3.29.2013

self-care

Kate Potter's Namaste Yoga DVD series, Season 1

With a week off, I've had more time to face myself. But self-reflection isn't always pretty.

I'm long overdue at the dentist, for one. Doctors in general terrify me—I'm always afraid they'll find something terminally wrong or else terribly expensive to fix. Plus, I have no dental insurance. But avoiding the pain of a dentist, both physical and financial—as well as how technicians tend to condescend as if I'm some child who has eaten too many lollipops—is like playing ostrich, and grown-ups aren't supposed to stick their heads in sand.

Before I started my current job last September and pre-bus pass, I also used to walk a lot, heading out for a few hours at a time, two or three times a week, striding to and from downtown by the river and across the Hawthorne bridge on errands, or, during my first year in Portland, walking for an hour a day, exploring northeast neighborhoods (and feeling house envy). For a couple years, I also did a half hour of flow yoga every day and loved how the stretches and deep breathing felt in my body, my cells, muscles, tissues, and bones. But personal and financial circumstances changed, stress mounted, commute hours multiplied, fatigue set in, and my regular, low-impact exercise habits died out.

While self-care can mean easy, fun additions like taking more bubble baths, buying or cutting flowers from the yard to enliven a room, going for a sunny walk, cooking a special meal just for oneself, treating oneself to a massage or sexy new outfit, or meeting a good friend for coffee, the harder part of self-care can mean facing down fears and procrastinations by eliminating underlying stressors—like seeing a doctor for a nagging health issue, organizing an overstuffed closet, filing taxes early, cleaning a dirty house, or having a hard interpersonal conversation with a coworker, friend, or loved one to be more assertive and express one's truth. Self-care at its core means treating not just surface needs—which of course can feel good and be equally important—but also doing things to earn self-respect, like being kinder to others (especially when they aren't acting kind themselves), taking the initiative on a project, or tackling the first small steps towards larger life goals, such as going back to school, learning a new skill, or losing excess weight—in sum, focusing on fixing one's own problems (rather than other people's), meeting challenges, and working to achieve one's own dreams and longings.


Suzanne Deason yoga and pilates DVDs

Taking a good, long look in the mirror right now means admitting how I've been living the last six months isn't healthy, simple, or sustainable. Something needs to change, whether it means getting up an extra half hour early every weekday at 4:30 a.m. (gulp) to exercise (or else fitting it in before bed); moving close to work to a less desirable, less central part of town to eliminate the long commute and free up almost three more hours each workday; or finding a different job altogether. Such decisions we all make, often unsure if a big decision is "right" or "best" or if those concepts even mean anything. But healthy choices matter. Living more simply, more sustainably, more peacefully and energetically matters—because merely existing, treading water, never finding enough time for creativity or travel or exercise or new experiences, is not making a life worth living. And that, my friends, is scarier than any dentist.

3.27.2013

days of discards

homeless panda at Goodwill Outlet (aka the Bins), Milwaukie, OR

Saturday morning found Jeff and me standing in line in the cold an hour early on a steeply inclined drive at an estate sale in Lake Oswego—our first. He was hoping to buy at least one of the three mid-century modern (MCM) teak pieces pictured on the Web site. Unfortunately, an hour early only put us about 20th in line, so before either of us were even through the front door, the three or four young dealers at the head of the line—one of whom we'd met before at his small but well curated restored-furniture shop on SE Hawthorne, Red Snapper—had already unpeeled the price tags off the coveted pieces and restickered them with "Sold" labels from off their fingertips: first come, first served. The dealers then disappeared, having claimed the booty. We stayed longer to look around what was essentially a temporary thrift store in someone's house. (Jeff considered calling his vintage shop "Dead People's Things" but knew most customers wouldn't appreciate the joke.)

The credenza had sold for a reasonable $650 and the upholstered armchair for almost $400 (a bit high), though I forgot to ask what the coffee table went for. Bidding was only for those who collectively found a suggested price too steep, as for the $3,000 Le Corbusier glass dining table and peach-leather-and-chrome chair set. "You didn't get what you wanted," noted the pretty, blonde, middle-aged estate-sale cashier, looking at the $2.50 black-leather Coach belt in my hand at the cash register. "Our upcoming sale will have a few mid-century pieces," she consoled.

