Monday, October 1, 2007

October Overture

About the House:
Morning tea was accompanied today by a back issue of Threads Magazine. This tidbit found on www.notmartha.org, a blog with sewing and craft directions and links. One link to an article appearing in November 2000, Issue 91 on Preventive Sewing-machine Maintenance (pp. 28-30), detailed the need and method to keep one's machine in top running order. Needless to say I have had the Bernina for nearly five years and have given it very little attention. Time to get to oiling, cleaning and changing the needle before I get into another project. The machine is placed on a movable table in my studio and is never covered. The article stressed the need to keep the machine covered at all times when not in use. notmartha.org reemphasized this by offering patterns for making machine covers. Not going to happen here. Yes, I will begin the habit of covering with a cloth or towel but making a cover-to-fit is just not on my agenda.

The overture to The Marriage of Figaro is still in my head. OperaNC and the NC Symphony co-produced Marriage with the symphony in center stage, the singers [in costume] acting around and about making use of movable props, two exit doors on each side and steps to the backstage area. Ingenious and exciting, the opera buffa was a clever exhibition of not using sets. I looked through our cd's after midnight when I could not sleep, found lots of Puccini but little Mozart and no copy of Figaro. How did we miss that? www.operanc.com shows the full schedule.

In the Kitchen:
Marble and ceramic decorate our informal dining table. How this came to happen was mostly accidental. Upon ordering marble counter tops for the master bath, the craftsmen measured the oval to remove for the wash basin. What do they do with marble cut-outs I asked? No reply. Well, it's my marble isn't it? I want it back. To this they responded that for an additional sum I could have the fall-out slab rounded, polished and edges finished. Now a 15" dia. circle of marble adorns our table. Worth every cent. I chose not to make it revolve - the elegance of the marble says it all.

Resting on this green-marble is a ceramic set of iridescent green tomatoes. Better than fried-green tomatoes and far less fattening. They are real prize of my antique hunting. The luster is to die for and the dimensionality of the three is just slightly larger than life. As for function the larger is a sugar bowl, paired by salt and pepper shakers. Nada. Nothing is inside any of them - the color, shape and finish are enough to provide visual food for the eye and the soul. Where did they come from? I found them in an antique mall just north of Kansas City, Missouri. Who made them? Have no idea, the bottoms have no markings. Are they old? Probably, but likely no older than I am. Talk about tomato chic!

Have been watching "The Truth About Food" with Dr. M. Oz, of Oprah fame. Depressing isn't it?
Looking for oil-cloths to clean up the sewing machine. Keep dusting...
bb

Sunday, September 30, 2007

September Twlight

The last Sunday of September is the annual Franklin Street Neighbors Association Picnic, the one and only event the neighbors have. We have lived in this fine neighborhood for ten years, finding new faces at the picnic every year. Everyone takes a dish, the planning committee supplies utensils and lemonade and the whole thing happens rather spontaneously. Perhaps its me but the number of citizens under the age of 8 seems to have increased considerably. Of course the senior population was well represented too. Don't ask about my gourmet contribution, I learned long ago that a frozen lasagna works for any type of pot luck and the empty tray proved my theory once again.

The main topic this year was "rain" or lack thereof and what the town council proposes for watering limits. September was sure to be the start of the rainy season and end the summer drought but October is nearly here and the reservoirs are lower than ever.

Many folks asked what I had been doing all summer. I never have the answer for that. In fact I could not think of any project that I have finished in recent months. Back home searching the photo archive I found Flora Dora, an applique exercise made using Jude Spacks' technique of small scraps in abundance (glue stick ready), with machine over-stitching. The overall dimensions are: 38" high by 15" wide. Two details and the hanging are shown in the photos.

The fictitious flowers are first drawn from circular templates, then cut from various colored and printed fabrics and then trimmed, detailed and defined with scissors. For me a small and very sharp pair of scissors works better than a template or pattern, I just cut and keep going. Can you believe the circle templates I use are lids from "I Can't Believe It's Not Butter" [aka ICBINB] margarine tubs? Well they seemed good for something and this is the first task that they fit.

Once the cut-away circles are fused on the base, the fun begins. Every snipped of fabric, every crescent of a petal can be and will be added, auditioned and re-tried for a number of positions until the choice is made. Once made, pressed into place there is no going back. Onward to the next blossom.
The background is a rayon check that was pre-washed; the blossoms are all cotton fused, glued and stitched. Those pale blocks of white behind the flowers are used dryer sheets. Starched and pressed flat, they are non-wovens with a transparent quality, the intention was a layered-depth but I am not satisfied with the result. Layers of colored organdy would have been better except for the fact I had none to use.


Two suggestions will aid this process immensely. First, try if possible to use a ground fabric of grid, stripe or gingham. Not that you have to use a black & white check but having the grid for both proportion and placement makes life SO much easier. Second, get a Teflon (brand), pressing sheet for use with any fusible webbing. The nuisance of having to wait for the iron to cool, then scrap off melted webbing -this you do not need. Press over the Teflon layer with a dry iron, the heat fuses the layers, any exposed fusible web melts on the sheet, let it cool and peel it off. It's magic.

Jude Spacks is the wonder colorist and mentor to a number of Triangle quilters, artists and creative minds. We look forward to her annual trek south from her Maine residence bringing new inspiration and new exercises asking "..can you do this?" In my efforts to reduce the size of work [those heavy 6'x 9'wall hangings are a thing of the past], working in postage-stamp-sized pieces to create the image is a process that requires focus, time and determination.

Flora Dora's debut was last May at the Durham-Orange Quilter's Show in the Hillsborough Historical Museum. No inquiries for purchase but I will find a good home for the work before long. Have to, need the room to make something else.

The 'scrappy jacket' project is falling behind. Too much distraction at the moment. Tomorrow and Tuesday look to be quieter and perhaps I can get a start on the next step.
bb

Friday, September 28, 2007

Destination: Friday

What is it about Fridays?
There should be something special about Fridays, some point of destination where we arrive weary from the work week all ready for the weekend. Retirement rarely defines the difference between work and play, as I always seem to be working(?). Either my avocation activities need attention or projects in process in my studio are always waiting. When did I ever have time for a career?

This weekend is special. Tomorrow evening, after an easy morning and the aquacise fitness class at UNC, we dress and drive to Raleigh. Our opera season opens with Le Nozze di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro), by W.A. Mozart, c. 1786.
According to Robin McNeil on denver.yourhub.com "Even in Mozart's day Joseph the II considered the opera to dangerous to stage, even though one could read the book. The story is a love triangle in which the hero, Count Almaviva plots with the help of his barber, Figaro, to win the love of Rosina. The Figaro Trilogy was written by French playwright Pierre Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais and Mozart's operatic version, Le nozze di Figaro, is based on the second part of Beaumarchais' trilogy."

The curtain rises at 8:00pm, Meymandi Concert Hall, Raleigh where Wayne Tigges sings the role of Figaro with Sari Gruber as Susanna. Yes, we have seen the opera before, several times in fact. Getting to know the music only makes you want to hear it again.

I am still discovering blogs and learning what I can from the snazzy ones. Where I have been for the past five years is a no-where-fog; I knew 'about' them I just did not 'get' them.
SO-o-o I've been searching through lots of blogs; most of them either medium-poor or downright awful. Finding one that is well done and actually contains information is not that easy. And did you know they give out annual awards for BEST blogs? Find www.bloggerschoiceawards.com and see what's been going on without me.
The reigning winner for "Best Blog Design" is...
www.frenchtoastgirl.com.
You will enjoy exploring this beautifully watercolored blog and learn why élena Nazzaro says 'Life is like French Toast.'

Today was the fourth class session and end of the second of eight-week OLLI Ballroom class. And also the time for PopQuizz1 to review all the steps covered in Fox Trot and Swing to date. It sounds harder than it is. Really just a check-list of the steps so each couple can ask about and improve their dance skills. Next up: Rumba.

