May 31, 2007

On The Hunt For The Ever Elusive Sloper...
(An exciting post in which I talk about really esoteric pattern drafting needs)

I'm feeling generous today and will give you three guesses what kind of clothes I was into wearing at the time I made this sketch. That's a lot of guesses and I think you should know that I will judge you harshly if you need all three of them. This sketch was made in either 1990, or 1991.

And another thing: get a load of that really long neck on the babe to the left! Now why do people think long necks are so attractive? I'm stumped. I think it looks gangly and kind of wrong. Meanwhile...the other babe seems to have no neck at all. What does it say about me that I prefer the no-necked babe to the one who obviously used to wear neck-elongating rings around hers? Does it mean I'm vain since I have a short neck myself?

I have been designing cobbler aprons and smocks for a very long time. Back in the dark ages when I had a waist but no meds (so I was actually quite miserable in spite of having a pretty darn nice looking size 14 off the rack bootie. Funny how that works, huh?) I designed quite a lot of garments that I would have made if only I could have gotten my hands on a decent set of slopers. Unless you are already a fashion designer/pattern drafter, you probably don't know what "slopers" are, huh? They are basic master patterns from which all other patterns are drafted.

I made a perfect set at the Fashion Institute Of Design And Merchandising in San Francisco. Incidentally, they say they continue to help place alumni in jobs, don't believe the hype. I called them for job leads about seven years after graduating and they did exactly squat for me. They were actually kind of mystified about why I would come to them looking for job leads when they had already spent the twenty thousand dollars I paid them for teaching me to draft patterns and sketch poorly*.

Back to the slopers... Over time I lost a couple of essential pieces to my perfectly trued slopers in size 10 (which would now probably be equivalent to a size 6, maybe even a 4 at this point judging from the body size of people who claim to be a size 4.). Losing any piece of a set of slopers renders them useless. I could have made myself a new set if only I had gotten myself a professional dress form. But since those cost over $600 which I just didn't ever seem to have, I invested what has ended up amounting to over six hundred dollars worth of less useful cheaper dress forms as well as a set of slopers that turned out to be complete shit. I have learned a couple of valuable lessons here:

  • Never lose the perfect slopers you made in design school and which took you an entire semester to perfect. Especially if you got an A in the class based on their perfection.

  • Spend the amount of money you need to to do a thing right or you'll end up wasting the same amount trying to do it cheaper and less well.

  • "Just My Size" foam dress forms suck. Yeah, I wasn't sad when mine melted in the great attic fire of 2003. Adjustable dress forms are slightly better. But there's no substitute for the real thing and some day I just might have to buy myself a paper mache dress form covered in canvas and all the proper seam markings.

I have noticed that many writers don't get published or hit their stride until rather later in life. This seems to work out fine and may explain why I have not felt that I must be published right this second or lose all chance of ever being considered worthy of print. But has there ever been a designer who came to it late in life? I don't think so.

My love affair with fashion is one that I cherish and I won't be giving up on it any time soon. Perhaps I'll hit my clothing design stride when I'm a very ripe 70 year old and stun all the arrogant little upstarts who think they're going to conquer the world. I could show them a thing or two right now at 38 years of age.

Which makes me sound like the arrogant one. But just imagine me sending normal sized people down the catwalk to a stunned audience, the clothes are so cool everyone watching wants to look like a peasant homesteader too, and they are expecting some chain-smoking punk to take bows at the end. I come, as fat as a seal, leaning on a cane because I've just gotten my hip replaced, and I'm sporting my blue-washed hair in a very mediocre bob because I still can't find a good hairdresser...and I become a smash hit because it's all too irresistibly odd...

*It really isn't their fault I can't render fabrics and patterns to save my life.

Note: hopefully you all already know this: everything on this blog, especially these amazing designs here, is copy-righted to me. Me, Dustpan Alley, aka Angelina. But I didn't really need to say that, did I? I can't actually figure out how come I haven't already put the standard caution on my blog. Does this mean I think no one would want to steal my coolness factor?

May 30, 2007

Redirecting The Dream

Closing The Store

Some people will be thinking to themselves: "I knew this wouldn't work" or perhaps even more self congratulatory thoughts such as "I told them and they didn't listen to my infinite wisdom and that's why they've FAILED and are SHAMED." To anyone harboring such very small and unhappy thoughts, all I can say is that it's a reflection of your inner life that these are the thoughts you are now having, I think I have no space in my life for such petty narrow thinking. So SHOO fly!

We have decided to close the store. It may seem like a death in the family, but please don't tip toe around me. Dustpan Alley may no longer be found on the hallowed streets of the downtown, but it is far from dead. Dustpan Alley was a wholesale company with a retail web store before it was a downtown McMinnville feature. I am returning it to it's roots. It may seem shrunken at first but if you think about it for just a minute longer, you will have to take note of some amazing differences:

  • I now have an official label.

  • I finally have a web store that is how I imagined it.

  • Now there are actually people out there who know who we are.

  • I am now set up to create a Dustpan Alley line of bath products.

I will now have time to design new products and produce sewing patterns. I will now have time for my little boy. And my dog. And my garden. And all the million things that feed my spirit so much more that running a store do. I have learned so much from this whole adventure. I have gained confidence as a business owner. I know that I can put together a great store; I am seriously proud of what we created.

This is not the day to write a great long post about this. I got up early so I can go exercise with my friend Lisa B. and naturally my kid had to get up just as early so I couldn't really dig into a meaty post before leaving. Such is life.

I know that I'm supposed to be sad right now. Opportunities fading out and all that, but I find it impossible to be sad when this new direction for Dustpan Alley promises so much. I will be able to get some of my health back and maybe even become merely chubby* again, rather than fat. I'll still be quite a busy person because it's in my nature to have fifteen projects going at once, but it will be more manageable. And I'll be home more. We will still be facing the puzzle of making a living, always quite daunting, but I have a lot of hope for what comes next.

*I like being a roundish gal, I'm comfortable being plus sized...I just don't like where I'm at now.

**While Max is distracted I'll take this minute to say that while book deals seem to be falling into many blogger's laps these days, I doubt there's a fairy-god-mother editor just hovering above my head waiting to publish me. So another reason to be excited about starting fresh and closer to home is that I will be able to write up a book proposal*** and start haunting publishers, and I can also start stalking all the local papers until one of them hires me to write a column. Or at least one or two articles. Anyway, the point is, the store is why I started this blog, which has helped me improve my writing skills tenfold and given me a kind of focus I never had before. I call that brilliant! By the way, the blog isn't going anywhere so if you find yourself interested in what's going on over here, stay tuned!

You are dying to know what the book will be about, huh? Ha ha! I'm going to see how long I can keep my intentions a secret! (This is a great game as I am generally not good at keeping my mouth shut about my ideas. Do you think this is insufferably coy? I don't mean to be. I just don't want to jinx myself.)

May 28, 2007

The Arrangement Of Life

So after a long unhappy talk about the situation at hand, Philip and I have come to exactly no conclusions. Not only that, it has made him very unhappy to find that I would so willingly walk away from this thing we've spent a whole year creating. In his mind, if you do anything at all, you do it to win or to succeed. His question for me was "So did we make any right decisions in the past year?" And "Do you even like living in Oregon?" For him, to walk away from something is to have made it meaningless and a failure.