For an introvert like myself, the estate sale was hard on the nerves, crowded and competitive. They let 50 people in at a time, and we were all in each others' way, though everyone was polite or at least indifferent. I found myself wandering through the house, wasting time looking for the teak armchair sitting between the credenza and coffee table the whole time. A hipster girl in a green wool coat and brown boots who had been behind us in line passed me in the hallway, carrying a large Chemex coffeemaker I hadn't seen in the kitchen. There was simply too much to look at, a once-home saturated with stuff. I doubt I could attend these sales often, especially if one must arrive two hours early to snag the best stuff and on precious weekend mornings. This one just happened to fall on the weekend before Spring Break, a rare week off work. But Jeff needs furniture for his budding business, and I'd like to collect some nice MCM pieces for myself over time, so face the madness again I must.

After the estate sale, still in Lake Oswego, we stopped into a women's pre-owned clothing store called Consigning Women, but everything was doubly or triply overpriced compared to Goodwill, at which one can find similar goods if one looks long, hard, and often enough, though in a less posh setting. I have no problem with consignment stores on principle, since many people can't handle or don't have the time for hours of thrift-store hunting and prefer a more boutique shopping experience, and of course middlemen need to get paid. Perfectly nice clothing is being resold and reused. I just tend not to shop consignment myself because of the markup—I'd rather dig and save money. At the clearance rack, a middle-aged woman pushed over a bunch of clothes right in my face, with no respect for rack etiquette—and this was not a busy store—so without a word, I threw up my hands and walked away. She could have the store dregs. In response, she only sniffed, "Huh!"

Another level of secondhand-leftovers madness was had after I begged Jeff to stop at the Goodwill Outlet (aka the Bins) in Milwaukie. He'd gone once or twice before with his mom a while back and said people paw into a new bin "like zombies on fresh meat." Plus, there's broken glass to watch out for. One woman I saw was wearing gloves, but most people weren't, and overall it wasn't as dirty, crowded, or cutthroat as I'd imagined from the Yelp reviews. Since I've often bought things in the Goodwill retail stores that should already have been pulled according to their six-weeks-to-sell policy, I knew there had to be some decent stuff making its way to this last-chance stop, such as clothing that had hung hidden in the wrong section or things that simply hadn't been noticed by the right person.


estate-sale and Goodwill Outlet (Bins) finds: Coach belt, batik scarf, vintage-print sash, wire fruit basket

However, most items at the Bins are either stained, broken, or otherwise beat-the-hell-up, though I imagine much of the breakage and lost parts happens at the Bins, considering how people were throwing things around. The furniture all needs refinishing or reupholstering, though if one has those skills, bargains could be had. For example, I overheard a woman buying a worn chair with good bones to reupholster for one of her college-aged sons.

Jeff bought a vintage Samsonite suitcase ($4) and a 1980's-era wool brontosaurus for resale, as well as a Ralph Lauren gray-plaid wool scarf and a couple of reusable grocery bags for himself. I picked up a batik scarf for spring/summer, a vintage paisley silk sash, and a large wire fruit basket in perfect condition that's already hanging in the basement, holding storage onions, garlic, and potatoes. Everything but the suitcase came to about $12 at under $2 a pound. In all, the Bins is a place I'll visit when I'm feeling daring.


basement onion storage: hanging wire basket via Goodwill Outlet (the Bins), Milwaukie, OR

After stopping at my place for lunch, we next drove up MLK to Community Warehouse's Estate Store about a half hour before closing. I coveted a shiny, black, brand-new-looking KitchenAid Mixer marked at $180 but couldn't justify the expense, considering how little I bake. There were a few mid-century pieces, but most had already been sold. So we headed a few blocks east to ReRun, where I picked up a check for household discards I'd consigned in early December, and Jeff found a vintage Lane surfboard coffee table to refinish.


