Saturday, January 29, 2011

Flea market

Inspired by a post from another blogger today, I decided to go check out Chico's Indoor Flea Market. While not nearly as inspiring or containing any of the beautiful things the other blogger's flea market contained, I *did* learn where to acquire Stevie Nicks's entire discography (including, of course, all of Fleetwood Mac), boxes upon boxes of drill bits, a plethora of Hot Wheel cars, or baked goods made by charming old ladies who also knit and/or do needlepoint. Next time I need baked goods for a gathering, in fact, I may just go to the flea market, because they looked yummy.

While I was out, I decided to head to Joann's, which is always a dangerous trip. I was looking for a 2" wide bias tape making tool, but the widest they have in stock in the store is a 1" one. Bias tape is good for all kinds of things, and having the tool to easily make my own would be pretty awesome. Something else for the Amazon wishlist, I suppose! I then checked out their remnants cart, where I grabbed some SUPER cute glittery ladybug fabric that I'm going to use for a bag for the 2-year-old of a dear friend of mine, and 2/3 of a yard of an olive-green-y fabric with dots on it. Not sure what I'm going to use it for, but they came out to $4.45, combined, including tax. I had $1.50 left over on a gift card, so it was only $2.95 out of my pocket for a total of 1 1/3 yards of fabric - pretty good, I think!

After that, I went to Old Navy and to Target, but didn't find what I was looking for at either place (a khaki version of the awesome pants I picked up last week, and satisfactory not-annoying shower curtain rings, respectively)... so I had In-N-Out Burger for lunch. Mmmm.

Oh, right. Hubby isn't home, so this was all by my lonesome - I miss him, and won't see him until tomorrow, but it's kind of nice to have the house to myself...

Well, me and the little monsters. :)

Thursday, January 27, 2011

How exciting!

Facebook gets better all the time, I tell ya! The local newspaper is sponsoring a monthly "dinner and a show" contest. The winner gets $40 to a local restaurant and tickets to a show. This month was a gift certificate to Tres Hombres, a great Mexican place here in town, and tickets to Hello Dolly, put on by the Chico Theatre Company.

And I won! :D

Not so excited about the show, but DEFINITELY looking forward to a night out at Tres! :)

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Amusing anecdote

Amusing story of the day? Go!

I have this coworker who doesn't seem to know how to dress appropriately for work, despite having been told this on at least one occasion. She's got this pair of white cotton capri pants that she wears all the time.

I looked up today and realized that, not only are they see through, but that what I initially thought was a stain on her pants was actually her tattoo, a big green butterfly, which is on her ass.


Saturday, January 22, 2011

Book 5: Once Upon a Quinceanera, by Julia Alvarez

Book 5 was Once Upon a Quinceanera, by Julia Alvarez.

Intended to be an examination of how the quinceanera celebration affects Latinas in our community, by the end, Alvarez loses track a bit and heads more into personal exploration.

Quinceaneras are the often very elaborate parties thrown for Latina girls for their 15th birthdays; think a Hispanic sweet sixteen. Various traditions, which started who-knows-where, include girls being dolled up in enormous white puffy gowns; girls' fathers exchanging the girls' flat shoes for heels; girls being crowned with tiaras; a 14 couple court to escort the girl into womanhood; and so forth. No one can seem to agree on where this tradition came from, but the purpose generally is to acknowledge the girls' statuses as "women" instead of "girls," marking their eligibility for marriage.

Alvarez explores what this really means in today's society. We no longer live in a world where girls get married at 15, yet this tradition says "you're a woman now, time to go be a grown up." There are no statistics directly relating "los quinces" to things like dropping out of high school or getting pregnant, but Alvarez does cite other studies that indicate that Latina girls in the US are generally in trouble - they drop out, have children, get involved with drugs, etc., at earlier ages than their white counterparts.

Overall, the book was alright. As I stated earlier, Alvarez lost sight of the quinceanera theme a bit by the end, instead focusing on her own troubles "at that age" and what might have been done for her as a Dominican-American. Although this does contribute to the theme of the book - the importance for Latino/a families to focus on helping their girls really fit into the expectations of American society while still maintaining an appreciation for their heritage - she doesn't really tie it in as nicely as one might expect from a published book.

Next book: Pornified, by Pamela Paul.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Laundry update!

Jeff successfully laundered our clothes - and even moved my dresser into our bedroom...

So after a year of getting my "delicates" (his word, not mine, LOL!) out of a plastic Old Navy bag every day, now I can get them out of a drawer, like a real, civilized person.

