Thursday, September 3, 2009

A Strange Interest: The Honeybees

I happen to love honeybees and have been keeping an eye on the "colony collapse disorder" story. I found this video clip--it's fascinating!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Etsy Treasury fun!

I woke up today with a cold or some sort of allergy attack. To make myself feel better, and because the timing was right, I made an Etsy treasury of all things gingery. Ginger always makes me feel better. An Etsy treasury is like a little mini gallery that, if you're quick and have an Etsy account, you get to curate! So here is a link to my collection of ginger things made/sold by other Etsians. You'll be surprised at everything I found and, I hope, cheered up! I sure was.

The Longest Day: Why do I love the first day of school?

I'm posting this at about 3 am Eastern time because, well, I just woke up and find myself with some time on my hands for the first time in awhile.

Monday, August 31: The First Day of School. Cue frantic music. I spent Sunday avoiding preparations and then completing them before going to bed at a reasonable hour.

Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a reasonable hour when you teach a class that starts at 8:15. I'm going to have to develop a sleeping pill habit to get me to be at 10. I sleep. Lots. I wake up late. Shockingly late, often. But I wanted to take that class on Virginia Woolf, and they said well we can only offer you this teaching schedule if you have such and such a time constraint. I thought oh, I can do it. I've done it before. I have. It was painful, then, too. Funny how we forget these things. At any rate, one of the perks to having a job-searching and supportive husband is that he can be very helpful with practical things like getting one in the shower on time, etc. He also helped me bring coffee and donuts to my students who, if you ask me, were under-appreciative!  I was not and drank far too much coffee, ate far too much sugar and, after teaching one class at 8:15 and another at 10:15, promptly came home and passed out. I noted ironically before crashing, that the 8:15 section actually seemed more awake than the 10:15. Perhaps if we know we're doing something before 9 am, we psych ourselves up for it!

Charming husband again shook me out of my stupor, this time so that I could attend class. To my eternal surprise, I am on time for things when I ask for his help. Lovely man! It turns out that I am actually capable of leaving the house with enough time to metaphorically hike from Queens to Manhattan on the F train before class actually begins. Despite being very excited by class, classmates, professor and material, I found myself unable to explain even to Husband what it's actually about. You see, we're studying the "non-normative" in writing, in the classroom, in the world, and it falls within both the field of "queer studies" and of "composition and rhetoric." "Comp/rhet," as it is more fondly known in my world, consists of teaching about teaching about writing. So you can see where things might get a bit complicated. It all makes sense in the classroom, but once you leave it can take awhile before you're able to articulate what it is that you've actually learned. I can say this: I'll be learning a lot about teaching and about writing and about the teaching of writing, and the course allows for exploration and movement that I see as very personal and wonderful. A great opportunity to know more about myself as teacher, writer, student, explorer. Needless to say, the professor put us all at ease; one does not feel comfortable exploring such personal things with an intimidating guy.

After eating dinner tonight, I went right to sleep for a little over 6 hours, and woke with a headache and massive dehydration. It turns out that staying up all night worrying that my students will hate my, my professor will hate me and I'll fail out of graduate school + way too much coffee + not enough water = a very confused body. 

I have always loved the first day of school. I look forward to it every year. But the night before, I stay awake with anxiety and I spend the day rushing around trying to be perfect! Why, oh why, do I love the first day of school? The answer is simple--a writer and lover of literature cannot help but love opening a new book.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

A First: Sewing My Own Handbag

My family has enough to live well, and for that I am grateful! But let's just say that the budget in our household does not include enough money for me to purchase the handbag I want--a lovely leather bag made by fellow Etsian jennyndesign. So I set out to find a sewing pattern and the proper materials and here I go. There probably is a cheaper handbag out there, but I had several specific requirements. It couldn't fall apart. It had to be gray so that it could match both brown and black shoes but still be dark enough not to show dirt or dust. I got sick of shopping for something unique, so the idea of making one myself came up. I'm pretty good at sewing. Other Etsians make and sell them. I'm not going to start up a handbag shop anytime soon. But the "exterior panels" of handbag number 1. The pattern comes from Ali Foster Patterns. So here's what it's supposed to look like:
I chose different fabric, but by the same designer you see in the sample, Amy Butler. The outside looks like this so far:
What you can't see is that I have basted a "stiffening non-fusible interfacing" to the other side of the that piece. Here is a closeup of the fabulous covered button I made (and the button tab):
 And, of course, no sewing project of mine would be complete without some interference from Dinah, the lovely cat who loves to be at the center of everything!
She slept on the pieces I had carefully ironed and laid out on the piano bench all day long... but she's so cute! I was willing to re-iron. Those polka dots she's got her arm around are going to be the inside of the bag eventually!

