Monday, September 29, 2008


I finished Oliver's sweater AND the dressform. Check, check. I'm on a roll. Does that mean I'm allowed to start two new projects? Hmmm...I'm addicted to crafts...

Old Hollywood and designing my first dress

So this weekend I finally finished (basically) my dressform. Hooray! Check that off the list.

So now, I finally get to make use of it and build a dress from scratch. My design is loosely inspired by Cyd Charisse's green dress in Singin' in the Rain

and Leslie Caron's backup girls in An American in Paris:

(you have to go to 5:25 to see them...sorry this was the only video I could find that had them in it)

Anyway, that's my inspiration. It's going to be a black and white dress, with straps that overlap eachother and go out when you spin. The black goes on top of the white, so at the waist there's no white at all, and at the bust line, there's just a little bit between the two inch black straps that are verticle. I'm also thinking of beading the ends of the straps to give them more weight so they don't fly up all the time...

Here's a picture...(I love paint)

Thursday, September 25, 2008


So, I have a problem. I love to start new things. It's the finishing part I'm not so good at...

I will now make a list of unfinished projects...this is going to be frightening:

--Oliver's sweater (this is almost done, I just have to weave in the final strands)
--Emily's twin's sweaters (Again, almost done, just have to be made up, and weave in the strands)
--Alex's sweater (one sleeve and the collar left, then make up and weave in strands)
--Oliver's mittens (one mitten almost done, just have to make the flap. Then have to start and finish the second)
--Lace dress from Vogue (no where near done...)
And then there are about five things I want to start, but haven't gotten around to yet

--Dressform (I've had it for months, and I still can't use it because I haven't fit the outer dress to me, to make it my size...but never fear, help is on the way this weekend in the form of my lovely sister, so hopefully it will be done.)
--curtains (They need to be hemmed...but now, if we move, we might want them longer, so that's just going to have to stay on hold for a while)
--various mendings (from Erin's sweater to the slit I tore to the point of indecency on a beautiful embroidered dress, about five or six all told)
--White dress (I've got the top half done, but I'm having so much trouble with the skirt that I don't want to work on it until I've got the dress form to figure out the drapping. Go figure. I can't finish a project until I finish a project)
--Chartreuse Silk Charmeuse 30's style pants. (I haven't started this, but I saw the silk and I envisioned 1930s glamor with those beautifl flowy pants...mmm. One of these days I'll get around to actually making it)
Various other small (and large) projects I've got the pattern and fabric for, but haven't started.

--Embroidery kit (half way through)
--book making materials
--photography set up

I don't think my problem is necessarily lack of followthrough, because I usually do get to these things...eventually (granted sometimes it's more than a year later). I think it's more the ADD in me that makes the idea of starting this new idea right away sound so appealing.

Perhaps I should limit myself to smaller projects for a while until I've widdled this list down to two or three....


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Random Words

So I haven't done a writing exercise in a while. I googled "creative writing exercise" and came across a page that suggests writing for ten minutes with three random words that you are supposed to put together.

I used The Random Word Generator and got:

and experiencing

And here I go!

John was walking down the street when he realized he didn't know how he'd gotten there. It was drizzling. Not hard rain, nothing that would actually get him wet. He looked up and the moisture that had accumulated on his eybrows drizzled down his temples.

He knew his name was John. John Waldorf. He knew that he was an insurance salesman. He knew his life was very orderly. He could remember everything that had happened before three hours ago. But now he was experiencing something new.

This was freedom! He didn't have to worry about his wife at home, he could just walk the wet streets. Let his feet take him wherever they would. He noticed some people holding hands, huddling under an umbrella. He thought how tied down they seemed. Forced to hide under the proetection, when he could walk anywhere. There was no need for any restrictions.

But that thought suddenly frightened him. He'd never felt capable of ignoring the rules of society. He liked coming home to his wife and dinner on the table.

As he thought of these things he slowly came to grips with his preference for the confined life that made sense to him.

As he came up to a phone booth, he crammed himself in, escaping the rain. He found a dime in his pocket and dialed his wife.

