Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Another sign of spring.

At least in Inder's mind (spring hits Inder's mind earlier than it does the real world):

The woman on the right looks like she's about to sneeze. Probably hay-fever, caused by all of those lovely spring flowers.

I'm really excited about this dress, because it's really simple, so maybe I actually have the skills to sew it? But it's not some kind of boring one-hour sheath (read: sack) dress, either. I'm imagining myself running around in soft cotton frocks and sandals all summer, happily learning to "put up" my garden vegetables.

Also, I'm counting down the days until the Vernal Equinox and daylight savings, when I'll be able to resume walking the dogs in the evenings. Unlike many of those closest to me, who love winter and snow sports, I live for summer, heat, growing things, and peep-toed 40s-style wedge shoes.

(Note to self: Try to remember not to walk the dogs in peep-toed, platform heeled shoes this year. Remember all those skinned knees last summer?)

Monday, February 25, 2008

Signs of Spring.

2008 Oscar Fashion Post-Mortem.

I don't actually watch the Oscars. The painful comedy! Those interminable acceptance speeches! So insanely tedious! And Joan Rivers just hurts my eyes (and ears). But I do check out all of the outfits on the internet the next day, duh. Is it just me or was this year a bit boring? I blame it on the strike. Still, there were a couple of really gorgeous dresses.

Inder's Best Dressed of 2008:

Helen Mirren, you can do no wrong. If I look half this good at half her age (wait, I think I am half her age), I will consider myself blessed. Also, I really like sleeves. Not because I'm self-conscious about my upper arms (although many women are), but because sleeves are graceful and interesting.

And Amy Adams - simple, interesting, and green! Yay! Deco gold purse! Yay!

Inder's Worst Dressed of 2008:

I have so much respect for Daniel Day Lewis, but it turns out I respect his acting skills and not his fashion sense. What is this suit? Are those tapered pants? What on earth are those brown shoes about? Are her shoes striped or zebra printed? Is her dress held up by Christmas gift bows? They look like Mr. and Mrs. Count Olaf from Lemony Snicket.

Last but not least, Inder nominates Keri Russel for "Actress Most In Need of a Cookie":

Sheesh, someone feed this poor girl!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

First dress in a decade.

Well, folks, here it is. I'm not saying it's amazing or anything. It makes me look like a cross between a cossack and a nun. It turned out a bit better than a baggy nighty, however, after some adjustments. My sewing skills are rusty. I used a "Built by Wendy" pattern, Simplicity #3964. The inset in the front was way harder than I realized it would be. But the sleeves were really easy and I love them. (Edit: I should add that I put the tunic sleeves on the dress length, for a warmer SF winter dress.)

(More editing: I know, the photo is dark. It's a little better if you click on it. But I kind of like it that way - you can't see how homemade it looks!)

What I learned:
  • Soft cotton twill feels lovely, but shows mistakes in a bad way.
  • Also, you can't rip seams very well, because the fabric is too soft and tearable, so you can't fix mistakes, either.
  • Sewing requires actual skills, many of which I do not currently possess.
  • All sleeves should have elastic cuffs - they're easy and cute and you can push them up.
  • There's probably a reason many craft-bloggers refer to "Version 2" of a dress. I might have to try this again to really get it right.

Still on the hunt for the perfect mu'u mu'u.

You may recall that I am a fan of mu'u mu'us and artist's smock-like dresses. They are wonderfully comfortable and breezy, and contrary to popular belief, a mumu can be flattering if the gathers are in the right place and you cinch it with a belt and wear amazing boots or sandals. They look even better if you have a short, dark bouffant and you're sipping on iced tea.

Note: Mumus do not look quite as sophisticated if your hair is in rollers, you are wearing bedroom slippers, or you have a clay skin masque on your face. You have to rock the trailer-chic, not move into the trailer park (nothing wrong with mobile home parks, mind you - they provide affordable housing to some of society's neediest - but they aren't known as centers of high fashion).

