Friday, December 21, 2012

Happy Solstice


sometimes they're useful.

Finally made the effort to find some labels (Avery 22808 in case you're interested), and after downloading the League Gothic font (free here), I've got some labels for my food offerings this holiday season.  So much nicer than a vague description (often with no date) written in Sharpie on the lid.  Maybe this will eliminate the possibility of someone bringing one of my apple butters as a bread-and-butter gift and claiming their cousin made it.  (True story!)

Thursday, December 20, 2012

It's Beginning to Look...

 To say we've been busy is a grand understatement, but all around us evidence of the holidays is gathering despite our involvement in the leftover business of 2012.  I've already consumed the above-pictured stollen, and there's another one waiting for the arrival of my parents.  I'm almost finished with holiday shopping (although I was surprised today by a brief jag of bidding on things online), and I've kept holiday crafting to a minimum this year.  Sometimes you need a break from the holiday craftory.  I think I still have it in me to make puttanesca sauce for our food gifts.  I'm hoping that the ladyfriend and I have some time to enjoy some of the holiday build-up this weekend.  The boy arrives on the 25th (super huge "yay!") and the 'rents (hi Dad! hi Mom!) arrive on the 27th.  Soon all the concerns of today will be forgotten in the midst of celebrating with loved ones.

Saturday, December 15, 2012


There are many things to blog about, but right now, I feel like I just need to say how stunned I am by the heartbreaking events in Connecticut.  It makes me cry just to think and write about it now.  This post says nothing everyone else isn't already saying, but I felt I needed to add my voice to the chorus.  This New York Times Op-Ed is quietly damning, and I think it's about time.

Friday, December 7, 2012

The Holidays: Simple and Slow

 I've always loved the holiday season, and in years past (particularly while I worked on Wall Street), I was quite organized and had a schedule of when I'd make fruitcake (really misunderstood food), send out holiday cards, and craft my little heart out.  But it's gotten harder and harder to find the time or frankly, the energy to plan or even conceive the narrative arc of my holidays.  I had a lot more time when I worked on Wall Street.

Anyway, I was unnecessarily starting to worry that Christmas would whiz by and leave me discombobulated on the side of the road.  I think that not having a lot of things to make for gifts this year has left me worried that I've forgotten something (as opposed to having made the decision that I don't need to throw myself into the craftory* this season).  But I realize that if I slow down and just take notice, the things I love about the holidays are revealing themselves around me.  So, when I saw this post on the Alabama Chanin blog on Wednesday, I thought - hey, that could be an easy gift to make for someone - and got excited.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

What I'm Wearing to Teach Today: Last Day of School!

(this is what happens when a colleague is taking your pictures - mayhem!)

Dress:  Sacai
Boots:  212 (old defunct catalog company)

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Technology and Me and Our Date

I am certainly not technologically shy (she says, typing on the Mac Air her parents and partner gave her for her birthday).  In fact, I believe in acquiring the best one can afford if that technology is actually important (see reference to Mac Air in previous sentence).

So a little while back, I asked the question whether a smart phone was a good idea for someone like me, and when I say "someone like me," I mean "someone who does not really use her cell phone but is a bit of a multitasker."  I wondered whether it'd make me more organized (oh sure), more productive (quite possibly), or just more distracted (exactly what I need).  In the end I couldn't really see why I'd get one, and the ladyfriend has one now so we've met our household quota (total fabrication on my part).

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Last of the Turkey

This past Tuesday we had the last meal featuring the leftover turkey.  Oh, there was turkey barley soup for lunch yesterday and still more in the freezer, but this was the last distinct, dinner dish.  Turkey pot pie!  Featuring a leftover crust (from pumpkin pie), leftover brown rice, a make-shift gravy (which I also made to go with it using the last bit of gravy from dinner), carrots from Thanksgiving, turkey (of course), and then a few other bits - peas, onions, garlic, and celery.  It was actually pretty tasty.  I know I sound surprised, but when you make the pot pie into "refrigerator velcro" (to use an Alton Brown phrase), you can never know what to expect.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Christmas List Entry 1