Crystal Palace Yarns, Linen Rustique, Goodwill-thrifted

Though a bit tired by this point, we drove down to the Broadway Goodwill where I found various little gifts (thinking ahead), as well as a fitted, black Banana Republic boiled-wool tie-belt coat; a French-blue Sisley sleeveless petal tunic for multi-season layering; a dressy, Nordstrom Classiques Entier natural-linen lined swing skirt; a big variety bag of wool and linen-mix yarns; a wooden pizza peel; and a small blue-and-cream handmade stoneware bottle for table oil or vinegar that can double as a vase. It was probably the most I'd ever spent at one time at Goodwill, but only a little more than the consignment check.


secondhand goods: handmade oil jar, Heath Ceramics salt shaker, wooden tray, vintage handblown Chemex coffeemaker,
linen napkin, Heath Ceramics teapot, Pyrex measuring cup, Pottery Barn linen curtain panel, tall glass jar with cork

This winter, I had hit a thrifting dry patch, rarely leaving a store with even one thing—which was fine, better for the bank account. Jeff had been having all the thrifting luck, finding mid-century clocks and stoneware and yet more Le Creuset pots (though he was also making the rounds more often). But lately, it's been the mother lode for us both. All week, Jeff's been finding MCM furniture and lamps everywhere he looks. Sunday at my Goodwill, I picked up a brown print blouse for summer; a dark, like-new pair of DKNY ankle jeans (half off); and a white pottery bowl hand-thrown in 1981. Monday at William Temple and the Goodwill on East Burnside, I scored more yarn half off (most of which I'll consign to pay for the few skeins worth keeping), more small gifts for the year ahead, a nice wooden spatula, a spare pizza stone—you get the idea.

Of course, it's much easier not to spend money when one doesn't go shopping, even secondhand. Remind me to stop tagging along on so many of Jeff's scouting trips. And yet, on the rare occasion I'm in an all-new-goods retail store, even someplace like Walgreens or Fred Meyer, I contract sticker shock. In the end, my secondhand purchases don't add up to that much of my budget, and I never buy what I don't really like, won't use a lot, and can't resell. In spring, isn't everybody nesting?
 

3.19.2013

cat fight

Anna (aka "Baby"), March 2013

Since I'm so rarely at home anymore, with all the working and commuting, my cat has decided she prefers my roommate. She has clawed up the carpet under his door to the attic all the way down to the nailed floorboards, just trying to scratch her way upstairs while we're at work. As soon as he bikes home (usually arriving before me), she races upstairs with him. She then spends all evening up there, hanging out on his vintage ethnic carpets near his cozy, cat-sized plants and mood lighting, watching him paint or eat or watch TV on his laptop, unless he chases her downstairs out of guilt.

But even before he moved in last summer, she had claimed the doorless, under-the-eaves closet up there as her own private cubby, somehow preferring to nap on a roll of carpet remnant stuffed in the very back next to some wood scraps and the fire ladder. (I try not to think about all the carpet chemicals and who knows what else she tracks down into our bed.)


Anna, blurry profile, March 2013*

I took it hard at first, as her owner for almost 10 years now, the one who buys her expensive, Canadian, grain-free food and swanky corn litter, refreshing her water bowl and scooping her box regularly. She had preferred me to my ex- and was always sweet with licks and head nuzzles, if never a big cuddler. Now she bites me at times—probably to tell me she wants upstairs, as if I don't already know what she wants from the annoyed meows over by the attic door.

And she poops on the bathroom floor most days for no clear reason. Maybe that's also because she wants upstairs, though she'd started pooping outside her box during cohabitation with the former roommate's cat when the other cat's foul, never-scooped, litter-changed-once-a-week box sat upstairs. My cat started pooping upstairs on the floor to vie for territory. Now in the floor-pooping habit, she only does it in the bathroom, some days in the box, most days out of the box, a little pile here one day by the toilet and there another day by the sink, rotated over the tile floor like ring-around-the-rosie. I collect the piles and spray down the floor with bleach. It can't be a protest over the litter, which she's used for most of her life. Maybe I should switch to a lower-sided box, now that she's officially senior, though she seems agile as ever.