When I first saw this pattern, I thought the woman on the left was lighting up a cigarrette, and I thought, "Oh, that is the most edgy and self-destructive sewing pattern I've ever seen. I must have it." But it's tea. So I'm still on the lookout for the edgiest, most self-destructive sewing pattern ever.

Meanwhile, this lovely pattern will be arriving in the mail in a few days from Best Vintage Patterns. I'll probably just hold onto it for camp value, but you never know, you might see me around town in it sometime.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

They TOOK my six-word memoir!

AAAACCCKKK! It's a "featured submission" at Smith Magazine! My fifteen minutes of fame have arrived! Better not waste them! Click here. Think good thoughts about my green, leafy words of wisdom ending up in the next book. But even if they don't, I'll still have too much chard.

Inder's Top 5 Concept Albums.

  1. Radiohead - OK Computer
  2. Roseanne Cash - Black Cadillac
  3. Sufjan Stevens - Greetings from Michigan, the Great Lakes State
  4. Aimee Mann - The Forgotten Arm
  5. Tom Russell - The Man From God Knows Where

Anthropologie strikes again.

I need this dress. And I need to learn to play fiddle. And I need a gypsy caravan.

But I figured out why I can't afford anything at this store. Once again, I'm shopping outside my demographic! Darnit! According to Wikipedia:

"Founded in 1992, the brand is designed to follow customers of its parent company, Urban Outfitters, into the next stage of their life. Founder Richard Hayne moved Anthropologie away from the focus of Urban Outfitters, which targeted hip and mod trends. Rather, this new concept was designed to appeal to 30- to 40-something affluent professional women with total family annual income above $200,000."

Suddenly, it is all starting to make sense.

A Saga of Swiss Chard.

Swiss chard is a great garden green. In Oakland, it will grow prolifically year-round (it's a little stronger-tasting in the summer, milder in cooler times). It grows readily from seed and even self-seeds if you let it. Grown in your own organic soil, it's so good for you, packed with vitamins and minerals and oh-so-much-fiber. But here's the problem: there's only so much of the stuff you can eat. It's kinda intense, health-foody, medicinal almost. Which is why ours ended up bolting and going to seed last summer - when you have heaps of gorgeous heirloom purple-red-yellow streaky tomatoes to harvest and eat with fresh basil, olive oil, and bufalo mozzerella, it's hard to get excited about boiled swiss chard stems, even if they are a kick-ass source of calcium.

But here it is, the dead of winter, and we have two huge, lush, swiss chard plants in the garden that must have grown from seed. What to do?

Once again, Deborah Madison comes to the rescue. A huge heap of chard leaves, a couple red potatoes, leaks or onions, and some sorrel or lemon juice (of course, we went with lemon juice, since lemons are one of our other prolific winter crops), pureed, with a glop of sour cream on top, and it tastes like a delicious and delicate cream of spinach soup. Mmmm ...

Of course, you can't exactly have pureed chard soup every day, either, and those plants outside are quickly making up for last week's harvest. I need more recipes, people!

Today's six-word memoir:

Started a garden; too much chard.

Edit: Thanks to Rebecca for the pictures and the recipe link!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Because you can never have too many pit bulls!

(Also known as "It's my blog, and I'll blog what I want to.")

As you know, I'm obsessed and smitten with pit bulls (especially my little Naomi/Omie/Ominsky/Omitronic/Omilicious) and spend a good amount of energy boring my friends to death on the topic. You, my dear reader, are no exception. So I've been collecting old photos of pits with their kids, looking huggable, with all those cute muscles.

Because, of course, pit bulls used to be the all-american family dog before bad people starting using them as status symbols and guard dogs.

Pits were bred to fight other dogs back when this was prime entertainment for the lower-classes, but they were also selectively bred for sweetness and gentleness towards people and children. Back in the day, most fighting dogs were also family dogs. Also, handlers needed to be able to reach into the ring to break up dog fights, so dogs that bit their handlers were ruthlessly culled. For better or worse, that's how pit bulls came to be.

Of course, not all pits were fighters - at the turn of the century, pit bulls were super popular as general farm dogs. They are excellent at hunting vermin (watch out, squirrels), they are smart enough to herd sheep (in theory, anyway - our Omie is working the cute, spazzy, and dumb angle instead), strong enough to herd cattle, and brave enough to take on an angry bull or a coyote.

