Monday, November 30, 2009

Interesting lecture today

I went to a talk sponsored by Google Waterloo today on data mining, or how they store and retrieve all the information they get for things like Ads. It was a little vague but still interesting - just thinking about the amount of data that Google works with is mid-boggling. They have so many servers and so many queries and everything has to be done so fast that they're really on the outer limits of knowledge with respect to this stuff.

I love the idea of big technology, and I love the work that Google does to make all of that complexity invisible to us end users. I'd love to be a part of that. Not only is the stuff they do awesome, so are the people. Everyone who works there wants to be there and wants to do a good job because they *want* to do a good job. There's no deadweight.

If I was actually working and I had the right skills, I'd submit an application in a heartbeat because they're hiring right now here in Waterloo. Sadly, I'm not working, and I don't have the right skills, so it won't be me who ends up working there. But if you happen to be a smart, dedicated person who fits one of the job descriptions here (or you know someone who fits the bill) you could submit an application.... and maybe you could be hired by the best company ever.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Working on my dress

Ian helped me fit the dress today. I had a hard time pinning it closed and then of course I couldn't pin all of the changes myself.

It turns out that my upper back is narrow. I knew that the shoulder area was narrow but I've never tried to fit something one-shouldered or strapless before. Not that I've fit this particular version of my body before, either, of course, which makes fitting a little bit more difficult.

I've made a number of changes to my pattern and I'll sew it up tomorrow. In addition to the fit changes, I also changed the side seams a bit to make them more of a right angle instead of the deep v. It'll be easier to pin myself into the dress and it'll make sure my bra stays covered. Here's hoping the next iteration of the dress fits better.

Saturday, November 28, 2009


I bought fabric for the dress today. Yay! It only took an hour to find and purchase the fabric once we got to the district. Yay again! I ended up buying a black polyester peau de soie for the dress, a black polyester lining, and a black polyester organza for the bow/sash thingy.

We'd never been to Hamilton's fabric district before, and I have to say that it has some advantages over the fabric district in Toronto. There's tons of parking behind each block, which is awesome, and the stores are close together, which is also awesome. There are a lot more drapery/upholstery fabric stores - and what seems like a kabillion foam stores as well - which might be an advantage. There were also a ton of antique stores there.

One thing I didn't like was that some of the fashion fabric stores smelled weird. One smelled like mold and water damage and another smelled kind of like animals. None of the stores in this area carried a wide range of super-awesome high-end fabric. Several stores in the Toronto district would have carried that fabric.

I'd sort of thought about getting a super-duper high-end silk awesome fabric for the dress but I ultimately decided to not go that route. Apparently working with the type of silk fabric I wanted is difficult as it shows every pin and needle mark, which means that there's no room for error. I'm better at sewing than I used to be - I usually only sew each seam once these days, whereas I used to sew each seam two or more times - but I didn't want to add more pressure on making this dress. My limited time to finish this dress is pressure enough, don't you think?

Also, I didn't really want to spend that much money for a super-duper high-end awesome silk fabric. I'd need two or three meters of outer fabric at $40 or more per meter... and that's expensive.

Two of the stores had the fabrics at a cheaper price than I'd seen near my place so I had to choose where to buy the fabric. One store was kind of dark and a bit musty and cheaper, while the other store was well-lit and smelled and looked nicer but was a bit more expensive. Even the more expensive store was cheaper than my local store (if my local store carried the fabric I wanted in the colour I wanted, which it didn't). We decided we were willing to pay a bit more to shop in the nicer store because it was a much better buying experience.

The sales staff at the store - European Textiles - were very friendly and helpful, with one chatting with Ian while another helped me choose the coordinating fabric for the bow. I had my pattern envelope with me so that they could see the pattern; I thought it would make the fabric selection easier and it did. It was a lovely experience, and they have a ton of fabric in lots of colours. I recommend them.

When the manager saw my pattern, she told me that she used to do a lot of sewing and that many years ago and had made somehing similar to the dress I'm making. Hers was strapless, with the contrast across the bust, and by a different designer. She still has her patterns from the 50s and 60s all neatly tucked away in drawers - I wish I could see her vintage pattern stash!!! I was practically swooning with envy that she had those patterns. I think she noticed :)

So at least this part is done - whew! Now I just have to finish modifying the pattern and wash my new fabric so that I can get the bulk of it together before I leave on Friday. I may yet add a little sparkle along the top edge of the dress; we'll see if I have time and if I think it would look nice. I'm thinking a row or two of tiny black flat-back crystals would do the trick - they'd be subtle but would add just a bit, and they'd give the back of the dress some interest as well. I have to make sure I have time to do this, though. I don't want to start it and not finish or stay up all night the night before the party finishing the dress. That stress I don't need.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Shopping, shopping, shopping

I was out shopping today. Sadly, I didn't find any shoes, but I did remember that I'm going to Ann Arbor - in the US - next weekend. My past experience has been that the shoe stores in the US are more plentiful and carry a better selection than many of the stores here in Waterloo.

I won't have too much time to shop while I'm there so I figured that I'd better develop a shopping plan. I did some sleuthing and discovered two big shopping centers right in Ann Arbor: Briarwood and Arborland. Between the two centers there are about a gazillion places that sell shoes; one of them must have something that will work for me. If not, there are some places that I could go to on my way home.

I'm coming to accept that my wish for sequinned shoes may not be granted and I'm ok with that. I have a wish for arch support in flat shoes and I think that might even be possible, if I'm willing to pay for it. I have some shoes with arch support and they're just so much more comfortable to wear around than flat shoes without it. I'd like to buy a pair of shoes that I'll wear for a long time and so I'm willing to paying extra for something that is more comfortable. It's a good investment, as long as I can find the right shoes. Paying a lot for shoes that won't last would be silly.

