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That there’s a quote from “Gaslight.”  Great movie.  In case you don’t know, it involves a guy trying to make his wife think she’s crazy (jewel theft figures in here too).  My serger is gaslighting me, I suspect.  The serger, for those fortunate enough to be unaware (are you the same people who never saw Gaslight?  You need to get out more.  Seriously.), is a fancy-pants sewing machine that makes finished edges.  Here’s one:

Looks like an instrument of torture, doesn’t it?  That, my friends, is called truth in advertising.  Mine doesn’t have the little digital window.  And thank heavens for small favors b/c I expect it would use it to taunt me.  “Didn’t you read the manual?”  I have read every little bitty word!  I can recite it like a 19th Century school child in an elocution lesson.  Also, mine has four spools, not five.  To think I seriously considered getting the five spool version!  I’d have ended up institutionalized.

Sergers are…finicky.  They have to be threaded p e r f e c t l y or they don’t work.  Thing is, you have no way of knowing if it’s right until you start to sew.  And if it isn’t right, you have to unthread the whole thing and start over.  Often for an hour or more.  Sometimes it helps to curse and blaspheme.  Sometimes one or the other is better.  Sometimes threats.  Sometimes stalking off and coming back.  And I cannot TELL you how many times I’ve thought “That’s it, the damned thing is broken, I’m taking it to the store,” driven it down to JoAnns, plugged it in, and had it be all “Ribbit.”  Works like a dream.  Perfect.  Get it home and it’s “hello my baby hello my darling. ”  Grr.

Once I get it working, I am loathe to change anything on it, so I seldom manage to match thread to the project.  But I’m trying to make table linens for my very slow moving Birthday Party business, and it needs to match.  Luckily, I have a pile of stuff that can use red, so once I got it going, I could go for a while, but man…getting it there?  Nearly made me bald.  When you flip down the little door that covers the thread guides, there’s a sticker that says ‘To avoid injury, unplug before cleaning”  It should have stopped after “unplug.”    Or maybe followed that with “and beat with a stout rod.”

It took me over an hour.  An hour of cursing and threats.  but it is done now, so if you need anything finished in red, let me know.  Rolled hems only, I’m not changing a THING on this.



I buy around 90% of my family’s clothes at Goodwill.  Partly, of course, I like that it’s cheap.  I can buy new clothes more often when they’re under 5 bucks a pop.  Also, I LOVE the thrill of a good find.  Goodwill cashmere is my favorite thing on earth.  When I find something good, I know that I Win at Shopping.  But another big part of why I shop there is limited choices.  Sometimes there’s good stuff, sometimes there isn’t, persistence pays off.  There are three pairs of non-pleated size 12 pants.  Do you want any of them?  simple.  It’s why I used to buy a lot of clothes at Costco.  I’m easily overwhelmed.  Which is why, if I NEED a specific thing, and Goodwill doesn’t have it, I’m in trouble.

I’m going to California with Steve in Dec. for his company’s holiday party.  I have not had cause to wear a dress since the last AOL holiday party we attended, three? years ago.  This party will be smaller (which is to say not only will they not rent out the Air and Space Museum, last year it was in someone’s apartment) and I will actually have to make eye contact with and talk to people.  Social lubricants will help on that front, but I’ll still need clothes.  We all know that I stress a bit when I have to present myself outside my comfortable little circle.  I’m a mid-sized fish in this pond.  I’ve carved out the Artsy Mom slot for myself, but it’s very location specific.  It doesn’t travel well.  I met a high school friend for lunch this week and even a stretch into Howard county caused a bit of displacement.  I need to shake it up more often or I’m going to turn into my dad and never leave home…  In my head, I’m a fabulous jet-setter, but in reality I’d be in full Howard Hughes tissue boxes for shoes mode in no time at all.

So I need a dress.  So I had to go shopping.  Almost as strong as my loathe of shopping in real stores is my scorn for ugly clothes, so I had a challenge.  I started small.  Well, I started Goodwill, but they let me down.  Many, many jumpers.  If I decided to homeschool all of the sudden, I’d be set (Amy, do you need anything?  I could go back).  When I went to Columbia for lunch, I also popped into their slightly-more-upscale-than-ours mall.  Lord & Taylor yielded a few things to try on, but nothing quite right.  Ann Taylor?  nothing.  H&M?  Oh. my. lord.  I must have aged 10 years since I was last in one b/c I”m all of the sudden waaaay too old to be in there.  Not only are the fashions too young for me, the system by which they hang things seems capricious at best.  Do people really shop thinking “I need something grey.  It doesn’t matter if it’s a cowl neck sweater, a pair of wool pants, a poncho or knickers.  Just that it is grey.”  Also, everything looks like it was shipped in compression packaging and then slapped up on hangers.  Look into steamers, people.  White House, Black Market, a store I never, ever thought would survive, had two possible dresses.  One of them was very pretty, very Joan from Mad Men, and $168.  no.  And the sales staff were so obsequious I wanted to be mean to them.