Anyway, blame the owners, not the breed, people. (Cue: Inder stepping off her soapbox.)

Sunday, February 17, 2008

New York, New York!

Jonny Justice takes on NYC! What gets me about this photo is - he's so tiny! What kind of idiot would try to fight a 30 pound dog? Michael Vick, apparently. Thankfully, Jonny's not worried about that anymore. He's currently thinking, "Horses? Whoa!!"

Steve jokes that I blog about pit bulls too much.

I'm constantly pointing to Omie and saying, "Steve, look at her, she's so cute!" So he turns his head, but Omie looks pretty much the same as always and nothing remarkable is actually happening. I do this about ten times a day. It can get boring living with a doting dog-fanatic. Also, he has to sleep with two snoring, bed-hogging dogs (he's a lighter sleeper than I) - "but they keep my feet warm!," I whine - so he's entitled to a little grumpiness.

But I say "Too many pit bulls? Not possible!"

1940s Reproduction Shoes.

Arrrgh! I have found yet another wallet-draining fantasy website for you! Remix Vintage Shoes provides "authentically styled reproductions of popular vintage shoes from the 1920's to the 60's." There are so many cute models, but I'm obsessed with the 1940s repros. In my opinion, a girl can never have too many chunky librarian-chic wedges, preferably in discordant colors, like this lovely avocado/honey model (it's the same color as one of my childhood fridges!):

Or in serious and nerdy-cute "His Girl Friday"-esque shapes like these:

And they are pretty reasonably priced too! Generally less than $200! (Look, in my world-view/priorities, $175 shoes are pretty reasonably priced. Stop snickering.)

Of course, my budget doesn't leave much room for even "reasonably priced" shoes these days, especially since the average life expectancy of cute wedges in a house full of dogs is about six weeks (less if I neglect to pile them on top of my filing cabinet to keep them away from those drooling mouths). It's a simple equation if you think about it:

Wedge of wood + leather + sweat of loved and missed human (ick!) = IDEAL CHEW TOY.


Thursday, February 14, 2008

Good wife.

This is what I got Steve for Valentine's Day - "The Niman Ranch Cookbook: From Farm to Table with America's Finest Meats." I'm a vegetarian, so I think we can classify this as a "selfless" gift. Except that there are a lot of really cute pictures of piglets and lambs in the book, and I have a thing for baby animals (come on, admit it, so do you) - I enjoyed flipping through the farm pictures at the bookstore. But I must say, the cute animal factor is mitigated by the chapters on eventualy slaughtering and eating said cute animals. Still, if you've gotta eat meat, I'm all for the organic, pasture-grazed, vegetarian-fed, truly-happy-cows-at-least-until-they-die variety. And Steve loves to cook and looks really cute in an apron (maybe it's not such a selfless gift after all?).

Monday, February 11, 2008

A dress?

Halfway through sewing a mod smock dress that is starting to look a lot like a baggy nightie (but honestly, I have cuter baggy nighties), I suddenly remembered the reasons I stopped sewing clothes for myself:

1) It's really hard and it takes actual skill.

2) Let's face it: I'm really
so much better at shopping.

Ah, well, as I tell myself, it's good to be bad at things. If I was really good at everything - um, that would be boring or something? If I sound unconvinced, you're onto something.

Stayed tuned for the next entry: "Inder modeling an ugly baggy homemade nightie." Or not.

Jonny Justice takes on FOX.

FOX is broadcasting positive coverage of pit bulls? What next? The democrats winning an election? Whatever, I'm happy. And "Jonny Justice" is frickin' adorable.

Check this video clip out.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Bad monkey.

Edit, Thursday, February 7, 2008:
My attempt to create "Smoking Gun"-type mug shots seems to have failed. I really wanted him to be holding up a booking card, but I don't have photoshop and Steve wasn't interested in helping me with this at 10 p.m. last night.
Several friends have eagerly told me that this is not a "bad monkey" but actually quite a nice monkey. No, no. Would you want to meet this monkey in a dark alley? I didn't think so. You wouldn't trust this monkey with your social security number. I know I wouldn't.
Should've titled this: "Bad joke."

