Things I Do For Self Care

  • Read.
  • Eat.
  • Play with the cats.
  • Read and eat.
  • Sew – although it’s more often an exercise in masochism.
  • Write angry blog entries and then delete them.

Hm, the list seems a little scanty. But I’m not – and never have been – the “give yourself a pedicure / scented bubble bath / makeover” kind of person, so all those options are ruled out. Exercise should be on the list, but it feels too much like hard work.

Need to figure out what else I can put on the list.


A friend died and, predictably, it tore the lid off my own can of personal grief. I’ve been seized with the desire to find recordings of my late husband, because I feel like I’m forgetting what he sounded like. And I want to show said recordings to the chap I subsequently married for reasons that elude me. I’m not going to go ahead with that idea until I figure out the reasoning because I can think of at least two ways that such an incident would not end well.

Questions of a Certain Type

While migration to the UK remains a very long shot, more questions have been added to the must-be-answered list.

  • How do recently-arrived migrants open a bank account? (Apparently it can be quite challenging.)
  • Where is the line between ‘reasonable’ and ‘gouging’ when it comes to rental agency fees?
  • How much does a not-badly-used two-door hatchback go for? And how much is car registration?
  • Where can I find a graph of typical utility prices? I need to know how much heat in the winter is going to cost, etc.
  • What’s the trick to finding the cheapest train fares?

Meanwhile, on the mostly-rhetorical list, I’ve added.

  • Why are train ticket prices so wildly variable?
  • Will I want to slash my wrists if I have to commute 90+ minutes each way, every day?
  • Have the Brits figured out how to make a decent cup of coffee, yet?
  • Will British winters drive me insane?

Food, So-Called. Well, Actually…

When eaten fresh out of the package, Peeps are actually pretty good. I don’t know what all the hate is about. It’s just a sugar-coated marshmallow.

Then again, I say this a person who has, of their own free will, eaten Fry’s Turkish Delight and Marmite. Not simultaneously, of course. Even I think that would be going too far.

I found Wagon Wheels at the imported candy shop last week and squealed like a little girl. I’ve grown accustomed to being able to find Galaxy chocolate and Aero bars without too much trouble, but I haven’t seen a Wagon Wheel since I last patronized the tuck shop at my middle school.

Are those still a thing? Tuck shops? Or have they been swept aside by so-called progress?

Things I’ve Learned While Sewing.

Aviator style caps can make you look like Baldrick from Blackadder.

The answer to “Should I hand-baste this, first?” is always “Yes!”

New project? Put a new needle in the sewing machine. And clean the lint out of it while you’re at it.

Thread snarling and you think you’ve blown the timing on your machine? You haven’t cleaned the machine recently. Do so and re-thread.

Never use stretch charmeuse as a lining.

Sergers are awesome, but not essential.

Make a muslin, first.

People will ask you to sew for them, and then be stunned that you won’t price-match a Malaysian sweatshop.


As an administrative assistant, I’d kill for an app into which I could load my boss’s entire travel itinerary and get alerts all along the way. Not just warnings that a flight is delayed, but let me know if the car rental agency has run out of boss’s preferred size/model – and suggest other nearby agencies that DO have it. Let me know they’ve checked into and out of their hotel. Hell, give me news alerts for the geographic area they’re heading to, as well. All of that, but in one place.

I know, it’s impossible, but it’s nice to dream.

No Spontaneous Musicals, Here.

Mandatory music lessons in grade school frustrated me. I wanted to read music just like I read words but the notes remained stubborn little stemmed dots that I had to ‘translate’ one at a time – and slowly, too. Yeah, I was the kid on the triangle – assuming I didn’t get out of it somehow.

I can’t carry a tune in a bucket, either. My cats’ ears turn inside out if I even hum along with whatever’s playing while I’m sewing. If I sing, the paint starts peeling and my husband suddenly needs to run errands outside of the house. Oof.

Fizzy Waters – A Review   

Lime flavored Perrier is delicious, but too expensive. Ditto La Croix’s peach ginger flavor. Ditto all of LaCroix, in fact.

The Safeway house brand (Refreshe) has a lot of flavors (grapefruit is my fave) but the flavoring isn’t as strong as I’d like. It’s faded out by the time I’m halfway down the can.