As for developing partnership skills I like to tell couples...
Dancing is like marriage. The objective is to stay as close as possible and still not step on each other's toes.

keep movin' to the beat.
bb

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Autumn Glory



Missed it by four days...the first day of autumn was SUNDAY? And nobody told me?
When the summer has been the hottest in North Carolina history, numerous days over 100 degrees and very little rain (almost none), how could I miss September 23? Coming to the end of summer, the end of hurricane season and soon the end of the drought (it can't last forever) is reason enough to celebrate. Wednesday morning I did enjoy a morning walk-about on UNC's campus, glorious in the early light. The photo? Not UNC...sunrise is off the coast of Juneau, Alaska last summer. About 4:30 a.m. local time, one of the few times the sun appeared during the week.


Today is an auspicious occasion. The ivy-summer-greenery-blah wreath at the front entrance gets changed to the flourish of autumn splendor with the wreath of bounty. I would like to say the bouquet photo will accompany the wreath - I would like to but this bouquet was last seen in 2003. So much for my lost home-making-skills, the aim in retirement is to cut out the tedious, redundant and time-consuming and focus on what you really enjoy. That search is still in progress.

My sister, Jan, is due for lunch this afternoon. She did a fabulous lunch last week so it is my turn to return the favor. Shrimp with something, but exactly what is the question. Will have the hanging of the autumn wreath while she can help me. Then we can officially begin Christmas shopping (?).

Yesterday at OLLI Ballroom we danced to single-time and triple-time swing. The best music I have found for single-time (aka Lindy) is the third act of Contact, music from the Broadway show by Susan Stroman (winner of the 2000 Tony Award for Best Musical). The down-beat is consistent, the tempo is perfect and we were swingin' to 'runaround Sue, Put a Lid on It and Do You Wanna Dance?
The best! OK it's nostalgia all over again, once is while you have to get a little crazy. What can I say, my alter ego wants to be the 'Girl in the Yellow Dress.'

Red cloth for edging the holiday tablecloth is now in the washer with FOUR sheets of Color-Catcher and all the pink socks from the last wash load. Cross your fingers.
bb

Monday, September 24, 2007

Parrots in Paradise





Reading: A Pirate Looks at Fifty by Jimmy Buffett



To celebrate his fiftieth birthday, Jimmy and some friends island-hopped around the Caribbean, a journey of nearly a month. Their purpose was to visit and re-visit the cities that can best be described as “influences” on Margaritaville. The itinerary included Georgetown, Caymen; Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua; Baranquilla & Cartagena, Colombia; Caracas, Venezuela; Port-of-Spain, Pointe-√°-Pitre, Guadeloupe; Grand Case, St. Maartin; Grand Turk Island and many others.

Cannot decide which intrigues me most, the idea of cruising in the Caribbean OR listening to Jimmy Buffett’s music, or maybe both. Musing about the upcoming Western Caribbean cruise we have planned with our ballroom dance friends, I have been reading Buffett’s sort-of autobiography “A Pirate Looks at Fifty.” An entertaining book since we both began in the same decade but Jimmy has more to tell than I. The book is less story and more musings and reflections about places and memories, all told in a very casual style. Published just after his fiftieth birthday, the work may help you recall many memories of your own.

My interest peaked on one discovery in the book. Buffett learned that a college professor teaches a course entitled ”Geography based on Jimmy Buffett’s Songs.” This from Dr. W. V. Davidson, chair of the Department of Geography and Anthropology at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. Where was this professor when I was in school? or where was Jimmy for that matter? But out of curiosity I thought to look for references to the Grand Caymen Islands, Cancun, Mexico and Key West, Florida - all in the heart of Buffett country and all on our cruise itinerary. Sure enough, Jimmy has been to all of them, many times. The very heart of ‘Margaritaville’ lies in Key West and last year we discovered another Margaritaville in Georgetown, Grand Cayman.

What book by Jimmy Buffett would be complete without music? Lots of it. My longtime favorites of Antonio Carlos Jobim and Astrid & Joao Gilberto are mentioned but who knew about Milton Nascimento, or Caesario Evora (she sings in Portuguese)? Then there is reggae artist, Bob Marley and the group Desperados, who have opened for Jimmy many times (their hit: The King of Somewhere Hot). How did I miss so much? And I thought just knowing “Come Monday,” or “Pencil Thin Mustache,” would put me in the know. Obviously I have much to learn, finding cd’s of these artists and reading Buffett’s other books is now a priority - or maybe to read on the cruise.

Every year this cruise gets better, more relaxed and the dancing keeps us fit & happy. Who can resist a Cheeseburger in Paradise? Better check the map, there might be a quiz later. bb

Dance Skirt Despondent



The 'Skirt Project' is not going so well! After unrolling some yardage on the table I decided the fabric needed pressing. With high steam going, I began to press over the fabric and noticed that water from the iron was trailing over the surface. So I pressed it in. Wrong choice. A watermark appeared that would not leave. What do to? I tore off a meter of cloth, dumped in the wash with a "Color Catcher" sheet to see what a water immersion would do. Not really sure, but I suspected rayon fibers combined with cotton (or mohair), might be the problem.

An hour later I pulled a heavy, wet lump of fabric from the wash and proceeded to dry it. Then I pulled formerly white socks out and a blush-colored pair of formerly chino pants out of the machine. The ColorCatcher totally saturated with bright red dye! After another ten minutes I pulled the still damp yardage from the dryer and returned to the ironing table.

The solution was not all bad, nor good. I could press and even with steam the fibers reacted better but wrinkles and creases from the wash and from previous folding are not going away. What to do now? I have the circular skirt pattern all measured and ready to cut but do I need this skirt? Perhaps rather than a circular full-length skirt, I should broom-stick it [wash, roll around a broom handle, tie it securely at several intervals, wait several days for drying and then un-roll and accept the permanent creases that follow. Only the cross-warp sheen will no longer shine. Bummer.

The red, over-dyed clothes [nothing valuable] are being re-washed with more sheets of ColorCatcher and likely will be relegated to 'paint clothes.' BUT the experiment is not over yet. Tomorrow I will take another look at both the washed and the unwashed fabric and think about steaming the whole bolt, or washing, or not. I have already been called Scarlett O'Hara, using drapery fabric for fashion sewing. And tomorrow is another day...

The dreaded DMV driver's license renewal is done! A major birthday is coming within a few weeks and North Carolina requires re-newal AND a vision test. Sure, I know how to drive but the vision test is the worry. My ophthalmologist had already verified that my right eye would never past the test but that I should request a form, return to his office and proceed to petition for a 'Special permit.' No need. I wore contact lenses, passed the left eye with 20/20 and the right eye doing as poorly as ever. For the fee of $20, and with 'optical restriction 1' on my new license, I am good for another five years. And I was dreading - absolutely DREADING - this test. In and out in under twenty minutes wondering what was I so nervous about?

Heading to Squids Fine Seafood for dinner. Ed had OLLI board meeting this afternoon, so his Monday cook-night means we eat out. Tomorrow after dancerCIZE it will be my turn to shop and fix dinner. I go more for the 'fixing' part rather than the 'cooking' part, lots of fresh, raw and salad bar stuff. How bad can that be?
bb

Saturday, September 22, 2007

September Lunch





SO fine a day, can there be any better than a breezy September afternoon?

And what better way to spend it than with your sister and a quilting friend enjoying a tasty lunch? The reason for this lunch was, of course, Jan's fabric finds from the auction house. The stacked bins in her garage, photo left, tell the story. Yards and yards and yards of all kinds of fabric. Four of which are now at my house.

Rose, a quilting friend and aquacise Mermaid, was my companion as we headed west on I-40+85 to explore Jan's house. Arriving just before noon, my sister had the back, screened-porch all set for lunch with festive cloths and a tasty salad, center photo. For the main course, a stir fry of turkey, wild rice, craisins and walnuts, with a side of steamed broccoli and carrots. And lastly, Jan's famous pound cake made with secret ingredients which I am forsworn NOT to reveal. Not today anyway. See Rose on the left, Jan right.

