Thursday, December 27, 2007

Dreams

Last night I had my first stress dream about the wedding itself.

It was the morning of the wedding. My bridemaids and I were getting ready in the hotel; the makeup artist was there, applying makeup. I was excited and happy.

Then, I realized with horror that I had forgotten to tell our photographer where to come to take getting-ready shots. In fact, I had completely forgotten to make any day-of arrangements with him at all.

And, of course, I had forgotten to bring his phone number with me.

So, I decided to find a computer in the hotel where I could look him up. It wasn't too difficult to find one, except that I had to go into the lobby of the hotel in my robe and with my makeup half done. I didn't think there would be any problem, since he has a very unique name, to find him via Google (in actual fact, I know his website's URL by heart, since it's his name, but hey, this was a stress dream). But for some reason, his own website would not appear in my Google searches. The best I could find was blogs of brides who had used him, and every one of them thought he was terrible. One of them in particular complained that "[The photographer] himself admitted he was not engaged by us and found our wedding boring and therefore it was difficult to take good pictures!"

Finally, I was able to find a phone number for him by misspelling his name.

In my real life, I have a mild phone phobia. Usually this means I don't like to call people, but it also sometimes manifests itself in a fear that I am misdialing. There have been times in my real life when I've aborted dialling an unfamiliar number a couple of times because I thought I had made a mistake in dialling. Anyway, in my dream, this was magnified a thousand fold, and I was totally unable to dial. I kept hitting the wrong numbers. The phone I was using had had all the numbers on the buttons worn off, and I could not remember which buttons were which. In fact, for a moment the phone I was using had too many buttons, all unlabeled, and I didn't know how to dial it. I was flipping out, and blaming myself for being so stupid as to have forgotten to call him before. I was crying and ruining my makeup, too, and my bridesmaid Laura, who was sometimes there and sometimes not, kept telling me to hurry up and get back to the room so that I could finish my makeup.

Finally, I managed to dial the number correctly. But instead of reaching him, I got a message, as if he had called me and left a voicemail, wondering where I was and where he was supposed to meet me. He was in New Jersey already (in my dream the wedding was taking place in New Jersey) and had been since the early morning, but didn't know where I was or where precisely the wedding was. I began to despair that I could not get in touch with him and even if I did, he would not be able to come back in time to take pictures of the getting ready, and since he didn't know exactly where the wedding was, he might miss the whole wedding, too. I was not going to have pictures of the wedding because I had been too disorganized to plan ahead. I had blown a significant amount of money on a photographer who was not going to show up. It was not really any comfort that the wedding would happen regardless; that I did not really need a photographer to get married. I had wanted good pictures, and there were to be none.

I woke up incredibly tense.

Less than two months to go, and what's left is the details. Like when the photographer should show up, and what I should remember to bring to the hotel, including all the important phone numbers. What music will the DJ play during the ceremony, and what flowers I want in the bouquets. When will I want to take portraits? Where will our parents be seated? How many lanterns do I want, and where should they be hung? Exactly how much will each vendor be owed and how many checks will I need to have ready?

If there is one thing I've learned about myself in all my years of working, it's this: I am not detail-oriented. This will be the hardest part of the planning, so I guess it only makes sense that I should be stressing out about what I am going to forget.

I think I'll shoot my photographer a quick email today....

Thursday, December 20, 2007

People are coming!!

Last week I sent out invitations, and this week, what do I get?

Responses!

So far, we have 22 people, including my sweetie and me.

I haven't posted a picture of my invitations because I can't get a decent photo of them. I have a cheap digital camera, and even the above picture is Photoshopped (scary, hunh?). Maybe when I get better at Photoshop I will try again with the invites themselves. I am inordinately proud of them, and people have made many gratifyingly complimentary comments on them. They were every penny, and every drop of sweat and all the aggravation. I love them.

I'm not a big fan of Love stamps, so I used a variety of different stamps for the response envelopes. I used 40 Blossom stamps, 22 Celebrate stamps, and 20 Marvel Superhero stamps.

So far, the Marvel Superhero folks are disproportionately prompt responders....

Sunday, December 09, 2007

The Chinese Style

My dressmaker ordered me to buy a push-up bra.

On Saturday, my friend Laura and I traveled to Chinatown to have the first fitting on my qipao. Thankfully, given the huge measurements the dressmaker took when I visited in July (over my clothes!), the roughed-up dress was enormous. I put it on, and the dressmaker started pinning.

She asked me what I thought of the collar, and I said it seemed a smidge tight. This is because I hate having things around my neck. She said that it was not very tight, and that this was "the Chinese style." That is, "Looser would look bad, stupid American."

We discussed how tight the dress should be, striking a balance between "the Chinese style" of skin-tight sexy, and my gauche American desire to be able to sit down.

We discussed the length of the sleeve and settled on something satisfactory. We discussed the height of the slit, and thankfully she agreed that with my parents present, I should perhaps not have the thing cut up to my crotch.

Then we got to the front of the dress, which is heavily darted to achieve that skin-tight look. The darts were not positioned exactly right, and so she began pinning and adjusting. Then she said, "You need to get a different bra."

"OK?"

"Yes. You need to be..." She made a gesture that indicated higher. Much higher.

"This is the Chinese style. UP"--here she made a boob-squishing gesture in front of her own chest-- "and then a nice body below."

Well, I'm not sure I can do anything about the nice body below, but if she wants my chest up, she'll get my chest up.

So today I ventured into Macy's, self-billed as having the largest bra selection in the country. I'll be honest: I've never shopped for a push-up bra before. I'm fairly well endowed, and have never felt the need for one. Some manufacturers don't even make push-ups in my size, because, really, do I need my boobs around my neck? But there was a bit of a thrill in having to buy one: I had been ordered to do it by the expert, and I wasn't going to let embarrassment at the ridiculousness of the task stop me.

Of course, once I settled on one (I chose it because it not only pushed the boobs up, it pushed them together, which I gathered from her illustrative gesture was what she wanted), I went for the matching panties, because why shouldn't my sweetie enjoy the full benefit of my wholly utilitarian purchase? And oh--how lucky that it comes in wedding red!


OK, I have to admit: I still felt a bit ridiculous buying it. I mean, don't get me wrong: it looks great on, and I think my seamstress will approve my new positioning. But I mean, come on. How could I not feel silly knowing the inside of the bra looks like this?

Yes. The pads are shaped...like lips.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Cleaning house

Last week I hired a real estate broker to sell my apartment, since I will be moving to Seattle. She was coming to meet me in the apartment on Tuesday morning, so Monday night I straightened up. I am messy, and I am always astonished by the ability of paper, in particular, to collect.

So, even though I was expecting it, I was a little embarrassed when she looked around the place, said some nice things, and then, very gently, told me I needed to clean up and get rid of the clutter. The apartment just wouldn't "show well" in its current state.

Now, I have some issues with clean. I won't bother to dig up my childhood and such, but suffice it to say I have always been messy. I deliberately buy bookcases as shallow as possible so that I won't pile stuff up in front of my books; then I go ahead and pile stuff up in front of my books. My apartment has deep, beautiful windowsills that I fell in love with when I first saw the place, and which I have since piled with random tchotchkes and bits of paper. My closets are stuffed full of old clothes and the detritus of old hobbies (woodworking, shoemaking) that I have left behind. My biggest weakness is paper, which piles up like crazy into huge snowdrifts on every flat surface in my home.

But, here was the broker telling me I won't sell the place unless I clean it up. So, I invited my friend Laura over. Laura is a clean freak, which is both an annoying and a useful trait. I decided to turn it to my advantage this weekend :-).

I started cleaning Thursday night. I cleared out the linen closet and the kitchen cabinets. You see, the broker tells me that the closets must not be stuffed, because otherwise it will make it seem like there is no room for everything. I refrained from pointing out that this is because there is no room for everything. So my usual method of cleaning--put everything in the closets--was not an option here. I threw stuff away. I got rid of old towels and old bowls and old Tupperware. I got rid of old wedding magazines (I'm not going to read them any more, even if I'm not yet married).

Friday, Laura came over. We cleared out crap under the bed and took a crack at the hall closet, the worst offender. We made the coat closet beautiful in its organization.

Saturday, the building handyman came and replaced my toilet. I cleared off the bookcases and the windowsills. I worked on the bathroom cabinets. I redistributed yarn in the many bins strategically positioned around my home. I hung pictures to get them off the floor. I cleared off the kitchen counter.