I don't see it that way. Because I'm so zen, I tend to look at what I've learned, what progress I've made, and what fun I've had in getting as far as I have. It shocked me that he could question whether I am happy we left California. As much as I love California, moving back to Oregon has been a dream come true. I love being in Oregon and unless circumstances forced me to, I would never choose to move back to California. I've pretty much said this every day for a year. With glee.

The Williamsons are notorious for their sentimentality and their inability to let go. Of anything. Even when it's far past the time to let go. This is something we don't see eye to eye on.

So I cried a lot. I desperately want to arrange my life so that I can make it easier to make healthier choices for myself. It is healthiest for me to stay home. This I know. But even though I'm not a very sentimental person, letting go of the store intentionally feels like a betrayal. This feeling was amplified by Philip. It is very cool, this business we've built. It is also just beginning to build momentum.

There are a couple of incontrovertible facts:

  • In order to keep the store Philip will have to get full time work elsewhere.

  • This will require that I am in the store full time.

  • This means my dog will be home alone all day long. Chewing on things or in confinement.

  • This means my kid will have to go to day care.

So how important is our store? What will it do for us in the future? What do we want our lives to be? What is most important to us? Can I be a homesteader as well as a storekeeper? (In other words: are there 48 hours in a day?) Will there be a time when we can hire some teen-ager to work in our store for minimum wage?

The soul of the store is in the things I make for it myself: the aprons, the pot holders, cocktail napkins. I told Philip that if we keep the store then I stop making things for it because I can't do both. Being the retailer and the manufacturer at the same time is not a good idea. So if you're thinking about doing that yourself, I sincerely recommend that you rethink your dreams. However, the proudest part of having a store, for me, is designing goods to go in it. I have finally gotten my own label, a lifelong dream. The truth is, I'm really a designer and manufacturer moonlighting as a retailer. The other truth is that not sewing for the store would feel more like a failure to me than letting the store go would be.

No, I don't want to give up what we've made. I don't want to stop designing and making things because it's exciting to me. Especially right at a time when our work is beginning to gather momentum.

A couple more thoughts about this whole mess. One thing that will have to go is being involved in the politics of having a store. I can't stay on the promotions committee. I can't go to Downtown Association meetings. I can't have any extraneous complications in my schedule or my work. They are tiny little things. They really don't take up much time. But they take up brain space. They are an element of something more I must think about, remember to attend, and then get frustrated in how tangled up in bureaucracy any big group of people becomes. I am much too busy trying to keep my business floating. Maybe if a time comes when I have employees to work in the store for at least half the week I'll be able to be a participator.

If I am in the store full time then somehow I need to work it out for Max to come to the store after school. I need to set up the office as a play room with a TV so that I can play legos with him or set him up with a movie. I can't put him in daycare. Kids pay a big price for a life in daycare. So many parents have no choice but to put their kids in care, you do what you have to do. But if you don't have to do it? Then you owe it to them not to.

I need to get an extra freezer and fridge so I can store a lot of Trader Joe's food in it to relieve the cooking thing. If I can't cook, at least I need to not eat food from downtown every day which is expensive and almost always fattening. The only choices that aren't fattening are so tasty it's like putting sawdust in my mouth. Not only that, but obviously I need the extra freezer space for all the preserving I'll be doing this summer because I have SO MUCH TIME ON MY HANDS.

If Philip can't get a full time job the store has to close anyway.

What's frustrating about all of this is the feeling that things are really beginning to roll.

I feel deeply guilty that I am not a robust person like Martha Stewart, or Alicia Paulson, or Rachel Ray. Why is it that they have the strength to balance it all out, to juggle so much every day? They all built empires of varying sizes.* And as far as I know (and maybe I know nothing) none of them have to take psychiatric meds just to get through life. Me, I am pretty sure that if life keeps going at the current pace I will need heavier doses of meds, something I have hoped to avoid.

There are so many things I could be doing to relieve stress but all of them require money I don't have (for things like therapy, massage, chiropractor) or time that it's already hard to find for things as important as playing with my kid. Do you know how much our kids need us to play with them with our undivided attention? I played with Max for just twenty minutes last night, fighting off the bad-ass bionicles in huge battles, the kid lights up from inside. He doesn't get this kind of attention from us very often because the store is a bigger baby than he is, requiring constant nurturing.

Stay tuned for the unfolding of a messy life. I'm off to keep my promise to Max to commence with last night's bionicle battle.

*I realize that Alicia Paulson hardly has an empire in the way that the other two do, but from my very limited perspective, she has built a successful business and writing career for herself as well as still carving out time for her own crafts and home arts. I've read in an interview that she finds it challenging to balance everything in her life, but she still does it. I consider her to be a mini empire because she has built a very specific world of crafts and words and a very large following. And once you've gotten yourself if three or four magazines, you have certainly arrived, whether loudly or quietly.

May 27, 2007

Tell me when I stop falling
(Sincere Apologies to my mother and Angeleen.)

I have just finished sewing a cobbler apron for myself. That's not entirely true, I finished everything but the pockets because by then I had tried it on three times and each time I saw myself in it my heart beat just a little faster and my blood pressure was either rising or dropping, I'm not actually sure, but it feels lighter in my head right now. And not because I've junked all the crap that hangs out in there. I didn't finish the pockets because, well, why bother? I sure as hell am not going to get caught dead wearing that garment. Another five hours of my time completely wasted in the effort to spruce myself up.

An effort that has been making me feel increasingly worse about myself. I can't do it anymore. I can't dress the part of my own store because I don't FUCKING FIT IN A GOD DAMNED THING. Oh, and it isn't just a question of how I look in them, because how vain would that be? Anyone who's been seriously overweight knows what I mean when I say that nothing feels right. Nothing is comfortable.

I don't know how to come back down this road. The one that got me in this awful physical place. My doctor would like me to return to therapy, and I want to. I do. I need to, because right now I have no retreat. Every effort I make to help myself feel better about how I look endlessly rebounds on me, makes me want more beer, more cookies, more cheese, more potatoes. Which makes me fatter. And fatter.

Oh my god. This path is going to turn me into a six hundred pound woman unable to get through her own front door.

You know, when I weighed 155 pounds and was trying to get used to the fact that that was twenty pounds more than I was used to carrying around on my body, I didn't know I could feel this much worse about myself. Back then I just made myself new clothes and because my body was still an average size, I was able to change my clothes and that was it. I felt so much better. I didn't know a person could hate their own body as much as I do right now. I don't even have the words to tell you how much I hate it because the words are so ugly I almost made myself retch just thinking them in my own head.

It isn't that being heavy is so unattractive, because I don't actually see it that way. I see other women who have the same body that I do and none of the same thoughts come to me. I only see all the things that make them attractive. Except for in myself.

It's impossible for me to love my own body when it has so deeply disappointed me. It let me down first by breaking in a stupid fluke of a fall that shouldn't have even bruised anything, let alone fractured my hip socket in five places. It's been down hill ever since. Now it disappoints me every time I try to rectify the damage I did to my body while lying around in bed unable to walk. All that cheese. All that beer. All that sugar. I try to get back into the exercise routines and my body fails me. My joints hurt. My back goes out. My feet hurt.

I am so angry at myself for having let things get this far that I just want to punish myself. So instead of treating my body like some kind of fruity temple, I just keep trashing it. But now it's totally out of control. I can't seem to get the reins back into my hands. It's like the Devil is driving this truck of a body and all I can do is watch this long slow motion wreck careen itself off of a cliff.

How much farther do I need to fall before I hit the bottom of this personal quarry?

