Sunday, December 27, 2015


Saturday afternoon - I'm not feeling well? Of course I am.
Annie is doing much better, and thanks everyone for their well wishes.

She's still on pain meds and antibiotics, but she doesn't seem to realize there's anything wrong with her.  Which, technically, I guess there isn't anymore.

She had her surgery Tuesday morning, and by Saturday afternoon, she was back out among the other cats, unsupervised.

She's already lost most of the purple surgical adhesive that was used to close the incision -- now that was an interesting thing to find on the pillow -- and though her scar here looks pink and sticky, it's not swollen or red, and she was absolutely fine with me rolling her over to take a look at it.

Lily is up and down.  She responded quickly to Annie's antibiotics (thankfully the vet gave me the supersize bottle), but when she missed a dose yesterday, she started feeling funky again.  Which just proves the point that antibiotics are supposed to be taken for the entire period prescribed, not most of it.  She's back on, and feeling better again today.

Three day incision - not looking bad at all.
Tomorrow and Tuesday I'm doing a little year-end temping, but Mario is home until after the New Year and he can keep an eye on her.  Without supervision, I'm sure that both of them will spend the day upstairs in his office, one on the laptop, one on her cushion on the desk right behind the laptop.  And he says he doesn't spoil her.

The temping is good - what I make there in two days will probably cover December's heating bill (since it's in the 60s here) -- and it will give me a push to want to get back into my workroom come the New Year.

I'm taking a bit of a break right now, just to recover from a very long show season, but I'm getting antsy again.  I woke up on Christmas Eve day in a very cranky mood, and told Mario I didn't even want to make dinner that night, and our Christmas Eve dinner is the one holiday tradition we have.  He was willing to go along with that, but I knew he'd miss it, and in the end I gave in.  Turns out, what I was actually cranky about was not making things for a week or so.  Cooking was enough of an act of creativity to get me in a much better mood, plus at the end of it there was roast duck and potato gratin.  And wine.

Not sure if I'll be checking in here before the end of the month, so if I don't, here's wishing everyone a happy and healthy new year.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Tis the Season

Where to start?  Well, first of all, there are roses blooming in my front yard.  There are tomatoes turning red in the back yard.  The outsides of the windows are running with moisture because it's colder indoors than out.

There's doing a final Christmas show and not selling a single pair of mittens because the shoppers were in shorts and flipflops.  In December.

Then, there are cats.  What is more likely on a holiday weekend than a vet emergency?

Last Thursday, I picked Annie up and thought I felt something under her arm.  I poked around and couldn't feel it, and decided I was imagining things.  The next day, I felt it again, and it stayed found.  So I called my regular vet, who is a good distance away from the house.  She had no open appointments that I could get to before the holiday, and I was afraid to let this wait.  I tried another vet; they were already on break.

There's a vet nearby who I've never gone to.  Dog people love him; cat people do not.  I decided, since he's four blocks away, that it was time to make my own evaluation.  He had an appointment for Monday morning, and I walked Annie down in her carrier to get her checked.

The vet is brusque, no-nonsense, no bedside manner whatsoever, but that's okay.  I know I can tend that way myself if I'm busy, and I don't hold it against a provider so long as they do good work.  He examined Annie, felt the lump and gave me my options: I could have him take fluid from the lump, pay for that and have it come back from the lab as malignant, and then schedule a surgery to take it out, or I could just take it out.  The lump, he said, is probably malignant (breast cancer is common in cats her age).  If it's not, leaving it there increases the chances that it will become malignant over time.  Taking it out, if it hasn't spread anywhere else, will give her a very good chance of dying of old age before the cancer returns.

I voted for removal.  We discussed whether or not to do it before Christmas - he was leaving for his own vacation on Wednesday, but he had time to do it on Tuesday.  It was either that, or wait until the Monday after to have it done.  He thought it should be done sooner, but the risk was that if there were any complications, he wouldn't be around.  I thought the risk was letting that thing grow for another week; I have an emergency vet hospital nearby if something unlikely happened post-surgery.