Anna, blurry shot, March 2013*

Does every companionate relationship, even species to species, end in a falling out, a loss of affection, disillusionment, boredom, misery? Does cat love last? Is it me? I know I haven't been as present in the relationship as in years past when I worked from home and then away from home but still part-time. But dammit, I've been working hard to bring home the kibbles! It's not like I enjoy being gone most of the week. And when I come home, I want to eat and escape in front of a book or Netflix, browse the Internet, write in my journal—not drag string around the carpet, pretending to be a live snake, or wave a peacock feather in the air, pretending to be a bird. I thought cats were independent. Can't we have separate interests? Hello? Say something. Don't just bite my arm or flick your tail or lick your ass.

All this cat tension will probably calm down some once the weather warms up enough to leave the heat off because then we can keep the attic door open without all the paid-for heat escaping through the mostly uninsulated roof. Anna will be able to come and go throughout the house and out onto the balcony as often as she pleases, without asking, what my roommate calls having an "all-access pass"—one more reason to long for summer.


*Note: Cats are hard to shoot on manual mode, especially active, hyperalert ones.

3.18.2013

cilantro-pepita pesto

cilantro, pumpkin seeds, garlic, & lemon for pesto

This weekend, I cooked up multiple meals for the week ahead, feeling all self-satisfied and prepared, forgetting I only have the one job this week, rather than two, which makes all the difference. So now I'm doubly ahead in food prep, leaving more time for blogging and other things—in other words, actually living and writing about (some of) it. More evening daylight helps, too.

One of my weekend kitchen accomplishments was whipping up a batch of pesto since I had the ingredients on hand (other than parmesan, which I omitted); needed to use up a stray bunch of cilantro; and was itching to try out my new, shiny-green metal lime juicer that Jeff had found secondhand at Goodwill for $2, knowing I'd been wanting one to keep citrus seeds from falling into my pots of soup and such.

This pesto combination I first tried way back in college, the recipe gleaned from some food or lifestyle magazine my step-father had brought home from the free pile at the library. My half-Bolivian boyfriend and I whazzed it all up in my food processor, only to realize after shared tummy aches that we'd bought and used unhulled pepitas. Oops. But the pasta still tasted delicious. The original cilantro-pesto recipe calls for lime instead of lemon juice, but I rarely have limes in the house, so I usually use lemon, but do use limes if you have them for a subtler flavor. Below is my version from memory.

Purée in a food processor:
  • the juice of 1/2 or 1/4 lime or lemon, depending on the size (use the peel, too)
  • a couple garlic cloves
  • a large bunch of cilantro leaves
  • 1/4 or 1/3-cup hulled pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
  • freshly grated parmesan cheese (if desired)
  • salt to taste
  • red pepper flakes or black pepper to taste
  • several glugs of extra-virgin olive oil

Freeze for weeks or months later or keep in the fridge and use within a week or two. The cilantro and citrus combine for a nice bright flavor. Next week, I'll probably stir part of this batch into a pot of evil-first-worlders-driving-the-price-up-past-where-Andean-peoples-can-afford-their-ultra-nutritious-native-food quinoa, along with some spring peas and roasted butternut squash, a sort of winter-into-spring hybrid meal. Enjoy!


cilantro-pumpkin-seed pesto, frozen

3.16.2013

local hand-knit


black, hand-knit wool/alpaca cardigan with bone buttons; Hunter heeled rubber rain boots

It feels silly taking pictures of myself with a tripod out in the driveway where the neighbors can see—especially after the daylight drama I missed yesterday, according to my roommate, when a new neighbor across the street cried on the shoulder of another neighbor, "I'm going to kill myself—call the police," and laid out all her meth paraphernalia on the sidewalk, thereby getting herself handcuffed and hauled away. But it's been too wet and cold this winter to be trekking around on foot down by the train tracks where all the nice brick backdrops are; plus, I haven't had much free time between full-time work, long commuting, and all the sickness. So here's the garage front and a knitting project finished a few months ago, a favorite FO (finished object, for non-knitters), even if the collar doesn't stand up well.