I am supposed to be dressing the part of my June Cleaver dream. But I can't. I just bought more fabric and patterns yesterday to sew some new clothes, so that I will look cuter. More vintage or retro inspired. I was depressed choosing my patterns because I knew what waited for me on the other end of the project: disappointment. But I went ahead and started with a cobbler apron in hopes that it would be more comfortable and attractive on me than the cocktail aprons that either have to be tied just under my boobs or completely underneath my belly because they won't stay tied where they should be tied around my "waist".

I just can't do it. It's killing me inside. I need to wear black, I need to wear indistinct clothing that I couldn't care a rat's ass about because if I try to go ahead and wear the kind of clothes I actually like then I will constantly be reminded of my disappointment, my anger, and my shame that I used to actually look good in these same styles.

I was a plus size twenty pounds ago. I was a plus size forty pounds ago. So it's not like I'm a size 8 person freaking out because I'm almost a size 10. Throughout my life people have always been surprised to find out what size I am; no matter what size I am people always think I couldn't possibly be that size. The reason for this interesting phenomenon is (in my opinion) that I don't dress in things I know I can't pull off at whatever size I am. Style is something I have been avidly interested in for my whole life. The fit of clothes, how they look best on people is something I know a lot about. As subject to personal taste as style is, there are general rules to follow if you want to look nice and I know what they are.

There are only two things I can pull off right now and neither of them look cute, stylish, cool, retro, or remotely memorable.

I'm not saying this to be mean to myself. This is just the way it is. Anything else would just be an attempt to massage a very bruised ego. This is useless because inevitably I run into a reflective window or a mirror and it speaks very plainly.

Measurements don't lie.

I suppose it would shock everyone to know that the life I'm leading is quite unhealthy for me. It's much to busy. Much too stressful. I have an entrepreneurial spirit but a rather unstable nervous system, the two do not coexist easily. I've worked so hard to build what I'm building and it has reminded me of how much better my life was as a housewife/stay at home mom. My kid has suffered. My spouse has suffered. And I am suffering from the constant attention our business requires. Attention that is taken away from our home, our quality of life, and our well being.

Having a store is not the reason I'm fat. It's just the reason I feel incapable of doing anything about it. I have no time to plan for exercise, to have quiet reflective moments in which to calm my nerves, to bake bread, to fold my laundry, and to cook nutritious food. The best years of my entire life (so far) were the ones I spent staying home. I never once felt trapped by staying home. I didn't have time. I was just as busy as I am now, it's just that all my busyness added so much to our quality of life. I got a sense of deep satisfaction from it.

Unfortunately I can't stop what I'm doing because it's not as though there's any other income options on the horizon. We can't pay the bills on nothing. We already know that.

I will go make a couple of head scarves and I promise to wear them every day to work. I will keep on wearing make up and trying to look nice for my store. But I am not going to keep trying to figure out a way to wear stylish clothes a la June Cleaver, because I am now deeply depressed over it and I don't think digging myself a deeper hole is a good idea.

I'm so sorry mom and Angeleen.
Angelina's Foolproof Home Designing Hints

I can tell you all what's on my mind right now, which will send you to the psychiatrist post haste, or I can skirt the boiling issues of my brain and life, and stick with subjects that won't make you want to stab yourself. Let's take the easy route today.

In my life as a housewife and stay at home mom I have made some observations that you may find useful in the arrangement of your own life:

  • When designing a kitchen, never choose a linoleum that is paler than the food you usually cook. White is lovely, airy, and so elegant until splattered with tomato sauce, mud, jam, and wine. I am always suspicious of any person who installs white linoleum. Or carpet. Light colored flooring is for those people who live gently and without children.

  • Bathrooms should always have ventilation. Your mind leaps to the obvious memory of the lingering odors caused by the long sits on the toilet that men tend to favor. While that is one of the reasons your bathroom should always have good ventilation, there is another. If you have a kid who get "gushers" for bloody noses frequently and has adopted the awful habit of letting the blood drip all over the floor until you come to his aid, which may be a while if you're in the middle of a fight and he decides not to ask for help, you will probably need to up your dose of medication. Sometimes I feel like I live on the set of ER. Our main bathroom has no window. No fresh air. The smell of blood has a way of lingering for a surprisingly long time. It's a smell that makes me kind of sick. What lingers is that warm metallic scent. Why on earth did the people who built this house not think of these things?

  • Bed sheets should always be light in color. I have learned this the hard way. I can't afford to buy all new sheets because I just did that a few months ago. I thought to myself "why not go for a more masculine look in our bedroom and get some navy and brown colored sheets?" Yes, why not? I'll tell you why not: D-R-O-O-L is why not. Another reason is that if you or your partner suffer from dandruff, you will have to see the evidence much too clearly every morning. There is another reason but I will let your minds gently drift in that dirty direction all on it's own.

  • Cream or oatmeal colored carpet in a house where kids will live is loudly not recommended. We have an oatmeal colored area rug under our dining room table that is there because the previous owners put it there and we can't afford to replace it. We could remove it altogether (which suddenly seems like a really great idea) but I worry about scraping up the hardwood floors with my chairs. This carpet is now a showcase of every craft project, every meal, every buried doggy treasure that has ever made it's way into our dining room. I used to frequently vacuum it. But I got dragged down by the necessity to do this every five minutes.

  • Do not squirrel fruit away in a warm dark cupboard where you will forget about it and it will ripen and rot. This just makes good sense.

That's enough to chew on for right now. I am going to go under a dark rock now to chew my own leg off because that seems like such a reasonable response to the stresses and pressures of my life.

Of interest to the seamstresses out there: my newest sewing adventure involves conquering my twenty year old fear of sewing thin bias binding onto garments such as cobbler aprons. If any of you have any tips on how to begin and end the trim, please share. (folding the end under is bulky and my machine hates me for doing it.)

May 26, 2007

In the red red hills of Dundee

After work last night we headed off to Lisa and Mark's house in Dundee. Naturally we had to stop to pick up some beer. That's when I spotted this peculiar sign. What does it mean? Did it used to say "Burritos and More"? Or how about "Burgers and more"? But, here's the question: would you trust a liquor store to sell burritos, and once you've decided to wreck your stomach with a questionable burger from a liquor store, what "more" could you be looking for? "More" seems a little like a vague threat. But maybe what it used to say is "Burds* and more". I'll bet the police would like to know about that!

Lipstick, head-scarf, and chickens. I am standing in front of Mark and Lisa's new chicken coop that they added into their shed last week-end. It is so well done! I'm glad my birds can't see it or they'd be jealous.

The red hills of Dundee...ah, what a haven! That's their house nestled amongst the maples. Where I'm standing to take this picture is on top of their back yard hill, on the plateau where their vegetable garden is planted.
It's hard to see in this picture. I'm kicking myself now because I should have taken a better picture. They have four raised beds that are old and falling apart, they have one patch of corn and squash growing to the left there directly in that luscious red clay. Along the side of that fence they have lots of bulbs, flowers, and a wonderful patch of asparagus.

Yum. (And also, that's not phallic at all!)

Lisa is becoming a chicken lady, just like Chelsea did, just like I did. How can we help it? Hens are awesome! People think that because they've got brains the size of, I don't know, carrot seeds?, that they aren't fun, funny, or adorable. Chickens are all these things. When you have a lousy day, all you have to do is go hang out around your chickens and your faith in the lighter goofy side of life will be restored. I think it may be because of their small brains that they are particularly amusing. They don't get bogged down with big head splitting questions like "what's the meaning of life?" or "Why are we letting soldiers kill innocent Iraqi chicks?". What concerns them is more earthy and simple like "Why does Bertha get the snail every single time?!"