So Tuesday he did the operation.  I picked her up around 4:00 p.m., and attempted to confine her to the bathroom.  She staggered out of her carrier, stoned as a cat can be, fell into her water bowl and then immediately made a break for the wider world.  She's got pain killers and antibiotics, both of which the vet said were optional; he's one of those rare vets who assumes I know my cat and how she's feeling.  (And he normally doesn't give antibiotics after what he calls a minor surgery; these were a just-in-case since he wouldn't be around).

Well, just-in-case is a good thing, because Lily, not to be outdone by her younger sister, decided to brew up her yearly urinary tract infection a little early.  Same issue: regular vet had no appointments, wouldn't call in a prescription over the phone because it had been 13 months since they'd seen her.  Emergency vet hospital declined to prescribe antibiotics because the doctor who treated Lily last time was no longer there, and it would have been her call.  Two friends who work in vet hospitals and who have been able to score the occasional antibiotic before were already on break.

I looked online and the medication Annie was given is also prescribed for bacterial UTIs, so Lily and Annie are sharing the bright pink, cherry flavored antibiotics.  I got a look at Annie's incision this a.m. and it looks amazing - only a thin, dark-red line under her arm.  So she's getting one dose a day and Lily is getting two, and Lil has already started to act more like herself and use the litterbox without discomfort.

Ah, Christmas.  What would you be without three things piling on at once and making me want to crawl under the covers (with wine), forget about cooking dinner, forget about dinner with the in-laws the next day, forget about everything until the new year.

But I can't.  So I won't.  Head down, push on.  Tis the season.

Whatever your holiday (or lack thereof), I wish you all health, happiness and sanity (sanity being as rare in the festive season as cookies are ubiquitous).

Monday, December 14, 2015

Baby's first Christmas

Okay, one last stocking.  (Anybody surprised I managed to squeeze in one last custom order before the shipping cut-off date?  I didn't think so.)

The mom contacted me and said she wanted a stocking for her baby boy.  This will be his first Christmas, and she said she had a few onesies that she wanted to use for the stocking.  She sent me a photo of a stocking she liked at a friend's house as an example, and when I saw pieces she sent, I completely understood why she wanted more of a "crazy quilt" style vs. the smaller pieces I just did on the last baby stockings.

Each tiny garment came with a handwritten tag explaining why it was special.  Mom and Dad are originally from Texas, so there's a tiny Cowboys jersey.  Dad went to Cal, so there's a Cal onesie, with "Baby" on the back because they hadn't decided his name.  He was Batman for his first Halloween; was there a way to use that?  Yes, but on the back - I just couldn't figure out how to fit in black and yellow with the other pastel colors.  A tiny Hilfiger shirt for his first 100 days.  A onesie printed with dogs because he has two "dog sisters", and a green striped one with two cute dog appliques.

I started at the toe with the green stripe and the biggest applique, then used a sleeve from the puppy outfit (the big brown spot is a tiny elbow patch!).  Part of the Cal jersey with the baby's last name is above that, then a stripe of the Hilfiger shirt, the Cowboys star, more puppies, another little applique, more blue shirt, and his name at the top.  I think my favorite part is the little Hilfiger pocket at the bottom.  Just because.

This is going off to the post office along with a few other last-minute vintage sales, and then I think I can officially declare the holiday OVER.

My last show was this past Sunday, and I close out my two-week neighborhood show this coming Sunday (I don't have to be there except for a few cashier shifts, so it's not quite the same as a regular show).

January looms, and I've got a long, involved plan to implement that will hopefully get me to this time next year without quite so much frantic in November and December.

Except I think I thrive on the frantic, so I'm sure I'll find some somewhere.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Stocking Overload

Is there such a thing?   Why yes, I think there might be.

Every year, one thing is more popular than the rest.  Last year it was bears.  I had quite a few custom orders this year, too, but not on par with the stockings.  They've been selling well in shops, at shows and especially online, where people have been able to order embroidered names or customize with their own fabrics.

It's been a busy time.
Custom set made from baby clothes

Personalized vintage quilt set

Personalized family vintage quilt set 

It's Philadelphia.  LOVE is in the air.  Sometimes.