"Honey, I'm sorry I didn't call earlier. I'm on my way home now. Everything will be fine."


So as most of you know, Oliver and I are looking at houses and we've found one in the outskirts of Capitol Hill that we both love. Well, actually, Oliver loves it a bit more than I do...For me there's just something missing. Very hard to pinpoint. It needs a tree in the backyard and the space itself has been remodeled to the point where most of the original magic of a 1920s house has been erased.

When I expressed these concerns to my one and only, he explained why that appeals to him: it's a clean slate. We can do whatever we feel like with the space. Rather than having to deal with the poorly placed bookshelves that are so old they can't hold more than five books anymore, we can design our own.

And so, I started designing.
This is the tiny upstairs office. I was inspired by a built in desk I saw on one of Oliver's gigs.
This is the living room with a window seat looking out to the front porch. (Do you like my clouds?)

This one is the living room with a second wall (about 8-10 inches deep) to hold the TV, DVDs, etc.

Let me know what you think!



Tuesday, September 23, 2008

I love you Aaron Sorkin

Maureen Dowd's column this past Saturday was very emotional for me. "Why?" you might ask. Because it brought back a number of painful memories...namely the fact the President Bartlet was fictional, and President Bush was not. Oh, how I wished the reverse were true.

In her column, she asked Aaron Sorkin to write a scene between Senator Obama and President Bartlet. It was beautifully done, as is all of his writing. The characters came to life on the page, probably partially due to my infatuation with The West Wing and Senator Obama.

The conversation is witty, charming, at times very funny. But the whole thing left me wishing that President Bartlet had been our real President these past eight years. Even with all the mistakes he made (in the show). Who knows if this financial crisis would have still occured (probably), but I feel as though it would have been handled better. Now I feel like there's no one at the helm at all. Although I don't know if that's better than having someone steering us toward the danger accidentally, or not steering at all...

I know whatever happens it will be better. But I'd rather have it be a lot better with Obama than a few slight changes for the better with McCain. I want a 180, not a 10% difference.

And those are my thoughts.

Plus, when and where can I get more Aaron Sorkin? Anyone? Please? I'm going to have to go back at watch SportsNight, the first four seasons of West Wing, and Studio 60 all over again.


Monday, September 22, 2008

The New Me

So back in the day, when I was living at home with my beautiful mother, we shared so many things in common, espcially when it came to the teley. I remember rainy afternoons watching AMC (back when it was actually classics and commercial free) while snuggling in bed, or both of us dying for the next episode of Sex and the City or Gilmore Girls. There was very little that I wanted to watch that she didn't, and vice versa. Except for HGTV.

I never got the appeal. I would try. I mean, obviously we had so much in common that I must like this stuff somewhere deep down. But no matter how many shows I watched (except for Trading Spaces, the only one that ever had me hooked) I found myself uninterested. I didn't really care what these houses and gardens looked like before or after. I didn't need an ingenius new way to store laundry or hide my printer. I didn't have enough books to need to change the way they were organized.

But the strangest thing has come over me.

For the first time, last night, I actually wanted to watch HGTV. I wanted ideas and inspiration. I wanted to know what else was out there.

I watched an episode of House Hunters where a married couple were looking for a million dollar home in Vegas (which is ridiculously far from where we are both in terms of money and locale), but thought, ooh, how cool, the guy is the executive Chef at The Venetian, and his name is Olivier. It's like it's us! (roll your eyes here...)

And even though I didn't watch any episode all the way through, I still enjoyed it in a way I never have before. I find myself wanting to read decor blogs (my current favorite: Decorno. Funny and awesome, and generally a great time).

I knew it was in me somewhere. I just needed to have* a house to find it for myself.


(*Of course by "have," I mean imagine having...but close enough...)

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Mmmm, Saturday

It's Saturday and I couldn't be happier.  Oliver is in the next room cooking away for a huge eight course plated dinner we're doing tonight.  He's listening to This American Life.  Such interesting stories.  Reminds me of my mom's column.

He came in just to say, "I love you."  

He makes me feel so happy.