Plus, they do funny stunts just to appease their silly people. This is Rex's little buddy. I think she's a Rhode Island Red. So is this Rex's parlour trick, or the chick's parlour trick. Pretty hard to tell, isn't it?

The chicks are still too young to spend much time outside, but very soon they will require a little chicken run. So Mark is digging post holes to give them a little play yard. He thinks the chickens are a pain in the ass. That's his current line. But it's already slipping. He thinks he'll grumble about them forever, but they are throwing their web of chicken style enchantment on him as we speak. Mark's done for.

Now, I have a very important question to ask of all you other chicken keepers out there: where can I find a list of plants that are poisonous or unhealthy for chickens to eat? I will conduct my own search at some point if no one knows, but I keep forgetting to do this with my vast amounts of spare time. This is important to know though if you are a homesteading individual, urban or otherwise.

I have to go water the garden now and get ready to take a trip to JoAnne's, always a toothy delight.

*Means young lady or maiden. Old Scottish word apparently.

May 25, 2007

The Essential Medicine Garden

So my mom and I have channeled the great shaman of the Pacific Northwest and performed blood rituals over sacred holes in the ground filled with arnica powder while singing the ancient songs of seamen*...all to aid us in coming up with a list of the essential medicinal plants everyone should have in their garden, you know, in case some apocalyptic need should arise.

This list includes only herbs whose beneficial properties are easily obtained by everyone by drinking them as teas or eating them as food. I will produce a second list of medicinal herbs that are great herbs to have on hand but that may require a greater degree of effort to process.

Garlic- you saw this one coming a mile away, right?
  • why you should grow it: (I almost don't have to say this) garlic is excellent at fighting infection. Maybe even better than echinacea. Garlic is great for easing the symptoms of colds and is used for improving circulatory health.

- this is not a well known herb to most people, in addition to it's herbal uses, it's quite pretty in the garden and the good bugs love it.
  • why you should grow it: other than pleasing the good insects? (sheesh, it's always all about us, isn't it?) As you may have gathered from it's common name, it has traditionally been used to reduce fevers. It is also used to ease headaches, reduce the severity of migraine headaches and also the nausea and vomiting that accompany them.

Comfrey- also known as "knitbone" and "boneset". That says a lot right there.
  • why you should grow it: this herb has chemical components that promote new cell growth, which is what you need to treat sprains, bruises, and wounds. Comfrey is great for a lot of ailments but it should never be taken internally without very specific directions on amounts from a reputable herbal doctor or herbal medicine book. The reason it is so great to have is that not only is it effective as a poultice for sprains and bruises, it can be used in baths to soften skin. It is also great as compost in the garden.

Sage- be sure you're planting salvia officinalis
  • why you should plant it: I have a personal affinity for sage as my mother made me drink sage tea with lemon and honey to ease my sore throats when I was a kid. Is it effective? As with all herbs, it's action is gentle and doesn't make the sore throat vanish (you'll notice that modern medicine can't do that either) but it does seem to ease the discomfort and shorten the duration of the sore throat. It has antibacterial properties. Plus, it tastes fantastic in Butternut squash soup with roasted garlic.

Thyme- don't think this culinary herb lacks medicinal punch.
  • why you should grow it: this herb has proven antibacterial, antiseptic, and anti fungal properties to it. We have always included it in our favorite tea bath. It's also my number one favorite herb to cook with. It's also used for upset stomachs and throat and chest infections. I suggest growing a ton of thyme. It looks beautiful in the garden, doesn't take up lots of room and is very easy to dry.

Lemon Balm
- the bees love it, need I say more to convince you to grow it?
  • why you should grow it: (you didn't sound convinced) lemon balm is used as an anti-spasmodic. I love that word's the yin to my yang. Or vice versa. Anyway, lemon balm is prescribed for difficulty in falling asleep, for spasms in the digestive tract, and is now being used to help treat dementia with relation to Alzheimer's. Plus, it smells great as you brush past it or step on it in the garden. And don't worry about stepping on it. This herb grows like a weed and if you don't want it to spread you may wish to impose some sort of containment on it.

- I love growing this one just because it looks so happy.
  • why you should grow it too: borage can be eaten in salads if you're one of those fruity people who like to eat flowers just to be different. I don't personally go in for much flower eating. Borage is used for relieving fevers, bronchial infections, and is a mild sedative. I happen to know the bees love this one too because every time I grow it they come. No one should need a better reason to plant borage at this time in our natural history.

Peppermint- the best of the mints
  • why you should grow it: it's great for relieving indigestion and bloating due to excess gas. I have always found it very soothing when I have a cold and have been known to put a little peppermint in my sage tea when sick. It is also good for easing tension headaches.

If you would like to read more about these herbs, I highly recommend the National Geographic Desk Reference to Nature's Medicine. This is where I have gotten most of my information for the purposes of this post. Between my mom and I, we've gotten our information from a number of great books in the past, but this is comprehensive and includes some herb lore, history, modern uses, and scientific studies.

The USDA would like you to be very scared to use herbs willy nilly from the garden. It's true that some herbs can be dangerous to use for long periods of time or in large quantities. I think every person should have a book of herbal remedies in their library for reference. I don't have a favorite for this purpose yet but when I do I will let you know what I recommend if you don't already have a favorite yourself. Don't be scared of using herbs. It's good to remember a couple of things about herbal remedies: 1) using herbs is almost always gentler than using pharmaceutical preparations 2) most pharmaceutical preparations are based on herbs 3) there is no such thing as a panacea.

*This is just a whole string of lies said to impress you.

May 24, 2007

Buttons, babies, and business

Can you believe that M. Sinclair Stevens of Zanthan Gardens sent me her collection of vintage buttons? This is now more special than the ones I bought at the antique store! Getting this package yesterday was like being in one of the good dreams I have where I have just happened upon a forgotten box of old hats and clothes that all fit me!! Thank you so much M.S.S.!

Now I feel rich in buttons and can play with them. (Not in a dirty way you nutty people!) My mind is whirling around the possibilities. I think a household project that showcases some pretty buttons would be great. I was just thinking I don't want to put them on anything I might make to wear (though that is what I'd like best) until I'm not so large, but here's the wonderful thing about buttons: you can remove them from garments you can't wear any longer and recycle them!

Truitt was a very thoughtful baby and made his entrance into this dark world two weeks early. This allowed him to travel the birth canal at a reasonable size (under seven pounds) which spared his mother the kind of hoo-ha ripping trauma that eleven pound babies can't help but cause. It also means that he is smaller than the average newborn and fits best into preemie clothes and hats. Dominique was unhappy with the hats the hospital gave her for his downy head and was going to go on a search for hats that would fit Truitt and also stay on. This is not something you want to do with a four day old baby in tow.

I cannot be the kind of help to parents of newborns that I would like to be right now. I can barely keep enough food in our own fridge so I can't make meals for these guys, I can, however, make a couple of hats. So I did. I used a very soft cotton/lycra fabric with good stretch. I measured Truitt's head and made him two hats. This is one of them. It makes me want to gobble him up.

It fit perfectly and stayed put. Plus, it had the cutest little pom poms sewn on the top! I'd wear one myself if it wouldn't make me look completely infantile. Here is Dominique with her husband Stephen (and the father of the baby, in case you weren't sure) and their ultimate collaboration.