All the things we want for Christmas.  

Nothing succeeds like Victorian excess.

I'll be sad when I run out of vintage quilts.  But then I'll find another one.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Grandpa Bears, Part 2

A while back, I mentioned that I was doing another set of grandpa bears.  Today, they got picked up, so I can finally share them.

My customer gave me 3 jackets, a handful of ties, a cashmere/silk scarf and a monogrammed shirt.  

She requested a mixture of bunnies and bears.  It's the same pattern, other than making floppy bunny ears (which are lined in tie silk, not too noticeable in these photos).

I was also given a peachy lace dress with pearls that belonged to my customer's late mother.  That was a fun addition - I made a lace overlay on the fronts of all the bunnies, and then strung the pearls (which were used to weight the bodice of the dress) and made a choker for each bunny.

The boys were more straightforward - one from each suit jacket, with tie ears and feet that coordinated with their bunny girlfriends.  Instead of neckties, which I made for last year's grandpa bears, I used the silk/cashmere scarf and made three tiny mufflers which were knotted casually around their necks.  One lucky bear got the cuff monogram from the shirt.

When she picked these up today, she brought along a large (almost 3 feet tall) Santa figure that she's had for years.  Her three sisters have similar Santas.  Her question was, after the holidays, would I be able to re-dress the Santas using new fabric and trim them up with her mother's fur coat?  

Also, would I be able to use the remainder of the lace dress to make dresses for three American Girl dolls?

Also, could I think of anything interesting to do with all those leftover ties?

I love a customer who assumes, because I made one thing, that I can make anything she can dream up. 

But you know what?  I'm gonna try.  

Thursday, December 3, 2015

In case you wondered where I've been lately, the holidays have hit, and hit hard.  I have 3 more shows left before the day (one of them runs for two weeks), so I've been busy trying to keep up with the amount of inventory required.  Not a bad problem to have.

Plus, there have been a few custom orders, and I'm never one to turn down a custom order - they're way too much fun.  Two of them are pictured here, a set of personalized Christmas stockings made from two different vintage quilts (the buyer wanted them to be "boy" and "girl" without being obnoxiously pink or blue, and I think this worked) and a t-shirt quilt bought by a mom for her daughter who recently graduated from WVU.  I wonder what she's wearing now that all her t-shirts, sweatshirts and pants have disappeared from her wardrobe.

The quilt has gotten further along - the photo here is of the layout, and it now has strips of denim between all the images, along with a denim border.  It will be backed with navy blue sweatshirt fleece, sometime after I get things organized for this weekend's events.

Back into my cave now; I just wanted to give everyone an update and let you know I'm not buried under an avalanche of fabric.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

It equals out in the end

So I've started this new routine lately.  Used to be, I'd get up at 7 a.m., feed the cats and the chicken, kiss Mario goodbye and then go back to bed for an hour or so.  Because I could.

That's changed in the past few weeks, mostly because I overbooked myself and the only way to find extra time is to use the time that was formerly spent cuddling with kitties and smiling because the rest of the world had to get up and go to a box, and I didn't.

But two Mondays ago, I got up when Mario's 6:45 alarm went off, fed the critters and put the coffee on.  Made him drink a cup at home and make vaguely social noises before heading off to work (he's as good at mornings as I am, just gets up earlier).

After that, I stayed up, and got a surprising amount done by the time I would normally roll out of bed, including a nice 45 minute walk around the local cemetery to get my blood and my brain moving.

I've done it every day since then, with the exception of weekends, when there are men and shows to be scheduled.

But for now, because I somehow accepted way too many custom bear orders, then said yes to a t-shirt quilt (also due by the week before Christmas), and contracted with a new shop a few days ago to give them 10 bears next week, I need the extra time.

What I'm hoping is that by the time the holidays are over, this productive morning thing has become a habit so ingrained I don't lose it once I don't need the time quite so much.