Fortunately, I didn't come home empty-handed today: I bought myself a new strapless bra. The one I had before doesn't fit anymore because I've gained weight and I can't go without. And even though I'm planning on making a foundation layer for my dress, I wasn't planning on adding bra cups to it. Bones, I can sew in; bra cups, I'm not willing to fuss with yet.

Yesterday I made up the first draft of the dress. It turns out that I graded the back too big (duh.... I did a full-bust adjustment to the front and didn't need to add that much to the back), which is easy to fix. I also need to add more fabric to the little cap sleeve under the bow; I want to change the underarm on the non-shoulder side to have them meet at right angles instead of a "v"; and I want to drop and slightly re-shape the front. These changes aren't huge.

I tell you, when I put the sample on for the first time - even though it didn't fit and needed some alterations - I felt soooo pretty and feminine. I've never worn anything like it before, and I just felt so good in it. I didn't realize that the dress has a little cap sleeve on the one side, and this perfectly balances the exposed shoulder. The dress is definitely slimming, too. I can't wait to see this dress made up in final fabric.

Speaking of fabric, tomorrow is fabric shopping day. Yaaaay! I've decided not to go shopping in Toronto, though. As Ian pointed out, it would be busy on that street and I can't walk the length of it like I used to. So we've decided to go to Hamilton instead. There's a street there that has about three better-quality fabric retailers in a block or two, and that's where we're headed. I've decided to make the dress in black because it's a classic colour and I don't have to worry about matching fabric colours. Wish me luck tomorrow :)

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Sesame Street for adults

We went to see Avenue Q tonight as a special thing to do for Ian's upcoming birthday. The show is a Tony-award winning musical starring people and puppets (much like Sesame Street) in a Sesame Street-type setting. The show was very good; so good that we were sad to see that it hadn't even come close to selling out. The auditorium wasn't even half-full, and this show deserves a full audience.

The musical tells the story of recent college grad Princeton and how he and the other residents of Avenue Q muddle through adulthood, by trying to figure out their purpose, getting a job, having money, figuring out relationships, and all that. There are good times and bad times and by the end, everyone has realized that you have to live your dreams before it's too late. That's a pretty good message, I'd say.

Even though there are puppets in this show and it's sort of like Sesame Street, this is not a show for young children. There are many sexual scenes (including puppet sex) and songs (like "The internet is for porn"). The events and emotions in the show feel very real and that makes up for the explicit scenes because, well, sometimes life is explicit. The mixture of puppets and people makes the show interesting and appeals to people in the same way that kid's tv appeals to kids. The story and story-telling is top-notch, and the singing is awesome.

We were very, very impressed by the lead puppeteer. When he was managing the puppets, we forgot that he was there. He was able to really show expression through these clamshell puppets while he was voicing their lines. The other main puppeteer wasn't quite as good; she was more expressive than the puppet so it seemed like the puppet was part of her and not a separate creature. Her voice was phenomenal, though, and she was able to differentiate her different characters as well as the lead puppeteer.

One thing I loooved was the "Bad Idea Bears" (and I think I'm not the only one who loves them... or the idea of them). They were the ones that suggested people do irresponsible things because it was fun. They could have also been called the "Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time Bears" because that's what the bad ideas often end up being, in my experience. Of course there were lots of other funny things in this show, like the aforementioned "The Internet is for Porn" and "Everyone's a Little Bit Racist".

We recommend this show to everyone. We might especially recommend this show for teens and people just starting to get through life, although if you go with them you'll find it's funny for you, too :) So if you find out that Avenue Q are playing in your area, go see them.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

I need shoes

Yep, I need shoes - it isn't just that I want them, because I always want shoes: I need them. You see, there's this Christmas party coming up... and I have these awesome shoes with high heels that I love sooo much.

Sadly, I don't get to wear high heeled shoes anymore because I walk with a cane. I've been trying to convince Ian (and myself) that I should be able to walk around wearing my gorgeous high heels at the Christmas party. Deep inside, I know better. I can't wear shoes with a beautiful high heel.

And the problem: I have no beautiful, flat, dressy shoes. So you see, I need shoes. The trouble with most appropriate shoes is that they're of the "old-lady" variety: frumpy, with thick straps and stumpy heels. Those won't do at all.

I remember seeing some sequinned ballet flats at one point. I can't find the shoes online now but I know I saw them. And yes, I know, they sound either atrocious or gorgeous, depending on who you are. The ones I've seen aren't all that ugly; the sequins aren't the shiny cup variety, they're the small, donut-shaped matte type. The sequins add texture to the shoe as well as a bit of shine but they aren't over-the-top. At least the ones I've been thinking about. I've been looking online and there are some different varieties on this theme out there at different price points.

I'll spend some time looking around stores and stuff and see if I can find what I want. If I had time and the tiny sequins - or the right sequinned fabric - I could make my own sequinned pair. That would be going way, way too far, I think :) So I'll see what I can find; I hope I'm successful because I don't know what I'll do if I can't find the shoes I need.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

More fabric for more sewing

I took the head coverings in this morning and they loved them! Another volunteer was there and she looked longingly at them and said that she would have loved to have had one when she had lost her hair. They even thought that the colour - black - was perfect because it was a classic colour and could be dressed up.

That set my mind at ease; I feel much better about making them now. I'll make some more this week for them.

Even though I'm heading to Toronto this weekend to find fabric, I bought some other fabric online today. My favourite online fabric store - Gorgeous Fabrics - is having a 26% off sale (since the US Thanksgiving is on the 26th) until Monday. I bought some classic, high-quality fabrics that I can put away to have on-hand for future projects. They have a ton of other gorgeous fabrics there, like inexpensive stretch crepe in tons of colours, but I figured that those fabrics will be there again and they weren't that expensive to begin with. The other fabrics I bought won't be there for much longer and I've never seen their prices this low.