After a tour of her recently remolded house, a furniture-find update and lunch, next stop: the garage. Fabric bolts are heavy. Yes, I do a weight-resistance workout twice a week but this challenged my weight lifting. We selected fabrics for Jan's master bedroom (summer and winter schemes), fabric for the guest room and the bonus- room studio. Then started revealing our personal desires. Rose found a print with coordinating solid for a summery-y table cloth. I spotted a warp-dyed, irresistible fabric in just MY color. Using a black warp and a dark sienna weft, this fabric has an iridescence that changes color as it moves - very copper-y and very powerful fabric. PERFECT for a long dancing skirt with a black velvet top. And soon to be - the fabric awaits in my sewing studio now.

Should you be confused about warp and weft, here's an explanation you cannot forget. How does Donald Duck weave? First, as always, Donald strings the warp threads, top to bottom, on the loom. Next step: Donald weaves the weft threads from weft to wright. Best done with a lispy-duck accent, once you know weft=left, you will always know which thread is, or is not, weft.

Two more of my selections are red-printed crewel-patterned fabrics, both in reds. I brought them home to audition in the dining room. ONE of them will be my new holiday cloth for our seasonal entertaining. And I think the winner is:




There is just enough yardage to cover the table, needing at least a 4" solid banding around all sides. Will shop for that this coming week and the other bolt goes back to Jan. But FIRST I need to find and size the long-skirt pattern for the copper-y-shimmery fabric. This now supersedes ALL sewing projects [including scrappy jacket], as the skirt will be needed on the January dance cruise with the OLLI group. The ballroom class term is just super-fabulous, everyone picking up the steps in short-time and having fun doing it. Dancing news later. Back to our luncheon outing.

Once our chosen fabric bolts were in the car and the last of the photos snapped, we headed to Sheetz. West coast readers may know about SHEETZ, but few locations exist in North Carolina. I would know nothing about them were it not for my step-daughter-in-law, Jen. She first pointed them out to us two years ago in Charlottesville, VA.

The future of the gasoline-restaurant-convenience-car-wash business, all done with swipe card convenience. Just over the Alamance County line and built with state-of-the-art equipment [including re-cycled water for the car wash],SHEETZ has it all over the local gas retailers. AND they have clean rest-rooms, hot and cold foods plus my favorite: bins and bins of color-sorted m&ms! How bad is that? I make it a point when ever traveling to my sister's house to leave in time for a stop at Sheetz for gas and a car wash (my car needed it!).

Back home, recuperating before dinner and studying my fabrics I anticipate some heavy sewing days ahead. It was a very good day.
bb

Asian Attitudes












Finding the influences, and the muse, that will propel your creativity is both the most exciting and the most difficult part of the process. I have many sources [ human, animal and vegetable] that I pull from and will share it with you.

In 1988 the Japan Society of New York city hosted an exhibition about Japanese Folk Textiles. For me this exhibit was a seminal textile moment when both the Oriental refinement and textile influence from Japan struck a chord within me. About half of the textiles on show belonged to Fifi White, a weaver and collector from the midwest. The catalog: Japanese Folk Textiles, An American Collection (M.A. Kataginu, Tokoyo: Shikosha, 1988), contains both English and Japanese text, a forward by White and has been a constant reference for me in the years since. But the collection was soon outdone by White's commercial enterprise of creating one-of-a-kind fashions from Japanese fabrics. The best!

Asiatica, located at 4824 Rainbow Boulevard in Westwood, Kansas (a suburb of Kansas City, Mo), offers designer clothes to die for. Go to www.asiaticakc.com and you will see what I mean. You will want to sign up for either the E-mail notifications or the mailing list or both. I have been saving their postcards and brochures for the past twenty years and usually have two or more tacked to my bulletin board for sheer visual gratification. Do not be surprised by the prices, most of her garments cost more than my first car and a are good reason to buy a lottery ticket!

IF I were to have another life and could do anything I wanted, I believe that creating upscale clothes from vintage Japanese fabrics would be just about perfect. Perhaps that is because I have always been a "textile" person, or perhaps because I grew up not far from Kansas City, Missouri and still wonder why I never met anyone who knew about or collected oriental fabrics(?). How did I miss Fifi? To study the fabrics, clothing, and accessories and to peruse the photography of the Asiatica collections is in itself a lesson in White's sensitivity to Japanese refinement. It's a lesson from a master.

And should one be lucky enough to be anywhere near Westwood, Kansas, pass GO and do not stop until you reach that shop!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Seat of Honor



INTRODUCING. . . . .
my friend Robbie does the most amazing things with old chairs. The results are "Happy Chairs," for special occasions. Using craft-paints in small bottles, Robbie speciality is making dots over the surface while incorporating images and symbols unique to the receiver. In this case the chair was dedicated to my husband, Ed, with images of his saxophone, birthday, names and personal references. For the celebration Ed got to sit in the special 'seat of honor,' but afterwards the chair became paired with a music stand. He now practices the sax in a special chair every day.

The only downside? The relief of all the dots leaves dimples in the back of bare legs, so we keep a cushion in the seat during warm weather months.

Robbie has added candlesticks and bud vases to her artistic endeavors. But the first and foremost focus is chairs. Not just any chair, but a chair with personality potential. An old chair. Wood. Well made. Worthy of a new life. And a special occasion. You will never find another chair like this one.
bb

The Jacket again



SO, how do you like the double-front?
Real snazzy! And this is just the beginning, wait and see what comes up for the sleeves and back. I have no idea, haven't even begun to think about it.



The rest of the story: my favorite vintage fashion-pattern.

This Vogue pattern dates to c.1966 when I made a lightweight, summer suit in black to wear for job interviews. I hate to admit the year in which my career began but there it is. Over the years I have made about six or more jackets, and suits, from the same pattern. One of which I was quite proud, was a beige-sienna-ochre plaid wool jacket trimmed with tobacco-colored Ultra Suede [remember when Ultra Suede was NEW!]. The skirt was also Ultra Suede and not all that comfortable - the synthetic got very warm after a few hours.

I also made a Spring jacket in a light, woven wool in a divine coral color with a silk lining. I looked like a fat shrimp in that jacket and finally gave it to someone much smaller. My Mother.

Yes, I could buy an new pattern and forget all the trouble of re-sizing and adjusting the proportion to fit me - BUT why give up on a good thing now?
Besides, I'll never find one I like as well as this.

The question to ponder: is this carrying re-cycling too far? Perhaps I could just buy a jacket. But where would I get an original, with expressive colors and promote my sewing skills at the same time. An ego trip? I like to think my ego is just along for the ride. I best reserve final judgement until this one is finished and see how it fits(?).

The Jacket Project


The Jacket in Progress:

The beginnings of a scrappy, improvasational design layout. Sizing the pattern was one issue, getting an assortment of scraps and deciding which went where, was the next decision level. But it gets better....

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Cool September Morning





Out the door at 7:15 and back an hour later after walking about the UNC Campus. The morning air was COOL, my first early morning walk since last spring. When the temperature hits 88 at dawn you know it is going to be a hot day. NC taxpayers will be glad to know their tax dollars have been spent - all over the campus. New walkways, new landscaping, street paving and mega construction continues. I try to make it under the Bell tower in time to hear the carillon ring. Just getting out is a major accomplishment and I hope to be out walking 2-3 times a week. My personal trainer says "get more cardio each day." I'm getting it.

The photo is from Hanks Chapel Greenhouses in Pittsboro. Taken with my former digital camera [before an upgrade to a more advanced model]. Four of my orchids are boarded at Hanks Chapel for a modest monthly fee. When they bloom I get a message to pick up and we enjoy the blossoms for weeks to come. Since I am garden-challenged, the orchid greenhouse is the best bet going.

