Sewing is the Best Procrastination

You know that feeling you get when you have to do something, and you willfully decide to do something else instead? That giddy, delicious feeling of intentional disobedience to the dictates of society? In the last year or so I’ve discovered that sewing is the thing that I turn to when my brain says, “NOPE!” to whatever I’m supposed to be doing (ahem: grad school).

I started sewing haphazardly and cheerfully sans patterns a couple of years ago, mainly for the fun of it. The rest of my life (ahem: grad school; ahem: work) involves lots and lots of labor with very little immediate payoff. Sewing offered a form of labor through which I could immediately see the progress of my work. VERY SATISFYING! Then, a few months ago, I discovered sewing bloggers and indie pattern designers through Instagram, of all places – delightful little nooks on the interwebz like Oonaballoona, Cashmerette, Idle Fancy, Lladybird, and about a zillion more! After enviously stalking their blogs for a few weeks, I gathered up the courage to try my hand at sewing for reals – with patterns and everything!

As it turns out – patterns aren’t so scary. Also, they keep me from wasting quite a lot of fabric, and since I don’t particularly like wasting things, I have totally come around!

After some attempts at simple tank top blouses (which get quite a lot of wear), I decided to go for something more ambitious and bought Cashmerette’s Upton Dress pattern. Being impatient as I am, I went for the PDF version…70 pages of pattern assembly later, I was feeling appropriately humbled.

I wore this Upton dress as a bridesmaid in my friend Kim’s wedding! Since the main fabric is eyelet lace (procured from a really fantastic local SLC fabric shop, Tissu!), the entire thing is lined in a very lightweight black linen/rayon blend rather than just the bodice, as the pattern says. By the time I was finished with all that black thread and black fabric, my eyes were nearly crossed!

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This is fairly classic – as soon as a camera is pointed at me, I either close my eyes or start making silly faces. This pattern did fit right out of the metaphorical envelope, though! The only modification I think I might make is to narrow the back shoulders a bit – there is some gaping on the back neckline, as you can see below.

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Observe the twirly skirt! All the twirls! (Also the burn on my leg from my motorcycle’s exhaust pipes. First burn in a decade of riding. Grrrr.)

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Forgive the gratuitous rear-end photo (and the dust and little floaty lint thingies that stick to this dress like magic), but this is the second time I have ever sewn an invisible zipper and I am very proud of how nicely it lined up. Also, the fit-and-flare silhouette is insanely flattering. Every time I’ve worn this dress, strangers on the street have stopped me to say how much they like it. #winning!

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But I think my very favoritest part of this whole dress is the fact that I shamelessly cheated on the hem. I DETEST sewing hems. So fiddly, so annoying, so time consuming when all I want to do is put on my new clothes and prance around like a drunken unicorn…so I skipped the hem! Instead, I cut off the scalloped eyelet lace edge of the fabric and attached strips of that to the bottom of each of the seven gored skirt panels. I think this is my new favorite trick!

So, in summary: sewing is the best procrastination.

Love, peace, and #Uptondresses,
Sumiko

You Might be a Graduate Student If…

Ahh, fall is almost here! But school has already started for the semester. This is how I know that I’m definitely a graduate student at heart. What are your cues?

books

You might be a grad student if…

…you turn in a paper, and immediately want to go back and tinker with it. There was that one sentence that you couldn’t get the right wording for, and now you have it! Thank goodness for rewrites.

…you are happy when the title page doesn’t count towards the page limit, because dammit, you can’t bear to kill any more of your darlings.

…you think that your textbooks are “page-turners” and you stay up late reading them because you must. get. to. the. end. of. this. chapter!

…you can’t find that one particular book right at the moment you realize it’s THE perfect theory for your final paper.

…you have dreams about prominent rhetoricians and dead French theorists.

…you make grad school/academic related bets with your friends. Need some motivation to submit that paper to a journal? Bet your friends you’ll do it by a certain date or you owe them a drink. Magic.

…you take your sleep whenever/wherever you can get it. Like occasionally on the floor of the cubicles in the grad student offices. No shame.

…when traveling with several other adults, it’s not uncommon to share 4 to a hotel room to cut down on costs and pack an inordinate number of protein/energy bars so you don’t have to eat expensive conference hotel food.

…you long for the end of the semester with a fierce yearning, and then two weeks into “vacation” (i.e., catch-up time) you find yourself uttering the words, “I can’t wait for school to start again.”

Love, peace, and happy back-to-school,
Sumiko

Amazing Sinks

Amaaaaaaazing siiiiinks, how sweeeeeeeet the soouuuuuuund…wait, that’s not how it goes.