Sunday, Laura came over again. We cleared out my bedroom closet. We hauled stuff to Housing Works, a NYC charity. We threw stuff away. We shipped my summer clothes to my sweetie to get them out of my closet. After Laura left I finished up the dining room table, the worst place in the house.

Final total: 17 bags, 2 boxes, three pieces of framed art, and one electric fan to Housing Works. This involved two cab trips in the snow :-).
At least 15 bags thrown away.
Two large boxes shipped to my sweetie.

I still have a huge bag of stuff I want to put on eBay, and a couple things I want to stick in my sweetie's storage unit. I've also gone through my clothes again and pulled out more stuff for Housing Works.

I have to say, the place looks great. Maybe I won't leave after all.....

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Sweet as pie

My sweetie has been invited to a coworker's for Thanksgiving, since he will be in Seattle, far from home. He has gotten it into his head that he wants to make an apple pie with cheddar cheese crust to bring with him. Here is the list of items he bought to make this pie:

Apples
Cheddar cheese
Lemon
Cinnamon
Allspice
Flour
Sugar
Cornstarch
Crisco
Pie plate
Box grater
Cookie sheet

He did not buy a peeler: he's peeling the apples with a knife.

He also did not buy a rolling pin: he's using a bottle he has lying around.

He did not buy a food processor: I have coached him over the phone in the fine art of making a pie crust by hand.

He did not buy butter: it's the only ingredient he already had.

I am going to his family's for Thanksgiving, and I am making the same pie. Here is the list of items I have bought:

Apples
Cheddar cheese

The contrast makes me laugh. Now, I understand that part of the problem is that he is living a sparse existence without any of his stuff: his stuff is currently in storage and will be moved to Seattle with me. But believe me, I visited his apartment before he moved, and he would still probably have had to buy all these items except for the pie plate and possibly sugar. In the entire two years we've been together, I can remember him cooking only once.

Nevertheless, all attempts to suggest that he might try something slightly less complicated and which does not require quite so much equipment--such as a nice cobbler, or a simple cake--were roundly rejected. The suggestion that he perhaps use a pre-made crust was scoffed at. This is Something He Wants to Do. He is even making a test pie as I type, to work out the kinks before Thanksgiving.

I have only two things to say: 1) he's adorable; and 2) this is what happens when a man has no TV.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Tomatoes (Reprise)

So, you might remember my perennial tomato plant. I bought this plant in the spring of 2006 and have nursed it ever since. Sometime in April 2007, I got sick of having it block my door, so I moved it outside.

Who knew? Turned out the tomato plant loved being outside. It started producing tomatoes like nobody's business. I picked several batches off the thing, and it kept producing. I made tomato bruschetta. I ate tomatoes every morning with my English muffin. I never quite got enough at one time to make tomato sauce--the tomatoes it produces are pretty small, so I'd need a couple dozen at once to make any quantity of sauce--but I think it did pretty well. I always had four or five ripe; twice this summer I had over a dozen ripe at once (hence the bruschetta).

Now it is November, though. The plant it too unwieldy to move back inside, and frankly, there's no point. I am not moving that plant to Seattle with me. It's had a productive, long life. So I have decided to leave it out there to die. But it has been an unusually warm fall; the plant refuses to die. It sits out there, determinedly alive, demanding that I continue watering it.

This weekend, it is supposed to dip below freezing at last. I decided I'd better pick off the last tomatoes. I figure I can make something that calls for green tomatoes, and I don't want them to be spoiled by freezing. I put on my jacket, and went out on the balcony. I picked.


Seriously: 40 tomatoes. 40! Five are ripe, the others green. I think I will make this.

Subway musings

Now, I know I have said I will miss the subway. The truth is, I don't take the subway very much. I am one of those lucky New Yorkers who can walk to work. When I need to go any distance I take buses as often as subways. Nonetheless, after eleven years here, like any New Yorker, I am proud of our subway. Yes, it sometimes runs frustratingly late. Yes, it's often packed tight like a can of sardines. But: it runs 24 hours, 365 days a year. It costs a mere $2 to go anywhere in the city, even an hour and a half from Manhattan (though that may change to $2.25 soon). You really can live a very active full life without a car in New York City, and that's mostly because there's a very good subway. These are three things you cannot always say about the public transportation in most other cities I have visited, around the world. Have you been to London lately? $8 to ride the Tube, and that's only if you stick to Central London. Boston? Don't stay out too late, or you'll be calling a cab home.

Another thing about the subway, something many writers have waxed poetic about, is that everybody takes the subway. Wall Street investment bankers and janitors are often literally cheek-by-jowl on the subway. Once I took the subway out to Flushing, Queens, and was astonished that, by the time I got off, all seventeen people in the car, including myself, were Asian. Yet the neighborhood I got off in? Purely Latino. This is cool. This is unique to New York.

It gives you chance to see all kinds of humanity in action, as it were. About two or three times a week I take the subway under my office building. If you stay there for any amount of time (read: the train is slow in coming), you start to see people doing the lean: they lean over the edge of platform and peer down the tunnel to see if the train is coming. The more people collected on the platform, the more impatient and aggressive the leaning. Oh, you can lean into empty space aggressively, let me assure you. New Yorkers will show that train they mean business, damn it!

Periodically when I am waiting on the platform, doing the lean or not, a man will come walking down the platform, talking very loudly to no one. I do not know if he is homeless or mentally ill: I hope so, frankly, and it's not just that he enjoys making people uncomfortable. He will walk the length of the platform (I've never seen him get on a train), lecturing about the evils of women. He will quote passages of the Bible (usually Isaiah) which sound bogus to me. (I'm not a Bible expert, but spend enough time in grad school in English and you become pretty familiar with the misogynist quotes from it, at least.) He will shout at the top of his lungs about how women are evil, and men would be generally much better off if women didn't exist.

Shouting homeless people are not a rare occurrance in NYC, but this last time I saw him, my attention was caught by the reactions of people on the platform.

Despite my years in grad school, I'm not someone who spends a great deal of time bemoaning how much harder life is for women than for men. Different things are hard for different people, and everyone's just trying to be happy. But it is true that I've yet to see a homeless woman pacing a platform and screaming about how men should be wiped from the earth. I'm not saying they don't feel this way, they just don't act it out in the same way.

Anyway, so I stood there, watching the poeple on the platform. Like true New Yorkers, no one spoke to him. No one engaged him. People, for the most part, ignored him. They studiously waited for the train to come.

The men: kept talking to each other. Glanced at him and chuckled. Didn't seem to notice him at all. Went on reading their newspapers. Kept doing the lean.

The women: kept talking to each other. Didn't glance at him. Didn't chuckle. Pretended not to notice him. Went on reading their newspapers. And every one of them, every one...slowly, casually....stepped away from the edge.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Calm...for now

Last night, Shirley and Laura (my two charming bridesmaids) and I went to Battery Gardens for my tasting. We tried a multitude of items in order to decide what we should serve at the wedding.

We were served everything in a plated format, though my sweetie and I ultimately decided we want a buffet. Therefore, some of the items we tried, despite being delicious, are not available to us because they would not translate well into a buffet.

However, by far our favorite thing of the night, the braised short ribs, is buffetable, and I jumped all over it. It has a lovely Asian-sweet flavor, and reminds me very strongly of something my mom makes.

We didn't taste it last night, but Battery Gardens also offers the option of a Peking duck carving station. I love Peking duck; one of the reasons I wanted to choose this venue was that option.

Here's our menu for the evening:

Starters (don't get attached: not of these are buffetable):
Classic Risotto with Wild Mushrooms and Asparagus
Pan Seared Scallops, Avocado Pear Salsa & Champagne Grape Reduction
Pekytoe Crab Cakes, Red Cabbage Slaw, Chipotle Sauce

Salads (I loved both these salads, and happily, we can serve both):
Mizuna Greens with Sun-Dried Tomatoes, Pignoli Nuts and Coffee Vinaigrette
Baby Mixed Greens with Dried Cherries, Walnuts and Guava Vinaigrette

Pastas:
Penne Pasta with Wild Mushrooms, Sliced Cherry Tomatoes, Baby Arugula, Pesto Sauce
Orecchiette Pasta with Artichokes, Tomatoes, Garlic and Olives

Main Courses:
Boneless Braised Beef Short Ribs, Basmati Rice, Bok Choy and Scallions
Hazelnut Crusted Filet Mignon, Potato Gratin, Haricots Verts, Baby Carrots, Red Wine Sauce
Pan Seared Chilean Sea Bass, Miso Glaze, Jasmine Rice, Haricots Verts, Shiitake Mushrooms

Desserts (again, don't get attached: we are planning to have cannolis and cream puffs instead of wedding cake, and therefore elected not to have additional desserts)
New York Cheesecake with Blueberry Compote and Fruit Coulis
Tiramisu with Chocolate Biscotti (in a chocolate tulip)
Chocolate Ganache Cake

Petit Fours and Coffee

Needless to say, we were stuffed.