Okay, I have a few things in mind, but this one is just blowing it (my mind, that is)!
I found out about it on Kate Davies's lovely and amazing blog.  (You may recall I sent her a "Get Well Soon" card, which she actually received.)  Anyway, this is a collaboration with yes, a shepherd, a shearer, and two knitting pattern authors (of which Kate is one).  I'm afraid my description of the project (oh, you know how I love projects) will not do it justice, but not only does it entail knitting up a good "working" sweater (read: not a frou-frou luxury yarn one - which I still love by the way), but some of the profits from the project will go to establish scholarships to help other women become sheep shearers.   It is definitely what I'd call a "nose-to-tail" knitting project, and I want in.

The question is - can I wait and see if it somehow materializes beneath my yet-to-be-found-and-cut-down Christmas tree (makes it sound like we're going to steal it, but we're not), or do I reward myself for my hard work this year (hah!)?  (Needless to say, this flies in the face of the no new crafting materials pledge, but c'mon.)

Monday, November 26, 2012

Enter the Enabler!

I take pride in many things, and one thing that I think I'm pretty good at is enabling others when it comes to shopping.  See, my theory is this - if I enable you to buy something, then I get the vicarious pleasure of purchasing without the financial consequence.  How's that for crafty?

I let myself be tempted by the Alabama Chanin sale going on today (items up to 50% off) but managed to stay strong (if the lightweight jersey had been on sale...); however, I'm hoping you find something because there's a lot of good stuff on sale.

If I can't be with you as you come out of the (virtual) dressing room,  I can at least point you in the right direction. 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

A Whole Lotta Love

Yes, that's the 19-pound turkey, and all of that for six adults and one child (despite our gracious invitations to a number of friends, who obviously did not know what they would be missing).  The crazy (and frankly, amazing) thing is that the turkey only took three hours to cook.  I know - you're wondering, "How can that be?"  But I followed an Alice Waters's recipe that starts the turkey, which should be at room temperature when it goes in (ours was close-ish), at a high temperature (400 degrees) for the first part.  In fact, I probably could've taken it out even a little earlier if I'd bothered to put the thermometer in right away (thought it was going to take five hours).
The ladyfriend made an amazing stuffing that in addition to the traditional bread had polenta, prosciutto, and mushrooms in it, and my friend "chef" made chicken liver pate, mushroom soup, carrots, and braised red cabbage.  Her son, four and a half years old, also wanted to contribute so he made "mustard bread," which essentially was mustard on bread in little half-sandwich sizes.  For dessert we had the traditional favourites - pumpkin pie (made by yours truly) and apple pie (specialty of the ladyfriend).

And what about the leftovers, you ask...

Thursday, November 22, 2012

What I'm Wearing to Teach Today: I Know Where This Story's Going

(Yes, I live in Canada so turkey day will have to wait until tomorrow - but stay tuned!  There's a 19-pound turkey involved.)  Happy Thanksgiving to all my friends and family in the States.
Dress:  Chaiken
Scarf:  Hermes
Tights:  Wolford
Shoes:  Aerosole
Book*:  Bastard Out of Carolina by Dorothy Allison

*If I were really reading, I'd be wearing my glasses.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Cutest Bread in the World

Okay, maybe just in my world.  But what a cute little loaf I made last night (using the "almost no-knead" recipe from Cook's Illustrated).  What a little round of love!

What I'm Wearing to Teach Today: Turn Up the Volume

Shirt & Vest:  Kedem Sasson
Pants:  Comme des Garcons (mom*)
Shoes:  Trippen (ebay)
Socks:  Calvin Klein

*when I say "mom" here, I mean that the item was originally hers.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Rent My House - Really

Have you ever wondered what it was like to live in Hamilton?  Ever wanted to understand why I love this city?  Yes, I love Hamilton.  It's a city with no pretensions and a lot of possibility. (If you go to the link, please note that #4 is being amended constantly; there are more and more good restaurants in this city.)

We're off on sabbatical for part of next year and are trying to rent out our house.  You can check out our listing on Sabbatical Homes.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

What I'm Wearing to Teach Today: Ms. Fancy Pants

Turtleneck:  Uniqlo
Pants:  Betsey Ross pattern sewn by me (expect detailed blog post soon)
Shoes (not seen):  Cole Haan

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

What I'm Wearing to Teach Today: Slouching Toward...