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged about something as random yet underappreciated about bathroom sink design. But today, I think I’ve come across the ultimate in sinkery, and I wanted to share it with you, Dear Internet Reader.

Great sink design, and even a beautiful background for proper hand-washing techniques. And to think, I found this at a conference center in Provo, Utah! Amazing.

Love, peace, and good sink design,
Sumiko

Everything a Girl Could Want

I’m willing to admit that I have a few odd pet peeves. I consider it a point of pride in my self-restraint that I’ve only started blogging about one of them: SINKS.

Bathroom sinks are often so poorly thought out that a person can’t even wash her hands without bonking the sides of the sink or having water spray all over the place. And is that what we want in our public spaces? Heck no!

Last week, I went to Arizona for work, and while I was there, I encountered a welcome change to this epidemic of ill-planned ablutionary facilities. (I so rarely get to use “ablution” in a sentence. I couldn’t resist. Sorry.)

B.e.a.u.t.i.f.u.l.

Look at the bowl! It’s deep enough for adults to use!
And the faucet! Stylish and easy to use with the back of your hand or your thumb, it dispenses water in a lovely arc, not too close to the back of the sink and not so forcefully that it sprays all over the place and makes it look like I’ve had an unfortunate accident.
And the counter! All once piece…so deliciously easy to keep clean.

I found this sink in a restaurant restroom, and had to explain to the three other women waiting in line that I occasionally blog about sinks in public locations and that’s why I had my cell phone camera out in the bathroom.

My explanation did not stop them all from looking at me askance. (I also rarely get a chance to use “askance” in a sentence. Sorry again!) Apparently cell phone cameras are not welcome in restaurant bathrooms in the lovely state of Arizona.

Pity, ’cause they’ve got some good sinks!

Love, peace, and alarming strangers in restrooms,
Sumiko

 

You Know What I Like?

Limericks. I like limericks a lot. And not just the ones that start out “There once was a man from Nantucket…” (although those are always good for a bawdy chuckle). I like to compose limericks. I went through a phase in high school where I wrote limericks about “Ralph the Wonder Llama” on my English teacher’s board until there was not a single iota of space left on it.

J.R. Nelson – if perchance you are reading this, I apologize for covering your classroom with drivel about fictional llamas. I couldn’t help it.

Half the fun of a limerick is that it’s supposed to be a dirty joke; however, since I promised my boss’s boss that I wouldn’t disgrace myself or our organization by posting disgustingly inappropriate content on the interwebz, here is a boring, clean limerick for Fridays. (Holy run-on sentence, Batman.) This is inspired by a game I like to play called “find a picture on Google images and write a poem about it.”

In this case, I already had the funny picture. Here’s the limerick.

For a canine my dog is quite odd
His nose seems like nothing to laud,
For the shoes where he rests
Are disgusting at best
But it doesn’t disturb him, the sod!

Love, peace, and poetic entertainment,
Sumiko

PS If you want a dirty joke limerick, just let me know and I’d be happy to write one for you. 🙂

Molcajete

My totally amazing and intuitive (and intelligent and beautiful and athletic and witty and funny as hell) sister gave me a molcajete for Christmas.

I’m not of Hispanic descent, but my husband (who is) thinks it is amusing to say that I am Mexican by marriage. Which is kinda true. Since we started dating and/or being married, I have somehow inherited the salsa-making duties.

A molcajete (pronounced “mole-kah-HET-eh”) is an ancient style of mortar. The pestle that is used with the molcajete is the tejolote (“tay-hoh-LOH-tay”). They are traditionally carved from volcanic rock and much like a cast iron pan, they need to be seasoned before use.

Having done both, I have to say that cast iron pans are a piece of freakin’ cake. I watched five episodes of Sons of Anarchy and wore out both my arms and started in on my beloved’s arms before we got that sucker done. Here’s how you do it.

Before you start: put down a tarp on the floor and have a vacuum handy, because there will be rice grains and rock salt a-flyin’ during this process.

First, soak it in hot water for 30 minutes to get any of the really loose grit off. I somehow lost the drain plug for my sink so I lined the bottom of my sink with aluminum foil. It worked.

Then let it dry thoroughly. This doesn’t take as long as I thought it would; maybe only half an hour.

Next, put a few handfuls of dry, uncooked white rice into a bowl of water. One handful at a time, grind it into the molcajete until it turns into a grey paste. This will NOT look appetizing at all. Again, the purpose is to remove the grit. After it is a paste, scoop it out of the molcajete, rinse, and repeat. You’re done when the rice paste is not grey at all. Nice, white rice paste in your molcajete. And a burning, searing pain in whichever arm you are using for this chore.