I have to say, the evening went very, very well. Our catering manager, Alex, was extremely helpful and accommodating. He answered all my questions, he took copious notes about my preferences; he has obviously done this a million times and seen everything. I have lately been freaking out a little bit, not sure how I will be able to get everything done, not sure how I will be able to focus on every detail. Meeting with Alex reassured me that there are some details I can let go. Regardless of what else I manage to do, we will have good food, a lovely space, and a well-organized event. What more is really necessary?

Friday, November 02, 2007

Nostalgia

I have a nostalgia for New York City. No, I haven't left yet, and I have had this nostalgia for some years already. It's a nostalgia for old New York. Early 20th century New York. The New York of immigrants, tenements, the Empire State Building, The Godfather Part 2. Jews and Italians and Irishmen. The first year or so I lived here, my roommate brought home a Vanity Fair article about Claudette Colbert. In it, Colbert was quoted as always crediting her famous legs to the five flights of stairs she had to climb each day in the tenement her family lived in when they came from France in 1918. The address of the building was the same as ours; we lived on the fifth floor. Our apartment had clearly never been renovated with anything more than a coat (or two, or twenty) of paint in its long decades of existence. Knowing Claudette Colbert might once have lived there made the dingy space just a little bit more romantic.

I think in some ways New York is so deeply ingrained in the American consciousness as the quintessential place where everything came from, even though so many of us didn't, that I think I would feel this even if I had never lived here. But having lived here, books like A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (which I reread a couple years ago for the first time since I was a kid) and The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay just have a special resonance. I hope I never lose that.

Modern New York, though, can be maddening. There’s too much daily in-your-face interaction to really inspire nostalgia. There will be things I miss, of course—my favorite restaurants, the odd little shops, the subway (yes, I will miss the subway and its ability to create a carless life)—but for the most part I don’t expect to feel the particular romance of nostalgia for the place. I am ready to leave.

This wedding planning, however, has brought me face-to-face with some of Old New York. Even as wedding planning seems so dependent on the Internet (I cannot imagine how I might have done it without access to all of the info on the web—I found my venue, my invitations, my shoes, my jewelry, my photographer, my florist, my DJ, all on the web. I even found my fiance on the web!), at the same time it taps into old ways of doing things that we never bother with unless we are planning a wedding. The most obvious of these is fretting over “etiquette,” but in New York at least, there are lovelier examples, such as the window into the world of the jewelry makers on Diamond Row that I’ve already blogged about. Sitting in their workshops, I felt I was watching jewelers working as they have worked for generations, whether fresh off the boat from Europe or off the train from Long Island.

Last night, I had an appointment with a seamstress. I bought my dress many months ago in a frenzy at the Filene’s sale (very modern New York!), but now I need to have it altered. I don’t think a great deal needs to be done, but it does need to be shortened, and the hips need to be taken in. I found the seamstress via a referral from my friend Phoebe (oddly enough, the roommate who brought home that Vanity Fair article years ago), who got maried in April. The seamstress’s name is Kiki, and she has a studio on the Upper East Side.

The Upper East Side is the Old New York, not of immigrants and tenements, but of Astors and Vanderbilts. The seamstress’s studio is less than a block from Central Park. The building is an elegant old five-story building with the kind of elevator with the grille you draw closed before pressing the button. You can watch the floors go by, if that sort of thing doesn’t terrify you. When you get to the top, you cannot open the door until Kiki comes, because it opens right into her studio.

Kiki herself was not at all what I expected. She’s an older woman, perhaps in her fifties, with an unidentified European accent. She was dressed in an elegant black pantsuit, with a colorful but tasteful silk scarf draped around her neck and little gold-rimmed spectacles. She showed me into her office, a neat space with a couple computers and a handful of wedding dresses hanging on a rack, and gave me a few bridal magazies to look at while she wrapped up with the client still in the other room.

In a few minutes, I was shown into the other room, a large, well-lit space with a hardwood floor, a couch, a coffee table, and dais in the middle of the room, facing a mirrored wall. Around the dais was a white sheet, presumably to keep your dress’s train clean. Nowhere in either of these two rooms did I see a sewing machine, or any other implements of her craft. Everything was clean and spare, and very peaceful. It was dead silent: no music, no traffic noise, nothing. Yet it was also quintessentially New York—a personalized business on the fifth floor of what appeared to be a residential building. So many businesses I’ve visited in this process have not had storefronts or signs or advertising. You find it because you are looking for it and have been told it’s there. It is the ultimate in nonsuburban living.

I put on the dress, my lovely red shoes (which Kiki exclaimed over with gratifying enthusiasm) and ascended the dais. Kiki began pinning while I admired myself in the mirror. It felt very old-fashioned, in this off-the-rack world, to have someone working to hand-sew an expensive dress to fit me and me alone. I’ve had things altered before, of course—pants shortened at the dry cleaner, that sort of thing. But this was an entirely different experience. It was luxurious. It was extravagant. In that quiet, peaceful space I could imagine myself as an Edith Wharton heroine having a dress made for the ball of her life.

I’ve been feeling a bit impatient with the wedding planning recently: I miss my sweetie and want to get on with it, already. But things like this remind me that this is my wedding, and it’s not just a giant money-suck and stress-inducer. It’s also the chance of a lifetime to do things that I have never done, and see a world I’ve never seen. Could I live in a world of couture gowns, expensive jewelry and extravagant parties every day? I doubt it. But this one time, I’m going to revel in it, and soak up as much of Old New York as I can while I am at it.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Save me from myself

So, I know I have already bought a pair of red shoes. I know I am trying to save money, and shoes are frivolous. But, I have a confession: I love shoes. I know, this is hardly a shocking revelation: women are supposed to love shoes. But for many years I hated shoes. I have wide feet, and fancy shoes hurt.

But in recent years, I've noticed that shoes are getting wider. Many companies now make wide shoes, and in some brands the mediums fits me fine, especially if it's a round toe shoe. My shoe craving has been given free rein pretty much since I've lived in New York, and I've enjoyed it mightily. OK, maybe not free rein, since after all, I will never spend hundreds of dollars on a single pair of shoes. Plus, really expensive shoes still hurt.

So, there I was, looking at my already-purchased red shoes. They are fine. They fit all my requirements. The only problem? They aren't pretty. They're serviceable. Don't get me wrong: I have many pairs of serviceable shoes, but on my wedding day, I want something pretty.

Fortunately, most pretty shoes, even (or especially) red ones, have heels of 3" or more. I am not so crazy as to risk a twisted ankle or damaged knees for beauty. Plus, my sweetie is taller than me, but not that much taller, you know? :-)

You want me to shut up and show you what I've done, don't you?

OK:


Image from zappos.com

These are A. Marinelli "Pisa" shoes. $89.95 on Zappos, the most evil website on Earth, if you are a shoe fetishist like me. Free shipping and free returns: a lethal combo.

Still, I am happy with these. They're the right red, they're not too high, they're pretty and pointy. They will hurt my feet a little, but not too badly. They'll be great for my elegant white wedding dress.

As for the qipao, where my shoes will be seen? Where I might want something sexy as well as pretty? Stay tuned: I am not done. Somebody save me.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

What is this car you speak of?

I visited my sweetie in Seattle this weekend. Boy, I missed him!! I flew in Saturday morning--got up at 3:15 NYC time for a 6:00 am flight, landed at 10:20 Seattle time, and my sweetie took me immediately to the car dealership.

You see, we've been discussing the purchase of a car for some time. My sweetie takes the bus to work, but in order to take advantage of all Seattle has to offer (like mountains!), you need a car. Living in NYC, neither of us had a car. In fact, though both of us had owned hand-me-down cars before coming to NYC, neither of us had ever bought one before. Yes, we are 37 and 43, why do you ask?