Turtleneck:  Cadeau (thrifted)
Sweater:  Twinkle pattern knit by me
Pants:  J. Morgan Puett (ebay)
Shoes:  Cydwoq

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Marilyn Showing How It Should Be Done

I have a lot to blog about, but in the meantime, how awesome is this?
I'm loving Marilyn Monroe's exuberance and ability to just be in her body!  Rock on, Marilyn!

Thursday, November 8, 2012


The other day, a colleague asked me if I made most of my clothing.  I remember thinking, "I wish I could make this," and it reminded me of something that both my own sewing attempts as well as my participation in the Seam Allowance Project have made me realize.  Some things I just cannot or will not make.  For example, this Proenza Schouler dress.
And I don't have to.  I want to make more of my own clothing, but I still love, appreciate, and understand designer clothing.  When you've tried to make a dress or a skirt, you realize that it is not necessarily easy, and when you look at a Proenza Schouler dress or a Comme des Garcons skirt, you can appreciate why it costs what it does. (Of course, there are times or limits to what is justifiably compensatory, and the price is not just about the cost of fabrication.)

Proper Tension has just had its birthday (on the 6th), and this post sits at that moment of tension between the rustic and the refined. Crafting blogs seem to stay away from designer duds.  Frankly, I get a bit of a intellectual snobbery sometimes in them - "fashion is superficial; homesteading is where it's at." Fashion blogs, on the other hand, seem to believe that making your clothes is for, well - the less-than-financially gifted, Occupy Wall Streeters, and your mother.   But there's a tension here that I refuse to believe I'm the only one interested in.

So happy birthday, Proper Tension.  Let's keep the conversation going.

What I'm Wearing To Teach Today: All the Leaves Are Brown

Poncho:  Knit by me (Fleece Artist kit)
Turtleneck: Akris
Skirt:  Issey Miyake
Shoes:  Cydwoq
Tights: DKNY

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

What I'm Wearing to Teach Today: Wish I Were More Surprised

Really?  That many people voted for Romney?!
Jacket:  Comme des Garcons
Shirt:  Theory
Skirt:  Comme des Garcons
Tights:  Wolford
Shoes (not seen): La Canadienne

Monday, November 5, 2012

Food! Glorious Food!

So, Friday night my friend and I made dinner together.  Let me back up and say that this friend is a former chef, which I imagine contributed greatly to the success of this meal.

Here is the menu:
Steak tartare (first time I'd ever made it); I hand-chopped the cutest tenderloin I've encountered in recent memory.  The dressing was rather simple - finely chopped caper berries, a little Dijon mustard, a chopped anchovy, a little olive oil, a dash of Worcestershire, a dash of Frank's Hot Sauce, salt & pepper to taste (I may be forgetting something...).  Yes, we topped it with a raw egg.  (Just another reason to eat local & organic!)  It was a revelation - rich, creamy, and delicately balanced; chef said it was the best she's tasted.  Yay!  Now I want to make it at least once a week.  Not sure if the ladyfriend will go for that.
Photo by chef; food better than photo
Sweetbreads (a new favourite meat); sweetbreads are rich and creamy, with a light hint of liver (okay, here you might be, "Gross!"  But liver gets a bad rap, and remember, I said "a light hint").  We poached them in a court bouillon and then sauteed them in a little bacon fat (of course!) to get a nice crust going, finishing them in the oven.