Back on home turf, I tried a few downtown shops.  Nothing.  Yesterday, I met a friend at the Hagerstown outlets.  I should have looked at the website first to see that they have very few stores that would be helpful to this mission, but we tried Banana Republic, nothing.  BCBG Max Azaria, I’m too old.  Calvin Klein, store smells like a douchebag.   Not the kind from Summer’s Eve, the kind that hangs out at the Jersey shore and says “how YOU doin’?”  A mixture of cheap leather and Drakkar Noir.  And not a dress for me.  Granted, I have a specific look I’m going for, but even so, there is VERY little out there.  When we gave up and went to the mall, I looked at both Macy’s and the Bon Ton without seeing a single dress I could bear.  It was all designed for either 20 year olds or 60 year olds.  And all of them have terrible taste.  A purple satin bag with a band at the knees and built in necklaces?  check!  Mauve chiffon floor length gown with no tailoring and a sequined matching blazer?  You betcha!  Where are the cougar dresses?

“Just make a dress” I hear you saying, “you can sew.”  yes, I can sew, but I cannot FIT.  I have no tailoring skills at all.  I learned to sew in the 80s.  I can make baggy things with lots of flaps and zippers.  Which will be put in poorly b/c I was never good at zippers.  I intend to make a very elegant monster bag clutch to go with my imaginary dress, but I do not intend to make said dress.  But I appreciate your trust in my skillz.

We went into JC Penney without any real hope, but damn if they didn’t have a huge dress selection, many of them appropriate for the 35-55 set.  I came home with two.  I’m not crazy about either of them.  The one I’m keeping for now is red jersey and looks okay if I wear a stern foundation garment to smooth everything out.  But it’s ugly from the back, no Style, you know?  And it pains me a bit to think of sitting with the fabulously stylish while wearing my polyester JCP dress.  Because I’m still 16, on some level.  Sure, the monster clutch will serve to distract a bit (I have previously carried an actual teapot as a purse, which served much the same purpose.  And tea), but I would like to feel a bit more confident.  So, more stores.  and the pattern section at the fabric store, just in case.  Maybe I can slap a dress together and then take it to the tailor…  I need a stylist.

We won’t even TALK about shoes.

Steve and I went out to dinner last night.  Since there were no extra hungry mouths to feed, we went out for sushi.  Those kids can run up one heck of a sushi bill.  And given that they don’t even eat fish, you can imagine how much they put away.  Sushi is a home dish only these days.  We went to a place we’d never been to before, since the places we HAD been are decidedly mediocre.  We got a bit spoiled, I’m afraid.

So this place had nice decor and the sushi was okay.  But the waiter was creeeepy.  I’m not sure how to describe it, but he was so unsettling I couldn’t look at him.  He spoke in a weird stilted manner, like he’d learned Fancy Waiter Talk phonetically, but didn’t really know what he was saying.  He had kind of weird teeth.  He might have been stoned.  He said things like “I trust everything is to your satisfaction” but in a way that suggested he was far, far more comfortable saying “DUDE, I just leveled up!” or, maybe, “and you will stay here in the dark until you can be Good.”  We couldn’t get out of there fast enough.  Left a good tip, of course, b/c he was absolutely going to follow us out and prepare us for the raw bar, otherwise.

Okay, so much for every day in Nov.  But hey, I was anesthetized.  And then…I forgot.  So.  Thursday I had the lithrotripsy, the ultrasonic kidney stone blast.  It got off to a poor start, Steve and I showed up at the surgical center where I had the last procedure done (the search for the magical kidney stone) and had the pinched receptionist tell us there were no procedures scheduled today.  Steve asked her to call the doctor’s office and ask (I was too stunned to make it that far) and it turned out we were at the wrong surgical center.  Drove to the right one.

