Messy Maxi

I’ve always had a problem with maxi dresses, because the people who make maxi dresses like to assume that you’re a reasonably-sized human being, which I have never been.

And it’s a real shame when you’re a Hobbit with Elvish aspirations, fantasizing about gliding effortlessly down a hallway in a flowing dress without the dress immediately catching under your feet and resulting in a total collapse.

So why I decided to buy a particularly flowy maxi spring dress off of Amazon, I’ll never know.

Actually, I do know. It’s because one of the reviewers described herself as a petite Asian girl, standing at only 5’1″, who decided the dress was perfectly reasonable if you wore shoes with a little height. I couldn’t see the shoes she wore in the picture, but I have to assume now that they were Herman Munster boots.

So I bought this dress off of Amazon, and upon wearing it, discovered that it completely swallowed up my feet and an inch of ground around me. Which meant, unfortunately, that I would have to hem it.

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If I owned six inch heels, this wouldn’t be a problem.

Now, I have a sewing machine, but it’s mostly for show. It’s not like anyone ever comes in my room, but if they did, they might see the sewing machine and might assume I’m a crafty person, when in actuality I have the creativity and sewing prowess of a stick of soft butter.

A stick of soft butter with the inability to create an even new hem on curved section of fabric.

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I started by setting up my sewing machine, a process which took forty minutes because I couldn’t figure out why the bottom thread wasn’t catching. It was because I was turning the wheel the wrong way.

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You would think measuring would help, but in fact, it doesn’t help if you do it wrong.

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I pinned the dress to mark where I wanted to cut, so that there was only a moderate amount of guesswork involved.

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I could make a scarf out of the excess material! I kid, of course. I’d never make this into a scarf, I’d just wear it as-is until it resembled more fray than fabric.

So I inexpertly pinned the hem into place, and I thought I did a pretty good job. And then I tried to actually sew it, and it turned out that I had done quite an awful job, unless my goal had been to create the world’s most uneven hem.

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It looked okay until I realized I was creating a top-heavy hem. Next time I won’t sew so close to the bottom of the dress. Learning!

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The middle part is just the way the dress naturally hangs, I swear.

The end result was mildly disappointing, but I could see my feet again, which was nice. Overall, I find the dress to be acceptable, because you don’t realize how badly it’s hemmed unless you really stare at my feet, and only a small portion of the population would be interested in that anyway.

And to think that my poor sewing machine could have been placed in a loving home.

Paper Dolls

Saturday was a good snowfall that turned the roads to ice and left my poor car sliding sporadically around like a young puppy on a frozen lake, but by Monday the roads had been cleared enough that school was back on, much to the children’s disappointment and the nanny’s delight.

Still, it’s been quite nice, and the children get to go outside after homework and bodily tackle each other into the snow until I decide I should intervene. The littlest ones wear hats made for two head sizes bigger, and it’s highly amusing to watch the gradual slippage until their eyes are completely covered and they have to stagger blindly over to me so I can right it again.

Childhood, am I right?

On Tuesdays Mrs. Parent and the housekeeper spend the day scouring the house for dirt (and with three to six boys, they don’t have to look very hard). In order to not upset the natural balance of things, I spend most of my time in my room while the children are at school.

Today, I thought I might try creating one of those Japanese paper dolls from the creation kit I was gifted.

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My last attempt at Origami was making an elephant out of a dollar bill for the oldest boy, over a year ago. The oldest boy did not get an elephant made out of a dollar bill.

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I started with the first doll in the book, the “Spring Doll,” on the assumption that I couldn’t possibly mess up the very first (and theoretically easiest) creation on the list.

Everything in the kit is very helpfully labeled, and to my surprise the instructions are very well done. As I had understood previously, origami instructions typically involve a picture of a flat, unfolded piece of paper, followed by a strange midway step that looks like an exploding elevated highway, and then the third and final step telling you to make a simple inverse overstimulated duck fold and voila, you have the completed Eiffel Tower.

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This kit, on the other hand, really doesn’t want you to mess up. They give you lines to show you where to fold.

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All right, I give them this, this looks like a kimono and I hardly had to do anything.

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Sleeves? Arms? Cape?

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This will become a head somehow.

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…Huh.

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It took me ten minutes of rifling through the available paper pieces before I realized there was a false bottom on this thing.

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They instructed me to use a lot more tape than I thought an origami book typically would. Don’t get me wrong, I’m insanely grateful, but it feels like cheating.