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Things I will be thinking about while I sew myself an apron.

Mmmm, aprons. So pretty, so functional, so pre-feminist.

Aprons are practically a phenomena in the craft blogosphere. Amy Karol has posted a bunch of downright sexy aprons on her
blog, and almost all of my new craft books have apron patterns. Aprons have transcended their functional role - protecting your nice clothes - and are now seen as a blank canvas for artistic expression. But before I use a vintage pillowcase and rick-rack to make myself a new apron, I can't help but remark on the not-exactly-obscure symbolism: Sexy aprons?

"Wow, the Feminine Mystique was HOT!"

You know, sexy in a barefoot, pregnant, stuck in the kitchen sort of way. Or in a meeting the man at the door with a martini after he's had a long day at work sort of way (I need a wife!). Or in a Doris Day looked pretty darn good way. An apron can even enhance your bustline, girls!

The problem is, I really like aprons - I even have a collection of vintage aprons I've found at thrift stores and garage sales over the years.

(You may well ask: "Inder, what kind of vintage textile art don't you have a collection of?" To which I would respond: "I don't collect vintage bias tape. But I kinda want to start.").

I could even claim (but not with a straight face): "Hey, I've been into aprons since way before it became a postmodern craft blog fad!"

Of course, the apron trend is part of a larger trend that has extremely confusing implications for feminism - a craft-renaissance, a renewed appreciation for art-forms that have been, historically and traditionally, reserved for women, especially underprivileged women. Quilting was a way to conserve fabric and money. Embroidery was cheaper than buying printed fabric. Knitting, well, it kept you warm. At one time, craft was a matter of necessity. Of course, it was also one of the only ways for women to express themselves - they couldn't even vote, after all (I'll be voting in a few hours and thanking my suffragette foremothers for the privilege).

Back then, you only would have had a few dresses, so needless to say, you would wear an apron over your dress while you did your messy chores.

Folk craft seems to come in and out of style with exactly the same regularity and usually in the same time frame as folk music. I know this because I love both folk crafts and folk music, and I've spent some time being out of style! I do feel that there is symbolic significance to the trends - a reaction against consumer culture; a complex nostalgia for the old days when women lived and worked and gossiped together more than they do now; a pining for the emotional/physical intensity of living close to the land and literally hand-to-mouth. Most of us don't actually want to live in a pre-capitalist subsistence-based economy, making or bartering everything we need, but we can't help but think, there was something very real about that, and we wonder if those folks worried about the purpose of their lives as much as we do.

Probably not, because they were worried about starving to death. Why romanticize it?

So anyway, I might make a bust-enhancing apron. And resolve the theoretical issues later.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Neuron art.

Don't ask me why I decided to embroider a brain cell in crewel wool, but I did. I'm trying to break out of the whole flowers and bunny rabbits mold and do something more interesting. Also, free form embroidering is really fun. I just doodled lightly on the fabric with a white colored pencil and then dove in with chain and feather stitch. I made this into a tote bag, lined with fabric from an old pillowcase (see, I guess I did use those vintage pillowcases). But I'm not that happy with the bag, because I didn't give it a square bottom, or interface it, so it looks distorted and schlumpy when you put stuff in it. Also, I totally look like a hippy when I'm wearing it (not the worst thing in the world, but I was aiming for more hipster-weird). I haven't decided whether I'm going to try to improve on that yet.

The dogs know just where the center of my attention is at any given moment, and congregate there. The only way I could get them to stop walking on the bag was to ask them to sit and pose for the photo. You can just see the pillowcase lining underneath Omie's belly.


My sock monkey still needs a tail, arms, and face (right now, it looks more like a sock ghost than a sock primate - downright creepy), but Elizabeth made this gorgeous thigh-high-purple-stockings-sock-ta-pus in just one day! I'm so impressed and inspired! Her little niece Alana is a lucky girl - so many tentacles to snuggle!