Look at me, justifying my actions, when all I'm really doing is hoarding fabrics :)

Monday, November 23, 2009

Sewing but not for me

Last week, I was given a target for the number of head coverings they wanted each week: five. In an ideal world I would have been working on these throughout the week... but I'm lazy and so have only done the bulk of the work today.

When I first started working on these, I found that it took me about an hour to make each one from cutting it out to sewing the final seam. Since I was making five at once, I figured I'd streamline my work by doing the same task on each item instead of making each item separately. I thought that this would save time because that's what normally happens... but it didn't. It took about five hours to make the five I made. It seems to not matter whether I make them individually or in a more efficient way; each one still takes me about an hour.

While working on these today, I discovered that there are two bottleneck processes. If I can do these steps in less time, making the head coverings will take much less time. One of these processes is turning the 2 x 36" ties and the other is doing the final assembly. I think I can easily save time turning the ties by attaching a string to the bottom and then turning it that way. That's what you can do when you're working with thin tubes or spaghetti straps but I didn't use that method with these ties because they're so wide. At this point, I'll do anything that'll save time.

As for the final assembly, I'm not exactly sure how to save time there. This is the step where the outer fabric and linings are attached to the front band. That's actually easy, but a bit time-consuming because things have to be matched and pinned. The harder part is when I attach the ties to the band and to the fabric; this small seam actually makes a right angle to the band/body seam. This way, the band lies flat on the forehead and the ties are set up to already cross at the back of the neck. As well, all of the raw edges are fully enclosed so there's no danger of raveling.

I'll have to experiment with different ways to sew this tricky part in order to (hopefully) save time. At least I did manage to get the head coverings finished (well, except for the final seam at the bottom to close the raw edges in - I'll sew that early tomorrow). I'll take them in when I go for Meditation tomorrow morning. I tried to make them dressier so I hope they like them.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Planning a weekend away

This weekend last year, I met up with my support group friends over in Westport. It was an amazing trip and one that I treasure, because I got to know in person these wonderful people that I'd only known online. I've seen these friends a couple of times since then, and lately I've been finding myself missing them. Not just because this is like the "anniversary weekend", but also because so many of our mutual friends have died this year.

So I was thrilled when I heard that some of them were getting together the first weekend in December! We're meeting up in Ann Arbor, Michigan, which luckily for me is only about a four-hour drive away (plus the border crossing). I'd fly wherever I had to in order to meet up with them - honestly, I'd move heaven and earth to see them, because seeing them is so important to me - but being able to drive to see them does make it easier and cheaper for me to be there.

The plan is to get together the Saturday night. I'll drive out on Friday so that I have a chance to rest. I expect we'll be up late Saturday night and I don't want to just drive there, stay up late, and drive back - that would be exhausting. There's no point overdoing it, is there?

I've actually been to Ann Arbor once, with Ian and some juggling friends for a juggling festival. I remember that trip not just because I was driving, but because we had dinner at the Blue Nile, an Ethiopian restaurant that had wonderful food and the most delicious tea. After that, I found a great sewing book in a nearby used bookstore. I remember it being a very nice, wealthy town, and I'm looking forward to seeing it again. I'd love to bring home some of that tea as well!

Of course this means that I'll have a bit less time to work on the dress. If I end up not finishing it because of this little trip, that's ok; seeing my friends is that important to me. But don't worry: as long as I like the way the dress looks on me, I'm confident in my ability to finish it on time. There are many, many hours during the day where I'm not doing anything but sitting... I could easily be sewing during at least some of that time.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

More zombies and monsters

I think I've mentioned how much I loved Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, which is an updated version of Pride and Prejudice. Zombies are added to the story, which both freshens up the original and adds an interesting quirk to the story. I loved this book and highly recommend it to everyone because it's funny, irreverent, and seems to work with the original story (which I admit I've never read).

Anyways, the publishing company has come out with another book: Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters. It's an updated version of Jane Austin's Sense and Sensibility, adding, err, Sea Monsters. I wish I could say that this book is as good as the last... but it isn't. From what I understand, much of the basic plot follows the plot in the original book (I'm sorry to say that I haven't read this original book, either. My literary education is sadly incomplete).

However, they've added new subplots and new locations, as well as really strange actions by some of the characters (even new minor characters) that don't seem to have had corresponding actions in the original. Where the zombies seemed to fit right in to Pride and Prejudice because the character's actions weren't fundamentally changed to accomodate the zombies, adding Sea Monsters to Sense and Sensibility just doesn't work as well.

That's not to say that the story isn't funny; it is, and there are definitely satiric elements there. It's still a book worth reading but it's not a book worth buying. Borrow it from the library instead.

I was looking at the publishers website and they have a new poster that they've designed... a baby zombie ("Dawn of the Dreadfuls"). I'm crossing my fingers hoping that there's going to be a new "classic" book coming out. Who doesn't love the idea of baby zombies?

Ok, I know, many people might have issues with baby zombies. I just think they'd be so cute, crawling or toddling along, saying "braaaaiiinnnns", kind of like babies/toddlers do. And I sort of feel sorry for them because they don't have enough teeth to eat properly... plus they're not as mobile as their adult brethren. The thought of these little baby zombies just makes me giggle. I hope that the next book does involve baby zombies and is as good as Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.

Friday, November 20, 2009

The undead and other creatures

I don't know what has happened, but I've been exhausted over the last few days. I slept most of yesterday and I slept in again today. Where has this come from?