So there we were Saturday, together for the first time in six weeks, sitting in the car dealership. And let me tell you, for our first experience, it was everything you've ever been warned to look out for when buying a car. It was very...educational.

1) We had looked at several cars, and even test-driven one, over the course of a good hour at the dealership, and had yet to hear the price of a single car.

2) We were asked what we were prepared to put down before we were told the price of any car.

3) When we refused to tell until we knew how much the car was, we were given the "best price." Then we were asked what we were willing to put down and what we wanted our monthly payment to be before we were told anything about financing.

4) The moment at which they lost me: they wrote down our suggested down payment and our preferred monthly payment range on a piece of paper and asked us to sign it. To agree, you see, that if we were given that monthly we would buy the car.

5) When we flatly refused to sign this without knowing what the rate was or the term, the salesguy left to "work some numbers", leaving his colleague to chitchat with us and also ensure that my sweetie and I did not get to talk privately. We circumvented this by going outside to "look at the car again." Once there, we quickly agreed to get out of there as quickly as possible.

6) It took us another hour to extricate ourselves. We were asked repeatedly what they "had to do" to make it work for us. I spewed some garbage about being tired from the plane, about being nervous about buying a car after so many carless years, etc. I played the helpless indecisive woman to the hilt.

7) At one point the salesguy asked, "What if I sold you the car for $10,000?" and I scoffed, "You're not going to sell us the car for $10,000." This was apparently my sweetie's favorite moment. I guess I wasn't completely convincing as the helpless indecisive woman :-).

8) They even pulled out, "I'll give you a deal; we've only sold one car today." Which, OK, I feel sad for you, but that's a lot of money to spend to make someone I don't know feel better, you know?

We finally fled, and went to another dealer, where we were treated with respect, where the prices were posted on the cars, where there was much more selection and we felt much more comfortable. We bought a car. We call it "Car-y" :-).

It's a used Subaru Outback, with a mere 13,000 miles on it, and still plenty of time left on the factory warranty. It was a far better deal than anything we saw at the first dealership, and we felt so much better for having walked out.

We were also happy at how well we worked together on this one. Despite the fact that we had to communicate hastily and in secret, we were totally on the same page and presenting a united front on our first major purchase as a couple. Even though we spent seven or eight hours in the two dealerships, me on three hours' sleep, we felt it was a very good day.

Of course, the next day we tooled around in our new car :-).



Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Overwhelmed

So, I've come back from Germany, where I had a great time. I was attending the giant book fair they have there every year, and it is by far my favorite part of my job. I love it. Which is actually kind of funny, because it involves talking to people all day long, and I am not usually a social person.

I love it, though, because it (and its counterpart, the London Book Fair), is the one time where my job consists of a finite task. There is only one thing to do (happily, something I'm actually good at), there is no way to avoid doing it, there is nothing else you should be doing instead or at the same time, and when you're done doing it....you're done. This is not how I would normally describe my job, which usually seems to be an infinite number of tasks which are never quite complete.

This fair was bittersweet, because it was the last fair for me. I've been going to the Frankfurt Book Fair since 1999, and I will miss it. But the move to Seattle means giving up my job, and while that's a good thing on many fronts, I will miss this part very much. Saying goodbye to the foreign publishers I've worked with over the years really drove home to me how much my life is about to change. It was the first time I was saying, "Goodbye; this is the last time I will see you" to anyone. And I was surprised and touched by how many people seemed sincere when they said they would miss me.

Home again, I am feeling sad. I've noticed lately, too, that I have a much shorter fuse than usual. The smallest things make me very, very upset. I have no store of patience or tolerance or calm. I'm instantly angry or distressed. Living in New York, it's not good to have no emotional buffer, because little irritations are a fact of life. I don't normally have the patience of a saint, but I think usually I am pretty good about letting things go. When problems arise, I curse at them, and then hunker down to fix them. Now, I panic, sure that everything is ruined. And yes, I do eventually get around to fixing the problems, but I don't like that panic, that anxious, helpless me.

I guess with this huge change coming, it's not surprising that I feel anxious, but I am a little surprised at how that anxiety manifests itself in every area of my life. I feel like I've turned into someone I don't recognize. I worry that this scared person is who I really am, and the person I thought I was was a mask I could wear because life was easy. Because life never changed, and therefore never challenged.

Four months to go until the wedding, and wedding planning is going to kick into high gear. I need my most calm organized self, and she's gone AWOL. Well, whatever happens, I already have the venue, the food, the officiant and the dress, so even if I fall totally apart, a reasonably nice wedding will take place. I just have to keep reminding myself of that :-).

Monday, October 01, 2007

MRI = i'M Really Insane

On Friday I had an MRI done of my shoulder (my messed-up-from-knitting shoulder). I've had an MRI before, and it is, I admit, a little creepy. I'm not particularly prone to claustrophobia, but that tube they put you in is incredibly tiny; as a New Yorker with a large personal space, I'm not used to having something that close in front of my nose. The idea that this is what a coffin feels like is kind of unavoidable.

Not to mention, the second they put you in there and tell you to lie very, very still, you are seized with a desperate need to scratch your ear.

The MRI machine is very loud--they put sound deadening headphones on you but it's still an all-encompassing sound, a loud buzzy motor sound that comes in rapid spurts: spurt-spurt-spurt-spurt-spurt-spurt-spurt-spurt-spurt-spurt whirrr spurt-spurt-spurt-spurt-spurt-spurt-spurt-spurt-spurt.

After the first few seconds, when you're wondering if you forgot some piece of metal on or in your body which is now going to be agonizingly ripped out of you, the itch in your ear starts to build. You know you aren't supposed to move, and you're afraid if you do try to scratch, you'll find that you can't get your arm up enough to even reach your ear because of the tight tube. And if that happens, you will freak, and so you must ignore. The. Itch.

What do you do? You've got 25 minutes to lie there, itching. You have nothing to read, and if you breathe too heavily, you might feel your breath bouncing back on you.

Well, if you're me, you start to hear voices.

Spurt-spurt-spurt-spurt-spurt-spurt-spurt-spurt started to sound oddly like Beth-Beth-Beth-Beth-Beth-Beth-Beth. Then there was a whirr, and the noise sounded like Don-Don-Don-Don-Don-Don-Don. Then back to Beth. Then Don. (Fortunately neither of these is my name) Then I noticed that *I* could make it change back and forth between Beth and Don.

Then I realized I could make it sound like almost anything:

* Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear
* If you want to
* Yokohama
* Yahoo Boris (this is a little joke between my sweetie and me: "Yahoo Boris" is what we call the song the Whos in Whoville sing; and our joke when we traveled in Japan was that everything in Japan could be sung to the Yahoo Boris tune. Try it with Yokohama :-)

I even tried three-syllable words like Marianne and Omigod. This was a little difficult to do (I guess my head likes even-numbered rhythms), and it made the spurts sound like they were coming faster.

Oddly enough, "I don't think so" didn't work. The spurt was too far from the sound of "think" to convincingly sound like it. Even if it was trying.

Please remember: the MRI was only for my shoulder. Head scans may come at a later date. After my sweetie is tied to me for life.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Jaywalking

So, I know I've been neglecting my blogging of late, but a lot has been going on. And, well, I was kind of serious when I complained about the loss of my knitting photographer! Not only did this impinge on my ability to take photos of my knitting, but my fierce urge to keep the phone line open so I could talk to him meant I was not getting on the Internet surface road as often as before.

However, one of the things that has been going on is that I have researched, agonized over, and bought a beautiful new MacBook Pro, which I am typing on right now. What does this mean for my blogging? Well, for one, I had to buy it hi-speed Internet, because it kept giving me these little forlorn messages like "iTunes cannot connect to the Internet!" It seemed so....baffled, I felt bad. And, you know, the MacBook Pro doesn't come with a dial-up modem.

The MacBook Pro does comes with a built-in camera. I'll be using this in future to photograph my knitting. The Pro is a very expensive little camera, but at least it's versatile.

As for my other hobby, wedding planning, the MacBook Pro has revolutionized the invitation question. Remember how I was wondering how/where I'd get the equipment to design my own invite? Well, I have them now. I'll be designing my own invite. More to come on this front.

For now, with my spiffy new Internet connection, I'm proud to throw up these pictures:



These are Grumperina's famous Jaywalker socks, knit in Opal sock yarn ("Feeling") on size 2 dpns. They are the first socks I've knit for myself, and the first ones I've knit using a sock weight yarn (my previous socks have been knit in worsted weight). I love them.