Today I got up, fed and watered everyone that needed feeding and watering, ate breakfast with Mario, went to the supermarket, did a load of wash and hung it to dry in the basement and then ran to the hardware store when they opened - at 8:30 a.m.  Then I came home, sewed a teddy bear, did some online work and took the train into town, where I delivered 8 teddy bears (the 4 embroidered ones and the 2 sets pictured here), along with a grumpy sheep Christmas stocking.

I stopped at the bank, then at the liquor store, and ended up hanging out for a couple of hours at one of the offices where I temped last year, having potluck Thanksgiving with a bunch of very nice people who don't mind spending their days in boxes. On the way home, I stopped at a local West Philly shop, retrieved some bears that hadn't sold recently to be swapped out for new ones and made it home by 4:00 p.m.

Whereupon I sat down on the sofa and was completely overtaken by a food coma.  I was still asleep on the couch when Mario got home at 6:00.

So sometimes you find time, and other times you lose it.  I guess it equals out in the end.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Bear Season

Custom bear season, that is.

Last year I did a set of 8 bears for a co-worker of a previous customer.  The bears were made from a denim shirt, t-shirt and plaid fleece lap blanket that had belonged to her dad.  At the time, she said she wished she'd kept something belonging to her mom, but everything had gone.

A few months ago, she contacted me and said that she'd found her mom's favorite sweater set put away (where she could find it, of course!) and would I make her 4 more bears?  Absolutely.

There were only 4 bears this time because (a) her mom wasn't a big woman, and (b) she'd passed away before any of the grandkids were born, so unlike the dad bears, which were distributed to three sisters and their children, the mom bears were only going to my customer and her sisters.

The source fabric was a Tommy Hilfiger light blue embroidered camisole and cardigan set, size medium.  The embroidery was on both sides of the cardigan, around one wrist and on the camisole.  Which was lovely, but really limited the amount of fabric I had to work with.  My customer was hoping that I could do all 4 bears in just the blue, but I called her almost immediately and told her it just wasn't going to happen - there wasn't enough sweater to go around.  We decided to mix in an ivory cashmere blend that I had on hand, and I used a pale gray sweater for the ears and foot pads, just to add a little more contrast.

The bears - and the sweater - are really about the embroidery, which is done in ribbon in shades of ivory, pale gray and lilac.  I cut those sections off the sweater first and put them aside, and after the bears were otherwise finished I pinned embroidered sections onto each bear and hand stitched them on.  Because of the stretch in the sweater knit, and the placement of the embroidered pieces, each bear is different.

I like every custom bear I do, but I honestly think these may be my favorites right now - the colors and the embroidery just make them really special.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Cemetery Sunday

Sometimes I get tired of living in Philadelphia. The noise, the crowds, the neighbors four feet across the alleyway.

First some news. Mario finally - and on short notice - rented his house, so the last week every evening was spent getting it ready for the new tenants. Yesterday we checked in on them, and they were moving in. Since there was nothing else to do there, Mario suggested we go for a walk to clear our heads, and I suggested the cemetery.

Our local cemetery is, for me one of the highlights of living in West Philadelphia. It's pre-Civil War and full of looming, draped urns, ivy and massive old trees,  Yesterday, with autumn everywhere, it was even more beautiful than usual - and it's pretty on its worst day.

There's not a lot else to say about the day, so I'll leave you with some pictures from the afternoon.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Grandpa Bears, Again

You may remember that last year I made a set of bears for two little girls from their grandfather's suit jackets and ties (he even picked them out specially before he passed away).

I was contacted recently by that same man's daughter.  It was her niece last year who had the bears done, and now this woman wants a set of 4 for her grandchildren, and she showed up recently with 3 more jackets, a bag of ties, a monogrammed shirt and 2 caps for me to play with.

He was a seriously well-dressed man, I'll say that.  It's such a privilege to work with nice menswear fabrics, even if I do feel like a criminal taking these garments apart.

On the other hand, it's like a tailoring lesson in reverse, pulling apart a jacket and looking at the stitching, chest pad, shoulder pads and all the other intricate things that go into making a piece look effortless.

I know how much work is involved, but seeing it all torn apart on the dining room table is a little alarming.

