Thursday, November 29, 2007

I've been profiled!

As a woman entrepreneur, I've been profiled on More Than We Know. I was interviewed about my business.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Beautiful Dress

I have been dying to make a dress like the ones in this picture:
This is a Spanish style from the end of the 15th century, called a Spanish farthingale. The skirt is what we might call a hoop skirt, and we're used to having it as a sort of undergarment. But while the style soon evolved to have the hoop structure hidden, it originally was an outer garment, and as you can see a decorative one at that.

The dress I'm going to make is a composite of the three dresses in this picture.

I don't know precisely how this sort of dress was made or what went under it. It is pretty clear from the pictures that there is an overdress with a bodice, sleeves, and farthingale, and some sort of underdress that is seen through the bodice opening, neckline, and sleeve openings. The overdress on the right would appear to lace up the back, since it clearly doesn't have front or side lacings; while the dress in the center clearly laces in front (also in back?) and the dress on the left doesn't lace in front. The sleeves are closed with latchets (you can see them dangling down). Whether it is a one-piece dress or a two-piece is unclear. The ladies are wearing matching bodices and skirts so it doesn't appear to be a mix-and-match situation, but that doesn't mean the dresses are one-piece. It appears that some of the bodices lace in the front, but clearly the skirts don't, and you can't get into a skirt that fits at the waist unless you open it somewhere, so it looks like the skirt opening is probably in the back. It's also unknown how the skirt might attach to the bodice. There doesn't appear to be much gathering at the waist, nor any darts or seams that I can see.

The nature of the underdress is less than clear. Is it a chemise type garment? Is it more like a kirtle? Is it a plainer dress with a fancy stomacher piece inserted in the bodice front? I would imagine it ought to be full length, at least for me, because (a) there are times when you have to lift a hoop skirt to sit down, and (b) it gets DANG COLD under a hoop skirt in wintertime. Clearly there are sleeves that are a bit on the full side, at least at the wrist and possibly all the way up the sleeve as well. And how the heck does the skirt do that "poof" thing at the waist? As anyone knows who's worn a hoop skirt, they definitely hang in a cone shape, not come straight out parallel to the floor at the waist-- even if the first hoop is extremely wide, and these hoops clearly are not. I'm guessing there's a moderately sized bum roll under there; it's the only way I can think of to get the skirt to go straight out from the waist that way. The "bumroll effect" can result from pleating or gathering a very full skirt into a tiny waistband, but for an application like that, it'd be pretty damn clear that there were some serious folds of fabric. An artist of this caliber would not have smoothed those over if they were there. Besides, the hoops are pretty clearly defining the width of the skirt, and it isn't full enough to have a "bumroll effect". You've gotta gather several yards of material into the waistband to get it to stick out that much. Another mystery is how that wacky center bodice piece on the red dress defies all the forces of nature and the will of Boobula the Breast Goddess to stay precisely in the middle of the wide laced area over the woman's bust, without apparently being attached to anything. And finally, it looks like there's a pretty simple round hat above a fabric- and ribbon-covered braid of hair, and some kind of sheer scarf or partlet being worn in the necklines of the dresses on the left.

And then there's the whole issue of, shall we say, support. The Blessed Ones of Boobula can't ignore this. Eventually I want to make a hemp boned corset, but I kinda don't have time for that right now (Solstice Court is in 1 1/2 weeks). So support will have to come from either my own 21st century undergarments (which give entirely the wrong silhouette) or from the underdress. Since I still have the shell from a very supportive bodice I made before, based on the old duct-tape-and-t-shirt fitting method which was the only way I could fit something like that on myself, I'm pretty sure I can pull that off. If I line the bodice on the bias, I can get firmer support and less stretch in the material and avoid the problems I had with the previous incarnation of the supportive bodice. And if I lace it on the sides, not only will I be able to get myself into the underdress unaided, but the lacing won't show through the overdress.

So here's my idea of how to reconstruct this outfit:
(1) standard medieval linen undergarments; these will be invisible, so since I'm short on time I'll skip these and just wear my own
(2) supportive, side-lacing under-kirtle with decorative front bodice and full sleeves, in a straw gold color with black ribbon and freshwater pearl bodice decoration.
(3) red overdress (1 piece? 2 piece? with back lacing, or just open at front with the skirt tying at back?), bodice and sleeves lined in black velveteen, and hoops in skirt covered in black velveteen
(4) hat with false hair braid (my hair isn't long enough to braid, and since the braid is covered in fabric it won't matter that it doesn't match or is low quality)
(5) partlet or scarflike piece of material
(6) bumroll worn between under-kirtle and outer skirt

