaintz comin' yo' way; lemme know whey it's goin' to." If someone pulled into her driveway, the heavy foliage on the porch gave her ample cover to run in and put on a better dress or apron in case it was someone she wanted to talk to. Further, the porch gave her someplace nice to entertain surprise visitors in case she hadn't cleaned the house. It had ceiling fans and the cooling effect of just-watered plants, and the cushioned wicker furniture (which was so old I think it was 40 years' worth of paint that held it together) and glass-top coffee table allowed her to bring out sweet tea in heavy glasses and some Nilla Wafers on a paper plate laid in a wicker plate holder (holla if you know what I'm talkin' about) and set them down and chat with her guests. In a way, my grandmother saved herself a lot of time and energy by investing in her outdoor space. The house's interior didn't have to be cleaned spotless nor air-conditioned heavily when she kept 100sf of her 200-square-feet of her porch tidy, that 100sf being the area to the right of the front door as you stepped onto the porch.

I think there's something be learned here, assuming that I'm listening.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Sorry, did I catch you at a bad time?

Gracie in an inelegant moment: "No one's making you watch, you know."

After my deadlines on June 24, June 27, and June 29, I was deadlined out. I also managed to do something funky to my left knee while out running June 27; it's a little swollen, but not really sore, and I can put weight on it just fine (thank God for King Soopers-brand ibuprofen and ice packs). Amongst these events, I decided it was time to just sit down and rest. Hence the utter dearth of posts.

Well, I could post, but it would be a lot of complaining, and there are plenty of other sources for that on the internet. I'm at the point where I know I need to do something else/new/different/better, but nothing much appeals to me. Any new hobby or interest or activity sounds like a lotta-damn-work, as my dad might have said. But how useful is just sitting around and reading, on what few evenings and weekends I do so, when I'm not blogging or going for a walk with Guy or doing laundry and other assorted forms of housework? I checked out the book The Not So Big Life by Sarah Susanka, the architect and author of the Not So Big House series of books, which were all well written. Her latest tome on reprioritizing and living a better life, one that matters? Occasional good ideas interspersed amongst hokum. I was disappointed, to say the least, as her other books have been brilliant. You're better off getting a good book on Buddhist or yogic philosophy, maybe Jack Kornfield's After the Laundry, the Laundry, or perhaps the rather light but helpfully philosophical Stretching Lessons by Sue Bender. To me, a self-help/philosophy book is useless if its principles cannot be applied in a useful way to a working-class or low-income person. If the questions being asked rely on you having a nice chunk of cash that's easily liquidated or lots of volunteer opportunities to turn down or resign from in order to attain enlightenment, then it's less philosophy and more navel-gazing for white people. And while I'm pretty white, I don't need more navel gazing.

The fact that I don't need more navel-gazing is pretty clear from the above rant, I would say--it's entirely possible and probable that I think and muse and ponder too much. Perhaps, I have wondered to myself, an interesting opportunity for this summer is to not achieve anything and in fact be anti-achievement. Clean the house once a month if that, order more takeout, don't write anything particularly intelligent or useful (and if you read anything I've written on this blog, you can safely say "mission accomplished"), and spend more time at the pool and doodling around. Could I, in fact, spend a great deal of time being inefficient and unproductive? That would be a good challenge for me, as I'm not sure I could be either for more than a day or so. (On a side note, I once told Guy that I wanted to attend a silent retreat sometime, and he laughed so hard at the thought of me attempting to be quiet for more than a couple of hours that he nearly fell out of his chair.)

So, as ever, I'll do my best to keep up with this blog and share architecty stuff with y'all when I think it might be of interest (and not compromise my clients' confidence and anonymity), but I will also attempt not to bore or annoy y'all either.

In other good news, Mom is coming out in late July for a week. Let the games...BEGIN!