New Moon, the next in the Twilight series, has opened today to rather bad reviews. I'm not all that surprised; the trailers make it seem like there's a lot of teen angst going on. The acting doesn't look all that good, either... there and I'm not sure about the story. That movie isn't marketing to me, of course. I'd see it as long as I didn't have to pay full price.

You know, I don't really get the whole "vampire wants to date a teenager" thing. After all, these vampires are at least a hundred years old, right? So what do they see in a teenager? Sure, teenagers have nubile, young bodies, but that only goes so far - the two have to talk to each other eventually, if they're going to have a relationship. Don't get me wrong; teenagers are fun and interesting to be around and I love to hang out with the ones in my family, but I'm not sure I could date one (even if it was legal for me to do that).

I think I like zombies because they're so much less complicated; they'll eat anyone.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

So sleepy that I can barely watch tv

I'm very tired; I had my bone scan starting early today. I have a hard time staying still during this half-hour scan because I twitch a lot so I took a Ativan in hopes that I wouldn't twitch quite so much. I think I did twitch less (I still twitched) but the Ativan left me very, very tired. I slept for the greater part of the afternoon and into this evening... and I'm having trouble keeping my eyes open, even now.

So although I'd planned to do some sewing-related activities today, all I managed to do was watch the finale to the latest cycle of America's Next Top Model (ANTM). This cycle was all about the petite (under 5' 8") model to show that models don't necessarily need to be tall.

I like ANTM because the contestants all seem real, with different body types. Plus, they're not allowed to smoke - and since it seems all of the people on reality shows smoke, it's a nice change. I also like seeing some of the behind-the-scenes stuff, like how they set up for the shoots and teach them different skills and whatnot. And of course I love the modeling itself. The concepts don't always interest me but seeing the models pose and their final photographs is cool.

I'm not going to tell you who won this cycle; you'll have to watch it yourself or look it up if you want to know. I will say that the model who won was the one that I thought had the most talent and the best, most interesting photographs. I'd hoped that she would win, and I'm very happy that she did.

Tomorrow: sewing of some sort. For sure.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Fabric shopping today

My local fabric store didn't have anything right for the dress I want to make. There wasn't anything in quite the right weight or colour.

The store is having a ginormous sale so I did look around and see what was there. I was surprised to see some lovely sequinned mesh fabrics - fabrics that would make a great sparkly, fun, outfit. If I weren't committed to this dress, I'd definitely think about getting some of the sequinned stuff.

I did find a great black corduroy-like fabric with ribs of pile like corduroy has, but much, much softer. It's made out of polyester and nylon and is so, so, so soft. The fabric I got is crushed and looks sort of like the corduroy equivalent of crushed velvet. It would make a great skirt.

I didn't just buy this fabric for me, actually. I bought it mostly to use for head coverings. I'm still making them, verrry slooooooowwwllly, and I asked today what it was they needed. I'm finding that if I'm not given some kind of target, I don't find the time to do the volunteer work. They're asking for at least five head coverings per week, and right now they want dressier, warmer ones because of the upcoming holiday season. This crushed, soft corduroy will make for some nicer head coverings, I think. Plus the fabric will make them warmer.

I also got a 1m remnant of black rayon challis, and I'll use that to make other head coverings that are slightly less... glitzy crushed corduroy, but still dressier than plain cotton. I have a ton of black broadcloth I can use for the linings. The new fabrics might be a little slippery on the head.

So at least my trip to the fabric store wasn't a waste of time because I got some great fabric for the head coverings. I will definitely be heading over to Toronto to look for fabric. I won't lie to you - I love the idea of shopping in the fabric stores there :)

Monday, November 16, 2009

Fabric shopping... oh, the possibilities!

I spent most of today looking at super-expensive, lovely fabric at stores online. I love looking at fabric, even if it's online. It's not quite as good as looking at fabric in person, because I can't touch the fabric, but I can definitely imagine what the fabric is like.

Yes, I'm still thinking about which fabric (and colour) to use for the dress I'm hoping to make. There are a ton of absolutely fantastic fabrics out there and I love them all. One site also has tons of non-dress fabrics I'm interested in buying - some beautiful batiste and sateen. So far, I haven't put any fabric in an online shopping cart but I'm so, so, so tempted to just buy a few things, you know?

I have a big morning tomorrow and once I'm done, I'll head to my local fabric store. I don't expect to really find anything there because they don't carry much in the way of really nice fabrics. However, there is a chance that they'll have something I like, and it's a good idea to check what's there before looking further afield.

I had given some serious thought to buying fabric online if I can't find anything here, but I decided against doing this. I'd be too worried that it wouldn't arrive in time or that the fabric wouldn't be what I thought it was, and I just don't want to take the chance that there will be a problem. So instead, I'll take a trip to Toronto this weekend or next. There are lots of awesome fabric stores there and I'm quite sure I'll be able to find the perfect fabric combination and colour.

In the meantime, I'll keep looking at fabric online and letting my imagination run wild.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Have pattern, need fabric

Ok, I think I have chosen a pattern for the upcoming party. Thanks to all of you who sent in suggestions :)

I was having some trouble choosing the right pattern because I liked them all. As well, it's hard for both Ian and me to visualize what the pattern would look like on my body. I'm a little bit shorter and stockier than the pattern envelope illustration, you know. :) I've been known to fall in love with an illustration and then when it's made up, I don't love the garment on me.

I don't want to go to a lot of trouble tracing, grading, and making something for the party only to find out that it looks awful. So I drew a figure with my own body proportions - in other words, I made a croquis for my own body - and sketched each dress on a copy of that figure. It was immediately obvious that some dresses are not at all suitable for me. They looked awful in the drawing, and if I can't get a dress to look good in a sketch, it's not going to look good on me.