black wool/alpaca Imperial Stock Ranch Desert Exotic yarn, made in Oregon

The (now-discontinued) wool/alpaca yarn is from an eastern-Oregon producer, Imperial Stock Ranch, purchased several years ago from a Portland yarn shop, Close Knit, up on Alberta Street, back when I was married and had more disposable income. Even the big, brown bone buttons were bought new and local, again years ago, at a yarn store called the T-Spot in Manzanita on the Oregon coast. But life circumstances and priorities change, so now I buy yarn primarily vintage at thrift stores, only finding the natural, non-acrylic stuff rarely, which is better for both my budget and stash since I don't need yarn spilling out of every closet and cupboard.


brown bone button, close-up

Unlike those knitters who knit useless squares of fabric (the productive squares being called swatches) to try out new stitch patterns or yarn or just to keep their hands busy, I knit less for relaxation (because often it's not) or challenge (because usually it is) than for the outcome, being what knitters call a product knitter rather than a process knitter. I can't afford to buy new—let alone hand-knit—wool, alpaca, or cashmere sweaters and accessories—and neither can most anyone else, even with slave-wage labor, which is partly why clothing stores are full of cheap Chinese acrylic, along with the inability or lack of will by most Americans to properly care for natural fibers, as well as the overarching, revolving-door Western approach to fashion and consumer goods—meaning, if fashion didn't constantly change or fall apart and gadgets didn't stop working in planned obsolescence, we wouldn't need to replace so much of our stuff.

However, I'm self-taught and fairly slow, and only knit sometimes while watching Netflix or sitting on the bus, rather than at every spare moment, even while in line at the bank or post office (such people exist). I suppose I could speed things up by buying a knitting machine for the tedious parts, except the boring parts that don't require much attention to pattern or shaping are the only parts of knitting I find relaxing, certainly not the indecisive starts, the midway puzzles of technique or worries about fit, or the often time-consuming finishing. Plus, a knitting machine would cheat on the whole handmade boast. And so it can take me, off and on, a year or more to knit a sweater, thousands of stitches looped together. That's why I've had three-quarters of a beige cabled wool cardigan started last summer sitting in pieces in a basket all winter, though I'd really like to be wearing it already. This garter-yoke black cardigan is seamless and nothing complicated but warm, practical, and a little sexy. And I made it myself. And that's why I knit.

3.13.2013

blood in cups

menstrual cups: used rubber Keeper (size B, small); new silicone DivaCup (model 2, large)

Friends have been telling me to blog more often, but it's been hard to find the time and daylight, meaning picture-taking happens only on weekends. But blogging is about real life in real time. So besides contemplating changes in my wardrobe, last week I was also deciding on a new menstrual cup. (Be careful what you wish for, eh?)

Blood, of course, is messy. Once upon a time, women stuffed their underthings with rags to sop up their monthly flow. That was of course after the time of ancient bleeders being shunted away from the rest of the tribe into a hut to sit on moss or cow dung or some such thing for a week in all their tainted impurity or sacred lunar specialness, depending on the enlightenment of the tribe. I can only imagine the clean-up back before the days of washing machines and color-safe bleach. Then came disposable menstrual pads, originally thick and belted into place in one's underpants (see Judy Blume's classic female-teen fiction, Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret), though now pads are svelte, self-adhesive, and magically dry—like today's diapers. Even better came cotton or rayon tampons soaking things up from the inside, though they carry a rare bacterial health risk, Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS), if left up in the hoo-ha for too long.

But the most economical and environmentally sound option that most women don't even know about is the menstrual cup, an internal container for menstrual blood that is dumped and washed out as needed during one's period and reused for years. Each costs around $30, which is recouped within a year or so when the cost of disposable pads or tampons is tallied up. And cups are environmentally friendly since they don't add anything to the landfill each month.

So why don't more women know about them? For one, the cups are clear, tangible reminders that women are losing liquid blood combined with strange clots of tissue measurable in ounces per month, and perhaps many women would rather maintain a level of psychological distance from their mammalian identities. Plus, some women still might not be comfortable poking around in their vaginas all by themselves with anything other than a vibrating dildo. But probably most importantly, if more people knew about and used menstrual cups, tampon and pad producers would lose all that regular- and super-sized income. Hush up the safer, more efficient, more cost-effective technology. Don't talk about it. Pretend it doesn't exist—like what happened to the formerly widespread electric streetcar grids in cities across America, now reappearing as token novelties.