This is very exciting. :) Jeff doing the laundry, though? Cute. He hung up my clothes until he ran out of hangers, which he ran out of relatively quickly since he was hanging up all the tank tops that I wear underneath my shirts to work so that I don't freeze. Adorable! hahaha. I love my panda!


My husband's a smart guy; I wouldn't have married him otherwise! He's got a degree, he's put half our house back together, learning things he didn't know in order to do so...

But today I had to give him written instructions on how to do our laundry.

We don't yet have a washer/dryer installed in our house - right now there's a big ol' red tool chest where the stackable machine I bought from a co-worker will go - so we've been going to the laundromat every two weeks to get 'er done.

And by "we," I mean me. I'm fed up!

Today, it's his turn.

We'll see how it goes.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Thoughts on Sewing

As a new sewist (the noun I've chosen for myself, because I'm not exactly a tailor or seamstress, and sew-er isn't exactly a pleasant term, sans hyphen), few things are as scary as the first cut (or, in my case, slice) into a BIG piece of fabric. I'm able to afford all kinds of little pieces, like fat quarters, or just scraps, or whatever...but having a BIG piece means I've gone out and purchased it.

True, fabric isn't incredibly expensive, but the time to go get more, the shame in having screwed up... it's a lot.

Back to work. :)

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Good day, good weekend

It's been a long time since I've felt like I was making a friend. Yesterday I went shopping with Tamera, a relatively-new co-worker of mine. We stopped for fuel at Starbucks, went to Old Navy, and then to Pluto's for lunch. It was a great time. Lots of joking around, commiserating, gossiping, etc. Girl talk, basically. A new thing for me, though, since I've never had a close female friend like that. She's also come over to hang out at the house a few times, which has been cool.

Today was a good day, too. Jeff's dad's wife's birthday is in the next few days, and she had some folks over for a Thanksgiving dinner-type spread. We made some amazing bread in the bread machine last night (we still have a whole loaf, yay!) and took that, and generally I ate too much. I can't wait until it's warm enough / light late enough for me to bike again after work, so that I don't feel guilty about eating the bread that we've been making, haha.

Anyway... nothing particularly interesting or thoughtful. Just a happy day. :)

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Book 4: Alice Sebond's The Almost Moon

Book Four was Alice Sebold's The Almost Moon. I enjoyed her first novel, The Lovely Bones (though I haven't seen the movie; I'm always afraid they won't live up to my expectations), and was moved by her memoir, Lucky, so it was a no-brainer to pick up The Almost Moon.

Sebold didn't disappoint. The story of an intense mother-daughter, love-hate relationship set in an area of Pennsylvania not all that far from my home town, I found it very easy to relate to some of the sentiments expressed by Helen, the main character. At one point she tells us:

"In those moments, I would feel the cords of my upbringing pulling me back. I had not been raised to hug or to comfort or to become part of someone else's family. I had been raised to keep a distance. ... Judging Natalie as my mother had judged me was, I felt like telling her son, just my ass-backward way of showing love. I'd spent my life trying to translate that language, and now I realized I had come to speak it fluently. When was it that you realized the thread woven through your DNA carried the relationship deformities of your blood relatives as much as it did their diabetes or bone density?"

The book's setting especially resonated with me when Helen mentions her family acquiring a quilt from an artisan at the Kutztown Fair, and when Jake, Helen's ex-husband, comments on how that area of Pennsylvania seems never to change, at one point commenting, "East Germany seemed cheerier than this."

Ultimately, it is a book of letting go and moving on. I find myself wanting to be able to do what Helen eventually does - to face the world, despite one's past, and move forward, accepting all consequences. I struggle with finding my own self, just as the character did.

Someday I hope I can do that.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Book Three: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot

A product of a decade of research, Rebecca Skloot's The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks gives a face and family to the cells that many scientists and researchers commonly refer to as the HeLa cells.

Taken without Lacks's permission in the '40's, cells from a tumor on her cervix were the first that scientists were able to successfully culture in a lab. At the time, African Americans were fearful of "white man's medicine" - and rightfully so. At the same time as Lacks was being treated for a particularly nasty form of cervical cancer, researchers were purposefully infecting other blacks with syphilis - and not curing them - in order to study the "natural progression of the disease."

After Lacks's death, her family wasn't informed of what her cells were contributing to. When they were finally told that Henrietta's cells were still alive, they didn't understand what it all meant; their lack of education combined with the callousness of researchers led the family to believe that Henrietta had been cloned, that they were all going to get cancer - or that they were owed a LOT of money by Johns Hopkins Hospital.