Monday night was the Durham Orange Quilter's Guild [DOQ], the program presented by quilter and fiber artist, Ellen Guerrant. Ellen's presentation was about the Log Cabin quilt block and its various incantations and modern interpretations. Entitled "My Grandmother Made One of Those," she enthralled us with both quilts and slides of quilts that she has made, found in flea markets and yard sales and some have just come to her. Ellen is a naturally funny lady, disbelieving that there can be non-quilters in the world you do not understand the notion of cutting fabric into pieces and then sewing the pieces back together again. We get it!

Even better, Ellen shares her blog: http://ellenguerrant.blogspot.com. Seeing Ellen's blog gives me new inspiration; more quilts, fabrics, collectibles and family history. Why didn't I think of that? Well, I'm new at the game and just getting my input organized.

Rose was also at DOQ and we made a date for Thursday to drive west to visit my sister, Jan, in Elon, NC. The reason for this visit? Jan has outdone herself. Shopping for furniture and drapery fabrics, she and husband Rich have been attending auctions. Last weekend she hit a fabric clearance and ending up buying three RACKS of fabrics [nearly thirty bolts of fabric]. All to get the five or six fabrics she really wanted and the rest to sell, share, donate or otherwise find each bolt a good home. Any mention of fabric is enough to get me there. I remember finding a chintz print that I thought would make nice cushions and curtains for her back porch [this find for a mere $6]. I think Jan has outdone me this time. I swear, between my sister and I trying to downsize and prioritize the amount of goods we absolutely NEED, versus those things we can't refuse - a mountain of 'stuff' ends up in our garages.

So Thursday is the day I take a paint color fan-deck, my manual on e-Bay selling, the digital camera, and Rose, to investigate. See pictures here at a later date. Even if I do not find fabric I want, the trip home takes us to Sheetz. This is the closest gasoline/convenience Sheetz to Chapel Hill and because they recycle the water you can still get a carwash in the midst of a drought. And my car really NEEDS a carwash!

Got towel and bottle of water in hand. Off to the dance studio for Day 1 of dancerCIZE; created for ladies without dance partners who want a rhythmic-cardio workout. My second for the day. Plus I have to think of something for dinner.
Again.
bb

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Sunday Ballroom

EF is just amazing. The owners (Oksana and Yuri)of the Fred Astaire Studio in Durham, NC hosted a dinner dance tonight from 5 - 8 pm. We had been practicing and reviewing our ballroom lessons for three days. With much confusion. Before the dance had progressed very far a West Coast Swing was played. EF took over and mastered the lead in a New York minute. The best WC we have EVER danced. Our teacher, Missy, would be proud of us. I cannot help but brag about him, it was a breakthrough.

Tonight the studio was beautifully decorated, the Ole NC BBQ catered a superb dinner, Yuri makes a great DJ and the crowd was hoppin. Most of the usual suspects, but a few new faces. Including Ulilia (sp), Oksana's sister who has been in NC for all of three weeks. She sat at our table to eat and sometime later Ed danced with her. YES, he danced with another dancer; a very rare occasion. Tori, who is the OLLI ballroom teacher, is back from The Czech Republic and full of travel stories.

Yuri and Oksana were in Orlando last week for the US Dance Championships and danced their way to the quarter finals. My feet are aching, I am still cooling down, my smoothie(aka for Spanx) was slipping and my white satin top needs cleaning, again, but it was worth it. Tonight was prelude to the October Silver Harvest dance in Burlington. And then the January cruise.

The strip-sewing for my jacket was lain aside for today - I focused on hemming a pair of grey trousers for fall. I need black workout pants for Tuesday's class and dress-up outfit for Wed and Fri, including Wednesday's afternoon class. The pants getting today's attention were bought last Spring and getting them to fit has been part of my motivation; the waist is now the right dimension. Some efforts are paying off! I have also ordered two jackets from Talbots (online catalog sale), getting some pieces to update the wardrobe for fall. After tonight's dancing I best consider ordering some new shoes too.

Last note; I met Rebeca briefly. She will be taking the dancerCIZE class for Tuesday. Young and pretty the senior ladies from OLLI will give her a workout!
bb

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Aquacise with Noriko

Being Saturday my schedule, as it always is, takes me to the UNC gym about 1:00 pm to walk for 30 min. Then change into a swimsuit and get ready for the 2:00 aquacise class with Noriko. For anyone who's had Noriko's classes you already know this is as fit a body you'll ever find, perfectly tanned, dark eyes, THE personal trainer and aquacise teacher that EVERY gym wants. I see her once a week at aquacise and sometimes she talks to me in the weight room where I am working out with the puny 7.5 pound weights and she's bouncing thirty-pounds around like nothing. We speak a little after the pool workout but nothing very personal.

For some reason today I was ready to reveal the start of dancerCIZE and the ballroom classes this coming Tuesday. Would you believe her mother was a ballroom dance teacher in Japan and as a young girl Noriko was a jazz dancer. Yes? I asked if she had seen the Japanese version of "Shall We Dance?" She answered many, many times and that the lead in the film reminds her a lot of a time when her mother was younger and still dancing. That did it - if I wasn't already impressed with her fitness career the fact that she also dances did it for me.

AND while talking to Noriko, another lady (this is in the locker room), asks about ballroom dance lessons, who turns out to be an acquaintance from U.U. days. I may have yet another couple in the ballroom class (6). All out of the unexpected. Who said "chance favors the well prepared?"

I am stiff tonight - the workouts yesterday and today have challenged every part of my body and I still have the Sunday morning workout to face. EF is happy as a clam; early this morning he began the transition from Earthlink to Bell South and so far (???), my Email is still working. I was getting tense just thinking about lost files and interrupted connections.

Waiting to see what the blog from DR brings next and was roaming the Dominican Republic travel pages to find an interesting blog from a Peace Corps volunteer. This young girl wrote from mid-05 until recently about a two-year assignment in an impoverished village in the mountains of DR. Her experiences organizing a youth club, baseball and local cocaine dealing is the stuff of nightmares. Apparently a tourism-based economy can bring money to the beach resorts but does nothing for the lower-class population. I have pursued this research to learn more about the country, it's culture and geography - but it leaves me with many concerns about living there.

My research is now turning to aesthetics and philosophy: specifically Hume, Hutchinson and Kant. Now that I've skimmed over Kant's Three Critiques, I seem to be back at the beginning of asking "What is the meaning of aesthetics?" I keep getting caught between art appreciation, architectural history, and sensory perception. The difference between pure reason, practical reason and aesthetics compares to empirical vs. rational knowledge but I don't see how aesthetics fits into that schematic. Thursday I'll ask more questions.

Tomorrow night: dinner & dancing at Fred Astaire. We practiced cha cha tonight. Rumba in the morning.
nite, nite bb

Friday, September 14, 2007

Real Rain

As I write the drizzle is just ending - we had rain. Not just a droplet or two, but real rain. Weeks have gone by, the earth is hard and green leaves are falling without turning to autumn colors, that's how dry it has been. We still need more, the reservoirs are low and the plants will need weeks of rain to recover but at least the plants are getting revived tonight. Some storms east of Raleigh area but Orange County is finally getting moisture and cooler temperatures.

Boy, did I sleep last night! Something about testing martinis that will help you relax. EF came home from investment club after 9:00pm and I barely remember him coming to bed. At 6:30am I was up and about, stripping the sheets and getting ready for Molly Maids to arrive at 7:30. Headed to the gym while the day was still cool and walked 30 minutes BEFORE doing the weight workout.

Spoke with a blond, Nordic gal in the locker room after the workout. Learned that she is Dutch, lives nearby, has three teen-age sons and a body that could pin down Sylvester Stallone anytime. We talked about Holland, the post-war years and the years since emigrating she has lived in Canada, California and now North Carolina. Reminded me it has been twenty-seven 27 years since I worked in Maastricht developing a color system for Tenneco-Europe. 1980 - 2007, can it be that long ago? I am getting old!