You can see here that I did a pretty good job of matching the striping. Both socks were knit from one skein, so after I finished the first sock, I pulled quite a bit of yarn off the skein in order to get to the right starting point in the striping pattern to start a matching second sock. It's not perfect, but it's pretty darned close.

I knit most of the first sock on the plane to and from Seattle, and after seven hours of nonstop sock knitting, my shoulder finally gave out. I started physical therapy for a screwed-up shoulder yesterday. Have I stopped knitting? Ummm.....no one's told me to stop, so I haven't. I'm an addict, what can I say?

What else is happening? I've taken up Pilates, which I love. If you know me and my total indifference to exercise, you'll know how weird this is. I leave the Pilates class feeling energized, in that way peole have always claimed exercise did for them, and which I had never believed because I'd never experienced it. I believe now.

Anything else? Oh yeah: I'm off to Germany soon!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Bridesmaids

I have two bridesmaids who are my best friends in New York. Naturally, I want them to look good, and, like many brides, I don't want them to have to spend a fortune for the dubious privelege of being my bridesmaids. However, because both of my bridesmaids are 40, I wanted something a bit sophisticated, not prom dress-like. The combination of low price and high style proved a bit of a challenge.

I also have the interesting additional challenge that my two bridesmaids are exact opposites in terms of shape: one is petite with wide hips, narrow shoulders, and a small chest. The other is a plus size with broad shoulders, no hips, and a large chest. It seemed impossible that they could both look good in the same dress. But, as we shopped, we found to our surprise that it wasn't impossible. Here are a few of the ones we considered very good choices.

From David's Bridal, our first stop:



This dress was $155, but the fabric felt so cheap that even though they liked the style, we felt we could do better

From ariadress.com, in all silk:



This dress was $215, with a much nicer fabric (all silk shantung). I thought this was a bit expensive, especially since they charge an extra $40 for a size 16. This pisses me off: are they going to charge us $40 less for a size 4?

After these two, we went to RK Bridal, a bridal store in Manhattan with an almost warehouse store-like feel. You wander through, yank dresses off the racks, and try them on. This is the first place we went where my larger bridesmaid couldn't fit into any of the samples, yet the samples were all too big for my petite bridesmaid. This makes for a difficult visualization exercise. Nevertheless, we really liked this one, a Bill Levkoff, and we thought for sure we would end up ordering it:



RK's "No Frills" price on this is $144, which is great, though there's still that $30 surcharge for the larger size (grr). The fabric is polyester, but it didn't feel too too cheap, so I think it's a good compromise. We liked the structured fit of the bodice, thought it looked quite adult, and it gave both my bridesmaids a nice shape. It's also a two-piece, which gives it a certain versatility in fit and also in possible rewearability. My only concern was that the diagonal seams on the bodice would make it difficult (and expensive) to alter.

With this dress in mind, we visited one final store, Here Comes the Bridesmaid, where we tried on a number of things (including an Alvina Valenta which looked really great on my petite bridesmaid--but the sample, a size 10, barely fit her, who is normally a size 4, so there was no way to get it on the other bridesmaid. What is with the sizing on these things??), but ended up really liking another Bill Levkoff:



This dress costs $160 (+$30 surcharge), but we really liked it. I have to admit, when I found this picture online after the fact, I was really surprised: I would never have thought this style, from the photo, woud look good on either of my maids. But it did. We all like the more evening-dress style. It's pretty without looking like a prom dress, and it will be easier to alter than the dress above. We have a winner!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Seattle slew

Last week I visited my sweetie in Seattle. The weather was gorgeous! Sunny, 75 degrees, no humidity pretty much the entire time I was there. It was as if the city were trying to convince me this is a good idea :-).

I did a bit of shopping in the Home of Nordstrom. Here is my wedding related haul.

Shoes! I had some pretty specific requirements for my wedding shoes:

1) I wanted red satin, and not just any red satin: I wanted a red satin that matched the fabric of my qi pao.

2) I wanted a medium heel, 2"-2.5", because anything higher kills my knees.

3) I wanted an ankle strap, because I can twist my ankle in a pair of flats. No mules, which never stay under my heel, and no slingbacks, which range from merely uncomfortable to worse than a mule for staying put.

4) I wanted it to fit my wide foot.

I'd been looking for these magic shoes for a while. Most shoes never made it past steps 1 or 2, and if they did, they never made it past step 4. I had started thinking of maybe buying white shoes and dying them red (more expense). Then, I wandered into Nordstrom.

These fit the bill. They are BP, which I believe is a Nordstrom house brand, and best yet, they were a mere $40! My only complaint is that they're a bit plain; I might embellish them with some rhinestones or ribbon or some such. But that is cheap & easy. The base, the red satin shoes that don't kill my feet, is done. I'm ready for the dance floor!

My other wedding related purchase:


Seattle postcards. I'm planning to use these for table numbers. Of course, after I was home, I was talking it over with my sweetie, and he suggested we also use postcards for our place cards. I'll have to play with it a little to see how it works (the postcards are rather big for that purpose), but I like the idea a lot. Who says guys can't think creatively about weddings?

Monday, August 27, 2007

Connection to the past

A few years ago, I went through a phase where I was buying all kinds of vintage sewing patterns online. I haunted eBay, obsessively looking at anything close to my size (vintage ladies were small!). I collected quite a collection of patterns, ranging from 1920s flapper dresses to 1960s mod. I even have a pattern from the 1910s which I will probably never be brave enough to unfold.

I developed a particular love for the 1930s. The long, willowy models in the drawings, with their drapey, close-fitting, bias-cut dresses appealed to me hugely. Here are some 30s patterns from my collection:

Excuse the crappy photo!

Someday, I’ll show you my 40s and 50s patterns.

Now, the major difference I’ve noticed between these old patterns and modern patterns is that the old patterns are often just cut sheets of tissue paper, with some notches and holes punched in them, but nothing else: nothing printed on the pieces to indicate which piece is which, no instructions. Somewhere on the envelope there will usually be a diagram showing you the shapes of the pieces, so that you can at least sort them out yourself, but there are no layout diagrams. Most patterns will also at least indicate how much fabric they require, but that’s about it. For the 1930s sewer, used to making clothes for herself, no further instruction was necessary.

This modern sewer, however, was intimidated, and so I have never actually made anything from these patterns. I did once make a sample out of one of the patterns, but I never made it up in a fashion fabric, to wear.

So, when I became seized with the insane idea of making myself a coat for the wedding, I decided to make it difficult for myself, and tackle one of these patterns at last. I settled on this:


(Front of envelope on left, back on right)

I love the diamond shapes in the waist, I love the deep, luxurious collar. I love the fancy sleeve. It epitomizes everything I love about the 30s patterns: the long line, the details in the construction, the body-conscious fit. I've always had a thing for extravagant coats, and I could see this in a gorgeous head-to-toe cashmere/wool.

I decided I would make a muslin first. A muslin is a sample made in cheap fabric to work out the kinks before cutting the expensive fashion fabric. Since this coat uses 5 yards and the fabric I want costs $35 a yard, I thought I’d better know what I am doing before I put scissors to it!

This pattern is a “Pictorial” brand pattern. Pictorial is a company which doesn’t exist any more, but when I opened the pattern, I discovered to my delight what made it pictorial:


Instructions! With diagrams! And pictures! And all the pieces are printed with instructions and labeled as to what piece they are. It is almost as clear as a modern pattern.

The first step, with such fragile tissue pieces, was to trace the pieces onto sturdier pattern tracing paper:


Then I cut out the pieces from the muslin, and put it together. Here is the muslin:



I love the collar. The pattern is a bit big for me, but I think it will actually look lovely lapped a little further over and double-breasted. I like the hang of it (it looks very straight here, but has a nice A-line shape on me). I'll have to lengthen it to get the luxurious sweep I want, but otherwise I am very happy with it. With one exception.

You might notice from the above picture, that the muslin lacks the fancy sleeve of the pattern picture. Please, observe:


The sleeve on the far left is the fancy sleeve as dictated by the pattern. It's a cool construction, but I hated it on. It looks lovely in the picture, on that willowy model, but on my short body and my stubby arms it looked stupid. The two sleeves in the middle and the pile of pattern pieces on the right represent my attempts to draft a new sleeve. Note there are also two attempts on the muslin, making a total of five sleeves I’ve made, and I still am not happy with them.