I don't know if you can see the blood shot "whites" of Stephen's eyes, but like all new Daddies, he's finding out just how tired he can be. Stephen is a very surprising person. Don't be fooled by his Wisconsin-bred wholesome appearance- because he is a total smart ass. Which is one of the things I enjoy the most about hanging out with him. I also enjoy the fact that he's a Capricorn, like me, and was born the day after me (though he's three years older than me). The way I figure it is that if Stephen is so cool and so funny, maybe I can be too. Because we're practically twins. (I have milk-fed Wisconsin cousins, see, yet another connection.)

Yesterday was a great day. I love having those. I am working on a project that I'm not going to talk about yet. (Every crafty blog person has some secret project they're working on. I just hope mine results in riches. I decided to work on a secret project so that I could feel as cool as everyone else. How unoriginal could I possibly get?)

Speaking of riches...we aren't rolling in them. If you are, tell me how you did it please. We have exactly two months to find more of an income so that we can keep the store going. Actually, I guess we have three because if I have to, I will sell my Vespa to pay the bills. It isn't my first choice. I love my trusty Vespa. What I'm wondering is, does anyone actually make a living with their Etsy shop? Spill the info duderinos!! I'm seriously considering opening one to sell my hand made items in. Our website gets very little action (although, thanks to all the wonderful supportive bloggers who've shopped there recently-it's starting to feel like a happening place-thanks ladies!!) and there seems to be so much going on in the Etsy world. I'm just wondering if anyone is actually making any money at all?

Philip has been doing some free-lance work which helps. But he's still looking for a full time job. The nice thing about that is that if he got a full time good paying job I could stop worrying about money for the first time in two years. We have been in a non-stop worry about income since Philip was laid off of his job two years ago. We have been living off of money from the house we sold in California and the equity in the house we're living in right now. Although we have more equity, because we're almost as smart as Donald Trumpette, we would have to sell this house to access it. More loans are out of the question. Thanks to the forces at work, interest rates are awful right now. Especially for those of us without a steady reportable income.

Thanks Government!

The one thing that really bums me out about the idea of having to sell this house is that I love my garden. If you've been hanging around here lately that is no surprise. Now that it's really shaping up I'm starting to get attached. Something I told myself I wouldn't do because our situation is precarious. I'm kind of looking for work too but there doesn't seem to be much out there for me. Especially since I don't drive which means I am limited to getting a job here in town which pretty much means working at JoAnne's Fabrics. To fit in there I'm going to need to let my teeth go.

I feeling the need to go back to therapy but what with our money being almost gone, I don't think I can afford going because I'd have to meet my deductible first.

Thanks American health care system!

Here's the thing: the store is starting to take off. That's the thing. Right there in a nutshell. I keep thinking that maybe I should start begging my relatives to loan us money. But even if any of them had any money to loan, a loan is not what we need right now. We are in deep enough already. What we really need is for a fairy godmother to come along with her benevolent wand and sprinkle some miracle cash down on our heads.

I have a book in mind to submit to a few publishers, and while there may be a teeny tiny chance that someone will get excited (I said teeny tiny, you don't need to get all caustic on me, I know how much competition is out there. Shit, some of the people reading this right now are competition!) writing books is notorious for not making people rich. I'd probably get offered an advance big enough to buy next month's beer supply. Then I'd spend the next six months writing the thing while working the evening shift at JoAnne's and then it would be another eighteen months before the book was published and I started getting my share of the sales which would maybe buy us a dinner out.

Because, let's face it, I'm not Elizabeth George.

And that's where all my problems began. By not being Elizabeth George. Or Laurie Notaro. Or Anne Lamott.

What's in a name? A lot if you're not Elizabeth George. Let me ask you, is Angelina Williamson the name of a mogul? Is Angelina Williamson the name of a famous writer? Now, if my name was Sosie Philips, or Madison Powell*... you'd be thinking to yourself "where have I heard that name before?" because those are the kind of names that sound like you should already know who they are.

This is the part in our story when some amazing twist of fate happens to change our luck. It's unlikely we'll find oil in our back yard, so maybe we'll meet an editor who will read my stuff and make me into a star. Or maybe Philip will get the dream job of his life? Maybe I should start posing naked for dirty magazines and websites where fat is the fetish? (Does that pay well?)

(Hairiness would also have to be a fetish because I don't go in for making my pubes look hairlessly adolescent. Sorry if you love your Brazilian-it just weirds me out that any man would prefer a prepubescent hoo-ha to a grown up one. But that's not the real reason I don't go in for all that waxing of my privates, it's more about the excruciating pain of the hair removal and also having to expose my lady bits to another human being who isn't my husband.)

Oops, I just killed the dream. I can't bare my privates to other people, so true. Darn, and that's the only thing I can think of that might rake in a lot of cash

Well, speaking of's time for me to get myself down to the store.

*Let's be clear about something right now: you are not allowed to steal either of those two names for yourself because I may need them for pen names for the romance novel I'll start writing when we're living in a trailer on the outskirts of civilization and it turns out that the only thing I'm good for is writing soft porn. You don't even know what an irony that would be and I'm not going to fill you in.

May 22, 2007

Love Is All Around

You may notice that these two rather large beetles appear to be walking in hurriedly opposite directions and ask yourself what this might mean. Or maybe you're not the kind of person whose curiosity is aroused by earth's smaller creatures? I caught these two in the act of love. I was weeding in an effort to uncover my choked dahlias and suddenly there they were, not naked exactly, but seriously going at it.

The second they perceived my prying glance, they separated and headed in opposite directions as though to fool me into thinking they were merely having a water cooler chat instead of lighting up a casual cigarette and asking me what the hell I thought I was doing interrupting their tryst, which would have been so insouciant and unexpected I might have dropped my eyeballs from my head.

I present to you the medicinal herb garden site before being planted out.

And here it is after being filled up with mostly beneficial flowers and just a few herbs. As it turns out, I have herbs all over my yard. Sage is everywhere, thyme, and mint. But I have lemon verbena, stevia, and echinacea in this medicinal garden. The flowers I planted are: valerian, black eyed susan (rudebekia), rocket (snap dragons), coreopsis, shasta daisies, zinnias, cosmos, artichokes (green globe-I don't know if artichokes produce well here but even if they don't artichokes are wonderful for the enormous purple thistle flowers they produce), nicotania, and bread seed poppies.

Here's Dominique with her beautiful baby boy: Truitt. Two and a half days old in this picture.

New people are so soft.

I want to show you how much my potatoes have grown in so short a time. This was about a week and a half ago.

And now look at them! Veritable bushes! I wonder if I should have been mulching these potatoes with compost and not straw. I have read that if you mulch the potatoes as they grow you will get more potatoes because they will begin to grow along the stems. This has never happened with straw mulch for me. So should I pile on some extra dirt for good measure? I am greedy for potatoes.

I now have a list of medicinal herbs you should always plant. I've consulted with my mom and we've come up with a basic medicinal garden for growing the easy to use essentials, and then a second list of herbs which are very useful but may be harder to find and take more processing to use. I will do a post for that next.

Note: it is clear that my spell check has a very limited plant knowledge, I have little time this morning to check the spelling of my plant names, so if any of them are incorrect...please forgive me.

May 21, 2007

The Importance Of Being Seed

I think it's a pretty safe bet that George W. Bush thinks pretty highly of his own seed. I imagine that he treasures his family jewels, maybe even more than his wife does. You can say that people are hard to know, that it's impossible to know what's in their hearts and in their minds. I disagree. While there is a whole universe of knowable things I don't know, there are some things I can't help knowing and one of those things is that men think very highly of their sperm.