Back to work on the scrappy-pieced jacket. Not the jacket parts per se but spent most of the afternoon strip-piece sewing for 'Seminole' patches (45 degree angles) that will most likely work in the lower sleeves, or perhaps the under-sleeve to turn back into a cuff. The back-composition is still in question. Strips, diagonals, nine-patch, blocks - I have all of the above in some form stored in more boxes than I need. Frustrating isn't it: looking in box after box and not finding what you really need? Got to get organized. Much of those scrappy patches will be used, but where is the challenge.

Since 9/13-14 is the Rosh Hashanah weekend EF went shopping at Whole Foods to get Matzoh Ball Soup, vegetarian chopped-chicken liver(?), tzimmes, noodle-kugel & gelfilte fish for Friday night dinner. Atop a green salad the gelfilte fish with pickled beets, pickles and hard-boiled eggs was a delicious dinner. No matzoh boards: I learned that one board has carbs equal to two slices of bread, one ball is enough - don't need extra starch.

This was my LAST week of the summer hiatus: Tuesday the noon class at Fred Astaire begins and for the next EIGHT weeks I am a class coordinator, a work-out lady, a half-hour walker and a shopper. After November 16, I can return to my usual leisurely life. Not!

Tomorrow EF switches my 'server' to Bell South. This could mean trouble.
press on regardless, bb

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Dance, dance....

Found just the email I've been waiting for - the fifth (5) couple confirmed for the Level One Ballroom class; and the dancerCIZE is all set with 11 paid participants - so far. I may have #12 next week. And the 4th and 5th cabins for the January Caribbean cruise are, or are about to be, booked. Britt and Truby Max have found two other singles, so each has a roommate and ones that dance. Wonderful, Wonderful...the fall term is shaping up.

At the moment I am testing an Espresso Martini - trying to duplicate the one enjoyed on the Alaska cruise. 'Googling' same got me dozens of hits; but I prefer this one from Italian Cooking and Living on foodtv.com.

1 shot freshly brewed espresso
1/2 ounce Kahlua
11/2 ounces Stolichnaya Vanilla vodka
3 espresso beans for garnish

I bought Vanilla vodka but I'm using Creme de Cacao instead of Kahlua. This time. Next time I'll try another version and I skipped the bean garnish (?). The bartender on the M.S. Oosterdam could whip this up in a flash and it was so smooth and cool after an intense gym workout. I know what you are thinking: I don't drink. True. But....I would like to serve this as an aperitif for Christmas dinner and I must perfect the mix-recipe first. Someone has to do it??

And besides, EF is not home. This is MY Thursday. EF leaves for an OLLI class, has lunch, gets to band practice by 3:00 pm then heads to the Carolina Club at 5:30 to have dinner in The Grill and make the Portfolio Investment Club meeting at 7 pm., coming home about 9 pm. This is MY ONE Thursday of the month to be home all alone and do whatever I want.

Jan, my sister, just left - post-surgery boot on one foot and cane in hand. Her heel spur and plantar faciitis keep her from walking and waiting for a heel procedure to heal. She left with some of my cast-off books to read during recovery. We enjoyed some iced tea with cheese and crackers - she loved the brown, rice-wafers found at Weaver Market in Carrboro! Jan is currently on the Y committee for the Silver Harvest Ball in Burlington, NC, Sunday, October 6, 6:30 - 8:30 pm. We danced there last year and I thought they did a splendid job but EF is balking at going this year. He's done with dancing (?).

The number one aim for today: REALIZED! Get into making the "fancy-scrappy-one-of-a-kind" jacket that I've been procrastinating about for months (years really). Well my long range goals are seeing progress - there's nothing like delayed gratification is there? As of this writing the sorting, editing, fabric audition and piecing process has produced the fronts (2). OF course there is still the back and two sleeves to create. The fronts are not the easiest but the most creative fun. The sleeves will be the challenge - getting the curve of the upper sleeve to fit the body of the jacket will take some effort. That and getting the sleeves long enough to have a turned-back cuff. The color scheme: why GREEN of course, actually so multi-colored with reds, yellows, blue and aquas that the whole thing will be a 'designer' model. The lining will be a pale green, chambray fabric that has been waiting eons in my stash for some purpose.

Plus I spent most of the morning Online searching "Villa Barbaro" "Veronese" and the work of Georges Rousse for the Durham Project. September 10th was the premier of a documentary film showing an French artist creating 'unusual spaces' within old tobacco warehouses. See: http://www.rousseprojectdurham.com/
This is for the Aesthetics class at OLLI. I have several questions and some questions of historical context for the professor but that can wait a week or two. I don't want to infuriate the poor man too soon....

Meantime, back at OLLI, our reservations for the OLLI Retreat at Blowing Rock, October 21-24 (Duke Fall Break), have been confirmed, as are our reservations at the WestGlow Spa for Wednesday 10/24. The NC painter, Elliott Daingerfield (1859-1932), built the house which now serves as the central lodge for guests at WestGlow (rated 7th of the 15 best spas in the world) http://www.westglow.com/. Daingerfield is one of my long-range goals: delivering a lecture [or course] on a North Carolina painter who enjoyed a national reputation at the turn of the 20th-century and has been nearly forgotten in the seventy-five years since his death. Once called "America's Millet" his works are in most major U.S. museums but who knows his name? I hope to photograph the expansive vistas that he so often painted.

Driving home on Thursday, 10/25 we may stop at Bernardin's in Winston-Salem for lunch. See: http://bernardinsfinedining.com. Why there? The fresh, grilled tuna steak on a bun is the best lunch choice, their menu offering Continental dishes with just a hint of Asian flavors. We cannot get there often but it's worth the wait.

Oops! I'm out of martini. Better see if there's any left in the cocktail shaker.
Until tomorrow, bb

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Tuesday's Tiredness

Could not make myself get out of bed and go to Pilates this morning. Was soaking my feet in Epsom Salts at midnight and finally got to sleep about 2:00 am. Have been keeping the half-hour of walking during Jeopardy every day - so there's some activity for this day. And my feet still ache.

My easy activity for the day was re-sizing a jacket pattern. Not just enlarging, but resizing the proportion. Working from a tissue paper pattern, fused to a web-fiber backing some years ago, and traced onto freezer paper, angling the neck and sleeve to fit a more mature shape took almost two hours. And I was exhausted. Tomorrow I hope to try on the paper pattern, mark some adjustments and then may need to re-trace the whole thing: neatly. Wasn't prepared for the time and attention to so many details but am feeling good about having accomplished another step in the 'want-to-make-but-can't-find-the-time' Jacket. And this isn't even the hard part. There is so-o-o much more to do.

Most of the day was spent overseeing tonight's dinner. Chinese Slow-Cooked Pork Shoulder came straight from foodtv.com, "making it easy" show from 2006. Found a package of pork shoulder, about 5+ pounds at Sam's Club on Monday; picked up the mushrooms, ginger, scallions, asparagus and green beans at Whole Foods and voila! dinner. almost. The secret ingredient is Chinese five-spice powder, rubbed over the meat; cooked in a mixture of dark soy sauce, brown sugar, sesame oil and minced ginger. I put all this in the crock-pot after last night's walking; let it slow cook for six hours. Cooked again this morning for four hours, until the meat was falling off the bone, then trimmed the fat; drained & strained the liquid and chilled to harden the fat. Once skimmed, the juice was used to cook cellophane noodles. The vegetables were stir-fried in a wok, the pork chunks and sauce added to re-heat. Chopped scallions topped the dish. EF loved it. AND I have at least two more servings for the freezer. See:
www.foodnetwork.com/food/cda/recipe_print/0,1946,FOOD_9936_32677_PRINT-R...

dancerCIZE is a GO! Twelve gals are ready to rumba. Ballroom is still ONE couple short. Tomorrow I head to the UNC-gym for a mini-weight workout, then to OLLI's 2:00 pm class at JRC education center for 'Aesthetics.' Don't laugh, this is about the context of meaning in visual aesthetics. The teacher is a photographer and I want to know what he knows about how to 'read' visual images.
later, bb

Monday, September 10, 2007

Sunday morning, OLLI Convocation Day

Up early and off to the gym to take advantage of the Sunday slow time before the church crowd arrives. Did a full workout and walked 40 minutes. By 11:00 I was totally pooped out.