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Good enough!

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…Tape for the head, then.

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There.

Overall, I rate this kit a good 5 points out of 5 stars, and recommend it to anyone who is generally so incompetent at paper folding that they need a perfect pre-made kit to complete anything worthwhile. I’m honestly astonished I managed to make anything out of it at all, because it looks much more intricate when you just glance at the box.

Now I’ll just leave these lying strategically around my room in the hopes that people think I casually put together elaborate paper dolls in my free time.

Who am I kidding, I don’t have people over, this isn’t my house.

Tea, Books, and Eyeballs

It’s the “season of giving”, that phrase that TV shows use when they don’t want to ascribe to any particular religion but also really want you to buy from their sponsors. I fall for it whole-heartedly every year, and it’s why I was roped into two different Secret Santa exchanges; one in person, one by mail.

Last Friday was in person, and I got together with a mess of my board game playing friends to unleash the flood of gifts.

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“This is the perfect bag to carry the presents in,” I said. “Absolutely no one will know that this cheesy Barnes & Noble book-related quote is from my arsenal of reusable bags,” I said.

Before we got to the presents, my very creative friend Amelié deposited approximately two metric tons of crafting supplies on the center table and told us in no uncertain terms that we were all going to be creative with her that night, yes, even you math teachers. She went on to explain how to make various Christmas ornaments, and flawlessly produced a golden snitch using only feathers and sheer force of personality.

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This thing is better than anything I will ever accomplish in my life.

The rest of us, ranging from incompetent to highly incompetent in the making of crafts, fiddled around with the adorable supplies until Amelié was satisfied that we had had enough fun. I just glued eyes to a plain Christmas ornament in the hopes of creating some kind of minor eldritch abomination to put on my miniature Christmas tree.

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Another friend of mine took one look at it, exclaimed “It’s an eye-ball!” and I did not stop laughing for ten minutes. I still giggle a little when I look at it. I’m easily amused.

Then it came time to open gifts, and when it was my turn, I steeled myself to pretend that I liked it and tore open the paper to reveal…

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Oooooohhhh…

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Ooooooooooooooohhhhh….

I’m so supremely bad at giving gifts, you see, that I’d forgotten some people are actually very good at it. And, to be fair, my love of tea is rather obvious if you spend any more than eight minutes in my company.

I tried it out today. My back has been doing its best impression of an eighty year old’s back this week, and the only thing that helps it to briskly walk half a mile to stretch it out. In this case, it’s a brisk half a mile walk in 23 degree weather through bone-sanding winds. I was very, very ready for warm tea when I got back.

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It’s like a lava lamp for tea lovers!

While I waited for it to steep I cracked open my by-mail Secret Santa gift, which turned out to be the book Fangirl, a book that all my writer friends have been subtly suggesting I read. (“Jean, you should read Fangirl,” is what they said, every day, for two months.) I’ve never picked it up, but apparently it’s… uh… similar to my style of writing. Or sense of humor. Or something. I can’t remember what their reasoning was, as I’m only a very basic fan of any given thing, but I do like reading.

The tea, meanwhile, was looking lovely.

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And- get this- if you set it down on the rim of your cup, it starts pouring automatically! Like magic!

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Note to self: It does not automatically stop pouring, don’t get carried away.

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It was, I have to say, one of the better cups of loose-leaf tea I’ve ever brewed up. Not only was it strong, but I only came away with small pieces of tea leaves in my teeth, which is a tremendous victory in my book.

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I then took the tea and my book and lay down flat on the floor to read, to ease my aching back. The window looks pretty neat from down here, though.

For Want of Snow

Save for the three teaspoons of snow we received a few weeks prior, there hasn’t been any snow here this year. And that’s awful.

On the one hand, no snow means that the schools here won’t immediately jump to snow days. Last year the schools climbed over themselves to get every available day off, and as a result the children were home for half of December, not counting winter break. At least this year the teachers have only managed to get off every national, Christian, and Jewish holiday.

On the other hand, no snow means… no snow. While Idaho is busy being #FFFFFF, this particular portion of the east coast has all the charm of plain porridge, and none of the fiber.

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Just looking at this makes me want to sip some plain coffee while I draw up some spreadsheets and watch the dying fly dive-bomb the coworker in the next cubicle. 