Later today I'm going over to Sarah's apartment to play with her kitty and make sure she's fed.  I'm thinking I'll bring my knitting over.  Any cat's dream, right?

Tomorrow we're looking at more houses.  Did I tell you all we've decided to buy a house together?  A week ago we found one we just love.  It's on 15th Street in NE Washington, basically Capitol Hill.  It's lovely, and has a new kitchen and a back yard and a front porch that's just begging for a swinging bench.  I love swinging benches.  I love sitting in them and watching the world go by and reading a good book.  So much fun.

I'm also toying with the idea of playing around with my camera.  Then I can start putting pretty pictures on this blog too!  I'll have to figure out more about Flikr...

Who knew the sound of metal bowls clanking together mixed with a timer going off would be so comforting.

I'm off to help empty the dishwasher.  Ah, the domestic life!


Friday, September 19, 2008


So this was an exercise I did a while ago, but I'm pretty proud of it.

Here you go...

1.A circle:
A group of people are gathered, shoulder to shoulder, surrounding something out of sight. They wear robes, and are chanting in a low rumble, the words too muted to understand. They are so still, they resemble statues. The surrounding silence magnifies the intensity of their sound.

2. a spiral staircase
The stairway leads upwards to more bookshelves. The banister is wrought iron, the color of charcoal, and very dusty, as though no one had touched it in a century. The steps were similarly untouched, but underneath the layer of dust lay marble steps, concave in the center from endless use.

3. Classical music
The low tones of Brahms fourth symphony lulled me, leaving my mind to wander when suddenly, time stopped. It was as though the music had taken the hand of the clock, and kept it from moving forward…

4.the color red
Her dress was the most intriguing of all. It was a red that couldn’t be placed in one category, being reminiscent of a soft rosebud, not yet ready to bloom, and at the same time, a river of blood after a great battle. And yet, although it was unusual, it matched the shade of her lips and the tint of her cheek exactly.

5. hot soup
The smell drove him wild, a mixture of garlic and comfort. As he looked in the bowl, he saw nothing but the deep golden amber, as though it were in a bottomless bowl. As he dipped in his spoon and let the liquid stream into it, he anticipated the warmth, and dreaded what memories it would recall in him.

The drops fell as if in slow motion. Each one making a cacophonous sound as it landed on his shoulder, head, palms. He lifted his head to the clouds, and opened his mouth, letting the sweet drops fall in, but they seemed to avoid him, scared to end their existence in the storm.

7.the smell of a barbeque.
As they passed, she couldn’t help breathing in deeper and deeper. How long had it been? A year? More? And the sweet and tangy smell called to her like a siren. Her logic left her, and all she wanted was Rockland’s.

8.cold weather
So this is why people say the cold is bitter. Every time the wind blows in my direction, I find myself making the same face I made the first time I tried Compari…what a mistake that was!

9.a pillow
As they hugged goodbye, her pillow got caught between them. The air rushed out of it, and they hugged for the first time as if they weren’t skin and bones.

10. a hot cup of coffee
As she tasted the sample, the sweetness and the hint of blueberry were unexpected. She wondered where the beans were from, and how long they had been roasted. She took another sip and stopped caring. All she wanted was the caffeine.

11.the welcoming bark of a dog.
And there goes Xena. You can tell it’s her because even though she’s a Portuguese, she tends to bark like a Doberman. That’s what happens when a puppy spends too much time with another breed. They start thinking that’s what they are too…

12. wood/plastic/velvet/cotton
What an odd piece of furniture, she thought. The legs were carved cherry, and reminded her of the feet on an old bathtub. The seat was rounded in all directions, as if it were silly putty kneaded into an approximation of a chair. Covering it was a cotton velvet that looked softer than it felt.

13. a bench
It looked lonely. There weren’t any other benches near by and it was off on it’s own, covered in fallen leaves. No one had used it in a long time. It suited his mood perfectly.

14. television
I don’t know what it is about it, but I love television. I love the stories. I love how I can take an hour out of my day and experience someone else’s life. It’s a magic wand that can transport me anywhere I’d like to go.