In a good way.  Mostly.

So there are either going to be four or six bears out of this lot.  We started with a four bear order, but she said if there was enough fabric, we could take it to six.

I think there's enough fabric here to make a small bear army, but six seems like plenty.

I don't have a photo handy of the ties she included in the package, but safe to say one of those is going back in its original condition.  I felt like enough of a criminal cutting up the jackets; there's no way I can cut up a Hermes tie and be able to sleep at night.

Some things are just too good to destroy, even in the name of teddy bears.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Happy Customer Photo

I enjoy my miniature dressmaking binges so much, but it's not often I get to see the dresses in action.

This black and white polka dot dress was made from a favorite skirt.  When the zipper broke, I took it as a sign that it should be repurposed, instead of repaired.  Considering that the zipper broke because the skirt was too tight, a new zipper wasn't really going to fix anything anyway.

And it made a really cute dress.  The little girl's mom is a fellow artist, and I ran into her at a show today.  She sent me these photos of her daughter and said I was welcome to share, and I'm only too happy to do so!

This really makes me want to settle down with the sewing machine and some cute fabrics, but the holidays are coming and the custom bear orders are piling up.  Dresses are pretty much on the back burner until after the holidays, but I'll keep this picture around for inspiration heading into spring.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Rallying the Clan

A while back I received an email making some custom bears.  It was from someone I know online, someone I know who sews, but who said (more or less) that she would rather stick needles in her eyes than match plaid.

A friend brought this family tartan back from Scotland years ago, and she decided that she wanted to have bears made from it for her family and friend.

In the tradition of all good sewists, even though she didn't intend to use the fabric, she'd purchased a beautiful coordinating navy blue wool, which made my job even easier.

Here is the final result.  Well, actually there are 6 of them, but you get the idea.

Working with the tartan fabric made me realize that if I ever get to Scotland, my shopping budget is going straight to the nearest shop selling quality tartan.  It had a beautiful hand, the colors are more subtle close up, and it was a joy to work with.  Have to say, it was difficult to send the remnants back, but there's enough left that if my friend decided to, she could make herself a nice small jacket.

With matched plaid, of course.

Next up is another series of custom bears.  Remember the necktie bears from last year?  Well, that lovely man's family came up with more amazing garments for me to cut up and make a series of bears (and bunnies) for a different selection of grandchildren.  I'm looking forward to it, all except the taking shears to high quality clothing part.

But I always get over that, don't I?

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Castles in the Air

Not a lot to say right now -- finishing up a large custom bear order and just received materials for the next one -- but Mario and I were out the other evening and I saw this and wanted to share it.

It's the window of a vacant store, and I spent a good few minutes looking in at it.  The whole thing is made from recycled cardboard - looking closely, you can see cereal boxes, Quaker Oats boxes, a whole litany of cut-up logos.

I think it's wonderful.

I did stuff like that (but not like that) when I was a kid, and it really made me want to come home and find the scissors and the glue.

It's a good day, when you randomly walk into something that makes you want to come home and make things.

Okay, that's it.

Back to making other things.  No castles, not just yet.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Meeting my mother

Mom, 1950 - over her awkward
So.  Remember my photo album project?  It's still ongoing -- I've reached the early 1950s, and within a page or two will hit my parents' marriage, which means I'm not too far in the future.

We're still in black-and-white, BTW.

What I'm finding with this project, though, more than photographs and stories, are holes.  Holes in the stories, gaps in the photographs -- and in my knowledge.  Growing up, I always wanted the stories.  Drop me at a relative's for the day, and within an hour I'd find their photo album or box of pictures and start asking, "Who's this? How are we related? What were they doing in this picture?"

Generally, I got answers, but until I started doing this project, in somewhat haphazard chronological order due to the sheer volume of pictures, I never caught on that there were gaps.  I mean, of course there are.  There were things no one would tell a kid, and things no one thought to tell me.  There were occasions not in photos, and not worthy of mention except that they linked one thing to another.

As a genealogy project, it was kind of frustrating.  As a writer, it's fascinating.

Because I get to fill in those gaps.

