A: I have just returned from Rome ...
I first heard the Firesign Theatre as a young hippie, in a San Francisco apartment, on the radio. Turned on the radio and there it was. Tuned into the middle of a show, so I had NO IDEA of what was going on for a while.
I haven't put up anything here for a year and a half! Aargh. How time flies when you're holed up in your condo, running out of money, terrified of social contact. But I've learned a heck of a lot about Islamic history. My Arabic studies are going nowhere, however.
More discipline! Achtung! Overcome procrastination, break threatening tasks into tiny tidbits, enter into my scheduling software (Above and Beyond), try to form better habits. Meditate and exercise every day, diet, keep house clean, care for garden, finish ALL my old sewing projects (all hundred of them), FIND JOB, write novel, write for Wikipedia, proofread at Distributed Proofreaders ..
I'm tired just thinking about it. I think I'll go lie down.
At last. My away-at-college daughter's old bunkbed is dismantled and sitting on the lanai, waiting for pickup by the Salvation Army truck. The computer desk and the shelves are going too. I moved everything, mopped the entire floor, and made a start on cleaning the wire racks in the closet. Everything but her books (which she needs to sort) is packed into file boxes. It's CLEAN! CLEAN!
If and when I get a job, I'll get a twin storage bed to go under her mattress. I've got my eye on an inexpensive collapsible cutting table from Clothilde. After the truck removes the old furniture (Friday!) I'll move my sewing machines into the room and sort my mounds of sewing stuff into cheap wheeled plastic drawers.
It will be a sewing room/guest room/daughter's room when she's staying here, instead of a dirty den that I enter at my peril.
She is ambivalent. She says she doesn't consider it her room any longer, doesn't care what I do with it, doesn't want to help me shop for the new bed, etc. etc. OTOH, she's insistent that nothing of hers be thrown away and gets extremely prickly and curt when I try to discuss anything to do with the room. I spose growing up is hard to do.
I got my hair cut today, after letting it grow too long. Wonderful, wonderful, light and clean. Poodles must feel like this after they get their summer clip.
Afterwards ... a mad indulgence. There is an ice cream parlor next to Stafford's new salon, and I spent 8 of my precious weekly WW flexpoints on a scoop of dark chocolate icecream in a sugar cone. I got out my PDA. I was going to read while I ate, as I usually do. But the ice cream was so-o-o good, so intricate, so absorbing, that I didn't even open up the case. Points for asceticism. Stuff you do every day is routine, but an infrequent indulgence is special.
I'm actually cooking. Sorta. I have reinvented English cuisine. Bake six chicken breasts. No oil. No seasoning. No fuss, no trouble, no taste. Chew on strips of chicken breast while proofreading. Re-fueling.
I have also baked potatoes, cooked oatmeal, hard-boiled eggs, cooked beans, and chopped up a cantaloupe. Several days' worth of each.
Yes, I could tinker with all of this and produce sophisticated dishes composed only of "core" foods. But that's time-consuming and I just can't get myself to do it. Perhaps someday.
I accompanied my daughter to Borders, where she wanted to spend a gift card. So I checked out the Indian music CDs and ended up with a CD of Mohammed Rafi. Damn that guy was good.
My food consumption has plunged, because I don't like much of what I can eat.
No more Korean vegetarian plate, with extra mandoo. No more Subway sandwiches (no bread allowed). No more chicken burritos. No more Southwestern lime chicken. No more mee krob. No more Island Manapua Factory fried rice and rice cake. No more butter mochi.
Like half the people in the US, I've started a new diet with the New Year. I'd been going to Weightwatchers all along, but I'd formed habits that first lost me 20 pounds or so, and then left me plateau'd at that weight. Time to shake up the habits again, so I've started the "core plan" variant of Weight Watchers. All I can eat of the core foods -- fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meat, tofu. No baked goods. No butter. No chocolate. I can eat as much as I want of the healthy stuff. Bah! I don't want to eat the healthy stuff. I'm hungry dammit.
I read with great interest Teresa Nielsen Hayden's blogged account of buying custom-sewn salwar kameez via eBay. Being a woman of size who is fussy about fit (and thus basically debarred from shopping ready-to-wear) I thought this was worth a try.
I ordered three salwar kameez, from Indiashop1 (the company Teresa recommended), from Namasteindia, and one just from a web site, exoticindia.com.