It took me seven handfuls of rice to get my molcajete satisfactorily grit-free. My arm hurts just thinking about it.

After the rice, then comes the rock salt. (Make sure you rinse all the rice out of your molcajete before you start the salt.) Take a handful of rock salt and grind it into table salt. The idea in this step is to really smooth out the bowl of the molcajete and the bottom of the tejolote for a more effective grinding surface. After each salt episode, rinse out the dish and repeat until the inside of the bowl is smooth enough to drag a fingernail across without noticeable snagging.

But you’re not done yet! Nope. No sirree bob. Now you have to actually get around to seasoning the thing.

Thought those other steps were seasoning?

Nooooo. That was just getting it to a point where you won’t be enjoying the delicious texture of volcanic rock every time you made salsa.

Seasoning: Take four cloves garlic, 1 tbsp cumin, and 1 tbsp cayenne pepper (or whatever other spices you want, really) and grind them into a lovely paste that is smeared ALL over the inside of the bowl. Leave it alone for 24 hours. Then – you guessed it – rinse and repeat!

Just kidding. Don’t repeat that step unless you’re really keen on garlicking it up. Also, be advised that this last step will absolutely make your house smell VERY strongly of garlic and cumin, so if you aren’t prepared for that, go outside. Then it will just bug your neighbors.

Anyway…after all this pain (and the beginnings of a great blister from the tejolote in the middle of my right palm), my beautiful molcajete was ready to use.

I made salsa. It took two and a half hours.

And you know what?

Best damn salsa I’ve ever made.

More Sinks

It’s been a while since I posted about sinks. And since it’s a Tuesday…

…and I’m in a restless sort of mood…

…and I have a few pictures of sinks on my cell phone that I haven’t yet shared with the world…

…here is a sink post!

During some recent drives, I have pulled over at a couple of rest stops with interesting sinks. Like this one. I’m sorry…but do you see how TINY that facucet is? All that nice, empty sink space and they stick the damn faucet an inch away from the back of the sink. Ridiculous!

Then there’s this one. Not only does it look like a trough, but the soap dispensers are built into it as well-they are the little black squares. The faucets are the silver triangles pointing downward. This seems like a great idea, from a distance, until you are standing in front of it and you can’t see where the faucet actually is. Then it becomes a very annoying thing because you have to peer underneath the upper counter to see where the water is, and the soap. Sad, sad state of sinkdom, that.

But fortunately, there is some sanity in the world of sinks. This one actually has a spout that is angled so you can actually wash your hands without smacking them on the sides of the sink! Yay!

Anyway…

Happy Tuesday, sink-scouts!

Sumiko

Sunrise

This morning, it was 51 F, which is a nice brisk temperature for a motorcycle ride. Traffic was light. The sun was rising, and there were lovely streamers of cirrus clouds in the east above the Wasatch mountains. The purples, golds, and pinks in the sky were gorgeous with that early morning fragile eggshell blue.

And boy, was it beautiful.

Here’s to the little moments that make us forget about the wars, the hate, the politics, the sadness and tragedy and make us glad to be alive and watching a sunrise.

Happy Friday.

Okay, I’m Giving In

One of my colleagues (B2!) has been telling me for a while that I should start a blog, and this week I had an experience that finally pushed me over the edge.

This experience occurred in the faculty restroom of a high school in rural Utah.

No, it’s not what you’re thinking.

I was once more the victim of poor bathroom sink design…aaah! The tragedy of it all.

This is the offending fixture:

bad sink

As you can see, the faucet on this sink is extremely short, and extremely close to the back of the bowl. So, while I am trying to wash my hands to remove germs, they keep bumping against the back of the bowl, picking up other people’s sink germs. A sink design like this completely defeats the purpose of such installations. Also, it makes it highly impractical for anything else one might want to use a sink for. Like refilling a water bottle, washing one’s face after a harrowing five minutes during passing time in the halls, etc. Gaaaaah.

On the other hand, there is hope, and I found it the very next day (today, in fact). This is a sink from a restroom in another high school in Utah. It is a shining example of all that a bathroom sink should be:

good sink

Notice how the faucet is well above the bowl, and positioned closer to the center? Also notice how it’s all one piece, making for easier cleaning? And that it is lovely in its simplicity? Yes. This, my friends, is everything that a sink should be. Designed for usefulness.

Washing my hands in this sink was a delight.

Sink-makers of the world, take notice.

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