If men didn't think their sperm was pretty important they wouldn't dedicate so many hours of their lives trying to plant it somewhere fertile. Or at least somewhere available. Or anywhere, really. And sometimes, unfortunately, everywhere.

These were my thoughts as I knelt on the ground ripping weeds out of the dirt in preparation for planting my medicinal herb and flower garden. Seeds were arcing into the air all around me as I yanked ripe grasses and wild green things out of my fresh soil. Seeds scattered onto my head, stuck to the hideously long hairs on my arms, and fell back to earth to wait for the next rain. Which will probably be tomorrow. The earth's seed is everywhere. It's no more a secret what the earth has planned for them than it is what man has planned for his. These are not unknowable things.

I found myself wondering why Christians often speak as though the seed of man is so sacred. It isn't as though it's scarce. It isn't as though it's wisdomous. No matter how good the sex you're having is, the seed itself imparts no everlasting afterglow of god. Not even if you intend the seed to sprout a tiny human being. There is plenty of seed to be had and generally it is more than willing to travel to all ports of call.

I couldn't get this out of my head. How protective people feel about seed.

About their own seed. These thoughts came to me as I recklessly scattered the seeds of plants I have never formally met before and whose common names I don't know, let alone their formal Latin names. I was essentially performing reproductive services to those that had already produced flowers and were ready to send themselves into the wild wind.

I am the wild wind.

There is almost nothing more important to human beings than the protection of all seed. How do so few people realize this? So many people out there think of gardening as a "hobby". Something all of us shriveled up Mrs. Marple types do to pass the time until we die. An unimportant activity. We fuss around with our flowers and our sweet little veggies and have not realized that we've missed out on shaping the world with politics, or by starting a corporation that eats other corporations, or that we could have been spending all our time arranging charities to milk the egos of rich people so that they can feel alright about the fact that many of them and their friends in their swank mansions and their shiny Hummers are living at a much greater cost to us all than just the livings their companies take away from the small fry.

From me. From me in my unimportant sweet little garden full of seeds.

It's not a crime to be rich. That's not what I spent time in my garden to hear the seed say to me. That's not what comes to me today. I would love to be rich. Bring it on universe! I've got my tiara ready.

What I heard whispering along the soft sheaths of evening sun illuminating my vicious work with flecks of gold is that gardening has become a form of rebellion. It's one of the reasons it feels so good to do it. Seeds used to be a stronger currency than coin. Seeds for food and seeds for medicine.

Seeds are life.

You could not have your mansions and your hummers if man had never learned to cultivate seeds for feeding himself. You can thank seeds for giving you your diamond life.

The importance of seeds is implicit in fairy tales: do you think Jack could have sold his cow for a bag of bean seeds if seeds weren't equivalent to coin?

Some of the most important seeds are so small that once you've dropped them carelessly you will never see them again. Human survival hangs on the smallest breath.

All the power in the world is in that knowledge. I hope you already know it. Nature doesn't accept coin because she can't do a damn thing with it. Money is meaningless if there are no natural resources to back it up. Does anyone remember that? Money represents the commodities that humans need in order to live their lives: food, water, shelter, materials to build shelter, the power to do the work to grow the food (horses or gasoline), and the materials to clothe themselves against the elements. Money stands in place of gold. Gold is good for decorating pretty people, but gold is also used in a lot of other alchemical applications. Metals are used for tools.

On and on it goes. As far as commodities go, food and herb seeds are much more valuable than human seed because finding unpolluted sources gets harder every day. There are more people than the earth is comfortable supporting. That's why we have famines. That's why we have plagues. We don't need more people. We need more resources to take care of the people we already have.

Sperm is cheap. Open pollinated seeds are not. The government wants us all to believe that genetically modified seeds are the answer to world starvation. Partly because no one wants to talk about family planning. Partly because there's not enough money in trying to feed people in ways that protect our resources at the same time. Nature doesn't approve of the kind of human industry that destroys her own. There are all kinds of reasons not to support genetically modified seeds or the foods they grow up to be, but the biggest one is that crushing diversity will rape the earth, not feed it. It already has.

Do you believe that all people should be white? Do you think all people should be black? Is it healthy for people to concentrate gene pools? I direct your attention to the large chinned Hapsburgs if you need proof. Do you believe that it was good that the Nazis tried to obliterate the Jews? Do you think it's righteous that Genghis Khan tried to out-breed half a hemisphere of people and kill most of the non-egg producing people at the same time?

Genetically modified seeds are the Nazis of the plant world. And the insect world. And whose world do we belong to? Are there still people who don't see that the plant world, the insect world, and the people world are the same world? To try to breed a master race of corn is no less evil than trying to create a master race of people. Nothing but bad can come of it.

We survive in diversity. We grow stronger by interbreeding. Every race has something beautiful to add to the earth's gene pool. Every plant has something to offer to the soil teeming with life.

Man's seed is cheap.

I'm out there tonight and I can feel the ground murmur. I can hear the din of life evolving with every breath I take. Man is arrogant. And when I say man, I mean man and woman. We are all in this together. Men, women, hermaphrodites. Black, White, Asian, Hispanic, and absolutely every fucking gorgeous color in between.

This is not my party line. I don't have a party line. I'm too busy working my civil disobedience to belong to a party. This is what I hear, what I see, and what I know.

The most potent rebellion you can engage in now is to grow open pollinated seeds in your garden. Grow food. Grow medicinal herbs and flowers that the insects we depend on for life need to keep on living.

There are moments when I hate George Bush and his sperm that has spawned two really vapid girls. I hate what he stands for. I hate the liberties he is trying to take from us all. He has taken enough.

But when I'm out there grinding dirt into my big knees, getting a grip on hostile weed take-overs, and watching the most beautiful first leaves of seedlings unfold shyly in the late spring chill, what I see is the universe in miniature. It's all right there. All of us. You, me, and Jessica Simpson. I may sometimes hate Bush, but he's human just as I am. He may be misguided. He may smell like evil, but he's like the weeds in my yard. I don't actually desire a yard free of weeds. The weeds are part of an integral system of wildness, of brawn versus delicate balance. The weeds are part of the eco-system just as I am. They belong in the whole melange of life we're living on this planet. They just can't be allowed to choke out the light.

I don't wish harm on Bush. I wish him to be powerless. I wish that he may be cut down to my level. I wish that he may see from a different perspective. I kind of hope his dick will shrivel just a little. But only when I'm feeling really angry and overwhelmed by the stench of war.

My knees are covered with dirt. I have cut a path for the banquet I'm preparing for the bees, lacewings, lady bugs, butterflies, wasps, you, and me. The beauty of us all was right there for me to drink. The bitter, the sweet, the living, the dying, the young, the old, we are all at the same table and I desperately want to share my wealth. Such as it is.

Because even if man's seed is cheap, my life is rich.

My dutiful dog

Chick was confused about why I would ask her to sit on her bed in the morning. But she's a dutiful girl and did as I asked. I cannot believe how much I love this flea bag! Jesus, she's so cute! Her ears are irresistibly soft and floppy.

In our house we are dreadfully short of spare blankets. We have three ragged antique quilts that have become considerably more ragged from constant use by us. That's what quilts are actually for. For keeping you warm. For using. Now that quilts have enjoyed such an incredible renaissance and have effectively become an art form, it's not hard to forget that originally they were made predominantly from scraps and rags and they were not made to hang artfully on the wall or arranged on the arm of a sofa where it isn't actually supposed to be used.