Ian and I then surveyed the remaining designs to pick our top three. From there, we chose our favourite:

... in the shorter version, of course. What do you think?

This is a vintage pattern from 1964 designed by Pauline Trigere that I already have in my collection. I love the asymmetry of this design as well as the bow thingy (note that I can adjust the bow size to suit my height and weight). A sheath dress tends to look good on me, and asymmetry is fairly stylish right now. Actually, this is a fairly timeless silhouette.

Now I need to find fabric for this dress (well, I need to trace the pattern, grade it, and make a muslin, but finding the right fabric could be time-consuming). The pattern calls for crepe, peau de soie/duchess, shantung/duppioni, taffeta, faille, or brocade for the dress and taffeta, satin, or peau de soie/duchess for the bow. I read those suggestions to mean that the whole dress needs to be made in a fabric with some body and structure.

I think a fairly matte, less reflective fabric would be best for the dress. Shiny fabrics emphasize every lump and bump - and I have a few of those! I also don't want any fabric that rustles too much, so that lets out taffeta and shantung. I've been looking online and I love love love the look of dutchess satin, 4-ply silk crepe, silk zibilene, hemp/silk fabric, and silk/wool fabric... but the price for all of these is a bit much, even though I only need just over two meters of any one type. My fabric tastes are something else, aren't they?

I'm going to look at my local fabric store, even though it doesn't have anything in the way of those really nice fabrics, in case there are some good polyester substitutes. I could also do some layering with lace or something over a shinier fabric to dull it down or add some texture. The possibilities are endless!

Before choosing fabric for the bow, I think I need to figure out what I'm doing for the body of the dress. The only thought about the bow that I've had so far is that an organza or something like that would be nice. Mostly I think the bow should be a different - shinier, brighter, eye-catching - texture than the dress, to draw the eye up to my face.

But no matter which fabric type I go with, I have another issue: colour. Do I stick with black? I love black, and it's always safe to do a little black dress... but is it too safe? The biggest benefit is that there are lots and lots of black fabrics out there so it's easy to find it and match it to other things. At the same time, I'm feeling drawn towards dark reds, burgundies, and purples. These other colours would work, look good on me, and are very current, but it's harder to match colours. What do you think?

A recent issue of Threads magazine describes how to add a foundation to a strapless dress to make it fit better. This is done by adding an inner corset-type thing; some Vogue patterns are now including a foundation in their patterns. I'm going to review the article and see if I want to use this technique with this dress, even though it's not quite strapless, or if I want to buy the shaper/corset I'd been talking about. Adding a foundation to a dress adds a bit of a couture element to the garment and definitely helps it fit better. Of course this might be way more work than I'm prepared to do, but it's something that I want to investigate.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Saturday movie

Tonight we watched The Dark Half, a George A Romero-directed movie adaptation of Stephen King's book by the same name. Stephen King apparently wrote this story after he was outed as being Richard Bachman. This story is about a writer whose alter-ego is exposed. Except that in the story, the alter-ego doesn't want to just be killed off... it wants to live and somehow manages to give itself life.

While Stephen King's short stories and novellas turn into fantastic movies, his full-length books usually wind up being turned into mediocre (at best) movies. His books are so long with so much stuff going on in them - and so much of them is devoted to what the characters are thinking - that it's almost impossible to trim the book down into a good movie. So we were very surprised that this particular adaptation was so good; The Dark Half is a good movie, with great acting, lots of suspense, and a good story.

I don't know why this movie is such a good adaptation - is it because Romero directed it, or because it's more like a shorter Bachman book, or if there was some other secret behind the screenplay adaptation to make the movie so good. I guess it doesn't matter so much why this is a good movie; we should just enjoy it for what it is.

So if you like horror/suspense movies, we highly recommend The Dark Half. You should know that there are a couple of gory bits near the beginning and again right at the end, but in the middle the gory bits tend to be more implied. It's a psychologically scary movie and definitely fun to watch.

Friday, November 13, 2009

A tidy place to work

Ian thinks that either aliens came in to the house today and removed all the clutter around my upstairs work area, or magic cleaning creatures came in and magically cleaned everything up. That's because I don't like to clean,m and yet my upstairs work area was all clean when he got home.

Yes, it was me who cleaned it and tidied it up. :) I spent this afternoon tidying up the area. Most of my time was occupied with getting rid of all the old magazines and phone books as well as sorting through and tidying up all of the beads and various pieces of paper. Now that it's so much neater over there, it'll be a lot easier to work. You see, there's a Christmas party coming up and I've been wanting to work on some vintage patterns, but I didn't have space to do that. Now I've got the space and tidiness I need.

So now all I need is a pattern :) Of course I'd love the pattern to be vintage or vintage-style! The biggest criteria is that the design be slimming on me. I'm at my highest weight ever and it's unlikely that I'll be substantially smaller before the party, so anything that can fool the eye into making me look skinnier is a good thing. I may also buy a body slimmer or corset to help bring my measurements down. I know that they're not all that comfortable, but if I look better in them, I'm willing to go that route.

I expect that the dress silhouette will be a fairly simple sheath or slight a-line style because those don't add bulk the way fuller skirts do. If possible, I might try to incorporate some diagonal ruching or light pleating across the tummy to make it look slimmer. And if I can emphasize certain lines with seams or trims, I'll do that, too. There's no way that I'll be able to completely disguise my size, of course, so my goal will be to make me look the best I can at my current size. That's all any of us can reasonably expect.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Happy oncology appointment today

I had my regular appointment with the oncologist today. My CA 15-3 tumour markers are still within normal range at 35. The only weird thing was that my hemoglobin was a little bit lower than normal at 113 instead of its usual 123. It's not a big change, but since blood is related to the bones, she wants me to have a bone scan.