Finally, there was the Cornish game hen breast on risotto encircled by sauteed leeks with bacon (match made in heaven) and turnips.  Chef made a sauce by reducing chicken stock until it was almost unbearably rich.  I'm having food flashbacks now!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

What I'm Wearing to Teach Today: Under Wraps

Movie:  Funny Face
Top:  J. Morgan PuettSkirt:  Junya Watanabe (Comme des Garcons)
Tights (which are brown and not rust): Assets
Shoes:  Cydwoq

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

What I'm Wearing to Teach Today: Suited Up

Every day is Halloween
Suit:  Vintage - Gormont tailored by Craftsmen
Shell:  Rowan pattern knit by me
Shoes:  Isaac Mizrahi
Pantyhose:  Label missing

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

What I'm Wearing to Teach Today: Deep in Thought

or trying to get a few more zzzzs
Dress:  Aida Barni
Vest (oops! forgot it): Dolce & Gabbana
Tights:  wool, brand forgotten
Boots:  La Canadienne

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

3 Things I've Learned So Far from the Seam Allowance Project

  1. I really haven't made that many of my own clothes, or they're not quite suited for what I'm wearing right now.  (A little cold for light, summer tank dresses, but where did all that knitting go?  Oh yeah, to friends & family for gifts.)
  2. I can see how this would be easier if I worked in or owned a sewing/crafting-related enterprise.
  3. I have to expand my definition to include clothes I've mended or altered. (Thank god for the patched jeans I've been living in on the weekends.)

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Shouldn't Be a News Flash

but it seems that it's not quite common knowledge:  skinny jeans only look good on boys & girls with no hips.  Really.  It doesn't matter how fit or svelte you are.  If you have hips, leave this to the ones who don't.  A bootcut or straight leg is mighty attractive as well.  You can still wear them tight if you wish.  I've just seen too many women do themselves a disservice by thinking this trend applies to them.
Imogene+Willie Jesse Skimmer

Friday, October 19, 2012

What I Wore to Teach Yesterday: If You're Dying to Know

Alas, no photo; had a meeting in the morning!  But put together the links, and you'll get a pretty good picture nonetheless.

Top: Neiman Marcus
Skirt:  Comme des Garcons
Boots:  Vintage cowboy boots made in Texas
Tights:  Wolford

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Seam Allowance Project Update

So far, so good.  An obvious result of this is the wearing of things I'd previously dismissed or ignored - mostly erroneously - although some things are begging for alteration.  I already spend what I'd consider a fair amount of time thinking about what I'm going to wear (although sometimes it's just, "What fleece should I wear with these jeans?"), but now I'm asking myself, "Do I have something that I've made that could go with this?"  It's like the other question I'd like to ask myself, which is, "Do I have a hat that could go with that?"  But that's another project for another time.

What I'm Wearing Today: Vaguely Sherpa

That mountain is mine!
Turtleneck: Neiman Marcus
Skirt:  sewn by yours truly
Tights:  DKNY
Shoes:  El Naturalista

Monday, October 15, 2012

I'm Not the Only One

"Building a wardrobe over time, saving up and investing in well-made pieces, obsessing over the perfect hem, luxuriating in fabrics, and patching up and altering our clothes are old-fashioned habits.  But they're also deeply satisfying antidotes to the empty uniformity of cheapness."

-Elizabeth L. Cline, Overdressed:  The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion p.9.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

What I'm Wearing to Teach Today: Loosely Structured

Don't ask me what I was doing with my left hand; I have no idea.
Jacket & pants:  J.Morgan Puett
Top:  Rowan mohair shell knit by me
Shoes:  Cydwoq

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

What I'm Wearing to Teach Today: Comin' at You Straight On

Had on purple tights at first; think the green is better
Dress:  Jacob
Tights:  Falke
Shoes:   Kenneth Cole Reaction

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Pumpkin Pie

It was Canadian Thanksgiving yesterday (technically*).  When the ladyfriend said she was going to wear an orange sweater so we could match, I thought she was kidding.  Now I know better.  Here we are with our friends' son.  Crazy matching aunties!

*I say technically because it drives me crazy that Canadians don't eat Thanksgiving dinner on the actual holiday; they're all eating on Saturday or Sunday.  I'm not saying that American Thanksgiving is superior, but at least we eat it on the actual holiday.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Allowances - A Refinement

It didn't take long to find me lying in bed thinking, "There are just some outfits that don't really have room for the handmade in them."  I was thinking of certain dresses, which I didn't make but love, and how, well, I'd probably just be wearing tights, shoes, and underwear with them.  I'm not making shoes (amazingly have no desire to), I'm not making my tights (although I will modify some of them into stockings, which should count), and when it comes to underwear...despite my interest in a local bra-making class, it may only result in a couple of pairs of bikini bottoms. Overthink much?

