Tuesday, October 9, 2018

My Best Marriage Advice

Another picture of my nails! Lucky you!
So we here are at the gangplank waiting for the Queen Mary to sail. Our trunks are being carried aboard by burly stevedores and we're kiss-kissing the cheeks of family members who are seeing us off.

Not really, of course. What we are is frantically packing to get ready to leave today for the Wedding of the Century Part Deux, because we are so, so close to the big day. When I talked to Boy#2 Sunday I was able to remind him that it was only six more sleeps until the wedding. (He had already done that math, but he appreciated the sentiment.)

I had carefully planned these final few days, pacing myself so I wouldn't be ready too soon and have to sit around idly stewing. Yesterday's mani-pedi was the final checkmark on my to-do-at-home list before the final folding of the MoG dresses for carrying on the plane. Last evening was to be a few hours of quiet contemplation and knitting, maybe a bit of sentimental scribbling.

All was going well, in spite of the torrential rains that were falling outside. A brand new manicure was making me happy (I like the shellac nails so much better than the dip version that was my test run, and Nail Genius Kelly says they'll last at least until the weekend). I was knitting a new complicated-enough-to-be-fun lace project, and Midsomer Murders was on Netflix.

And then I heard it. The basement sump pump was cycling on. And off. And on. And off. And on. Etc., etc., etc., ad nauseum, because nauseum was my immediate response.

The House on the Corner is at the intersection of a big hill and one of Small Town's major drainage streets, and in truly torrential downpours, that street becomes a whitewater course. Twice in our 31 years of living in this house that whitewater has overwhelmed the storm drains, and the run-off knocks on our basement drain saying "Please, may we come in?" Then it does, with vigor.

Last night was the second of those times, so I guess the overall average of 15 years isn't bad. After all, the basement is unfinished concrete, and the water coming in is clean rain. The timing, though, was terrible.

Instead of quiet contemplation and sentimental scribbling, Husband and I spent the evening hooking up the auxiliary drain pump, using the shop vac to suck up gallons of overflow and schlepping it up the basement steps to dump outside. In the rain.

In the process I completely borked my new pedicure, tripping and stumbling on the steps so often that my left big toe was shredded and the I'm Not Really a Waitress red polish was destroyed.

But do you know what? Husband is a total rock star in situations like this. He'd been at a school board meeting when I heard the ominous rumbling from below, and even though he's board president he turned over the meeting to the vice president and came home when I called because he heard panic in my voice. Then he handed me gloves to preserve my manicure, and took the heavy side of the rain-filled shop vac on every trip.

Then he said "I have a plan--" and explained how he'd set his alarm for every two hours to make sure the pump was keeping up with inflow, and I went to bed and got a good night of sleep. This morning a dear friend heard about our predicament and offered to babysit our basement while we're away, an offer that made me cry at how blessed we are by our people. The plumber, even as I write this, is in the basement fixing the problem.

And that, Boy#2, leads to the best advice I can give you as you start your marriage. When what you have planned does not go according to your script (and that will be more often than not), be the kind of husband your father has been. Recognize panic in her voice, even if she doesn't say she's panicked. Carry the heavy end of the shop vac. Make good friends. And tell your Lovely Girl that you've blocked out time for her to get her toes repaired, even if she decides she'd rather just wear closed-toe shoes.

We love you, and we'll see you tomorrow!

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Following Up to a Gushing Endorsement


Oh, my gosh, guys!

Truly, I did not post the picture of my stripey eShakti dress yesterday just so you could flatter me and tell me pretty things and make me smile and blush all day long. No, that was just a wonderful side effect, but I could not be more grateful to each and every one of you. I've been kind of rage-y in the past week, and this was a wonderful antidote.

Seriously, have I told you lately how lovely you are? You are lovely and I am humbled that you are my friends.

But a couple of details I realized later I had omitted:

1. This is not the MoG rehearsal dinner dress. This was the starter dress I bought in May to see if eShakti was a scam. It was not, and I loved this dress so much I wore it at every opportunity during the summer and (gauchely) after Labor Day. Because I love it.

2. The MoG dress is much more appropriately fall-ish, and I also love it to distraction. Pictures will follow in LESS THAN TWO WEEKS!  Woohoo! Wedding ahoy!