15. seedless grapes
The oval was black. I brought it to my nose and smelled it, but there wasn’t anything especially succulent about the scent. When I put it in my mouth, I was annoyed by the bitterness, but then, as I sank my teeth in slowly, searching for the seed, the juice rolled over my tongue and to the back of my throat. It was marvelous. And then I realized that my teeth had reconnected. Where was the seed?

16.being nauseous (this was me making fun of the woman who wrote the book. Being nauseous means that you make others feel nauseated. So that’s what I described…)
He couldn’t understand. Where was everyone running to? As he looked behind him, he found a second grader crying over a pool of vomit. “Please don’t, I don’t want to thow up again. Please, go away. You made me thow up!”

17.spilling a liquid
Time slowed down as the white crawled over the counter, seeking the edge. It seemed to have a mind of its own. She leapt for the nearest towel, but the milk kept moving toward the edge and over, running down the cabinet side, and pooling on the ground, where Mrs. Mew was licking happily.

Each kiss is different. Sometimes they’re gentle, sometimes rough, this one felt like two marshmallows dipped in hot chocolate and begging to be taken into my mouth.

A pencil
It was comfortable in his hand. Rounded and wooden, he thought it strange that the most appealing thing for him, what made him truly love this pencil, was the orangey yellow color and the big bold black No. 2 written on the side.

20.a tornado
Everything was chaos, but all I could think about was the howling. I didn’t care that sometimes my feet left the ground; that seemed almost normal. It was the strange howling sound, not quite like anything I’d ever heard before. It was that sound that made me stop and turn around.

21. white wine.
She took a sip. Mmmmm. But why? Why did it make her think Mmmm? If only she’d actually paid attention at her wine tasting class. Instead she just gulped it down and ignored everything else. Let’s see. Sweet. But not that sweet. Tart. But not that tart. Fuck it. When in doubt, act like Meg Ryan: “It’s a bold wine, with a hint of sophistication, and not lacking in pretention.”

22.wet tears on your face.
As they hugged, his tears transferred to her cheek. It was a strange feeling, to have a tear slide down her cheek, without being the one who created them. She’d cried so many times in her life, but didn’t feel the need now. And she could see her lack of tears was tearing him up inside.

23. a brick
It was so heavy. He hadn’t expected that. Redish brown, yes. Covered in old mortar, yes. Heavy, well, yes, but not this heavy.

24. warm socks
As he grabbed the sock on the ground that matched the one in his hand he thought about how strange socks are. The one from the ground was cold, but the one from his hand was still warm from the dryer. It was soft, and the static was making the fuzz even fuzzier. He distractedly started to bring it up to his cheek, to caress the softness, until he realized Mariah was looking at him with The Look again. He brought the two socks together and folded the top of one over both of them and threw them with the other pairs.

25. perfume
Oh God. Where’s the old lady? Where is she? Aha! 7 o’clock, three seats back, near the backdoor exit of the bus. Why do old ladies always wear ten times as much perfume? I could feel the sneezes coming. As I started to take the deep breath before the first one, I silently cursed the day Chanel came up with the idea of No. 5.

26. fire
It’s alive. Well, sort of. I mean, it reacts to me. And it needs food and oxygen or it dies. And it’s got a defense mechanism. And the blue flames at the bottom near the wick, the ones that you almost can’t see, they’re so purple. I think that’s where the soul is. Which is why I refuse to put fires out. I’m not saying I’ll start them. Just that I believe it’s murder to put them out. What? You’re dad’s a fireman? Was a fireman? Oh…oh, I’m so sorry. Well, those fires can be put out. I mean, it’s justice. But they really should get a trial first. Wait, where are you going?

27.the grunt of a pig.
The pig made a noise and Roger jumped. He wasn’t quite sure how to describe it. Sort of a cross between a dog protecting it’s territory and flatulence.

28. rock n’ roll music.
The bass was so loud, it shook everything around her, including the floor and her teeth. She could feel it in her sternum, and it made her feel as if the music were coming from her soul rather than from two human sized speakers next to the DJ’s booth.