Here's what I bought so far to make the dress:
  • Two red tablecloths (cotton/poly blend) from Wal-Mart, plus a gold one from Bed, Bath, and Beyond. ($9.99 for 3 to 4 yards of material? Game on!) The red is for the outer dress and the gold is for the skirt and bodice lining of the underdress.
  • One gold curtain from Wal-Mart, with a woven stripe pattern, for the outer bodice of the underdress. This wasn't strictly necessary, but I thought the stripe pattern would make it easier for me to position the ribbons and pearls.
  • One black velveteen curtain from Wal-Mart. Cheaper than black velveteen yardage at JoAnn Fabrics!
  • Two yards of gold lining fabric for the underdress sleeves.
  • One remnant of gold sheer fabric for the partlet.
  • 1/8" black ribbons and 4-5mm freshwater pearls.
  • false hair braid from eBay. This was cheap and the seller (despite having 100% feedback) couldn't spell or make anything clear in the English language, so I have my doubts about whether this will be as advertised, but we'll see what it ends up looking like when it arrives.
Still to buy:
  • Plastic tubing from Home Depot, or some other such hoop stiffener. I thought about basket reed, but decided I'm really looking for something easier to work with. I'd have to put several rounds of basket reed in each of the half-dozen hoops in order to avoid the ends poking out much, and I just don't feel like it.
  • Black cord and crimp tubes for the latchets
  • Probably about 50 million other things I've neglected to think about

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Nut-Free Baklava

In addition to the vegan pumpkin pies (which I had to cook twice and add an extra half a cup of cornstarch to get them to set up), I made nut-free baklava for a holiday treat. I just used a standard baklava recipe, but I substituted sunflower seeds for the walnuts. The phyllo dough they had at the grocery store was already milk- and egg-free.

Happy Birthday Princess

On Sunday, Princess turned the big 1-0. My double-digit girl!!!

Her present arrived today. We made it a combination birthday/Christmas present, because it was so expensive, but it was what she really wanted... a microscope. When she opened it up and saw what it was, she was just thrilled out of her mind.

I am indescribably proud to have a daughter whose face lit up when she saw a microscope.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Nothing to see here, move along

Test results came back and they're all normal. So there's absolutely nothing wrong with me.

I came this close [holds fingers about a millimeter apart] to just running out of the doctor's office, because I was afraid they wouldn't believe I was having all these symptoms. I should have done it. At least then I wouldn't be down a few vials of blood and sporting this nasty bruise.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Question for the Reader(s)

What's an important thing your parents taught you? I'd say "the most important thing" but it doesn't have to be the most important, just something important. Leave your answers in the comments.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Way Cool

Check it out: Electric cars!

I like electric cars.

UPDATE: I told my kids about these Phoenix cars... and then spent the next several minutes explaining to them that the cars were not red and gold, did not belong to Albus Dumbledore, and were not going up in great balls of flame.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

This is only a test

I can't sit in front of the computer for too long today, since my leg is really really hurting, but I went to the doctor today. They drew some blood, after one of the assistants stuck me twice and the other one spent what seemed like 10 minutes dowsing for a vein on the other arm while my hand turned purple. Anyway I'm being tested for rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and some kind of test for strep infection. Not sure why strep though, but hey, I'm not the doctor. Maybe it's going around.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Oh My, Pumpkin Pie!

Today FH took Bagel out on a trip so that I could get some cooking done. Thanksgiving is coming up, and I really want Princess and Knuckles to be able to eat pie. I've never made an egg-free milk-free pumpkin pie before. I was able to find recipes without any problem, but I wanted to try them first before I showed up to Thanksgiving dinner with a pumpkin-colored brick of tofu or some other horrible disaster. So the goal today was to bake three different pumpkin pies, and have the kids and neighbors taste-test them and see which one is the favorite.

Pie #1 is from The Allergy Self-Help Cookbook by Marjorie Hurt Jones. It is made in first a food processor, then a saucepan and poured into a prebaked crust, then refrigerated. It uses heavily processed nuts (substituted here with sunflower seeds for the nut-allergic) to give it that creamy, fatty texture. My worries with this recipe were that the sunflower flavor would be overpowering; that it would be more like a pudding pie and would have to be served cold; and that I would lose so much of the filling in all the transfers from container to container that it wouldn't fill the crust. The filling did fill the crust adequately, though, with even a bit to spare.

As you can see, the pie really didn't set up. It was like trying to serve a very thick sauce with a spatula. I really liked the way it tasted, though, although the sunflower taste would take some getting used to. More arrowroot, maybe, or some gelatin, to make it set? I thought three tablespoons of arrowroot wasn't really enough, because three tablespoons has never been enough to get my stir-fry sauce to set up. I don't think I'm going to get another chance to cook before Thanksgiving and try this more-arrowroot theory out though.

Pie #2 is also from The Allergy Self-Help Cookbook. It is a tofu-based pie that is baked, crust and all, in the oven, with the filling made in the food processor. My worry with this pie was that it might, well, taste like tofu. FH really, really doesn't like the taste of soy (except for soy sauce and edamame), so if I make anything out of soy I have to make sure it doesn't have that soy taste. There was too much filling in this recipe for one pie, so if I make this one again, I'll be sure to have a little mini-pie crust or two waiting in the wings. Kids adore little tiny pies, but they'll also settle for licking copious quantities of pie filling out of the bowl of the food processor.

I really liked the texture of this pie, it was much more like real pumpkin pie. It did not taste soy-ey at all, but very creamy.