Friday, October 5, 2012

Seam Allowance Project - Time to Love What I Make

Alabama Chanin dress in progress
I've become quite fascinated by the Seam Allowance Project started by Kristine Vejar, founder of A Verb for Keeping Warm in Oakland, CA.  (Despite my trips to Oakland, I have yet to make it to the shop, and now with my "no new craft materials" pledge, I will have to go "just to look.")

Thursday, October 4, 2012

What I Wore to Teach Today: It's All in the Wrapping

Dress:  Ter et Bantine
Shoes: (not shown) Chie Mihara (same as yesterday)

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The Smart Set

Can you imagine how exciting it was to discover a whole site dedicated to blogs about academia & fashion?  I'm slowly making my way through them.  Sometimes you really do discover new things on the internet.

What I'm Wearing to Teach Today: Givin' a Test!

Dress:  Roland Mouret
Shoes:  Chie Mihara

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

What I'm Wearing to Teach Today: Sidle On Up to the Bar

Just call me smirky in the morning?
Jacket: Theory
Tank (underneath):  Hanro
Skirt:  Comme des Garcons
Cowboy Boots:  Vintage made in Texas

Monday, September 24, 2012

Cassandra - Oracle of Good Commuting?

So the bike commuting worked well last week.  In fact, better than anticipated when I found out that the tech guys at school are also bike geeks and fixed my derailleur while I was in class.  Bonus!

But I've also realized that I'm engaging in an entirely different kind of commuting than I used to.  In the old days (please have your best "old lady" voice when reading this part), I would ride to work in bike gear (read technical, lycra, and tight) and change in the handicap stall in the bathroom at work.  That is not the case here ("old lady" voice can stop now).  I'm going for the "Hey, I'm a regular albeit stylish gal on her way to work" look, which, yes, requires some wardrobe adjustments.  When there was a threat of rain (thankfully it rained while I taught), I realized a reassessment of foul weather gear was in order.

After a bit of soul-searching (specialty of over-thinkers everywhere) and comparison shopping, I found what I'm hoping will fit a tick a number of boxes - the Cassandra Cycle Coat.  Firstly, it's smart (check out the details), stylish, and waterproof.  Secondly, it is easily wearable off the bike.  Thirdly, the company endeavors to support local industry (in England where they're located), and they use bio-degradable plastic to keep packaging out of landfills.  Bonuses?  British (synonymous with rain, no?) and a woman-owned company.

I ordered mine in red.  It'll match my bike, natch.  Once it arrives and I've had a chance to try it out, I'll report on it here.

(If you're a male reader, they also have a coat for men, and Brompton cycles has made a gorgeous sports coat-type cycling jacket.)

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

What I'm Wearing to Teach Today: Self-Portrait with Canning Supplies

You want pickles?  I got pickles.
Shirt:  Rachael Mara
Skirt:  St. John's
Shoes:  Manolo Blahnik

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Boy Tattoos in the Bay Area

As I may have mentioned, our son Ian (aka the boy) is apprenticing as a tattoo artist at Sacred Rose Tattoo in Berkeley, CA.  The photo above shows one of his most recent pieces.  Anyway, he's looking for more people to work on and is only charging $50/session.  For more details, you can email him ( or call him at 510.883.1083 (Sacred Rose Tattoo).

If you're not convinced yet, check out the flash he painted for us for Christmas last year -

Monday, September 17, 2012

Bike to Work Plan B

It may be obvious from the above photo, which makes the bike bag look like a Japanese designer skirt, that it really doesn't fit ViaRail's (or probably anyone else's right now) carry-on size limitations.  The bike only weighs 11.5 kg (25.4 lb), but it's still bulky, and ViaRail charges $20 EACH WAY to transport a bike (please tell me how "green" you are again). So plan B is to drive to work Wednesday, bringing the bike and leaving it there for the term.  I'm hoping it'll be a smooth ride from there on out.  When I have a bit more time, I'll work on tightening the bag's profile.