Archive for August, 2009

My heart leaps up

I’m home again. It’s quiet here, and a little bit chilly. I can tell that fall is really coming, even though it still seems unreal that I have a class at 9:30 on Wednesday morning, and will be teaching on Friday. I have a touch of that early-autumn exhilaration, when the turn towards cold is somehow thrilling rather than foreboding. After three winters here, I should know better than to be impatient for falling leaves and frosty nights, but I love the shifting of seasons.

I canceled my cable package. Now I only get a few channels, none of which I find very tempting. I did watch about twenty minutes of Antiques Roadshow and part of a creepy episode of Law and Order while I was eating dinner, but I’ve reached a point where I no longer want to have the TV on to break the silence of my house. I used to find the quiet of living alone–or mostly alone, as is the case in my mom’s enormous suburban house–disconcerting. I couldn’t believe how quiet it was–and how utterly alone I felt–when I first moved into this house. Lying in bed at night, I heard every creak, every rustle in the mostly-empty rooms. It doesn’t bother me anymore. Perhaps it’s because everything about this house is more familiar, and more cushioned now–I know the rattle of the furnace and the rushing sound that the water softener makes early in the morning, and sound no longer echoes in the way that it did before I filled these rooms. Or maybe I’m just getting old.

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I am really a stress case right now–can’t sleep, can’t work, can’t do much of anything other than take stressed-out naps on the couch to try to forget about it all. My recent bouts of procrastination and denial have mostly involved my sewing machine, as well as a lot of time reading online tutorials for various sewing projects that I’d like to do once this whole exam thing is over. I plan on a glorious recovery period this September and I want to make a quilt. I’ve collected quilts for years–I read novels about them–I love them–but I’ve never made one.

I’m not really that accomplished at sewing, but I am pretty accomplished at obsessing over details until they nearly drive me mad, and I think that might make for a good quilt (if not, necessarily, a good quilting experience). Don’t worry, I’m looking at very simple plans involving rectangles and machine quilting in straight lines. But I’m learning to not worry so much about the little things that usually haunt me, as the current state of my house attests. I wanted to post a picture of the pillowcases I made the other day–euro shams, actually, from a thrifted piece of floral fabric that I love because of how it clashes with my bedroom–but I finally killed the battery on Ricky’s camera and can only locate my charger. My camera and his charger have apparently run off together. But I’m pretty proud of that project, because I used some random online tutorial rather than a pattern and had to do the whole thing in a more freehand way than any of the sewing I used to do. They’re not perfect–I had to use a remnant of stretchy white poplin for the back panel that refused to lay flat and, lacking an iron, the seams aren’t terribly straight, but I don’t care. They’re on my bed rather than in a to-do pile like everything else these days, and I like them.

I can’t remember the last time I sewed anything. I’ve reattached some buttons and hemmed (rather inexpertly) several pairs of jeans over the last few years—-mended holes in sweaters and snags in t-shirts (the perils of having cats)—-but I probably haven’t really made anything since before I went to college. My high school, being stuck in the 1950’s, was big on home-ec classes, as well as etiquette dinners, dance cards, and that 7-Up punch with rainbow sherbet. But I learned how to sew long before that, from my mother, who used to make the most fantastic Halloween costumes. From a technical standpoint, the white corduroy rabbit suit with pink satin ears is probably more impressive, but I have to admire the sparkly purple octopus for the mere fact that my mother cut, sewed, turned out, and stuffed eight tentacles with polyfil while she was working on her master’s degree. Of course, I had no idea at the time just how close those tentacles had come to driving my mother mad, but I hope it will comfort her somewhat to know that I’m planning on wearing it again for Halloween at age 26.

So here I am, plunging into sewing projects in the midst the most terrifying test ever–9 days of it, starting tomorrow. I’ll see you on the other side… and then I’m going to try to find my fabric shears, my pins, and my rotary cutter.


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on my mind.


After three days of studyFail involving a fun trip to Chicago (museum! pizza! Ikea!) and two less-fun days of general uselessness, I got back on track today by making some more flashcards–I swear, the blank ones left to do are regenerating at night–and, of course, some artichokes. Whatever made me think, when I saw them last week at Costco, that now would be the time to take on cleaning and steaming four spiny green purplish green things–now, when I can barely find the energy to open my freezer, let alone heat anything–I do not know. I’ve been eating yogurt parfaits about three times daily–dumping things in a bowl is about all I can manage. But today, I found myself unable to dismiss all of the nagging things in the corners of my mind–dirty laundry, dying plants, overdue Battlestar Galactica DVD, artichokes on the verge of decay.

I love how grad school makes all of the things that normal people manage to accomplish in the course of a day seem totally unnecessary and impossible. So what if I don’t have socks, sheets, or towels? Why should I care if the state of my gardens makes my neighbors think that my house is vacant? And who needs to eat? Coffee shop scones will keep me alive–alive enough to keep reading, at least.

Artichokes–in particular, the ones that my mom makes, stuffed with breadcrumbs and cheese–are probably my favorite food on the planet, above, even, all things chocolate. Chocolate hazelnut gelato is up there, too–and brick oven pizza from Brooklyn’s Pizza, in New Jersey–and blackberry pie, made by my mom–but I’ve loved artichokes longer. My mom taught me how to make the stuffed ones, and while, under normal circumstances, I can manage it (never quite the same, though),  the thought of making breadcrumbs and trying to pack them into a snarl of pointy leaves was about enough to make me cry right now. It was hard enough to muster the energy to clean these and stick them into a pot to steam. Stabby little things, artichokes. But aren’t they lovely? I’m about to eat one, and then I’m going to take my clean sheets out of the dryer and make my bed, like a civilized human being.

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