Fall Convocation for the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Duke [OLLI].
The OLLI Swing band sounded 'better than ever.' Jeff Zentner does a terrific job, with a little help from his friends. Playing in the atrium of the R. David Thomas Executive Conference Center, The Fuqua School of Business, Duke University, the acoustics were great and the central space filled with sound.

Got to meet the newest band mover+shaker, Kathy Silbiger, recently retired and a trumpet player. She took my layouts from last year, re-wrote the copy, sought some funds for color printing and had Swing Band flyers everywhere. With the handouts, the easel board and the OLLI band stands they are attaining a band persona. After only two years of circular logic and feet dragging - Kathy showed up at precisely the right moment. Another term and I would have dumped all the layout work from my graphic-files.

The distinguished panel of speakers for the OLLI 30th Fall Convocation looked impressive to start - some were and some weren't. Judith Ruderman, PhD, vice provost for Academic affairs, adjunct professor in English, Duke University spoke volumes around the others, in spite of being the shortest. She quickly got my attention and admiration.

Kali Lightfoot, Director of OLLI Resources from University of So. Maine was the other prominent speaker who brought focus to the event. As for all others, Sara Craven said what I knew she would say, Dr. Gilbert stammered and hacked her way through a short speech and Phil Hopkins, OLLI President 2007, knew just what to say and when to sit down. And a good time was had by all.

By far the best part of the day was listening to the OLLI Swing Band playing such tunes as "In a Mellow Tone," "Georgia on My Mind" and "Mood Indigo." And even better the right people from OLLI were there to hear the band. By right I mean the board members, the Duke administrators and the advisers who are needed to support the band with focus and funds.

It was easy to pass on the hors oeuvres as they looked pasty and fried, getting a bonus Pepsi instead (#2 for the year!), so EF could take me to dinner later. By six o'clock we were at Brixx in Meadowmont getting a Pizza Margharita. That was my carb-overload for the day and the the rest of the month. And also the reason to get back to the gym to walk 30 min. BEFORE Monday Yoga and before heading to Sam's Club to stock monthly supplies.

Also shopping at Whole Foods, in CH, I discovered a great new idea: WF's house brand of Jasmine White Tea. Cold and delicious. For several years I have wondered why WF did not create a line to back up Honest Tea. The Assam (my favorite), flavor was nearly always out of stock and underpricing their retail could not be that hard: It's TEA! Finally, a delicious flavor, refreshingly cold, and the house brand. How bad is that?

I think I just got the 10th and minimum fill for the dancerCIZE class; now to work on the couples for the LEVEL ONE class. EF and I need to practice dancing this week: next Sunday is a dinner-dance at FADS. Got to be there!

keep moving....bb

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Table conversation...

The annual Gentleman's Wine Dinner at Governor's Club, hosted by Dick Isabel, offers a round table of discussion that one cannot find anywhere else.
An hour of chit-chat while tasting two wines preceded the dinner. A menu offering three more wines is the challenge to Chef Rusty - this club is so dedicated to wine that Isabel picks the wines first, then asks the chef to devise courses to compliment the vintage. And since I do not drink wine, this means EF can drink all he wants and rely on me to drive home.

The menu: (1st Plate) Muscovy Duck Breast served with arugula, radicchio and endive with walnut goat cheese, Fuji apple vinaigrette; an intermission of Mango Mint sorbet; (2nd Plate) Roasted Rack of lamb with fig glaze, braised red chard and polenta; (3rd Plate) Pistachio gelato profiterole w/chocolate sauce.

Our table talk began with the centerpiece; huge, live orchids graced all the tables. The local source for orchids is the Hanks Chapel Greenhouses, just east of Pittsboro. The only place I know about that 'sells' you the orchid first, then takes the orchid back after the blooms drop and 'boards' it in the orchid greenhouse until it blooms again. In effect you get to 'rent' your own orchid. See:www.orchidsbyhankschapel.com/

From orchids to house building, to weddings, and of course "whose children have screwed up the worst!" The great thing is to learn that other people have dysfunctional families just like your own. Two of the couples at our table had tried the ballroom dance class with me last year and were relating how their dance progression has now qualified them for 'handicapped parking.' I can only hope their golfing is better.

We had to leave before dessert (?) because EF has a 'gig' today - playing for and arranging the set-up for the Swing band at OLLI's convocation. As for me; my feet hurt and my legs have ached all night. The cause of my distress: P.T. April. Taking her advice to get more cardio, I have walked over 2.5 hours in the past two days, plus some gym time and Noriko's aquacize class yesterday - before dressing and wearing dance pumps to the dinner. My legs are telling me something - and it's not funny.

Checks continue to arrive in the mail booking students for both the OLLI dancerCIZE and Ballroom Level One classes - but I'm short by ONE for each class to meet the minimum. Classes begin a week from Wednesday and I need to scratch some slow starters and enlist them and their money this week. See: www.learnmore.duke.edu/olli

Sundays change for us every few years. There was a time when Charles Kuralt commanded out attention with CBS's "Sunday Morning." Then we tried the Unitarian route for a few years, now I'm off to the gym. Unless I get to work out, it will only hurt more. Don't even think about what the next phase might be!

keep moving....bb

Friday, September 7, 2007

End of Week 1

Friday is Molly Maid day, arriving early at 7:30 am, so I downed oatmeal quickly and headed to the UNC Wellness Center. As per P.T. April, I walked for 30 minutes, did some weight machines (3), and headed to the shower. Actually the ONLY reason I even go to the center is for the showers! They are the best.

Then off to Nutritionist Bobbi. Bummer, my weight had not changed in three weeks in spite of weights, counting fats, carbs and protein, doing yoga, Pilate's and aquacise. Double Bummer. I've been told that the process of converting fat to muscle must take place before I can expect to lose any more weight. This 'conversion' stage really sucks.

The major effort today was finding a retailer for Spanx. If you don't know Spanx, you do not watch Oprah (she will not dress up without one). Spanx is a reinvented pantie hose made to 'smooth the posterior' and eliminate the bumps. Just for the Gentleman's Wine Dinner tomorrow night did I make the effort. AND success! Dina Porter at University Mall has them, under a table and out of sight. Got the outfit, got the Spanx, got the shoes polished....next is a manicure and I am still looking at earrings. And men think women have it so easy.

Once home I started a new project. Not really new, but one I have been procrastinating about for some time: sewing a fancy, designer jacket. I have gobs of fabulous fabrics in my stash waiting to be made into something and I keep sewing patches but never finishing anything. Yesterday on the Internet, searching for 'Sewing Patterns," I found: LUTTERLOH'S PATTERN MAKING SYSTEM 'THE GOLDEN RULE'. See lutterloh.com.
Based on the Golden Mean, or Fibonacci number sequence [the Mean number of 1.618"], the system codes body sizes according to two measurements: a)bust and b)hips [applying a 'mean' guide to determine overall proportions and then gauges the shape for each pattern section. I watched a video on-screen demo and suddenly realized - I can do that! With my collection of patterns, the enlargements made from the scanner, all that is left is to take my own measurements and adjust the pattern. Lutterloh's Golden Rule works for ANYbody but I only need the proportion for ME. This afternoon with tape in hand, I measured and measured, taking notes and making diagrams. OK, I do not have a jacket yet, but Step 1 has been done. Sizing the paper pattern will be next.

Motivated by the weigh-in this morning, got in another forty minutes of walking before and during Jeopardy. Tonight was the 'Final College Championship' (a rerun). I missed the same answers that I missed the first time around (?). What do I know? But I did walk 1.5 miles in 40 minutes.

end of week one blogging. How i'm doin'? bb

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Hair Styling & Thai Pad Noodles

As tho it wasn't bad enough that I'm getting to that "Social Security" age; now I have computer-glasses, too. The regular bi-focal-lenses just were not doing the job so I gave in and ordered a pair of reading/computer glasses with a shorter focal distance for close-up work. Just another benchmark in the demise of my physical being.