It's about time for a bone scan anyways. Because my tumour markers are stable in the normal range and I've got no new pain or anything like that, I fully expect that the scan will show nothing new. The scan is scheduled for next Wednesday and she'll call my if anything shows up. I don't expect to hear from her; I'll get my results when I see her in two months.

Besides, anemia, or low hemoglobin, is a side effect of hypothyroidism - remember my TSH was a little high (a sign of hypothyroidism) the last time my family doctor did my bloodwork? I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that the hypothyroidism is causing the slight anemia. If the TSH is still low when my bloodwork is retested in January, I'll hopefully get some medication to control my thyroid. Then my hemoglobin can go back to normal and I can lose some of this weight I've gained.

My oncologist is going to schedule a mammogram for me. My surgeon (who I saw on Monday) suggested that I have them done regularly and my oncologist agrees with him. She says that her patients with minimal disease - like me - who she thinks are going to be around a long, long time - like me - shouldn't be ignoring their breasts.

She also strongly recommended that I not go back to work; that if I had to or really wanted to, that would be one thing, but it's more important to live a satisfying life. She said that she's realized, working with cancer patients, that there's more to life than working and she's now encouraging her patients to live well.

Oh, and I was scheduled to have Pamidronate on New Year's Eve but she's canceling that appointment. She thinks that I shouldn't have to come in for Pamidronate on that day because it's New Year's Eve. Missing a month is no problem; she's waiting for current research to be published that says that Pamidronate only needs to be given every two months instead of every month to metastatic breast cancer patients. Apparently the oncologists at Princess Margaret are already doing this ahead of publication, but my oncologist is a little more cautious.

I'm not complaining that I don't have to have Pamidronate on New Year's Eve. I don't know that we'll do much of anything that night, but at least I'll be able to choose whether to do something; if I'd had Pamidronate, I wouldn't be able to make that choice because I'd be too sleepy.

And that's it, I think. We covered a lot in that twenty minutes! I came away feeling quite positive and optimistic about my current condition. I love that she thinks I'm going to be around for quite a while yet. Life is good. :)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Changes big and small

I've changed somehow and I don't know exactly when or how that happened. It used to be that if someone came into my home, I felt compelled to clean everything and put absolutely everything away so that the whole place looked perfect.

Tonight, a volunteer came over to learn how to make the head coverings I've been making. I didn't do any of the cleaning or tidying up that I used to do before she got here.

I guess it's not as important to me to present myself in a particular way anymore. Before, I think I was worried that people would look around at the way I live and somehow find me wanting. Now, what other people think of me isn't that important, and if my place is a mess or the dishes aren't done, well, that's ok.

This is big change, and it's a good one; I definitely prefer not getting all worked up about cleaning up or getting my house ready for a short visit by someone else. Plus I think it means that I'm finally at a point where other people's opinions about me are much less important to me - and that's definitely a good thing.

Another, smaller, change is that I've found a new favourite tv show: Say Yes to the Dress. This show chronicles the experiences of clients and consultants at Kleinfeld Bridal, an upscale bridal shop in NYC. It's interesting to see the process for selecting a dress and the different styles on different people. I also love the behind-the-scenes looks at the staff meetings and how they deal with customers. And of course I love looking at all the dresses. Ever since I was a young girl, I've loved designing and thinking about fancy dresses... and isn't a wedding dress just a really fancy dress?

Of course Ian and I aren't planning on getting married. Sure, I bug him about it every once in a while (mostly when I'm scared that my cancer is worse), but getting married isn't something that we're all that interested in doing. And even if we did get married, I wouldn't be spending the kind of money those dresses cost on a dress. So watching this show is a way for me to sort of imagine what it would be like to go through that process of choosing a dress. As long as I don't start wanting one of those dresses, I figure this new favourite show is harmless. :)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Oh, how I love fabric

Most of you know that I love fabric, right? And that I may have more fabric in my sewing room than I could possibly sew? It goes with the number of vintage patterns that I have. Of course even though I've got tons of both fabric and patterns, I still buy more.

Some might say that I just happen to love shopping, and what I buy are shoes, fabric, and vintage patterns. I'll think about that another day :)

So anyways, I buy my fabric both in person and online. The online store I keep returning to is Gorgeous Fabrics. She carries beautiful jersey fabrics and has a fantastic collection of silks and cottons as well. Right now she's got a fine set of wool crepe, heavy silk crepe, and silk jersey... I'm looking for a reason to buy those, but haven't been able to find one yet. She also puts her stuff on sale (from 15-25% off) often enough to make shopping there more cost-effective.

I have a new reason to love this store. On this last order, she accidentally shipped me a length of this wrong fabric instead of a length of the fabric I ordered. I emailed her right away and she's told me to keep the fabric she sent, plus she'll send me the fabric I originally ordered, free of charge. What fantastic customer service! Some places would charge me for shipping or ask me to return the wrong fabric (she does sell fabric by the piece, sometimes, so she could have asked me to return it).

I understand how the fabric got mixed up; the one I ordered is a black mesh and the one I got is black and white and looks sort of like a mesh. It's nice enough, but it's not quite what I was looking for, you know? I can use it as trial fabric, if nothing else, so it won't be wasted.

Oh - I got a new cane today. Ian thinks it looks like a pimp's cane, but I don't think it does. It is narrower, with a smaller handle, than my old one, but it feels more comfortable in my hand. Plus I don't have this one at it's shortest notch - even shorter people than me could use it. :)

Monday, November 09, 2009

Shopping adventures

Once every three months or so I get to go to Oakville for a doctor's appointment. While I'm there, I always try to take the time to do a little shopping. There's a StyleSense nearby that I love to visit because it's a shoe store... and oh, how I love shoes.