Never the less, I feel I have committed a crime. There is no fixing these quilts. They are worn through with holes, they are eternally stained, and faded, and pretty much used up as though they were loved to death. Yes, they were heirlooms. No, they are not fit to pass on. I soothe my guilt by knowing that one of them was loved to death by Max. He won't be able to pass it on to his children, but since he frequently informs me of his intention to remain a bachelor for all his days just like Uncle Zeke, I don't think that's going to be an issue. What he did do was get to sleep with something his great great grandmother made out of necessity with great skill every single night for two years.

The reason this is all on my mind is that Chick, our dutiful black dog, sleeps on a bean bag cushion covered in vinyl. Not very cozy. I have been covering it with one of the worn out old quilts because she likes to paw at the cushion to get comfy and I don't want her to rip the bean bag open. Not only that, vinyl is pretty un-cozy. However, I loathed letting her further destroy my shredding quilt. I don't seem able to find time to make some quilts, not even fast ones and when guests come over we don't have anything good to cover them with. So I bought some short pile fake fur a while ago to cover the bean bag with.

Yesterday I managed to whip it together. Seriously a slap-dash affair, I made it at work without benefit of eyeballing the bean bag while I worked. I had a vague measurement to work with. It took almost no time at all. And now she has something cozy to sleep on, my sad quilt is rescued from her dirt and fur, and I got the supreme satisfaction of getting a project done that has nothing to do with my store.

Now what I'm thinking is that I need to cut out a bunch of large squares to hand piece a quilt together. The only quilts I've made before were three crib quilts for other people's babies. I hand pieced the first two and machine pieced the last one. I hand quilted all of them. I love hand stitching and since I spend every evening watching reruns of Frasier or Friends, it would be easy enough to stitch large squares together. I could then tie it off instead of quilting it. This would be simple, not something I'm going to compare to Pam Kitty Morning quilts or Michelle Sews quilts, but it would be something sturdy and pretty and warm. What more could I ask for? I want to have a cupboard full of quilts like Sarah at the Misadventures of Mama and Jack.

Making blankets and quilts might seem like a hobby, or an art, until you don't have enough of them in your house. Suddenly they become very important. I don't know how we got to this point in our household. It seems there used to be a time when we had lots of blankets to go around. But I've got to get all pioneer woman on my own ass and fix this problem.

Because I really don't have enough to do already.

May 20, 2007

Two Wet Dogs

My friend Chelsea has made her own tags for the sewn products she makes. Right now she only sells to my store, but I think she needs to start an Etsy store. I love this tag. While I sat around on my ass moaning about the need for sew in tags she just whipped this up using what she had around the house, her computer, and her own ingenuity.

This is a little girl's apron/headscarf combo. How flippin cute is this?! We sold the last three she made for our store and this is one of the new ones.

Today I'm just going to make a multitude of random observations in list form:

  • Two wet dogs under foot is NOT less messy than one. Two dogs underfoot is NOT less likely to trip you up as you try to get from your bedroom to the living room. Especially if said dogs happen to glue themselves to your legs every time they see you on the move. It's become dangerous for everyone to get around in our house. (We're watching Stephen and Dominique's dog Penny while they are in the hospital learning how to wipe meconium off a baby's bahookie. Nice.)
  • Two wet dogs also has a way of smelling like two wet dogs.

  • Just when you thought Jessica Simpson couldn't get more trashy...she does!! I think she needs to give her breasts a little vacation. In Touch magazine seems convinced that no one actually knew that Simpson wasn't a natural blond. HELLO? I thought the periodic appearance of dark roots kind of gave the show away.

  • When is someone going to talk about Angelina Jolie's life threatening illness? Either that woman has a disease that is withering her into nothing but skin and bone, (otherwise known as "childenous-run-you-raggedeth syndrome"), or she's got an eating disorder. It's time we all stopped being coy about eating disorders. No person looks naturally skeletal unless they are very ill which is no joking matter, obviously. You may be naturally thin (though I doubt it), but nature doesn't encourage people to naturally abstain from food. That woman has become unattractively thin. Oh, and so sorry, but I just spent an evening watching Queen Latifah who is one of the hottest women on the planet and compared to her, Angelina is just gross. The other disease Angelina Jolie has is a little known disease called WWL (Women Wanting Litters)

  • Cameron Diaz needs to stop dressing like an adolescent in the eighties. And by the is it possible for the eighties to be the new hot "vintage"? Has it already been twenty five years?

  • If Paris Hilton doesn't do Jail time, I'm going to blame Bush for it. That woman needs to start realizing that celebrity doesn't buy you immunity from the law. And the picture of her "praying"? Nice touch!
  • I am terrified of having to watch Max lose all his baby teeth because teeth hanging by bloody threads in people's mouths give me serious heebie-jeebies. On the other hand, he's six and a half and hasn't lost a tooth yet, what happens if he is one of those people who never loses their baby teeth? Teeth are important to me. Like, it bothers me that so many of JoAnne's employees here in town have visibly rotting teeth. Baby teeth in an adult's mouth are really disturbing looking. Will he have to get all his teeth capped to look normal? But if he never got adult teeth they won't have any way of knowing what shapes of teeth would look most natural in his mouth. So then he'll end up with one of those fake Hollywood smiles like David Bowie and Catherine Zeta Jones (both of whom used to have way more attractive mouths in my opinion.)
Max and Philip are fighting. Max likes to push his buttons early in the morning. Philip is not a morning person. Max has developed a peculiar (and when I say peculiar I mean heinously annoying) habit of asking Philip for a waffle and then refusing to eat any waffles Philip makes him, claiming that he doesn't make them right. It's a terrible little power trip. It's the kind of thing that makes rage rise up in our chests like bile. Really incredible how a fifty pound boy can be so obnoxious. I better go intervene.

May 19, 2007

Nothin' But Eye Candy

At one point in time I had a tin that was full of antique, vintage, and random buttons that my mom gave to me. I think her mom must have given it to her. In that tin were some gorgeous jet buttons from my great grandmother. One day they all melted in 1200 degree flames in my attic. All those buttons saved by me, my mom, my grandma, and my great grandma melted away, probably leaving toxic fumes all over my neighborhood too. I used to love looking through that tin in a kind of ritual treasure hunt.

Since then I have found it inconvenient to be without my wonderful tin of buttons for practical reasons. Whenever I needed a random button I could find the perfect one in my collection. Whenever I needed a pretty button for a special craft or sewing project, I always found something pretty in that tin. Now when I need a button I kind of hang around all my craft drawers and boxes like a mourner at grave side. I know I'm not going to find a secret stash of buttons. I know my old tin is gone and will never materialize again. But I miss it.

When my mom and I went to Schoolhouse Antiques in Lafayette a month ago, the place where I got all the vintage hankies, I found a jar full of buttons for sale. It was not cheap. But I just couldn't stand not having a collection of buttons any longer. So I paid $20.00 for a jar full of buttons. Some of them are gorgeous, some are vintage, some are so worn out you wouldn't put them on anything or use them unless you absolutely had to, like if you had to live through the dust bowl depression of the thirties again. One button in there is jet, or fake jet, and looks like some of the buttons I've lost.

I love my jar of buttons. I want more. Buttons are like food in the pantry, having extras on hand makes me feel more secure.