When I was born, someone gave my mom a baby book.  You know, one of those nice leatherette books where baby's first 5 or 7 years of life is recorded in painful detail.  Mom wasn't good at painful detail.  There are no pictures in the book -- though she did glue in an envelope with my baby curls, and the hospital bracelet from my tonsillectomy -- but some of what she wrote has really set me back.

From the time I was small, I knew that  my mom thought the sun shone out of my ass.  (Sorry, but that's how she acted).  That feeling was followed by the knowledge that I was the best thing she'd ever done.  I even heard her say it, repeatedly, like I was a pot she'd thrown or a picture she'd painted.  She even said once or twice that my father had little to do with the whole thing.  Really?  I think he'd have been surprised to hear that.

One of the gaps - note that the bottom photo has been cut and
pieced to remove proof of her first husband's existence.
I still don't know why.
It always made me feel a little weird.  I was something she'd done.  My existence had very little to do with me, only with her.  I was artistic because she liked to draw.  I had good legs because she had good legs.  Equally, I had weak eyes and bad teeth because she had those things too.

I never felt like I totally belonged to me.

Reading over her few scrawled notes in the baby book, I'm seeing the woman who had those feelings, before they hardened into the shell that I knew.  I'm seeing a woman who was absolutely stunned by her baby, someone who had never wanted children and yet and produced what she called "the most wonderful baby in the world," who was named for "herself" and who got lots of presents "because she's perfect and deserves them."

I just met a woman who I never knew, and she gave birth to me.  After 51 years, I just met my mother.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Back to 'Normal'

Or at least whatever passes for normal around here.

My summer temp job is finally over.  I extended it by a final week because it seemed, at that point, ridiculous to walk away from a place that would happily pay me money that would in turn pay off Ozzie's final vet bill.  I decided to work an extra three days, instead of my usual four, because that was enough to pay the bill.

I did one of my favorite fall craft shows this past weekend, and I have another this coming Saturday.  Actually, I have one either every Saturday or Sunday from now until mid-November.

And, because I've been working outside the house pretty steadily (and therefore not sewing as much as I would like), I have enough product for about 4 of those shows.

So I'm off to chain myself to my sewing machine and listen to something interesting while I saw.  Have you been listening to Elizabeth Gilbert's Magic Lessons podcast?  They've all been pretty interesting, but her latest one is a discussion with Brene Brown, and it's worth the entire series.  If you haven't been listening, give it a try.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Thomas Philip Bear

First of all, thank you for your kind words about Ozzie.  I'm feeling a bit better - it still sucks, but I know I did the right thing for him.

The other cats have settled down.  Most of them will never know he's not still in his room; Nicky, the one cat he did spend time with, is a little confused, but he's adjusting to being out with the tribe.

On a more cheerful note, I wanted to introduce my first custom bear for the upcoming holiday season.  Custom projects usually slow down over the summer, which was okay since my summer temp job hasn't ended yet (soon!), but I was happy to take this guy on, and even happier to send him off to California yesterday.

The one piece of clothing my customer supplied was her grandfather's plaid shirt.  She contacted me through Etsy and said that she liked a particular photo on one of my listings, and could I do a bear that looked like that one.  She didn't have a sweater to send, only the shirt, but I have such a ridiculous amount of sweaters on hand, I told her not to worry and that I would find something that worked with her shirt.  She also wanted her grandfather's name embroidered on the front (same as the example bear in my listing).

So this little guy is partly from her, partly from my stash, and wholly (I hope) what she wanted.

I have a few more made-to-order bears coming, and an embroidered Christmas stocking heading out tomorrow.

It may only be the week of Labor Day, but I can already feel the holidays approaching.

Monday, September 7, 2015

And then there were 7

It seems like not too long ago, I wrote a post called "And then there were 8."

But now there are only 7, and Ozzie is no longer with us.

It happens so quickly with cats sometimes.  Yesterday, he seemed fine -- he ate, he drank, and I saw him use the litterbox.