At some point last week, as I began sleeve iteration #6, my sewing machine quit on me. It needed a break, and so did I. I’ve cleaned the machine, and it’s ready to go again. Having regrouped, I sat down to write this entry, and I downloaded this picture from my camera, taken early in the process:


What is this? This is two pattern pieces in the envelope which did not belong. Note, they are a much more typical 30s style: just a shape, with notches, but no printed markings. Nothing to indicate where they came from, or how they go together. I took a picture of them because I was fascinated by the idea that a woman way back in the 30s made an alteration to this pattern by using pieces from another pattern. She didn’t like the pattern as written, and so she went to another pattern, and poached a piece she liked, probably used it, then stuck it in this envelope to remember it. I loved this evidence that the pattern had been used, and this connection to someone seventy years in the past, making this coat just as I am.

Now, however, I am laughing. This woman in the 30s?

Also hated the sleeve.

Friday, August 24, 2007

In which I sublimate

I miss my sweetie. What's the answer? Crafts!

Alas, with my usual photographer off hiking and kayaking in Seattle, I lack pictures. But in the few weeks he has been gone, I have finished Norah Gaughan's Basalt Tank:


This is the project that convinced me to buy this book (Knitting Nature). It is totally cool, and a very quick knit (especially when you have nothing else to do but pine). I made some adaptations, so my version does not look exactly like this picture, but it still looks cool. I promise, I'll get someone to snap me at some point :-).

I've realized that this is the third Norah Gaughan design I have knit. I am so Norah Gaughan's b*tch.

Upon finishing it, I immediately cast on for the Cobblestone Pullover, from the current Interweave Knits:


Yes, I am knitting my sweetie a sweater. I feel very domestic working on it, all busy and Penelope-like (except I'm not unraveling it every night and beating off other suitors. Though I always thought Penelope was stupid: while she was weaving away, Odysseus was living it up with Calypso. Yeah, I know he was a "captive", but Odysseus is the trickster. He escaped everyone else, didn't he? Sheesh. My sweetie gets seven months, and if he doesn't come back, I'm taking my knitting elsewhere!). And of course, since we are engaged, the Sweater Curse supposedly does not apply. The Sweater Curse is knitting lore that holds that, if you knit your man a sweater but are not already engaged or married to him, you will break up immediately after you finish the sweater. So, you will have put all that money, time, energy, love, etc. into it, and it will walk away, never to be seen again. I've never been entirely clear if the loss of the man or the loss of the sweater was supposed to be more tragic :-).

I am about a foot into it (yes, that's a week's worth of knitting: why? I have nothing else to do), so of course I am bored and want to start something else. So, this morning (yes, this morning. Before going to work) I cast on this:


The Drop-Stitch Lace Top from Stefanie Japel's Fitted Knits. I recently ordered this and Annie Modesitt's Romantic Hand Knits from Amazon. I like both books very much, but this project seems tailor-made for a bit of purple/blue silk I have lying around.

Oh, and in the meantime? I have decided to make myself a coat for the wedding. A full-length, white winter coat, for the five or ten mintues I might be outside. No, I will not knit it (I'm not that crazy), I will sew it. So in between all the knitting, I have begun work on a muslin for the coat. I am using a vintage pattern from the 30's, and the sleeves are "giving me agita," as my sweetie would say.

I think that warrants a whole 'nother post.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Rings

So, my sweetie left for Seattle a week and a half ago. I miss him very much, but at least I am no longer angry with him for leaving :-).

Prior to his departure, we bought wedding rings. It’s early yet, but it’s something we wanted to do together, so, like the engagement photos, it had to be squeezed in.

We went back to the jeweler on Diamond Row that my sweetie bought my engagement ring from. I thought, going in, that I wanted something that would match my engagement ring exactly: it has a rather ornate decoration on the sides of the ring, featuring tiny diamonds and milgraining. It’s beautiful, very vintage-looking. I wanted something like this to match:
(Picture from wedding-band-ring.com)

The jeweler did not have anything exactly matching in stock, so she sent a runner to go find something. He took my engagement ring with him, which, let me tell you, freaked me out. I have no idea where he went; my sweetie kind of suspects he visited every other store on the street to try to buy something. Who knows? The little window into the diamond business this whole experience has given me is completely fascinating.

Anyway, he came back with a “casting”—that is, a white gold ring setting with no diamonds in it. It was also a really dull gray color, since it hadn’t been polished. This is how the rings arrive from the manufacturer, and the diamond stores then set diamonds in them, polish them, etc. It was totally cool, and really ugly :-). It was very similar to my engagement ring, but it was very hard for me to get a good idea of what the two rings would look like on—the casting was kind of chunky, and it was hard to tell if this was because the ring was fat, or because, without any diamonds set in it, the little prongs for them stuck out too much. And the dull gray color just wasn’t appealing. I guess I can’t visualize that well.

So, the jeweler offered a few other options. In the end, we picked a band with a row of tiny diamonds on top, and instead of diamonds in the side, it has some decorative scrollwork. More like this*:



(Picture from diamonds.com)


It’s not a perfect match, but it’s a slim little band, and looks nice snuggled up against my engagement ring, without distracting from it. I think they will be comfortable to wear together.

My sweetie picked a very plain yellow gold band. He is not a jewelry guy, and had literally no idea what he wanted the band to look like. When the jeweler showed him a few things, he very quickly narrowed it down to just about the plainest thing you could pick: 5 mm, comfort fit rounded yellow gold band. It was very him: he is not an adornment type:

(Picture from weddingbands.com)

Later, he confessed that part of why he liked the yellow gold is that it reminds him of his dad’s wedding band. Aww!

As I was trying on rings, I saw, to my acute embarrassment, that my engagement ring, after six months of wearing it, had become dirty to the point of looking gray next to the shiny new rings. So the jeweler sent me upstairs to have the ring cleaned and redipped in rhodium. This is the second time I’ve sat in a little room where jewelers were working away behind locked doors (the first was when I needed to get my engagement ring sized), and it was still totally cool to me. I love knowing that there are still thriving craft industries in Manhattan: we’re not all office and restaurant workers. Even better, the jeweler told me to come back the week before the wedding so that she could have it cleaned again to look beautiful in the pcitures!

* (I do not have pics of our actual rings because, to save the sales tax, they’ve been shipped to my sweetie in Seattle.)

Monday, August 13, 2007

Nana's Shawl

A friend asked me to write up a pattern for Nana's Shawl, which I adapted from two K nitty patterns and the traditional stitch pattern, Feather and Fan. Since I love this shawl, I thought I'd post the pattern here. My very first "published" pattern!

NANA’S SHAWL
Adapted from Tie One On and Hip in Hemp.

Yarn: Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Worsted, color Iris Garden, 3 skeins.
Gauge: 25 stitches = 4” in pattern
Needles: size 7 long (52”) circular needle, knit back-and forth; size 6 straight or circular needles.

Approximate finished measurements: 37” wide at the top, 45” wide at the bottom, not including ties. 15” deep. Ties are 8.5” x 4”.

Modified Feather and Fan stitch pattern:

Row 1: Knit
Row 2: Purl
Row 3: Pattern row A or B, as indicated
Row 4: Knit

Pattern row A is the increase row, B is the static row. N is variable. You work the Modified Feather and Fan stitch pattern once with row A, then four times with row B, then begin again with A, changing the value of N as indicated in the instructions.

Pattern row A: *[k1, yo] 3 times, kN, [k2tog] 4 times, kN, [yo, k1] twice, yo; repeat from * to end. Note that the last stitch of the row cannot be a yo, so instead kf/b in the last stitch.

Pattern row B: *[ k1, yo] 3 times, kN, [k2tog] 6 times, kN, [yo, k1] twice, yo; repeat from * to end. Note that the last stitch of the row cannot be a yo, so instead kf/b in the last stitch.

Instructions:
With larger needles, cast on 170 stitches; place marker every 17 stitches.