3. Yesterday's post was not sponsored except by my own strongly-held opinions. eShakti is not paying me, or at least not paying  me in anything other than what they would  pay anyone else who recommended them--a coupon code for potential customers, and a (smaller) coupon code for me. In fact, they do not know me at all except that they know every single one of my measurements, which, come to think of it, is more than anyone in the world knows about me except for my Husband. And my gynecologist. And the TSA screener in Boston last summer.

So because y'all made me feel so wonderful yesterday just because I posted a bad selfie of myself in a cute dress, I have a suggestion for the next few days:

The past week has been one that has filled people with rage for a variety of reasons. I am one of those people, and my reason may have been the same or different from your reason. Your lovely comments yesterday were quite literally soothing to my soul.

How about if you find another person, and compliment that person even if she/he isn't wearing a cute stripey dress or making a gushing endorsement? I intend to pass on the loveliness, and I hope you keep the chain going.

We're all in this together, and it could soothe all of our souls.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Caution: Gushing Endorsement Ahead

You can't imagine the wringing of hands and gnashing of teeth that accompanied posting this picture. I am the world's worst selfie-fyer. I mean, here I'm staring at my phone as if I am expecting some kind of terrible news to be revealed, and the streaky full-length mirror is original to House on the Corner (ca. 1927) and I have nothing on my feet except a summer sandal tan. Worst of all, the dress had been pulled from the shipping box two minutes earlier and I didn't even take the time to run a steamer over it before its digital immortalization.

That's what happens when I open a box from eShakti.

I mentioned in my last post that my MoG rehearsal dinner dress came from eShakti and the lovely Swistle asked for details on my experience. How do I describe it? Wonderful? Exciting? Fortifying?

Fortifying. Yes. That will do it. Ordering clothes from eShakti has made me feel stronger and more in control of my wardrobe. I'm no longer at the complete mercy of ready-mades.

As most of you know (Hi, most of you who are my friends and family in real life!) I am a plus-size girl. I have been a plus-size girl all of my life with a couple of momentary dips into regular sizes, and except for those few (very, very) brief moments, clothes shopping has been a decades-long  nightmare.

It wasn't just that for most of my life plus sizes didn't exist in regular stores. It's also that my top half and my lower half are two different sizes, by several numbers. I'm long in the leg and have assorted and sundry quirky body variations that combine to mean that as I reached adulthood I settled on almost exclusively wearing skirts and tops. No dresses for me.

But then a non-standard-sized columnist I follow mentioned that she had tried eShakti and liked it, so I clicked over and looked around. What I found was unlike anything I'd seen in clothing.

The short description is that this company custom makes a dress for you, based on your size or (if you're like me and don't have a standard size) based on your measurements. You can buy any of the dresses, skirts, pants, tops, etc., on their site and it doesn't matter if you're normally a size 0 or a size 36--it's available for you.

So I took a deep breath, pulled out a tape measure and started documenting every inch of my amplitude. Not just bust, waist, and hips--I measured from top of shoulder to waist, circumference of upper arm, bent arm from shoulder to wrist, hip to knee, etc., etc., etc.

And then I chose the cutest dress I could find on the site, entered a coupon code provided by another happy blogger, took another deep breath, and hit the order button. Then I waited to be disappointed.

People, when the dress arrived two weeks later and I pulled it on I almost cried. Do you know how seldom bigger women get to wear cute clothes? Oh, I usually think I look fine when I leave the house. But I never look cute. This dress is cute.

Straight out of the box, it fit well, which is also unheard of for oddly-sized women. The eShakti folks apparently know me and had thoughtfully provided some kind of undergarment that smoothed the drape of the skirt. The stripey dress was of a knit that was perfect summer weight--not clingy or see-through, but not hot. And the dress had POCKETS! (All of them do, unless you request that they not be included.) I LOVE POCKETS!

It's no wonder I immediately took a selfie to send to the enabler who provided my coupon code.

The biggest surprise is that the company does this magic at prices that are not custom-made prices. The base cost of most dresses is $50-ish. Customizing (using your own measurements rather than giving a standard size) adds $10, but is so, so worth it. Oh, and if you like a dress but want a different neckline or sleeve or length, you can change that, too. There are always sales and coupon codes available. All told, I think my first order cost something like $45.