That's all for today, I'm off to sew the two exterior pieces to the together and do some weird thing to the corners to "add shape."

Friday, August 21, 2009

Dinah's Friends (or not) and English Literature

Good evening everyone (well, if it is evening where you are). I've just finished sifting through email and got my first assignment for the year-- I'll be taking a class on "queer" as in "odd" communication and exploring what it means for writing (why does it make us college teachers so upset? why can't we find it more useful? when is it useful? etc.) and the assignment just happens to include some pretty intimidating work. Plato anyone? Roland Barthes? To name two of four readings to be completed during the last weeks of summer vacation. I don't want to complain, except about the Plato, I never can bring myself to enjoy Plato, because I'm one of those odd people who likes reading about writing or (duh duh duh!) THEORY as it's more commonly known.

Dinah's Friends is my creative outlet for now, since I have paralyzed myself regarding my writing. I don't have writers block, since it doesn't exist. No, I have what fellow Barnard alumna Anna Quindlen so aptly calls the fear of writing well. I suppose this is a way of overcoming that, this blog. Here's hoping. At any rate, Dinah's Friends, for those who don't know, is my little shop on Etsy, a marvelous online marketplace for things handmade or vintage or supplies for things handmade. It's named after my cat, Dinah, and I sell little sculptures made of wool as well as jewelry that features wool sculptures or designs. It's all done using a technique called needle felting that essentially involves poking a barbed needle through fluffy wool (after it's dyed, before it's spun into yarn) until it makes a shape.

I find that I need the creative outlet desperately. I do love teaching (will I still say that when I'm teaching at 8 am in two weeks?) and learning and all that, but I must must must get out of my head. What better way of getting out of my head than using my hands to poke at things with a sharp tool? Perhaps I should start grunting while working. Me poke. Me no think. Lately I've been loving the puppies:

Actually, I even got sick of the needle felting recently, which accounts for a sort of slow-down in new items listed in my shop. It began when I quit smoking--hooray for me!--and needed something all-absorbing. So I sewed myself a dress! It's quite lovely. Vintage pattern purchased on Etsy. Vintage fabric handed down from Husband's great grandmother. She kept everything in beautiful condition. I never had the chance to meet her, but I do feel I have a sense of her having used her fabric, her wicker storage basket for my wool, her metal thimble that looks about a hundred years old. Mother-In-Law, or Ma as she likes to be called, treats me like her own daughter and gave me such a lovely tour through her grandmother's things. It's nice to feel part of that tradition as well as my own mother's family, who all sewed their own clothes, even my mom.

I recently found some wool and picked up another skill learned in childhood--I crocheted myself a hat! I found a very cool pattern (on Etsy, where else?) and now have a crocheted version of a riding had done with a big hook and very very bulky merino. I should be very warm come winter. It did feel a little silly, as it's about 90 degrees outside right now, but I won't have time when it's cold.

Finally, I need a new handbag and laptop sleeve to protect my precious MacBook called Jane (after Austen of course--I'm a geek in case you hadn't noticed already), and couldn't justify spending the money on a premade version of either. Husband was laid off, you see, and I make no money on my fellowship. So as soon as all the materials I need have been collected I'll be making an adorable little handbag as well as a padded laptop sleeve! Pictures of progress will appear here shortly.

If anyone knows of a fabric store in Queens, NY, please pass on the info, because I haven't been able to find anything but craft shops. They don't carry batting, fabric, etc, and buying everything online takes so much patience!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

An Introduction

Welcome, dear readers! Perhaps you found this spot via my Etsy shop, Dinah's Friends, or on my Facebook page; well, strangers and friends, welcome to my blog. I'm a graduate student in English literature, and I have my own small business selling crafts online. I'll be writing about my studies, my teaching (I teach freshman English here in New York City), my crafting and my life in general. I can't wait to see what this space becomes over time! Thanks for reading. That's all for today!