Setup rows:
Row 1: Knit
Row 2: Knit

Row 3: Begin Modified Feather and Fan stitch pattern

Row 5: Pattern row A; N = 2. 19 sts between markers
Rows 9, 13, 17, 21: Pattern row B; N = 1

Row 25: Pattern row A; N = 3. 21 sts between markers
Rows 29, 33, 37, 41: Pattern row B; N = 2

Row 45: Pattern row A; N = 4. 23 sts between markers
Rows 49, 53, 57, 61: Pattern row B; N = 3

Row 65: Pattern row A; N = 5. 25 sts between markers
Rows 69, 73, 77, 81: Pattern row B; N = 4

Row 85: Pattern row A; N = 6. 27 sts between markers
Rows 89, 93, 97, 101: Pattern row B; N = 5

Row 105: Pattern row A; N = 7. 29 sts between markers
Rows 109, 113, 117, 121: Pattern row B; N = 6

(Don’t forget to knit row 122, the final row of the Modified Feather and Fan pattern)

Row 123: Knit
Row 124: Knit

Bind off loosely knitwise.

For the ties:

Pick up and knit 42 stitches along one end. Pick up one or two stitches into the top and bottom edges, so that the ties flow organically from the main body of the shawl.

Next row (WS): Purl
Next row (RS): [k1, k2tog] 14 times. 28 sts remain
Next row (WS): switch to smaller needles, work in 1 x 1 rib, slipping the first stitch of every row.

Work until the tie measures 8.5”. Bind off in pattern.

Repeat for the second tie.

Block gently to open up yarnovers.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

A dress for Wei Zhen

Last week, my parents were visiting. On Friday, my mom and I took a trip down to Chinatown to order a qipao. I have no idea what the difference between a qipao and a cheongsam is; I assume it is Mandarin vs. Cantonese. Here's a picture of one:


The Chinese bride apparently changes outfits during her wedding many, many times. The Chinese-American bride most commonly changes only once, at some point during the reception, from her white dress into a red qipao.

I, however, love my white wedding dress, bought in a frenzy at Filene's, so I couldn't decide whether to change. I had some mixed feelings about making the wedding too Chinese--my sweetie is not Chinese, and I am not exactly deeply connected to my Chinese heritage. For a while it really seemed like my Caucasian friends were way more eager for me to do it than I was, which made me even more reluctant: I am not particularly interested in turning my wedding into a miniature "It's a Small World" ride for my white friends and in-laws.

In the end, I left it up to my mother, because if my wedding is going to be at all Chinese, it will be for my parents' benefit. After some waffling, she decided she wanted it. So, off to Chinatown we went.

"Of course" we are having one made for me (you can buy them ready-made, but my mother didn't seem to even consider this). This necessitated much measuring, because the qipao is skin-tight. The dressmaker measured around my arm at three different points. She measured the distance from my collarbone to my nipple. She measured the exact position of the slits up the sides. She wrote them all down on a little chart and drew a rough picture of the finished dress:
If you can read Chinese, you can see what egregious measurements the dressmaker has written down for my bust and wasit. I can only say two things: 1) she measured me over my clothes! and 2) I will lose some weight before the first fitting in December.

The scraps are swatches of the fabrics we chose. The red is a gorgeous brocade with a pattern of phoenixes and dragons (a very traditional wedding combo: the phoenix represents the Empress and the dragon the Emperor). The shop had dozens of red fabrics (I ignored the myriad of other colors because red is the Chinese wedding color) and we draped half a dozen over me before deciding on this one. The gold is the fabric she'll use for piping around the edges. I admit once I was playing with fabric, I was on board: I love the idea of having a dress made just for me, and when else will I get to wear opulent red silk from head to toe? I can't wait!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

A taste

So, on Monday my sweetie and I had a date with our photographer.


Our photography package includes an "engagement session." An engagement session is essentially a chance to get some photographs of you as a couple before the wedding, in a more casual atmosphere, with your regular clothes. It also gives you a chance to work with the photographer before the big day, get a feel for each other, get comfortable with the camera (I think this would require quite a few more sessions for me :-). In our case, we were also hoping it would give us a chance to get some nice outdoor pictures, since our wedding is in the dead of winter. We were planning to walk around the West Village, a very picturesque neighborhood, very Old New York.



Alas, that did not happen, because the weather simply would not cooperate. We had an appointment last week, but canceled because the forecast was for severe thunderstorms. Which never materialized, of course. We rescheduled for Monday, when it naturally rained all day. Since my sweetie is leaving for Seattle shortly, we couldn't reschedule indefinitely, so we decided to do it indoors. Happily, my coworker came up with the brilliant suggestion of Chelsea Markets. Our photographer had never shot there before, and he was really pleased with the lighting. And, as a 19th-century biscuit factory, it has a cool atmosphere, too.



We had a good time :-).

Friday, July 13, 2007

I now pronounce you...our officiant

So, the whole Seattle thing has distracted me from blogging, and a regular reader has chided me for not blogging about our search for an officiant.

Looking for an officiant was a somewhat intimidating proposition for me, so I put it off for quite a while, until I started to have little panicky thoughts like, “What if I put it off so long that we end up with no one to marry us???” I am sure all of the officiants I contacted after this panic attack would laugh if they knew about it: more than one commented on how early I was, at eight months out!

I guess looking for an officiant is not something a lot of couples need to do: more than a few acquaintances were puzzled when I mentioned it. If you attend a church or temple or mosque, I suppose you would simply have the pastor or rabbi or imam marry you. Or, if you are marrying interfaith, you would be specifically looking for a religious leader who would be willing to bend the rules. But my sweetie and I are atheists, and so we were looking for a nonreligious ceremony, which made things a bit more difficult.

Of course my first thought was a judge or justice of the peace, but I couldn’t find any leads to such a person. Having a friend get ordained on the internet is not an option in New York state (and, after we attended a wedding recently which was officiated by a friend of the groom, we decided it wasn’t a nice option anyway). So I searched for nonreligious officiants.

I was a little unnerved by how “nonreligious” seems to be used interchangeably in this context with “interfaith” or “nondenominational.” I do not consider these synonymous at all. As atheists, we did not want any god in our ceremony, even a generic one. We also agreed that we did not want a minister or rabbi who was simply willing to do a ceremony without god: it seems wrong, to us, that any religious leader would be willing, essentially, to be an atheist for pay.

This narrowed the field considerably to the following:

Ethical Humanists: I contacted a couple humanist ministers and also the New York Ethical Society.

A “civil celebrant”—the organization Celebrant USA ordains “civil celebrants” to perform nonreligious rituals such as marriages, baby namings and funerals. In New York State you still have to call yourself a minister in order to be legally licensed to perform weddings, but their platform is secular.

In the end, after all the angst, the search proved easier than I expected.

We met with two officiants—the first was very affordable, a member of the American Humanist Association. She was very sweet, and we had a nice long discussion in a cafĂ© about weddings, Humanism, and politics—she is an activist in numerous liberal causes. When we parted, she gave us several brochures to read about Humanism.

We had mixed feelings about her. On the one hand, she was very inexpensive ($250), but on the other she would provide only the very basic service. We would need to write the ceremony ourselves (she did give us some samples for inspiration), and unfortunately neither of us has a real idea of what we want to ceremony to look like—another problem with having no religious tradition to lean on. And, to be frank, we were a little put off by her very liberal politics (we are fairly liberal but not radically so), and I wasn’t sure I liked that Humanism feels very much like any other religion when she speaks of it. Though many of my beliefs align with Humanism, I’m wary of evangelists of any stripe.

The second person we met was a “civil celebrant.” She is on the opposite end of the cost scale, pretty expensive ($800). She arrived with her husband (who chauffeurs her) in tow, and the two of them were calm, organized, and funny. When we discussed our religious backgrounds, my sweetie asked for hers, and she said, “I believe in ritual.” She said she became a celebrant because she felt the important events in our lives should be marked and celebrated, even if you are not religious. Her service works like this: we fill out a detailed questionnaire, about our beliefs, how we met, any personal details we want included, etc.; she writes a ceremony based on this, personalized to us and our story; we edit as much as we like. Then, on the day of the wedding, she shows up early, makes sure we sign the marriage license, coordinates the ceremony with the DJ and the photographer, and, she promises, gives us cues throughout so that we do not need to remember a thing. She also said that, if we choose to write our own vows, she will be sure to bring backup vows, in case we never manage to get anything down on paper (“You would be surprised how often this happens.”). The day after the ceremony, she files the license with the city.

Can you tell we liked her? In particular I loved how careful she was to let us know that she would direct everything, that even if we showed up on the day in t-shirts, barely recognizing each other, and stressed out of our minds, she will make sure the ceremony is beautiful and meaningful. I think on the day I will be incredibly grateful to have someone calm and in charge. It will be totally worth $800 to me.