Winter used to be one of my favorite months, but now I’m starting to understand seasonal depression. Dead, skeletal trees do make Halloween better, but they do nothing in grey winter but look even more grey. Even when it does snow, the snow doesn’t stay on them long. They don’t really capture that Christmas card feel, it has to be said.

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I tried to play some Christmas music to cheer myself up, but I think the printer is also suffering from seasonal depression.

So I resolved to make my own snow instead.

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Clip board, tape, dental floss, measuring tape, pencil, scissors, staples, many sheets of paper, and too much time on my hands.

I decided to make both three dimensional and flat snowflakes, so that I could experience paper in a myriad of ways. As such, I used the three dimensional tutorial found here, and the flat snowflake tutorial found here. I link these because I realized I was far too lazy to post all the steps here myself, and also because I wouldn’t want anyone to mistakenly believe I was able to come up with these things on my own.

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You can tell you’re doing it correctly when you’ve worked two dozen microscopic triangles of paper into your carpet too well for the vacuum cleaner to retrieve it later.

I try to reuse the scraps to make smaller versions of whatever I’m crafting, but inevitably I’m left with a small mountain of paper bits and the knowledge that my fake snow waste is probably contributing less real snow. Oh well, crafts!

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Always stop for tea, and use the rejected snowflakes as doilies.

The key to crafting, I find, is to make the biggest mess you can possibly make, so that when you have to clean it up you’re completely put off of crafts for a few months, resulting in more free time and less money spent. I think I went overboard this time; I can’t imagine wanting to make paper snowflakes again for a year. (Conveniently.)img_20161206_151905970

Lawns stay green all year long when you’re in the city, did you know?

The end result was decently adequate, which is what I inspire to in life, so I was pleased. It made the room feel more festive, and I’m every trying to transform my living space from the beige default monstrosity it started as, so every little bit helps.

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And hey, something has to distract me from the fact that I think I’m getting another cold and won’t be able to properly sing a Christmas song until Easter.

A Somewhat Restrained Halloween

The problem with being a live-in nanny is that you live with your employers and you take care of their very impressionable young children, so being a weirdo is frowned upon.

My employers already think I’m strange enough to begin with because of innocuous things such as when I left the house dressed as Colonel Mustard (complete with large bushy mustache and khaki short-shorts), so I’ve been keeping my weird side on the down-low for a while. And it’s a pity, because Halloween is approaching.

“I don’t really need to decorate for Halloween,” I thought to myself. “Halloween’s not that big a deal, and I’m an adult, more or less.”

And then I had an hour to kill yesterday, and I popped into the nearest Spirit Halloween store.

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There’s something so magical about Spirit Halloween stores. They appear suddenly, with little warning. They feature seizure-inducing light sequences, never-ending mechanical screams, ridiculously over-priced, low quality products, and they smell like plastic and the death of employee sanity.

I love them to bits, presumably because I’ve never worked there.

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Where else can I buy my knee highs featuring brains?

Walking around a Spirit Halloween store has the same effect on me as walking down a quiet, snowy road lit with Christmas lights. The spirit of Halloween was upon me. Who cared if everything there was hugely obnoxious?! Halloween!!

img_20161010_132822701One of these days I will find reason to wear a fabulous witch hat 100% of the time.

 Giddy, I left the store and crossed the street to Michael’s, where you can get slightly classier Halloween items for the same expensive price.

img_20161010_134714625And a larger variety of bones.

I purchased some necessities. Some black candles. Some decorative jars. A skeletal cat. And then I went home, pulled out the black paper, and created some silhouette art.

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Items needed: Black paper, pencil, scissors, tape, overly-milky tea.

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img_20161011_145024883There’s no way this is going to backfire on me in the middle of the night.

img_20161011_135704312Replacing my cute flower fairy lights with cute little ravens in cages… lights.

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Wait for it… wait for it…

img_20161011_140836512Bam! Slightly more Gothic!

I tried my best to make the changes to my room subtle. I like the tasteful Halloweens better anyway; some elegantly witchy things over, you know, dead babies and what have you. And though my employers rarely if ever stray into my room, I didn’t need my charges spitting out a darling “Mommy, Miss Jean has a fully functional guillotine in her room, come see!”

img_20161011_143531751I did, however, put some cashews in my “raven claws” bottle, for when said charges do slip into my room in search of a treat.

I’m hanging the spider webs on my bookcase now, and I feel a little better. One of these I’ll have my own place that I can destroy all on my own, but for the present, I can merely torture myself by trying to take down the spider webs again in 21 days.

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