Another sachet. These are all lavender, by the way. But I would like to do some rose scented ones and also lemon verbena. As much as I love lavender, not everyone wants it. Some people are tired of it. The reason why lavender is so widely used in sachets is because it is one of those flowers whose scent actually drives moths away. Rose oil is much too warm and sweet to do that, but I want to smell roses in my own drawers. I just bought a few very expensive scents to add to our bath section. These scents will cost more than the other ones because I couldn't even afford to get more than .5 oz at a time. Yes, they are that expensive.

Rose absolut is one of them. I can't wait to smell it, but am also a little afraid of being disappointed. I also got ylang ylang, sandalwood, and I think I also got vetiver. For those who want to do a very fancy bath I want to make their wishes come true. I could have just bought synthetic fragrances, which would have been very inexpensive, but I just don't want to do synthetics. Not all synthetics are bad for the environment, or for people, but I just feel like that's not what Dustpan Alley is about.

What do you think of the mushroom detail? Pretty good, huh? I love this one!

Here's the last one I made yesterday. I do love making these sachets. I hope people will buy them. I wish I could carry everything a woman should have in her trousseau. Obviously I'm not going to carry lingerie, but what about heirloom quality linens and these gorgeous sachets?

It's time for me to take a shower and go to work. I wanted to finish this post before I leave so I can knuckle down and get lots done at work. So much to do! Then I'm really hoping to can some rhubarb jam today.

Oh yeah, and my friend Dominique is in the middle of having a baby right now. Right now. Ouch. Actually, her water broke last night so it's conceivable that she'll turn out to be one of those ultra lucky women who dilates, like, in two seconds, and then pushes that kid out with almost no effort and so has already had the baby. I will call her when I get to work. How exciting for her and her husband Stephen. So here's a shout to Dominique-if you haven't already got little Truitt out: keep it up, you can do it!

Note: Dominique had Truitt at around 7:50am. The whole labor was around 9 hours. Congratulations Dominique and Stephen!!

May 18, 2007

Vintage Handkerchief Sachets
(plus a medical mystery)

I took a break from apron making yesterday to work on a project I've had in mind for quite a while: vintage handkerchief sachets. This is a possible packaging style. I'm not sure about the nest yet, I'm also not entirely convinced that two sachets is better than three, if I did three in a bundle then they would have to be mismatched because I can only get two sachets out of each handkerchief. What do you think?

Dainty hanky detail.

My friend Chelsea forced me to look at a certain beautiful website yesterday that always plunges me into a deep depression because, frankly, all I can ask myself is "why bother doing anything when someone out there has already done everything worth doing, and has done it ten times better than I ever could?"

But then I realized something. No one but me has the extreme pleasure of being me. Even though I weigh 215 lbs, have a staggering inferiority complex, and have to constantly fight off rather overwhelming anxiety issues as well as some pretty unpleasant waves of serious depression; being me kicks ass.

So instead of wallowing in my irrational inferiority complex I decided to go do what I do best- I ate a lunch rich in cheese and had a glass of wine. With lunch. Reaching new levels of the lush life is what it's all about and no one can do that better than me.

Then I made these sweet sachets which I think are beautiful enough to give as a wedding or bridal shower gift. I know a few people out there who could have done them way more brilliantly. Who also could have shown them to you in a more styled tableau. I don't care half as much as I sound like I care.*

I'm happy with them. They make me happy. I don't care if anyone out there could have done the same thing with ten times the panache and magic. (See how mature I've become in the past few months?) Chelsea: thank you for forcing me to face my demons, to look superiority in the eye and then spit at it. (Besides old friend, I really enjoyed looking at the website together and knowing that I can make whatever comments I want to with as many swear words as I need to use to vent my feelings and you won't harp on me because you're too busy swearing your own obscenities. Makes it seem like you're right here with me.)

Meanwhile...I'm experiencing a random bitter taste on my tongue that has nothing to do with food as it happens when I'm not eating or drinking. It's the same sensation you get when you spray a cloud of Aquanet in the air and then open your mouth to talk before the poisonous particles have settled into your glorious nest of hair and you taste little pings of bitterness which indicates that you have just ingested something THAT COULD KILL YOU.

Am I going to die? I looked up bitter taste as a symptom on the internet. It appears that I have either 1) jaundice, 2) liver disease, 3) mercury poisoning, or 4) lead poisoning.

I'm going into a long demise, aren't I? Shit, my hair doesn't look good enough to go through this. The nice thing about lead poisoning is that since one of the symptoms is irritability, it won't affect my quality of life or relationships much because I'm already irritable about 75% of the time. The symptoms may also include "aggressive behavior". This one scares me just a little bit because what if it means I start doing things like pushing little old ladies over?

Or how about that mercury poisoning? Check this out:
1. Psychological Disturbances (erethysm)
Irritability, Nervousness, Fits of Anger, Memory Loss, Lack of Attention, Depression, Low Self Confidence, Anxiety, Drowsiness, Shyness/timidity, Decline of Intellect, Insomnia, Low Self Control.

They pretty much just described me. I mean, it's almost like they've known me my whole life and have issued the damning truth. I just read all the symptoms (the above is merely the psychological symptoms of mercury poisoning.) Seriously, other symptoms include (but are probably not limited to) allergies, muscle weakness, joint pain, irregular heartbeat, excessive saliva (have you ever seen me drool? Because Philip has and I think he'd agree that I've got excessive saliva. I can't believe he's still married to me.), and metallic taste in mouth.

I'd say it's decisive. I have mercury poisoning.

This is exciting, I'm researching symptoms while I write, so this post is very fresh. I am relieved to report that I probably don't have liver disease, even though it seems the most likely of the possible causes for the bitter taste in my mouth. First of all, jaundice is one of the major indications of liver disease, I never thought I'd be happy to say this- my skin is still distinctly pink in nature. Another huge indication is a loss of appetite and weight loss. Well, I've got my answer right there. There are a few symptoms that are so gross I'm not even going to tell you what they are, but if I did, you 'd be relieved to know that none of them apply to me.

The only other disease that reports a bitter taste in the mouth as a symptom is jaundice itself. But seeing as my skin is so pink and the whites of my eyes are blood-shot** rather than yellow, I think we can rule this one out.

So here's the question: am I going to die of mercury or lead poisoning?

It's true that I have a mouth full of old-school fillings. The kind I'm pretty sure they used mercury in. I've had these fillings in my mouth since I was a kid. Should I get tested? But where on earth would I get lead poisoning from? Yeah, I know, old paint is famous for being full of lead but I kind of thought you had to eat some it (as a child might do) to get the full benefit of poisoning.

Not that I want to change the subject or anything, because I do love a good talk about diseases, but I have a very pressing question to ask: can a 215 lb woman wear vintage-style clothes without looking like Divine? For those of you who've had access to the show "What Not To Wear" please wrack your brains for any tips on which cocktail dress styles to avoid if I have a pear shaped body with no waist at all? Please advise.

My publicist marketing genius, Angeleen, has strongly suggested that Dustpan Alley host some kind of retro themed cocktail party at the store where people are asked to dress up vintage style and come to drink martinis or other stylish beverages. Obviously I'll have to make something for myself. But what type of vintage style would work on a figure like mine? Should I do some fabulously garish mu mu Elizabeth Taylor style? Or do a mod-type a-line dress? Or I could do an empire type cocktail dress but only if I can put a "Not Pregnant" patch on it somewhere to tip people off that all my rolls come to me less honestly than from carrying a wee one. Oh, I could have a patch that says "Giving birth to beer, not baby".

*This is a questionable statement.

**I guess I can say good bye to my future as a super model.