29. silk
She closed the door to the dressing room, and took the wedding gown off the hanger. As she lifted her bare foot into the pool of silk on the ground, she couldn’t help but wonder at the dress’s texture. As she pulled it up her thighs, it looked like a waterfall of cream cascading down her leg. The low light of the dressing room made it glow. She had never felt so angelic.

30. iron
He grabbed the handle and picked up the iron. It said it was on, but it didn’t seem like it to him. He brought his finger to the smooth metal surface, and immediately jerked it away. It was on.

Writing Exercise

So I've decided to do NaNoWriMo this year. I've come up with a plot idea and now I'm just sort of biding my time until November rolls around.

In the mean time, I thought, why not do some writing exercises?

When I was in high school, Miss Blackstone (no that's not her real name, but it was what she had us call her) had us do fun writing exercises every Friday. Other than getting to read good books, it was the only redeaming quality of that horrid class that left me for years thinking I wasn't very smart when it came to books and literature. Stupid teacher...

Anyway, that got me to thinking that if it was fun then, it might be fun now, and while I don't actually remember any of the exercises she had us do, I figured there had to be something out there similar, so I went to Borders and found Caroline Sharp's A Writer's Workbook.

The exercises aren't quite as much fun, but they do seem to be useful, so from time to time I'll post an exercise.

Here goes!

This exercise is called Reviewer, and you're just supposed to review something, anything. I'm reading Dead until Dark, the first book in the Southern Vampire series by Charlaine Harris, which is the basis of HBO's new series True Blood (great series! but that's for another review...)

I also read Twilight this summer by Stephenie Meyer. She's a great writer, but as I started reading Dead until Dark, I noticed some things.

Both books are about Vampires in the present in a small town. Both books are love stories about a male Vampire and a human woman. In both books, one of those two characters can read people's minds. In both books, the telepath can NOT read the other characters mind. In both books, the woman has a second love interest (SPOILER ALERT) who can change into a canine of some variety. It's starting to get a little monotonous.

The thing is, both books were superbly written. The characters are thought out and rich with complexity. But I can't help feeling a little annoyed at Stephenie Meyer for taking so many aspects of Dead until Dark (which was written three years earlier). Unless, by some amazing coincidence, they both wrote such similar stories within a few years of each other...

Another thing I find so frustrating is that Twilight has become such a huge success, while the Southern Vampire series has not. Both were brilliantly written books. You'd think the one that came first and was actually written for an adult audience would be the more successful of the two. But here we are with Twilight the third highest selling book on Amazon and Dead until Dark ranked 111th, even with True Blood coming out.

Still, even with all this frustration with a repeating story, the part of me that loves new verisions of old tales (who doesn't love a Cinderella story?) enjoys being able to read something I already love with new twists and turns. It's reading Bridget Jones' Diary after reading Pride and Prejudice, or watching Clueless after watching Emma (don't know why I'm stuck with Jane Austen right now...). It's a treat.

I think part of my frustration is due to the number of times it's happened to me recently. Before reading this, I read a new book called The Magicians and Mrs. Quent, an historical novel that has magic in it. While I was hoping to find something familiar inside the covers (anyone who knows me well knows my obsession with Mairelon the Magician by Patricia C. Wrede, one of the best books I've read to date and tragically out of print), but rather than finding a new plot with similar devices, I found two of the most famous plots one after another: Pride and Prejudice, and Jane Eyre. It was incredibly frustrating. But I'll save that for the next review...

So basically it comes down to this: I would recommend both these books, but probably not together. The juxtaposition (thank you Miss Blackstone for teaching me the proper use of that wonderful word) of the two doesn't leave Twilight in the best light, when otherwise, it is utterly desrerving of the success it has had.


Well Hello There!

Hi people! I'm Alex.

Of course, if you're reading this, you probably already know that...

Anyway, this is my new blog. I've decided to start it because there are things I want to chronicle. And people who would like to know...or maybe I just think they want to know... So here it is, my take on knitting, sewing, singing, bookmaking, writing (stories and music), and anything else I might find interesting...