The Namasteindia salwar arrived first -- after a frustrating month's wait when their server was apparently dumping my email and spamming me with an autoack. They finally got it finished and sent (after a mysterious five-day delay, sitting in a New Jersey warehouse, about which they lied to me). The material hadn't been washed before sewing; it was stiff with sizing and formaldehyde. It also wasn't colorfast. Of course it said dry-clean only, but I don't believe in dry-cleaning. Expensive stuff. So I washed it by hand; thirty rinses and it was still bleeding color. Also, the sewing was terrible, full of puckers and wobbles, and the top was cut without any ease whatsoever. Unwearable. I complained and they told me I was too demanding.
Then I got the salwar kameez from exoticindia. More sloppy sewing, pants too big and top too small, advertised as cotton but was a sleazy synthetic blend. The kameez was a shorty, just to hip length, instead of the usual knee-length. Again, sewn without washing first and comes with directions to dry clean, which I again ignored. Dry clean COTTON?
Indiashop, Teresa's fave, was the best of the lot, but it still didn't come up to my admittedly exacting standards. I've been sewing for 50 years and people tell me I do couture quality stuff. All seams finished, linings, lots of handsewing, etc.
By my standards, the Indiashop garment was barely acceptable. Most seams were finished, but a few were left raw. The seam finishing was hit or miss. Serger thread didn't match the material. There was some handsewing, but it was carelessly and quickly done, sometimes in thread that didn't match. The regular machine sewing was sloppy and the thread tension was unbalanced. The top was too tight, but the seams were purposely left wide to allow for alterations. However, the pants fit nicely.
I spent about four hours last night resewing the Indiashop garment. I ripped open the side seams on the top to enlarge it (still have to do the machine sewing and serging on the shoulders and side), hand-finished a few seams, ripped out the machine stitching around the neckline and redid it by hand. Removed the cheap beads at the neckline; I'll visit the bead shop to buy better beads.
It looks like I'm doomed to sew for myself -- that is unless some rich benefactor chooses to give me a fortune so that I can patronize a competent dressmaker.
I spent last night at the zendo, participating in the New Year's Eve retreat.
But first I had to get there. A perilous trek, over hill and dale, freeway and private road, firecrackers to the right of me, firecrackers to the left of me. Several times I had to drive OVER popping strings of firecrackers, while gritting my teeth and hoping that a spark wouldn't ignite my gas-tank.
I didn't manage to sit the full five hours. It's not just the arthritic hip; I get ugly pains in my neck and shoulders. So I sat as much as I could and spent some periods on a sofa on the lanai, petting Mouser, the templekeeper's cat. Mouser finally got as much petting as he wanted. 45 minutes straight was *enough*.
We ended the retreat with 108 bongs on the temple bell, to drive away evil spirits, then adjourned to the lanai and snacks. Also an impromptu bout of taiko drumming, which I'm sure our few neighbors RILLY RILLY appreciated.
I was the cook in charge this morning, making Persian omelets (kukus) for everyone who had stayed over. The curried cauliflower omelet was a big hit.
Tonight: a kanikapila at the zendo. I'm going to teach them to filk.
I spent the day helping my daughter spend her Christmas money, following which we had a modest meal at a Thai restaurant. Came home to find the message light blinking on the answering machine, and a call from my brother saying that our mother was sinking fast. She had congestive heart failure and had been living in a nursing home for a few years, sliding gradually downhill, so this was no surprise. I called my brother and we had a nice talk, veering from the emotional to the bizarre. He commented that it was a relief to talk to someone who didn't expect him to be solemn and mouth cant phrases from TV.
A call to the nursing home went unanswered, so I left a message. A few hours later, the nursing home operator told me that my mother had finally passed away. It was peaceful and, thanks to the drugs, painless; she drifted off to sleep and then opened her eyes and died.
I don't need any cant phrases either. I did not like my mother at all and avoided her, and her constant criticism, as much as possible. Towards the end of her life, I dutifully made calls, sent presents, even visited twice, but all was done with gritted teeth. Plus a lot of wariness; reveal a weakness and BLAM!
I recently re-read two books that I *loved* as a child, tear-jerkers that were old-fashioned even in the 1950s: A Girl of the Limberlost and Elsie Dinsmore. Both of them feature demure little girls who try very very hard to be good, in anguished and usually futile attempts to please unloving parents. So that's how it felt.
But she could have done worse. And she had a hard life. Just couldn't prevent it from affecting her children as well.
I went to a tech job fair and passed out resumes. No one wants a technical writer -- now. Several people said they might have some contract work sometime.
Meeting strange people is excruciating. I get nervous and hyperverbal, which is probably worse than being nervous and hiding in a corner.
My stray cat, Tiglath Pileser, hasn't shown up for two nights now. I hope he's OK ...