And frankly, that was my one concern with the company. Was my dress being produced in a sweatshop that took advantage of its workers? An online review said this: "It’s true that eShakti manufactures most of its clothing overseas. Its largest production facility is in India. India, however, has fairly strict labor laws that match those of the international community. The laws in India are much more stringent than those in Bangladesh."

In the box with each of the dresses I've ordered has been a card thanking me for my business, and naming the women who worked on it--Kamlesh the pattern make, Shyam the cutter, Miraj the tailor, and Kunwar quality assurance. I like to think that my business is helping them make a living wage for their families.

If you don't like the dress you ordered (and I wasn't crazy about one I received) a postage-paid label is included so that it can be returned.

So, eShakti. All the thumbs I have enthusiastically up. Or they would be if I didn't have pockets.

Want a coupon code for $35 off your first purchase? I can hook you up, and get a slightly lesser code for my own next purchase. Just leave a comment here or message me on the Empty Nest Feathers Facebook page.

If I have not yet convinced you to take this plunge, I have only one final word:


Monday, September 24, 2018

Wedding of the Century Part Deux: Counting Down

Well, that's certainly a new look in visual aids, no? I went from the brightest, most vibrant picture of Honeycrisp apples I could snap to the least colorful photo ever posted on this  site. A sharp left turn from bright to something that looks like a daguerreotype shot by Matthew Brady on his way home from Gettysburg.

That's because I'm trying to disguise what's hanging in the background: On the closet door behind the antique lamp in the guest room are three dresses that will be part of the mother-of-the-groom finery at The Wedding, which is now less than two dozen days in the future. (Yikes!) I promised myself I would not post pictures of the dresses until after the blessed event, but they pretty much epitomize my preparations so I did the photo editing equivalent of pasting a fake mustaches on them as disguise. (Tell the truth: Could you pick out those dresses in a crowd of MoGs? No, I didn't think so.)

My preparation for the wedding can pretty much be summed up in five words: Me, me, me, me, me. Also, me.

Because Boy#2's Lovely Girl and her mother are absolute dynamos of organization and creativity, and because all of the Best Men (i.e., additional Boys) can now dress themselves, I've been able to spend all of my anticipatory energy on myself.

These dresses represent six MoG outfits that were ordered, tried, and rejected (insert increasingly panicked look on my face as nothing seemed right) before I found the right one by walking into a store, picking it off a rack, and falling in love with it. Who knew that was a thing?

The closet door also supports a rehearsal dinner dress that was made especially for me by the fine ladies of eShakti, and a whole post will follow on that experience because I cannot express my love for them adequately in one paragraph.

And the dresses are repping the trial manicure, the two new pairs of party shoes (one fancy, one plain, both comfortable), the shawl I knit in case Boston weather turns cool, the teeth whitening trays, and the industrial-strength foundation garments that promise to make me look long and sleek and 21 under those dresses.

I think I have everything, plus spares of essentials.  Now it's just a matter of fitting all of this into suitcases and two weeks from tomorrow entrusting it to Southwest Airlines baggage handlers.

Just a few more days and those black-and-white dresses will be full color. We're counting down!

Friday, September 14, 2018

Friday Orts and Blurbs: Things That Are Making Me Happy

If you are a long-long-longtime reader of this blog, you may remember that a long-long-long time ago on Fridays this space was reserved for Orts and Blurbs. This was back when I had Thoughts in my head and didn't invest all my mental energy wondering where I left...something. Anything. Everything.

Anyway, orts and blurbs are short features of things I love and endorse. This week I have several things I'm loving:

1. The apples shown above. Husband and I spent last weekend with Boy#1 and Lovely Girl in their Missouri home, and One thoughtfully put out a bowl of apples as snacks. I took a bite of one and lo, the heavens opened and angels sang. They were Honeycrisp, and this cultivar is certainly the most delicious thing to come off a tree since the Garden of Eden. Better, really. They're sweet, tart, and crisp, but without the Fall of Man associated with that original apple. I immediately bought my own over-packaged Honeycrisps, and they are not inexpensive (think $1 each), but when I consider how many wizened apples I normally throw away from the bargain bag, it's about the same cost.