Schweppes’ black cherry seltzer is my absolute favorite, but it’s difficult to find when out and about.

Canada Dry mixed berry seltzer is a barely-adequate substitute for Schweppes, but more easily found.

Arrowhead is tasty enough, but a bit too… burpy. The carbonation is a little over-enthusiastic, I guess.

ADD, Cosplay and Budgets

I have mild ADD (diagnosed at 43, it was an interesting year) and a cosplay habit and a tight budget. Any two of these could be managed easily, but all three together, it’s a pisser. Here are some rules I try to live by.

Don’t buy anything unless you know exactly what you’re going to use it for. No “but it’s so pretty!” purchases. No “but patterns are on sale for $1!” binging. This is the toughest one to abide by and please ignore the six yards of trippy upholstery fabric that I just scored at Goodwill for $8…

Keep the active project list as short as possible and multitask where possible. Technically, I’m running three jacket-based projects side by side right now but all that really means is that I’m learning how to adjust the hell out of a commercial pattern (Vogue 9099 if you’re curious) with the intention of using it as a “master’ pattern for anything that resembles  three-piece jacket, going forward – which includes the other two jacket projects.

Set deadlines / be sure you’re actually going to wear (or sell) what you made. There are some things I’d love to try making, but I don’t have any occasion or convention to wear them at, so they remain on the “someday” list and, for all I know, might stay there permanently.

Set a limit for your project list (active and in hibernation) and don’t exceed it. Otherwise you’ll find yourself buried under a dozen incomplete outfits. And you’ll probably miss any self-imposed deadlines, too. I’ve got six projects on my list and have, so far, resisted the temptation to add more. When I finish one, then I can pick up a new idea / bring a hibernating one back to life.

Plan your sewing days. Set goals that fit the time available, breaking everything down into pieces that are as small as possible. For instance, I won’t say to myself “do the lining this weekend”, I’ll say “I think I can cut and assemble the lining on Saturday. Test fit Saturday night, after dinner. Sunday morning, do the machine-setting bits along the collar, cuffs and facings. Do the hand finishing on Sunday night, after errands.”.

(You can do a lot of hand-sewing on the train, if you’re a commuter, btw.)

Cut any to-do list by a third because you have ADD, cats and an Internet connection.

On a similar note, schedule breaks for yourself. It’s okay to look at cats on the Internet every now and then.

The Joann’s sewing/craft chain has many limitations, but a lack of coupons isn’t one of them. Get on their mailing list. Be sure to make use of them every now and then, as non-users get unsubscribed.

Every town has a discount fabric store somewhere – although “somewhere” could be up to 100 miles away. Visit them as often as you can, as their stock will change frequently. And get on their mailing list, too. Even discount outlets have sales. (Oh, how I miss Fabric Outlet in SF and their 40% off the entire store sales…)

If you happen to live near one of the few remaining textile mills in the the Western world, find out if they have an on-site retail outlet and make a trip out there.

Thrift stores can be awesome for fabric. I go there to buy sturdy all-cotton sheets for making toiles and interlinings (cheaper and better than bolt muslin!), and sometimes lengths of fabric will show up in the linens section, too – see “six yards of upholstery fabric”, above. Table-runners can often be re-purposed if all you need is some short (and narrow) yardage.

Thrift stores are awesome for other things, too. I visit thrift stores when I’m looking for leather (or good-quality fake-leather) garments to cut up, shoes in the I only need for that one costume so why buy new category, of course, mundane aspects of a costume that are cheaper and easier to buy rather than make. I scored a lovely 100% silk rollneck sweater that’s a great match with my 1966 reproduction suit for $5.

Oof, that turned out longer than I expected. But it’s a complicated situation, so I shouldn’t be surprised.


Book Review: The Demon Under the Microscope

Penicillin gets all the love from historians but sulphanilomide was the first antibiotic on the scene. The Demon Under The Microscope describes sulpha’s history and does a hell of a good job getting across how fraught life was in the pre-antibiotic era. (Got a blister? You might be dead in a week.)

The story begins simply enough – a chemical factory running a line in coal-tar derived medicines seeks a new best-seller – but it gets complicated pretty fast (Third Reich meddling was only one of several obstacles). Extremely informative but never dry, this one’s a must for anyone with an interest in medical history.