Yesterday was my consultation with Personal Trainer April at the UNC Wellness center. P.T.April says "more walking." More Walking?? For three months I had focused on weight-resistance training, getting into machines and even trying out Pilate's; and now she says 'walk.' So the new plan is this: the only TV show I actually like is Jeopardy at 7 pm, just after dinner. Four or five nights a week, I will head to Ed's upstairs loft and walk on the tread mill for thirty minutes. About two hours a week, plus yoga, plus dancerCIZE, plus ballroom and my usual running about should begin to make a real difference. I just have one question: does anyone ever get past 65 and NOT exercise fifty percent of the time?

And for what did I join the Wellness Center? Walking on their indoor track is BORING. Walking on the tread mill is BORING. Walking outside is great EXCEPT during the summer months when the temperature rises to Eighty Before Breakfast (EBB). As soon as the summer heat breaks I will resume my early morning walks about the UNC campus, really lovely in the fall; maybe that will add up to two hours a week. Meantime tread mill it is.

This morning was my monthly appointment at the hairdresser's followed by lunch at Merlion. The S.E.Asian-Singapore-styled restaurant in Southern Village offers a terrific Pad Thai with Tofu. That with a cup of Fragrant Tea make a perfect once-a-month treat. That started my day while Ed was taking his step-daughters to Mama Dips for breakfast. Find Mama Dips cookbooks:
[Mama Dips Kitchen , c. '99 and Mama Dips Family Cookbook, c. '05, both by Mildred Council, see amazon.com].

Remember the Wednesday lunch I was fussing about? Never happened. Just as I was putting the finishing touches on a BIG salad bowl, the girls (thirty-something?) called to say they got off to a late start leaving Charleston, SC. No matter, I headed off for my appointment with April and then joined them for dinner at Acme Cafe in Carrboro. Even better was the special Grouper that Chef Kevin offered.
Guess what we are having for dinner tonight? Right you are, the leftover salads made with leftover BBQ brisket from Sunday night, served up with leftover bbq sauce made into salad dressing. And maybe again tomorrow night.

This morning's mail brought a new surprise. In the form of the latest issue of Thread's Magazine (Taunton Publishers), an article on "Paper Garments Guide Your Sewing"(Nov. vol. 133,p. 53), using the scanner to pull the image from a pattern envelope into a graphic computer program.
Then scan the fabric or color of your choice and apply that to the area inside the pattern. OR sketch the pattern shape and use that as the outline guide. CorelDraw12 works great for this and I can clip or trim to shape. Then enlarge or reduce the print, stripes, color blocks to fit the garment shape and VOILA! You have a paper guide.
During the afternoon I pulled pattern envelopes from a collection dating back to the early 60's, ancient I know, and began scanning the jacket patterns. Now I have enlarged, color print outs to sketch over or mask and pull into another program.
This quickly replaced 'paper dolls' as my new favorite plaything. AND it works perfectly for gauging that jacket pattern that I keep saying I want to make up in scrappy patchwork and never seem to get started. This made my day.

As for sewing without almost no pattern, here's my solution for a long evening skirt. Take a basic four-gore, A-line skirt - four pattern pieces, right? Now to add some glamour, cut six gores. Sew two together for the front, simple and smooth. For the back, sew four together and fold into deep pleats until reaching the designed waist size. Affix with a fold-over plaque or zipper and add a waist band. The skirt hangs straight in the front, the folds move as you walk and open as you spin in dancing, giving fullness in the back instead of gathers at the front. This construction made in rich royal blue, synthetic with a silk-like-slub, will be my outfit for Saturday night's Wine Dinner at Governor's Club. The top? A white, simple fitted shell in satin with lots of silver jewelry. Earrings? can't decide ...

Did I hear this right? A TV fashionista was talking about "grey being the NEW black?"
Who do they think they're kidding? Grey was the new black in '58, in '74, in '92 and now? Grey is the proverbial new black and somehow black always makes a comeback. Or is that a comeblack? And I was hoping that 65 was the new 50!

ciao, bb

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Tuesday: mat-Pilates workout

Yesterday was Pilates. Or rather Pilates for Beginners, my first class and a big step. Some years ago I purchased a video-tape and never got the hang of the breathing technique. Now, thanks to five years of yoga and trying to improve ‘controlled breath’ during workouts, I felt ready. What an hour. More like yoga than I expected, this was 'mat-pilates' as the gym does not have the full Pilates-equipment for the 4-star workout. No matter, this was enough.

Pilates was a trainer in the ‘50's ±, who believed that Core Strength was the most important aspect of physical fitness. Core - meaning torso, under the arms to below the hips - the central trunk of the body. IF the core muscles were tight, controlled with the breath, supported the spine and toned to perfection [his words, not mine], then fitness followed. I’m still working on the tightening the stomach and back muscles. A lot of sitting up and lying back down, slowly...back and forth. I did better than expected but I’m not a devotee yet. I’ll stick to yoga and my weight workouts, trying Pilates on occasion. Besides in two weeks, Tuesdays will start OLLI’s DancerCIZE workouts and I cannot do both. That one will keep me breathing!

The OLLI/Swing Band will play for the Sunday Convocation & 30th Anniversary of OLLI, so Tuesday was rehearsal day for EF. Dinner will be chicken-apricot-pecan salad with a light mayo dressing. Something changed over the trip to Alaska. EF has never much liked my chicken salad but last night he actually asked for it.

On board the M.S. Oosterdam [HA], the lunch buffet offered a variety of delicious salads each day. I noticed and quickly became fond of the chicken salad with figs (?). Upon our return home, I practiced making a basic chicken salad (celery, chopped dried figs and mayo). The next time I had cold chicken on hand, the figs were gone; so I used chopped dried apricots instead. And another time, chopped pecans were added. And still EF seemed to like the variations. But to have him request it was a major turnabout. Yes, I make it with a mayo dressing [adding among other things a basic oil-vinegar dressing, some apricot jam, wine vinegar and mustard]. When it is pale yellow, a little thicker than cream and has a tangy kick; that’s it!
Now I will just make a bed of greens, add some cucumber and red onion, pile the chicken salad on top and slice some navel oranges for garnish. That’s dinner!
Remind me to get figs and Hellman’s mayonnaise.

Breakfast oatmeal is cooling and I must get moving; this afternoon my Personal Trainer will evaluate me and I do not want to flunk my OWN evaluation!
ciao, bb

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

FALL begins...

The temperature will likely hit 90 degrees today, who knows when we will see rain again and the Autumnal Equinox is not until September 23, but I believe when Labor Day is past, the fall season begins.

Yesterday I met with Oksana (Fred Astaire Dance Studio), for an overview of the class times, the registrations to date, student expectations and submitted an invoice for expenses. What a meet. The first-time offering of a "DancerCIZE" class is gaining participants and I expect a lively group. Oksana is composing the choreography for the routines and has an English-speaking teacher for the class. That's real progress for me. The Ballroom Level ONE class has not yet met the minimum number to cover the costs and I need to dig for some more candidates. The classes begin the week of September 18-21.

Also discovered that the studio is hosting a dinner-dance (5-8 pm),on Sunday, September 16th and I secured two tickets for us. Even Ed seemed pleased that we'll have a chance to dance - and dress up for the evening, what a Sunday.

After dance meeting, I popped around the corner to visit my friend Muriel and hear her latest news. She's been away for weeks caring for and dealing with her sister's death and subsequent family ritual; returning to Durham just as the summer ends. We talked for an hour about many personal issues but not about her upcoming plans, the candidates for the presidential election nor the crunch in the stock market. Somehow when we get together these other worldly issues do not seem that important. She did inspire me to take a harder look at the pots and plantings on our porch. She's ready to plant the fall color in her yard - I have not yet done the summer weeding! Soon as the rain falls, there will be green in Chapel Hill again. Ed is at this moment watering the front shrubs - the trees are already dropping leaves from the dry heat -before they turn brown.