A very interesting text on both the Lacks family and the field of bioethics, I recommend this one. Skloot's passion for telling the story - the truth, the whole truth (with one noted exception at the request of the family), and nothing but - is admirable and her desire to really get it right is to be praised.

By the end, I admit that I felt guilty for having acquired a used copy; proceeds from sales of the book go to benefit the Henrietta Lacks Foundation, an organization whose mission is providing scholarships or grants to cover medical treatment to members of the Lacks family or to those who "have made, or be the descendant of someone who has made, a significant contribution to scientific research as a research subject, including those who have unwillingly or unknowingly contributed biological materials for research."

Three down, 49 to go to reach my goal for the year!

Hint hint

I may or may not have started a second blog to discuss more personal things.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Book Two: Empire Falls, by Richard Russo

Just finished Empire Falls, by Richard Russo, and it was definitely one for the could-not-put-down, must-share-with-fellow-readers pile.

There were things I didn't like about the book - like the flashbacks being written in italics, which bothered my eyes - but overall, it was great. Set in a sleepy, falling-off-the-map town in Maine, the story focuses heavily on the intrigue found in small towns like Empire Falls as well as themes of destiny/fate and irony.

I'm not sure I can say too much about it without ruining it, really. I appreciated the humor in the book, particularly when mixed with insight into subjects one tends to forget or erase intentionally as time goes on, like in passages such as this one:

"In matters of affection, the rules of engagement at Empire High were detailed yet unambiguous, an extension of procedures established in junior high, a set of guidelines that couldn't have been any clearer if they'd been posted on the schoolhouse door. If you were a girl and your heart inclined toward a particularly boy, you had one of your girlfriends make inquiries from one of that boy's friends. Such contact represented the commencement of a series of complex negotiations, the opening rounds of which were handed by friends. Boy's friend A might report to girl's friend B that the boy in question considered her a fox, or, if he felt particularly strongly, a major fox. Those experienced in these matters knew that it was wise to proceed cautiously, since too much ardor could delay things for weeks. The girl in question might be in negotiations with other parties, and no boy wanted to be on record as considering a girl a major fox only to discover that she considered him merely cool. Friends had to be instructed carefully about how much emotional currency they could spend, since rogue emotions led to inflation, lessening the value of everyone's feelings."

Definitely an A. Recommended.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Book One: Garbage Land: On the Secret Trail of Trash

I found Garbage Land: On the Secret Trail of Trash, written by Elizabeth Royte, to be fairly entertaining.

Royte attempts to track where her garbage, recycled goods, and even sewage go, as a resident of New York City. She runs into a variety of obstacles - reluctant junkyard managers, un-forthcoming landfill operators, and even run-ins with the law. To be fair, she technically does trespass, and doesn't end up facing any consequences from those actions anyway, but it certainly does make for a more interesting book. The book is interesting, too - Royte goes so far as to follow her "san men" - her trash collectors - on their route, and attempts to help them as they collect (literally) tons of garbage on their trips around the city.

Garbage Land wasn't as preachy as I expected, given that it's a book written about an environmental topic. It followed the predictable format that most non-fiction books inevitably follow; the first 60-75% is facts, the "this is the problem," while the end is the "This is what *I* think you should do about it."

I came away from the book with the following thoughts:
-Don't buy things in glass containers, as they don't break down and there really doesn't seem to be much market for the recycling of it.
-Buy aluminum cans over plastic soda bottles, because metal can be used repeatedly while plastic can only, realistically, be used once or maybe two more times.

Ultimately, though, we're presented with some dismal statistics. Consumer "waste" and "trash" really doesn't represent very much of the problem at all, and perhaps, by putting the onus of recycling and waste reduction on consumers, attention is diverted from the monumental problems of industrial waste and the sheerly massive quantities of packaging hefted onto us by manufacturers.

Not one I'll keep in my library, but I'd give it a solid B.

One down, 51 to go this year! Next up: Richard Russo's Empire Falls.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Love me some Freecycle

If you're not already a member of Freecycle, I highly recommend it. Go to to find a group in your area.

Basically, people clean house, or get cruddy gifts, or whatev, and then send an email to the group (it's run via Yahoo! Groups) saying "Offer: Crap - Anytown" in the subject line and then listing details about the item(s) in the body of the email.

I scored another big box of fabric from there this morning. There was a lot of crap, but there were several pieces that were at least a full yard in size, which actually match, so eventually I can make an *actual* quilt. For realzies.