This morning at 7:00 a.m., he was hiding under a piece of furniture, crying, and when I got him out, he had a seizure, bit me, and then started crying louder.  I put my clothes on and grabbed a cab down to the University of Penn's veterinary hospital (whenever I start hating my neighborhood, I remember I have a 24-hour, world-class vet facility less than a mile from my house) so they could examine him.

It wasn't good.  Being a male kitty, he's had urinary tract issues before, but not for about 8 years.  Well, they were back, and in abundance.  The doctor said he was completely blocked -- from urinating freely yesterday! -- and it was so severe that even catheterization wouldn't help; he'd have to have the blockage surgically cleared, which meant 2-3 days in the hospital, plus follow-up care.

To the tune of about $3,500.

Which I don't have.

Add to that, Ozzie is 14, extremely fearful of people (and anti-cat; the poor guy self-isolated in my front room for years and had anxiety attacks whenever he was forced to come out), and I just didn't see a good solution.

The doctor made it plain that there were only 2 choices -- surgery or euthanasia.  So it really wasn't a choice at all, and it wasn't all about the money, either.  Some cats can handle traumatic events (Lily and Max come to mind), and others just can't.  I don't like anthropomorphizing my animals, but Ozzie really did have some kind of anxiety issues; no cat should pee himself from fear every time he leaves the room where he chooses to live, and he was petrified of almost all the other cats.

So I did what I believe was best for him, in the long run, but right now I feel like total crap about it.

I'm going into my sewing room and I'm not coming out until tomorrow, except for more wine.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Get the sunscreen

My departure from yesterday's show at the South Street Whole Foods was delayed by the arrival of the Philly Naked Bike Ride.

All the vendors hung over the edge of the parking garage, cheering them on, while all our rides waited behind (enjoying the view?) before they could get into the garage to retrieve us.

Just another day in Philadelphia.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Under pressure

This Saturday!
Unfortunately, not a post about my new adventures in canning.  (My new baby is still resting comfortably in her box, and probably will be for a while yet).

I have almost three weeks left at my summer temp job.  It extended far beyond what I planned, but it's hard to say no to regular money being put aside against the heating bill in January, especially when I intend to be happily in the house, enjoying said heat.

But it's hard, as we all know, to do something 9-5 and then come home, deal with the house, eat something resembling a meal, spend time with the people and animals that you love, and still -- still -- find time to make things.

Case in point.  I have sixteen shows (so far) between now and the week before Christmas.  Sixteen.

And I think I have enough inventory for three or four shows.  And that's saying everyone doesn't want to buy the same thing, in which case I probably have inventory for two.

Today is my day off, so I'm taking a break here now and then going back to the assembly line.  That's what it is at the moment -- I have 30+ mini bears with freshly embroidered faces, 8 newly cut out dresses, and a stack of cotton prints and batting that need to be cut into squares for microwave bowls.  (Those are good because I can take the pieces into the office and pin them together at lunch, and sometimes even on my desk when no one's around).

I'm also going to need more sweater animals, and I haven't yet taken inventory of the mittens, but either way, that means my machine is going to go back on her weekly cleaning schedule so I can avert the wool-fuzzy-catastrophe that happens when I don't pay enough attention to her during sweater season.

So pressure, yes, but it's still fun.  I'd still rather be doing this than sitting in a small box in an over-air-conditioned big box, mostly waiting around for someone to give me something to do.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

A new toy

My "summer job" is ending the Friday after Labor Day, and not before time.

I figured out the other night that I have 14 events between now and Christmas, and that's assuming none get added to the schedule.  And something always gets added to the schedule.

Add to that the fact that I have enough merchandise for about 3 shows, and that the holidays (and therefore, custom order season) are almost upon us, and I'm really getting antsy to get the job over with.

But while it's still going on, and while I have this steady money coming in, I've treated the house (and occasionally  myself) to a few not-quite-luxuries, this being one of them.

Hopefully this weekend it'll get taken out of the box.  I don't have a show, and so long as the kitchen isn't 90 degrees, I think I'll pick up something at the farmers market and fire this baby up and see what it can do.  I really want to expand beyond tomatoes and pickles, and a pressure canner will allow me to can soups, low-acid vegetables, even meats.