I can't wear high heels anymore so I have to pass by most of the gorgeous shoes at the store. Very high heels are in style these days and I love them so, so, so much. I love the look of them, the sleek heel with the beautifully shaped arch and footbed. They're so curvy and beautiful... sigh. Even if I did have a place to wear such beautiful shoes (which I don't, since I'm not working), I couldn't wear them because high heels don't go well with a cane. :(

I'm also looked around at winter boots. I'm on the lookout for a good pair of warm, black, winter boots. Most of the boots I saw were dressy and I really want something a little more practical. You know, with a good tread. And warm. The warmer boots all looked kind of ugly, kind of like old lady boots. I may need a cane, and I may not be that young, but I don't want to wear old lady boots.

So I didn't find any great shoes or any winter boots today.

Happily, I did find *three* pairs of jeans today: two pairs of dark wash jeans and one pair of black cords! I know the cords aren't all that practical because they'll wear out, but I like the look of them. I've been searching for new jeans for quite a while because the one pair of jeans that fit me are wearing out. I was beginning to think that I wouldn't find any new jeans, let alone three pairs! So even though I found no shoes or boots today, I consider today's shopping adventure a success.

When I got back to Waterloo, I stopped at the grocery store to pick up a few things.... and I'm pretty sure I left my cane in the shopping cart. I remember putting the cane in the cart when I started shopping, but it wasn't in the car when I got home. Oops. I'm not too upset, though, because I'm still basking in the glow of finding three pairs of jeans in one store. :)

It just occurred to me - wouldn't it be nice if losing my cane meant that I could wear the delicious high heels that I love so much? I know, I know, there's no way that could happen because it isn't the cane that is the limiting factor (it's my back), but a shoe-loving girl can dream.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Real silk velvet?

For years and years I've read and been told that "silk velvet" is really silk/rayon velvet, with a silk (usually chiffon) base and rayon pile. 100% silk velvet, with a silk base and a silk pile just didn't exist. 100% silk velvet was an urban legend... or something that could only be bought in back alleys if you had the right connections and a lot of money.

This always seemed strange to me. Rayon hasn't been around for forever, so they couldn't have used silk/rayon velvet back in the day; it would have had to have been 100% silk velvet back then.

Today while watching and listening to Ian play his new video game (Borderlands - he likes it), I did a little searching for silk velvet. Apparently some places have started to produce 100% silk velvet over the last few years. The places I found all say that the 100% silk velvet has a silk backing and silk pile and that the fabric is very soft and drapey. Based on that description, it's entirely possible that they're selling actual 100% silk velvet.

I'm very excited about this possible find! I'm going to hold off giving you links to the actual fabric until I can verify that the 100% silk velvet fabric really is 100% silk velvet and not regular silk velvet. To that end, I ordered a small remnant of this 100% silk velvet and "regular" silk velvet (along with small, inexpensive remnants of some other fabrics I've had my eye on) from this one place. I'll let you know my findings once I know.

Can you imagine the yesterday's dress pattern made up in silk velvet? How gorgeous would that be?

Saturday, November 07, 2009

A very expensive pattern

Many of you know that I love to look at (and occasionally bid on) vintage patterns on eBay. Some rare, gorgeous patterns might go for crazy prices like $100USD or more, depending on the pattern and size. There was an auction that ended today that took the cake, going for a higher price than any other single pattern I've seen.

The final bid for this pattern:

... was $361.99USD. How crazy is that? There's no way that I'd pay that much for one vintage pattern - even if the pattern is this spectacular.

I suppose money may not be much of an object if someone was making a wedding dress or other fancy dress ... or if they just wanted *this* pattern. I can imagine how beautiful, fabulous, and show-stopping the dress made out of this pattern would be, even though the pattern is over 70 years old. I hope that whoever bought this pattern does make the dress and posts it somewhere. Wouldn't that be something?

Friday, November 06, 2009

A new fabric I love

Have any of you seen or heard of double gauze fabric? It's two layers, usually cotton, although sometimes a cotton-linen blend, of gauze woven together. It's super-soft and apparently great for hot weather, and I've also read that it makes the most wonderful quilts ever. I tried on a shirt once where the fabric had gingham on one side and a plaid on the other. It was soft and fantastic but the style wasn't right.

Some designers have got some interesting double gauze fabrics. I know of three full collections right now: Echino by Etsuko Furuya, Nani Iro by Naomi Ito, and Far Far Away by Heather Ross. And they're all lovely, and I want them. The thing is, I've had a really hard time finding pictures of the entire width of the fabrics. These fabrics aren't at all cheap and I've spent more than enough money on fabrics that aren't quite perfect. I'd like to avoid spending money on a fabric design that I don't love. I very much want to buy some of this fabric for next summer; I think it would make something lovely and cool for summer. I think it wouldn't wrinkle too much, either.

I did find some lovely fabrics on this page and some linen double gauze on this page but even if it wasn't sold out, I don't look good in flax. I did find some others here on etsy (apparently they're from Korea, not Japan) and I love them a lot... but the colours aren't quite right for me. There are lots over here on superbuzzy (although the search brings up fabrics that aren't actually double gauze but have the phrase in the description, so it pays to be careful when looking at those fabrics); maybe one or more of those fabrics will be suitable.