Must remember to get eggs. That's right, EGGS. After years of avoiding the cholesterol-laden produce, I have found that eggs are nature's nearly-perfect food. The best way for me to avoid the empty-near collapse, sinking stomach feeling is to keep hard-boiled eggs on hand, every day. Fortunately I have a stacked-steamer with a timer and an egg rack, so that 15 minutes of steam yields perfectly boiled eggs that peel easily and neatly every time. Plus eggs will pack conveniently, last for hours and clean up is easy.

Instead of snacking, in the middle of the night, for the car-cooler that always goes with me, after a weight-workout, whenever I know the next meal will be an hour or more away; I eat two egg whites. NOT the yolks, for they are loaded with saturated-fat but the egg whites provide 7 grams of protein at only 15 calories. That 30 calories for a lasting snack. What's better than that? I can easily polish off 18+ eggs a week, that compared to buns, desserts, sweets and snacks means a major reduction in calorie intake. Now if I could just see the results on my lower-half!

This morning I am off to the UNC-gym to try out the 'Pilates for Beginners.' The Pilates trend caught me some years back when I investigated the workout and even bought a video-tape. Lesson one: learn how to breathe right. I never mastered that and so ended the effort. Now I feel up to the core-strength needed to do a beginner session - maybe if I learn the breathing technique, this could be my new yoga, or maybe not (?).
Stay tuned....bb

Monday, September 3, 2007

Labor Day Monday '07

The Labor Day dinner with Jan & Rich was delightful. We drank Italian sodas, enjoyed healthy vegetable salads (2), indulged in BBQ brisket and sausage and over-indulged in Jan's berry trifle. All the while laughing over family stories!

In setting up for last night's dinner I was searching through the bar cabinets and found a goblet - a trophy goblet. In 2003 I performed in a Showcase at the Fred Astaire studio in Durham and for the effort each dancer received a hand-painted, large wine goblet. The decorated vessel was the work of Lisa Yu (wife of our then teacher, Sunny). I don't think I had seen the glass since and I found it perfect for iced soda. Somehow drinking out it not only reminded me of that time but also of how much change has occurred in the studio. When Sunny gave up teaching we found Missy for a teacher and now that Missy has moved to the Caribbean, our lessons are fewer and far between. What's next? one can only guess.

My concerns this morning are over the OLLI dance classes, specifically the Level One Ballroom. I must reach a minimum number of paid dancers to cover the cost of the room and instructor and for the proposed Lady's Dancercize - I'm close to reaching that number. BUT the ballroom Level One has only three paid couples and I need THREE more. Tori Holt, instructor, will be sorry and have nothing to do for an hour if no one wants to dance.

And EF is no help. He is still miffed from dancing from last Thursday night and threatens to never dance again. He's into saxophone and tells me "dancing is your thing, go do it without me!" He will be practiced once more after a week of ballroom dancing in January (on the Western Caribbean cruise), and as soon as he's back into dance mode, the cruise will end.

It is early - it's Monday! If I had an early appointment I'd be scrambling to get together. But since we had an early night, I slept well and I've been awake since 4:30 am. Already have the dishwasher emptied and breakfast made. I could start some laundry but that seems a bit extreme for this hour. The 'Clutter Purge' continues but if I started sorting books now that would wake EF.

Friend Muriel has returned to NC. She was called away because of a death in the family, grieving over the loss of her sister. But she's back in Durham and promises to attend the aquacise ladies coffee on Tuesday. I plan to be there to help give comfort and support.

UNC played George Mason Saturday - the fall season is underway with win #1. That means that for upcoming Saturdays all parking spaces will fill and the restaurants will be crowded with football fans. The price of living in a university town!

No yoga today because of the holiday (bummer), but I'm heading to the gym before long. Need to work off that berry trifle and get ready for my Friday appointment with Bobbi, my nutritionist. Between keeping fit and losing weight - it's a full time job. Due to my purging of clutter in the house I found among other things a Weight Watcher enrollment card from 2001. The depressing thing is that I weighed three pounds less then, than I do now after trying hard for months (?). And to make matters worse, a pattern guide with my measurements from the same time, show that I was also smaller. Where did I go wrong? The motivation to sew fancy garments fades with the realization that I can't stabilize my weight.

Might do some shopping today - one of the items I seek: a Spanx. Oprah can't do without one, maybe I should try it!

Off to meet the week....bb

Sunday, September 2, 2007

August recap

Bonnie's Blog has arrived. Inspired by friends living in the Dominican Republic, who blog every day I thought "why not?" Apparently the blogging world has become SO simple, even I can do it. Or so I think.

To recap recent history, Ed and I spent most of July in the Northwest, first visiting his sons in Eugene, Or., a look at the Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show, on to Crater Lake for a look at volcanic remains and eventually, a cruise to Alaska.

The cruise was our early celebration for our twentieth-wedding anniversary (December, 1987). The highlight of the cruise was, for me, the floatplane flight over the Misty Fjords - just beyond Ketichcan. By the end of July we headed back to North Carolina in what has to be the worst trans-continent flight ever. Don't get me started on the state of commerical air travel. Plus we skipped over three time zones in fourteen hours. I was still on Pacific time a week later.

No sooner did we get home than the delayed doctors appointments began to fill up the August calendar. EF had missed saxophone practice for weeks and needed to 'get his lip back.' The rehersals for the Swing band performance at the September 9th OLLI convocation have already begun. We had a dance lesson just in time to say goodbye to our favorite teacher, Missy. Her family is now residing in the Dominican Republic.

Focusing on the Caribbean, the details for the January 5 cruise to 'practice dance' aboard the Norwegian Majesty took considerable time and effort, BUT new couples have already booked to dance at sea the first week of January. This will be our third cruise on this ship, with enought time at sea to practice during the day and dance to live bands in the evening. We really work at it and as one dancer from last year reported "it's the only cruise where I actually lost weight!" How bad is that?

August was the opportunity I gave myself to unload a lot of collected stuff. First twenty boxes went to Jan's house for a garage sale on August 25th. Now I'm in the 'sorting mode' going through books in the library. Much as it pains me to toss out a book, there are already three boxes in the garage, headed to the CHPLibrary's next book sale. I should be feeling free of clutter and enjoying more space - but there is much more to tackle. I have not even started on the craft room where piles of fabric, scraps and UFO's await (UnFinishedObjects).

The heat of August, drought in North Carolina and threats of watering limits means we stayed close to home the last week...thank gawd for the ice maker and mini-fans. We just hope our trees and shrubs make it a few more weeks.

I can also report that all of the doctor's tests were negative and I am good for another year; IF I stick to the diet, the workout routines, and pay attention when driving. As for my diet that won't be easy.

We have sister Jan and her husband, Rich for dinner this evening (big BBQ); Ed's step-daughter-twins are coming to visit on Wednesday; and the annual Gentlemen's Wine Dinner hosted by Dick Isabel is Saturday night with a gourmet meal at Governor's Club. Balancing proteins, fats and carbs this week will take major effort on my part. All this eating means more workout time and I only have so many hours in a day. The UNC Wellness center is already taking notice of that 'ole lady huffing & puffing with free weights. The only advantage so far is that EF is getting nervous about my strenght training, he's afraid I might take advantage of him (?). The Governor's Club dinner is actually motivation - as wearing the chosen outfit means my waist has 'no expansion' territory! More salads, please.

OLLI classes begin September 10, EF's band practice on September 11 and my ballroom classes at Fred Astaire on September 19. I for one am waiting for cooler weather, more dancing, back to the fall routine and looking forward to October at the OLLI reatreat in Blowing Rock. It's going to be a good fall.

Next on the calendar for this week: Wednesday will be the third of three Personal Trainer sessions at UNC gym. And an evaluation to see how many more I will need. You laugh? I can tell you it's not a pretty sight but I am determined. September is just beginning and I have no time to waste. Just keep moving....bbf