So it was easy after all, and I’m very happy to have it done, especially now that my sweetie is about to leave town—this was really a task we needed to do together, so my panic attack was perfectly timed :-).

Knitting catch-up

By the way, I’ve been knitting like a fiend:



Norah Gaughan’s lace hoodie pullover, from Vogue Knitting Spring/Summer 2005. Knit in Berroco Pleasure, color Emotion, 11 balls. Size 9 and 8 needles.

The shawl for my sweetie’s Nana, who is turning 90 in September.



I am ridiculously proud of this shawl, because I adapted two patterns and a stitch pattern (feather-and-fan) to create it. I put quite a bit of thought into the design: I decided to go with a tie-front shawl instead of a traditional triangle or rectangle because I thought Nana, who uses a cane, might find it easier to keep on. I chose a washable wool yarn because I didn’t think Nana would care to hand wash it. And I chose feather-and-fan because it’s a pretty lace pattern which still looks good even unblocked (most lace patterns need blocking to look like anything but a snarl of yarn), because I sure don’t expect Nana to block it every time it gets washed!


Knit in Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Worsted, color Iris Garden. I used about 2.5 skeins, on size 9 needles. Patterns were Tie One On (for the basic shape) and Hip in Hemp (for the increases within the stitch pattern) from Knitty.

And finally, Coachella:



Knit in Blue Sky Alpacas 100% cotton, color Flamingo, just under 3 skeins. I changed the hem to this wide ribbed hem, which I like much better than the original.

Both pullovers were true stash busters. Love 'em!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Throwback

Life has become rather interesting of late.

My sweetie has gotten a job across the country. Though he first applied for this job back in May, he did not go out there for an interview until a few weeks ago. So from the interview until now it all seems very fast. But, it's done: he's accepted the job, and he's moving across the country in less than four weeks.

The irony does not escape us: we decided on getting married in NY because I couldn't face planning the wedding long distance (my parents live in CA). Now, with seven months to go, my sweetie is moving, and the question arises: do I follow now, or later?

I still can't face the long-distance planning, plus it unnerves us both to think of me quitting my job and losing my paycheck seven months before we're about to blow a big chunk of money on a wedding. So we have decided I will stay here, and move after the wedding.

I'm sad: I will miss my sweetie.

I'm freaked: I've agreed (for he did ask me before interviewing for/accepting the job) to give up my job, my home, my friends, my life, and move across the country. For a guy. I'm giving up my life for a guy.

Before he got this job, we had planned to move in together right about now: his lease is coming up, and rather than renew, he was either going to move in with me, or we were going to rent a new place together. This seems to be the pretty standard path I've seen most of my friends follow: live together, either before or after engagement, become entwined in each other's lives, then get married.

Now, instead, my sweetie will give me a kiss and essentially disappear (save for maybe a handful of visits) from my life for seven months, only to show up for the wedding. At which point we'll be joined for good, and I will have no trappings of my previous life but him and the home he's found for us.

I feel like a war bride, or a frontier wife, or something weirdly...old-fashioned.

It all seems very romantic, but I have to admit it's freaking me out. I'm not such the spontaneous type. I had a Plan. And while I understand that marriage involves change, I didn't expect such drastic change. And I didn't expect to be separated for so long beforehand. What if I forget what he looks like? (OK, I'm not really worried about this--consider it a metaphorical fear.)

I am also excited: I've wanted to try something new for a long time, and this is a great opportunity for it. I'll be glad to be back on the West Coast, and I love the thought of embarking on the adventure with the guy I love. I have no real fear that our relationship will fall apart under the stress. I think we've looked at the pros and cons of the move with pretty realistic eyes, and I think this is a good choice for us.

But the part of me that's gotten used to "Me," that has a very clear definition of "Me" as a single, urban woman with a job, who owns her own apartment and is very independent, thank you very much; the "Me" who made it to 37 without getting married, who wanted to be single throughout her 20s and didn't even start dating for real until she was 32; the "Me" who had her life planned out as the eccentric "Aunt" to all her friends' kids, elegant in caftans, art, and cats, letting the kids crash in her NYC condo when they were teens fed up with their parents; that "Me" is completely terrified. That "Me" is wondering if I'm making a huge mistake, putting all my eggs in the basket labeled with the name of one man. Can he handle it? Can I handle it?

Life has gotten very interesting.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

It's done

Well, after having makeup slathered on me by three different people, I have booked my makeup artist.



I realize this photo is not the best--it's weirdly pink/orange--but I really loved the makeup. She absolutely got my #1 pet peeve--I hate eyeshadow on Asian women. I think it makes us look sleepy, or plastic, or something. She punched up my eyes with false eyelashes instead, which I must admit I kind of love. If I were the kind of girl who got out of bed each morning with enough time to do anything but brush my teeth and comb my hair, I would be sorely tempted to put on false eyelashes every day :-).

Here is the makeup after four hours:

And after seven hours (please excuse the truly horrendous hair):

I also came away from this trial with a revolutionary beauty secret. You see, I have bushy eyebrows. Every single makeup artist I have seen in this last month has suggested I thin my eyebrows. Over the years, I have had this suggestion made to me by facialists and waxers, as well. The problem is, a) see above regarding barely being able to brush my teeth and comb my hair--I'm pretty low-patience, maintenance-wise; and b) I have very sensitive eyebrows and eyelids. Waxing/threading/plucking them hurts. Believe me, I have waxed other parts of my body (even ones that are supposed to be sensitive) without flinching, but the eyebrows are painful. When I tried threading a couple months ago, tears were streaming down my face. The threader finished the job with her face set in an expression of pure contempt for my wimpiness.

So, when this makeup artist once again suggested plucking my eyebrows, I warned her that I have zero tolerance for it. Then she said these magic words:

"Oh, I'll put some Ambesol on them."

I tell you, a whole new world has opened up for me. If I were the kind of girl who got out of bed each morning with enough time to do anything but brush my teeth and comb my hair, I would totally shape my eyebrows regularly.

When she sat down at the end of the trial to make notes about what makeup she had put on me (to remember for eight months from now when the wedding is actually here), I asked her to be sure to bring the Ambesol: I will have gorgeous eyebrows on my wedding day, if on no other day!

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Unexpected

So yesterday Laura and I went to the Gallery of Wearable Art. They custom make very fancy clothes for celebrities, and cost an arm and a leg. However, they are closing because the owner is ready to retire, and whatever they have on hand is on sale for the rest of the month--70% off right now.

I saw an utterly gorgeous red silk gown with fancy floral embroidery and a heavy obi-like sash, which I just adored. Fortunely, it still cost $1,000 even with the discount, and after all, what do I need an Oscar-worthy gown for?

There was also a very lovely embroidered wedding gown the saleperson tried to sell me for $100, but I already have a dress I love.

Then he suggested I look at some of the veils they have in back. I was still not sure I want a veil, but I figured what the heck. Most of them were too poufy. But then Laura suggested I try one with a wide white ribbon around the edge--we had seen one like this last week, and liked it. The salesperson pulled it out for me, and I was happy to see that it had no comb and therefore no pouf--it simply draped over my head. It was very long, too--cathedral length, which I had never entertained as a possibility. After all, I'm not getting married in a cathedral :-).

But, when I put it on, I thought it was pretty. Laura (she is evil) asked how much it was. The saleperson said:

"$75."

What could I do? I bought it:


Now that I own it, I'm actually kind of excited about it: I can see myself in it with the dress on, and I like the idea of it. I might, though, embellish it a bit. See the satin edge?


I am thinking I might sew some red Chinese knots around the edge, to give it color, a bit of ornateness, and a unique touch, too. Plus it would give the veil that nice, drapey heavy edge of the dream veil I once saw in the Saks window. I think even if I end up having to sew 500 knots on, it still won't cost as much as it would have in another store.

I'm pretty happy with my bargain.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Three rectangles

Knitting update: I have continued working on my lace hoodie pullover (despite the fact that it is now much too warm to be wearing a sweater made of an angora blend), and I'm happy to report all pieces are done:



Here they are blocking: three stockinette rectangles representing the back and two sleeves. Now all that's left is the assembly, which, while it is my least favorit epart (I hate seaming), at least has the advantage of producing a sweater immediatley upon completion :-).

For my next project, I am thinking I will knit a shawl for my sweetie's grandmother, who is turning 90 in September. I've never knitted a shawl before, so I am a bit intimidated, given my short attention span: that will be one large piece of knitting!