Now I just need to work up the nerve to try it out.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Coming Up

Tomorrow, actually.

After a week at the office, with a break on Thursday to teach an embroidery class to a kids' history camp (fun but exhausting), it'll  be nice to spend the day down at Penn's Landing, working on my sunburn.

Forecast says 90 degrees and sunny.  There'll be a good breeze off the river, and I've got a gallon jug of water and a tube of sunblock.

I'm ready.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

The only adult in the room

Barcelona beach.  I'd like to be there right now.
I've been thinking the past few days about how our personalities as adults are really formed by the kinds of adults our parents were.  Or weren't.

There are things going on right now that I'm not going to get into on the blog, other than to say that they're more inconvenient and annoying than serious; no one's health is involved; Mario and I are still happily married; and the cats are all fine.

Anyone who knows me knows that while I'm pretty laid back, I also generally have my environment under tight control.  I know what's going on, because I'm the one who set it up and who keeps it that way.  Everything is my responsibility.  All the time.  It always has been.

This is bad for several reasons.  First off, because it's freaking exhausting to be in charge 24/7, especially when you admit it to yourself.  Second, because the people around you who love you and who actually could take some of the burden from your shoulders either don't ask (because they think you've got it covered) or ask and you blow them off because, hey, you've got this.

I had to admit the other day that I'm not Superwoman, that I can't do everything on my own, that I'm not physically or emotionally strong enough to do everything by myself, every day, all the time, for everyone in my orbit.  And I don't need to.

Explaining myself to Mario the other night -- amid the meltdown that I finally allowed myself, and which he handled beautifully (it's only the second one he's seen in 10 years) -- was weirdly enlightening.  The more I talked, the more I thought to tell him.  I try to do everything because I'm used to it, because I've always been surrounded by people whom I couldn't trust to do their part.  I explained that my behavior isn't a reflection of him, but of me, because I'm so accustomed to the other situation that it's still difficult to believe that I do now have someone I can trust to do their fair share, and occasionally more.

A lot of this stems from my childhood.  My dad died when I was 9, and while he was a grownup, my mom . . . not so much.  She always made sure there was a roof over our head and food on the table, but I never felt secure -- it always felt like she might get distracted and forget to pay the bills, which she did, in fact, do.  So I took over writing out the bills when I was 10, and handled most of our finances.  I "borrowed" money from her wallet while she slept so that when she overspent by the end of the month, there was cash on hand.  I made her grown up existence as easy as possible so that it wouldn't be too difficult for her to do the few adult responsibilities I had left for her.

I moved out 3 years after she remarried.  (She remarried when I was 16, specifically because the Social Security she got on my behalf was drastically reduced, and we couldn't make it otherwise).  But at 19, she was someone else's problem, and I already knew I could take care of me.

This behavior continued on, and now, here I am at 51, just beginning to realize that maybe, just maybe, I'm not the only adult in the room.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Mini bears

These little guys are one of the biggest sellers I have at craft shows, which is funny because they're made out of scraps and remnants of larger projects.  They take recycling to a whole new level.

The mini bears came about because two Christmases ago, someone complained that my larger stuffed animals were too expensive to be dog toys.  (They were, and I was appalled that he even wanted to give one to his dog, but it's his money).

So I decided to make these little guys, very simple shapes, basic embroidered faces, yarn bows tied through their necks.

And almost no one buys them for their dogs.  A customer this spring called them "hush bears," because they're the perfect thing -- inexpensive and small -- to quiet a howling toddler.

Recently, I did send a mini bear to my friend, Maria Wulf, for her new dog, who certainly seems to appreciate it.

But the bulk of the bears go to kids, large and small, and the occasional adult.  I display them at shows in this picnic basket I found at the thrift store, one of my favorite finds ever.  And how can you go wrong with storage and display in one?

I finally got around to listing them on Etsy yesterday.  I'd never bothered, since they do well enough at in-person shows, but the scraps keep coming, so I'll keep making them, and it never hurts to have another outlet.