So if you see any lovely double-gauze fabrics in colours or patterns that are suitable for me, please let me know. I love white colours as well as pastels, and my favourite patterns are geometrics, plaids, or checks. I'll keep looking as well. I might still find the perfect pattern and colour combination.,

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Pamidronate day plus the H1N1 shot

I got my Pamidronate today and went normally. Many nurses have a hard time with my port because of the surrounding tissue and today's was no exception. I don't mind this as much as I used to because I know my port is a bit tricky to access and they're doing what they can. Besides, once a nurse has successfully accessed my port once, they usually don't have problems with it in the future.

It turns out that the cancer center was giving the H1N1 flu shot to all patients today, as long as the nurse could get permission from the oncologist. Getting permission for me took about five minutes; I guess the oncologists were making themselves available for this kind of request. I was originally not going to get the vaccine right now; the Pamidronate makes me tired, and the flu vaccine usually knocks me out for a few days as well. I was worried that the two together would leave me achy and sleepy all weekend.

But then I decided that getting a double-whammy for a few days just once is better than going through slightly milder side effects twice. Plus, getting the shot in the hospital meant that I didn't have to wait in line for hours - I think my wait was about 10 minutes or so. Not bad, huh?

I'm starting to feel the effects of the flu shot now. The arm that received the shot (my right arm, which is also my writing arm and my cane arm) is achy and I'm starting to get really, really tired with a headache and a bit of nausea. I think I'm going to take some stuff for the headache and nausea and make it a very early night.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Lazy... or relaxing?

I've been home for a week now and I still haven't tidied up my corner upstairs where I make stuff. The table is still down - it's what we used for the Halloween candy and decoration table - and there's piles of my stuff all over, but I haven't done anything about them.

It's not like it's that hard to tidy up. With it all in piles, all I have to do is gather up all the patterns and put them downstairs and organize some of the other stuff. A lot of the piles are magazines that I shouldn't be keeping anyways. This is one of those things that I think I should be doing but I've just been too lazy.

Tomorrow is Pamidronate day so while it's possible I might get to tidying up the area then, it's pretty unlikely.

It's funny because I've been getting up at a reasonable time, early in the day, with only a short nap (if any nap at all) in the afternoon. I have so much time to do all of this nothing :) I figure that I'm taking time to relax, and that's a good thing.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Aliens on tv

You know, I do love a good alien story/show/movie - almost as much as I love zombies. Tonight was an awesome night because V, a re-imagining of a show about aliens coming to this planet, premiered. I'm not that familiar with the original miniseries or regular show, but that's ok because I'll appreciate the new show for what it is.

Having aliens suddenly appear overhead with promises of curing all that ails us - well, that would be hard to resist, wouldn't it? I know I'd have a really hard time not accepting a cure for cancer if one were offered, even if it meant that I had to give in to them or that I had to bend certain of my principles to do it.

Then again, if a person was skeptical (and I am), it would be hard to believe that the aliens look just like us, speak all of our languages - even using contractions!, know where the major cities were (including the location of the UN headquarters), and know about human diseases... right when they got here. All of that knowledge can't be gotten in a couple of days, so the aliens would have had to have been watching the planet for quite some time. Which sort of begs the question as to why chose to reveal themselves when they did... and what they were going to get out of the deal. They went to a lot of trouble... for what?

I don't want to give any more information about what happened on the opening episode because I don't want to spoil it for anyone who hasn't yet seen it. I'm interested in seeing how this show plays out.

In other unrelated tv show news, I was pleased to see the CSIs on the original CSI show wearing gloves and booties when they walked through the victim's house. Now if they would only show them wearing hasmat suits, it would be closer to the truth and I'd be even happier.


We've had requests for pumpkin photos, so here they are:

Ian's pumpkin, from Fallout 3

My pumpkin, a sort of zombie head.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Bedside reading

You know I've been fascinated by disasters, right? I still love a good disaster, but I also love serial killers and true crime. I guess I'm fascinated by the number of different ways human lives can go wrong or be cut short, either as a result of the evil or stupidity of humans or the impersonal destruction of nature.

I am reading a book on female serial killers, but that isn't really something that would interest most people. I'm still in the early chapters where they're talking about the incidence and MO of female serial killers and how they differ from male serial killers. One of the big differences is that male serial killers kind of stop killing by the time they reach middle age whereas female serial killers kill all the way through their lives.

There's a lot more in the book - it analyzes different female serial killers and whatnot, but I haven't got there yet. I'm looking forward to reading the rest of this book.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Sunday afternoon movie

We were finally able to see Zombieland today. It's a great movie! The story is told mainly from the point of view of a survivor in "zombieland" (his name for this new world which is overrun by zombies), and describes how he meets and travels with other people. It's hugely funny, with lots of silly lines, and it's zombie gory - the zombies are bloody and some do die a bloody death, but no humans die. There's no sex and only one instance of semi-nudity.

Woody Harrelson is always excellent in the role of the hyper-violent, loner character, and so it's no surprise that he's very good in this movie as well. Fortunately, even though the other actors are relative unknowns, they're able to hold their own.

One thing we especially liked was that the reason for the zombie apocalypse was semi-reasonable: mad cow disease morphed into something that infected cows, and when people ate beef, they became infected. These zombies are fast-moving, climbing, thinking zombies, which makes the chases much more interesting and makes some situations more difficult to survive.

We also loved the opening sequence. This is probably the goriest and bloodiest part of the movie. It's an introduction to zombieland and how a person can survive there. One interesting thing is that there is writing in the sky and stuff that ends up being part of the scenery - normally, the writing is an overlay and things fall behind or in front of the lettering. Here stuff falls through the lettering, which is kind of cool.

If you haven't seen this one yet, we highly recommend it. One interesting note: this is an 18A film in Alberta but only 14A here in Ontario. I wonder why that is? Ontario kids can't be that much more mature! I feel for all those zombie-loving kids in other parts of the country who don't get to see this amazing movie.