Both pies got similar ratings from the kids. Most of the kids rated both pies anywhere from 7/10 to 10/10. The adults' definite favorite was Pie #1, despite the fact that it looked like crap. They all agreed that if it were just a bit thicker, it would beat Pie #2 hands down.

Pie #3 is from this recipe (scroll down a couple of recipes for the pie) by Bryanna Clark Grogan. However, Pie #3 did not get made, as the directions say it needs to sit for a day before eating, and you can't keep a bunch of pies just sitting around a house full of kids and husbands and such. Nothing tasty to eat sits there for very long before it starts to have little bite marks out of the front edge.

We also taste-tested four different milk-free hot chocolate mixes, which you can see the remnants behind the pies in the pictures. They don't really look all that different so I didn't bother photographing them. The kids seemed to like them all, although my favorite was the one made with the Better Than Milk powdered soymilk (but without the Oxygen Poliva creamer, which to me added a funny aftertaste to it, like the inside of a cardboard package).

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Disaster Preparedness

Glenn Reynolds notes the sudden popularity of emergency preparedness. Maybe it's sudden for the rest of the country, but Utahns, particularly Mormons, have been doing it for years. For our family, it is absolutely essential. Because of my kids' food allergies, if something were to happen and FEMA were to bring us rations, it's a good bet those rations would contain things they're allergic to. Nobody wants to have to choose between dying of starvation and dying of anaphylactic shock. So having at the very least a goodly supply of spare food is an absolute essential for anyone on a special diet, just as having a supply of insulin would be important for a diabetic.

As always, the principles of food storage are:
  • Store what you eat (not stuff you don't like or don't know how to cook)
  • Eat what you store (rotate the food for freshness; know the expiration dates)
  • Plan what you need to get, and carry out your plan
  • Buy it in bulk and repackage it yourself whenever possible
  • Make sure you have food cooking equipment that can be used independent of fuel supply from the outside (e.g. hand grain grinder, portable stove)
  • Start with a complete week's worth of food, then a complete month's worth, etc. Don't get a year's supply of one item, then a year's supply of another item, unless you already have 3 months' complete supply.
  • STORE WATER TOO. We put one of those blue barrels in our extra window well.
  • Protect from other little critters that might want to eat your food too
The easiest way to build a food storage is to buy a little extra. Picking up a can of chili beans? Buy two cans of chili beans. Buy a case of 12 cans of corn when they're on sale. At our house, we have a whole little "convenience store" in our garage that stocks the items we use most frequently. If we run out of something in the house, we put it on the grocery list... but then we go out to the garage and bring one in.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Vouchers Lose

Vouchers went down in flames in yesterday's statewide referendum. CEO Patrick Byrne, a staunch voucher supporter, said on TV last night that he thought this referendum was a "statewide IQ test". I hate to admit it, but I think he's got a point. Everyone I talked to I encouraged to research the issue, and all who did their own research changed their mind to support vouchers. People who were willing to be led believed the misleading arguments of the teacher's union. A large part of that, I think, was due to an overconfidence voucher supporters (including myself) had in the intelligence of Utahns. They forgot that it's a rare person who doesn't try very hard not to think for himself, and most people are generally willing to be led by the nose through TV and radio commercials. The anti-voucher side got in early and stayed on message, while the pro-voucher side only brought out their best arguments less than a month before the election.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Megan McArdle on vouchers

Megan McArdle destroys general anti-voucher arguments.

Pejman's on a school choice roll... or maybe it's me just getting caught up on like a week's worth of his posts.

I changed somebody's mind!

I actually convinced one of my neighbors to change her mind and decide to vote for vouchers-- AND put a sign in her yard!

I really didn't think it was possible. One of the reasons I've been in a blogging funk lately (besides being as busy as Hell's greeter after the Trial Lawyer's Convention building collapses) is that every time I had a post-worthy thought, I'd think about it and go "who the hell would want to read THAT stupid thought?" and shrug off blogging it. But the voucher debate got me all fired up, so I started blogging about it. Now we've only got 2 more days to go before the election, and I'm actually thinking it might be worth investing my two cents in the universe.

Why Liberals Should Support Vouchers

Stuart Buck on why liberals, the half-dozen of them that live in Utah anyway, should support vouchers. OK, I'm being facetious about the half-dozen. Why, at least half the population of Salt Lake City are liberals. It's only outside of Salt Lake City that we see Democrats having to gently remind their neighbors that there isn't really a letter N between the O and the C.

Link via the estimable Pejman.

Friday, November 02, 2007

A Quick Note For Husbands

As we all know, the Tooth Fairy really likes it when we hide teeth under our pillow. That's where she knows to find them. (In our house the Tooth Fairy also really likes it when you put your tooth in a completely blank envelope, just like the 100 identical ones in Mommy's drawer.) However, the Laundry Fairy does not operate on a similar system. For example, the Laundry Fairy doesn't find your dirty socks if you slip them under the couch or the computer desk.

For the love of God, people, if you want clean socks, you have to put the dirty socks in the hamper!!!!