Check in, the paperwork person says “Right kidney?” and I say “I’m pretty sure it’s left” and she checks the other papers and says “oh, it is left” and reprints the papers that had the wrong kidney on them.  And then every other person that I see says “right kidney?” causing me a wee bit of panic until my doc shows up and I tell him what’s going on and he sets everyone straight.  But even so?  when I went back to the room where they were going to blast it (and it’s a specialist who does the thing, not my doc) they STILL had the room set up for right kidney.  you worry.

General anesthetic continues to amaze and amuse me.  “You might feel a stinging at the IV site” “Okay, time to wake up.”  And I feel bitter when they wake me up b/c that sleep is SOLID.  It feels gooood.  If I have to go again, I’m going to slip some one a 20 to leave me alone for another hour.  I was groggy the rest of the day, but otherwise fine.  My back was sore like I’d walked into a counter (and believe me, I know what that feels like).  My head has been swimmy, but I think that’s sinus-related.  In all, a pretty easy procedure.  He got both of the big stones in the left kidney, yes the left, and it remains to be seen if the right one will need blasting.

You suddenly see me as a trend-setter, don’t you?  You want to be more like me and don’t know why.  Well, it’s because I have an iphone now.  Steve upgraded and I got his phone.  I loved my phone before my current one.  It was so…phone-y.  But it died and I got the newer version of it and it’s just crap.  The camera is AWful.  So once the new iphone came out, I kinda hoped Steve would need an upgrade.  And he did, and now I have a new toy!  Of course, I have no earthly idea how to work it.  I’ll just poke at it for a while and see what happens…

Kidney stone blast tomorrow at 11:30.  I am focusing on that great sleep I’ll get from the general and not thinking about the fact that it might hurt afterwards…

And now, on Sesame Street’s 40th anniversary, we remember Ernie.  Or, as he was known here, Uhnie.  The Christmas before she turned three, Uncle Justin gave Julianna a Sing and Snore Ernie.  I don’t think she knew anything about Ernie or Sesame Street at that point, but she imprinted on Ernie.  Instant love.  Then, somewhere along the way, she got a beanie-baby sized Ernie.  She carried both of them EVERYwhere.  She acquired a small plastic Ernie figurine and added that to the retinue.  Big Ernie, Little Ernie, and Tiny Baby Ernie.  For her third birthday, she was given another beanie baby sized Ernie who was instantly dubbed All Clean Ernie, in honor of his contrast with Little Ernie.


Tiny Baby Ernie was frequently mislaid, resulting in many tears.  I came across a store that had a few of them, all of which I bought.  I took them home and stashed them in a box of sewing supplies.   One day Julianna found the nest of Ernies.  Her eyes got huge as she said “Mommy!  YOOK!”  At which point the Ernies were dispersed around the house  and, luckily, the Ernie madness waned just a bit.

Ernie was a gateway to Sesame Street, though.  Julianna was the only of the kids to watch it, and I really enjoyed getting to watch it again.  I even came to like some of the newer songs and bit.  Never warmed to Elmo, though.  Sorry.  Kevin Clash seems like a great guy when I hear him interviewed, but Elmo irks me.  In watching the show, Julianna came to know of Bert, Ernie’s long-time companion.  She used to ask me to talk like Ernie and /or Bert.  “Talk yike Uhnie Buht!” she’d demand, as if she’d paid extra for that.  She also asked me to tell stories about Ernie and Bert, particularly requesting stories about pigeons flying into their shirts and tickling them.  yeah, I know.

I don’t remember how it all ended.  I think Ernie was supplanted by Oddball, the white puppy from 102 Dalmatians (and oh how THAT lasted).  But at least I had cause to buy the Sesame Street alphabet CD and Best of Sesame Street Songs…and I think I need to find those CDs…I could listen to Tap Myself to Sleep….

Okay, I have nothing to offer today, but dammit, I’m not going to blow the whole post-a-day-in-November thing this quickly.  So here, a day late, a bit of delightful Sesame Street:

It was gorgeous today, and for once I actually went outside instead of looking up from the sewing machine, seeing it was dark, and saying “crap, I forgot to go outside.”  I sat in the sun and read the paper.  I knelt in the sun and pulled up dead plants from the garden.  I walked in the sun while I listened to The Bugle.   I pulled the dead flowers from my raised flower bed.  It was originally meant to be a vegetable bed, but it’s alll the way over on the other side of the yard, like 30 feet from the side walk, so I never remembered to tend it (oh yes, I am a MASTER gardener), so this year I just put flowers in it.  I had Bachelor’s Button, Love-in-Mist, and zinnias, all nice cut flowers.