But back to menstrual cups, Wikihow has a useful page compiling the different brands and sizes of menstrual cups produced worldwide, all shaped more or less the same, form fitting function. I've owned the latex Keeper for 20 or so years, pre-Internet, when one could only order it by mail, after a Wiccan friend turned me onto the idea. And I would have used it even more over the years, but it tends to leak and so has become an at-home or beginning-and-end-of-the-cycle method. The protruding end also partly broke off several years ago, though this didn't affect functionality and actually was more comfortable that way. One only needs to do Kegels to push the cup lower down the vagina to pull it out (but not from the stem, as I learned when the stem broke).

Then maybe five years ago my sister discovered menstrual cups of the newer silicone kind, and hers, the LadyCup, does not leak, she says. (All the frilly pink brand names just kill me.) Sadly, it's taken me this long to admit I need to try a larger size. I chose silicone this time since there's a chance the rubber ones could trigger a latex allergy, and who wants that? Thanks to an Amazon gift card from a kind friend, I chose the Canadian-made DivaCup because it's one of the biggest (and so requires less frequent changing), is clear and so gives a nice view of what's inside, has good user reviews, and came with free shipping. Plus, Canada's almost local.

For gossip, the U.S. Keeper/Moon Cup brand had an allegedly shady naming dispute in the courts with the British Mooncup producer who was using the "Moon" name first, so some women are boycotting the U.S. company on ethical grounds. (Go America! Continue your race to the bottom.) And for a laugh—because laughing's better than crying at all that periodic blood loss—the U.K. Mooncup has produced a rapping ad with the cup battling against the tampon. Love it.

3.09.2013

clothes-play

Portland camellias, March 2012

Spring has sprung here in Portland, with camellias, crocus, and daffodils abloom. And these transitional, thirty-degree temperature spikes and drops in a single day always make me reconsider, cull, and seek to fill gaps in my wardrobe. What works for December weather doesn't in April, let alone August. It takes time and effort to dress well, for the season, and for daily temperature shifts, and I don't often succeed at all three. I'm usually running late in the early morning, for one. My leather boots need a good shine. I'm in jeans most days because of working at an elementary school where fashion meets the practical requirements of running after kids with grubby hands. And when commuting on public transportation instead of driving, it's even hard to wear heels anymore, those pretty, pedestrian torture devices. Then home, I'm usually in some ghastly version of comfies: men's pajama pants, long-sleeved cotton shirt (hand-me-downs from former outside wear), thick socks, and an old sweater—because old houses are cold and the Northwest is damp. Comfort vies with style—whatever to wear when appearances mean so much?


handknit (by me) wool cardigan; thrifted Banana Republic pinstriped wool pants;
BCBG leopard heels (Nordstrom Rack)

With a weekend to myself at home and the sun shining, today I pulled out the camera and started playing with some of my clothes, which have been on my mind more than usual this week because of finishing Elizabeth Cline's Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion, which surveys the devolution within the last 40 years from American-union-made clothing into made-in-China "fast fashion." According to Cline, most U.S. closets now, unlike those in the past, a) have expanded along with house size like so many obese, fast-food-fed waists, and b) overflow with uninspired basics and low-quality trends. And one can only escape some of this cultural shift to masses of cheaply made t-shirts and knock-off fads by shopping in the secondhand market since most of the used supply now comes from those same cheap cast-offs. The thrift stores are packed with poly, rayon, and acrylic and very little wool, silk, and linen. Even cotton is becoming more precious. And developing countries are becoming stronger consumers themselves, wanting more of Earth's finite resource pie. It's all yet another indicator of American economic and cultural demise and the increasing environmental costs of globalizing the virus of over-consumption.


thrifted: St. John dress ($20), vintage mohair cardigan ($2)

For the last three and a half years, I've shopped for clothing exclusively at thrift stores, mostly Goodwill. And so I dress better than before, mostly because I can afford enough clothes for mixing and layering, key to it all, plus being able to switch out pieces that don't work and find better. I could never afford to do so before when shopping sale retail (J.Crew and Macy's) or at discount (T.J.Maxx and Marshalls), and now my clothes don't all look like they've come from the same place—because they haven't. I buy mostly wool, silk, and linen in better quality brands like Ralph Lauren as well as boutique and vintage labels when I can find them, which is rare. But the digging and results are worth the effort.


handknit (by me) wool/silk/bamboo scarf; thrifted Helen Hsu NY dress ($4)

Last weekend at the Powell Goodwill, I found three new-to-me layering pieces, potentially versatile for Portland's spring and summer into early fall, but hadn't had time to check how they'd work with my existing wardrobe. I brought home a like-new, olive-green CP Shades (made in Sausalito, California) boxy linen jacket ($8); a new-with-Anthropologie-tags, lightweight-linen Hero & Leander by Velvet cardigan in a bronzed brown ($7); and an Old Navy, cap-sleeved polyester dress in a black-and-white animal print ($7). Though the first two were obvious keepers, I normally avoid both Old Navy and polyester, but this dress seemed worth consideration, mainly for the print. I'm still not convinced it's worth keeping, though, and it's a bit too large.


thrifted: CP Shades linen jacket, Old Navy print dress; blue silk scarf


thrifted: Hero & Leander linen sweater, Old Navy dress, blue silk scarf

Normally, I have no problem paying a good tailor for alterations on quality materials and construction, but $30 in alterations for a cheap Old Navy poly dress that probably didn't even cost $20 new? It's not worth it. Should I keep it to wear with layers—make it work—or return it for store credit? Time to review my main rules for buying secondhand clothes. Aside from being well constructed of natural materials in good condition, any piece must 1) fit my body well (or be worth altering), 2) make me feel attractive, and 3) be a gut-level "yes" rather than a "maybe." So this cheap Old Navy print dress—duplicated in thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, millions?—is a "no" on all counts. Back it goes.


thrifted: Hero & Leander sweater, TLH by Hype dress


thrifted: CP Shades linen jacket ($8), Helen Hsu NY sweater dress ($4)

Too bad I don't sew. I hate to sew. I wish I could sew. For then I could make my own clothes in chosen fabrics with finely finished seams and dressmaker details. In retrospect, it was a huge mistake to have donated (!) to Goodwill in California my great-aunt's black metal Singer sewing machine from the 1950s that she'd barely ever used, all because sewing machines are nerve-wracking to me, and I didn't give myself time for the learning curve. Once in a while, I admit I am overzealous when culling for space and get rid of something I shouldn't. But being somewhat of a perfectionist, I can't stand wavy seams. On the other hand, maybe I should be paying a local person, tailor or designer, for this to-me-unpleasant and difficult task, to have even fewer but more interesting and better quality clothes. This was Cline's argument in Overdressed. Then everybody wins.

3.02.2013

still life

candle at dusk (Oregon myrtlewood bowl and glass tea-light holder via Goodwill)

It's exhausting to continually be sick: cold, cold, cold, ear infection, flu, ear infection with perforated blistered ear drum, cold, borderline ear infection (same ear)—time for an ENT. Children are gremlins: cute outside, monstrous inside from all their unsanitary little respiratory-virus-spreading habits, like not washing after they come in from recess to eat a tray of finger foods and then wipe off their tiny mouths and noses with their adorable fingers. It's boring to be sick. It's even more boring to talk about being sick.

On weekends when I'm not sick, I try to do some living, rather than mere surviving. I make plans. I cross off to-do lists. Jeff drags me to thrift stores in search of inventory for his fledgling vintage business. I don't find much myself these days: a striped shirt or pair of shoes here and there; a long-sought, white-cotton duvet cover to turn my bed back into a cloud; a candle holder (the above was 50 cents last weekend at the Powell Goodwill, and all I had to do was melt the remaining Stella Mare candle stump on low in the oven, pour the wax out, and wipe down the glass, the process of which, Jeff wants all to know, was his idea since he's smart like that). In Portland winters, evening tea lights are vital as dark chocolate, little bowls of sun.


Goodwill thrift: Max Studio wool poncho ($7); vintage-wool ($1) scarf,
handknit by me; striped Splendid tee

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