I’m particularly fond of the Love-in-Mist, or Nigella.  It’s such a lovely blue when in flower:

Nigella_Moody_BluesNo, I didn’t take that photo.  Pretty, though, isn’t it?  So they’re these blue, white, or pink flowers that seem to float in this fern-y foliage.  Really nice.  And then it makes a cool seed pod when the petals fall off.  As I was pulling stuff up, I thought “Oh, I should get the seeds and replant them rather than buying the seeds every year” (genius.  MASTER GARDENER, I tell you).  Of course, I’d waited too long and most of the seeds had fallen and wee little Nigella were growing, doomed to the first frost.  But I picked through the seed heads anyway.   In most of them, some little critter was living.  It was pretty neat the way nature sees a cozy spot and moves right in.  I felt rather bad for disturbing them.  I moved them to the compost pile, which is a nice place to live if you’re a buggy critter.

I do love the big fall weed-pull. so satisfying.  And of course I’m gleefully spreading those weed seeds when I yank up the plants.  i know that b/c I’m the Master Gardener.

If anyone knows a spiderwort specific herbicide, I’d be most grateful.  I hate that plant and it has taken over.  Alternatively, tell me what brilliant herbal uses it has.

We’re just back in from the school talent show.  None of my kids were in it, which was surprising, b/c generally if there’s a spotlight on, they’re in it.  But no.  I’d feared an evening of screechy violin and cello solos (our school has a huge strings program) but only one kid trotted out her fiddle.  Instead, I should have trained my dread on the pop songs.  One Miley Cyrus,  two Hanna Montana, and FOUR Taylor Swift songs.  Oy.  of course, I’d never heard any of them before and with luck, never will again.  I told Ben they should have done Skullcrusher Mountain to keep things balanced.

The teachers did a funny dance to “The Potty Dance, ” a song about the dance you do when you have to pee.  It involved a lot of toilet paper and dancing about so the kids LOVED it.  I heard one kid say “We have the coolest teachers in the world!”  A sixth grader did a terrific magic act, notable not for the tricks but for his showmanship.  I had a mom crush on this kid to begin with, but I’d totally chaperone the prom for him now.  Impressive gymnastic tumbling, adorable baton twirling, siblings performing together at levels of cuteness that made my heart hurt.

But perhaps my favorite was the first grader dressed as Amish Johnny Cash, singing “The Man in the Mirror” with no ability to pronounce r’s.  The Man in the Miwow.  adorable.

I’ve been reading comic books the last few days.  As mentioned in an earlier post, I got the House of Mystery books from the library.  I really enjoyed them, they were suspenseful and super creepy.  I am very bummed that the next volume won’t be released until February.  Since graphic novels seem to be suiting my attention span right now, I went up to Steve’s office to see what he had.  I recalled him recommending the Invincible series to me a while ago (when I’m not ready to hear things they just slide right off.  Then I have to try to figure out what it was you said, ages down the road).  It’s a superhero comic (which House of Mystery is not), and I don’t always like those, but these are very fun.  The main character is a high school kid who has just come into his powers (his dad’s from another planet, you know).  It’s funny and clever while still being a superhero comic.  And best of all, Steve has about 10 of them.

In other news, yesterday Julianna was one of the students selected to talk to a delegation from Bermuda.  They wanted to look at our school to…uh…I have no idea.  Case the joint?  Reassure themselves that Bermuda was an excellent choice of residence?  Anyway, it was quite an honor.  The article about it in the paper is here.  In case it doesn’t work, here’s the part you care about:

Toward the end of the visit, the Bermudian educators sat and talked with five middle school students.

The Montessori philosophy allows students to learn at their own pace. Eighth-grader Julianna Greenberg told the delegation that successful Montessori students have to learn how to manage their time and set priorities.

“We have goals here, but there are no rules about how fast or how slow you can go,” she said. “We’re on our own to meet our goals.”

She told the story of a friend who, when faced with the freedom afforded Montessori students, goofed off too much and didn’t get her work done. She transferred to a school with more structure and is doing well.

Julianna was indignant that they called her an 8th grader.  “I TOLD them I was a 7th grader.  I saw them write it down.”  So now she knows the big secret–the newspaper is full of lies, misquotes, and half-truths.  In fact, given the newspaper, I don’t even believe her name is really Julianna Greenberg and I named her.



November 2009
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