2. This book. Oh, people, this book. I know I am late to the party (it was published in 2004) but I am savoring it as if it were a Honeycrisp apple. To sum it up: An aged father, knowing he will die soon, writes his legacy to his young son. I'm only halfway through but I have re-read, lightly underlined (it's a library book and I will erase before I return the book), and pondered at least a dozen pages that are now paper-clipped for future reference. One of my favorite paragraphs:
For me writing has always felt like praying, even when I wasn't writing prayers, as I was often enough. You feel that you are with someone. I feel I am with you now, whatever that can mean considering that you're only a little fellow now and when you are a man you might find these letters of no interest. Or they might never reach you, for any of a number of reasons. Well, but how deeply I regret any sadness you have suffered and how grateful I am in anticipation of any good you have enjoyed. That is to say, I pray for you. And there's an intimacy in it. That's the truth. 
Oh, so lovely, and such truth in that for any writer or parent.


3. Knitting and Netflix. As the weather has cooled from if-it's-July-in-Kansas-this-must-be-hell highs to September's more reasonable temperatures I've been able to put several projects into the finished column. I hold dear the superstition that if I'm happy while knitting the stitches come off the needles easier so it was the perfect time to discover that The Great British Baking Show is now on Netflix. This series is quite possibly my favorite television show of all time, and I'm including Here Come the Brides in that assessment. (My teenaged self is shrieking in disbelief.) Lovely people, lovely food, and the self-delusion that if I were in the tent I'd get a Paul Hollywood handshake for my dinner rolls. This and lovely Icelandic wool are the perfect companions.

4. Finally, the thing that happened during my junior high accompanying gig yesterday. The delightful and energetic young teacher was warming up the group when she uttered the following sentence: "Boys have one wonderful thing that girls don't have. Does anyone know what that is?" The seventh grade boys on the front row came unglued, as did the accompanist, because the accompanist apparently has a junior high sense of double entendre.

Falsetto. She was talking about falsetto. And she carried on with the class without missing a beat. Brava, Mrs. M.

What's making you happy these days?

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Cranky Wednesday

Boy#4's falafal was not awful. (It was wonderful.)
It is a cranky Wednesday here in the midsection of the nation.

Other than my usual reasons for crankiness (the political climate has continued to be jaw-droppy for almost two years, and Doc Martin is on its final season) I've been trying to suss out why I'm feeling especially stabby this morning, and I've narrowed it down to a few suspected causes:

1. It is raining. Again. And while we in the midsection of the nation love rain for the refilling of the aquifer and replenishing of the land, we are within days of the annual festival that doubles the population of Small Town and puts tie-dye in every aisle of WalMart. I don't have a personal financial stake in this festival, but I feel for those who are fielding the REALLY cranky questions from campers who will slog around in rain boots for days on end complaining about their banjo strings being out of tune.

2. Also, it was raining yesterday and I had to walk through two inches of run-off in the parking lot and may have ruined my favorite sandals.

3. Also, I found a tiny snake on the back steps of the House on the Corner. By tiny, I mean that it was caught in a spider web that my execrable housekeeping had conveniently left unswept, and I thought it was a three-inch piece of snipped yarn until it wiggled at me. It may have been a friendly wiggle or a cry for help (see also: caught in spider web) but I'm still wrestling with the question of whether napalm or a Molotov cocktail would be more efficient in burning the house down.

4. Also, I am back to my job-shared accompanying gig, but my partner-in-sharing is out for September so I am working (brace yourself) EVERY DAY. By that I mean four days each week, but people, after a lazy summer this feels GRUELING.

5. Also, Husband is not completely sympathetic about #4, seeing that a computer conversion means he is working pretty much non-stop with no regard for days at all.

So,  crankiness. However, just two days ago I had one of the most lovely days ever.

1. I finished a knitting project* that was so much fun, and when I got it onto the blocking board (aka the guest bed) and stuck 354 blocking pins into it, it also was beautiful! This is a rarer outcome than one would imagine, with me often standing over a drying garment on which I have spent actual U.S. dollars to buy yarn, not to mention the investment of uncounted hours of time, thinking "Yeah, don't really like that at all."

2. Also, at two weeks my manicure is going strong. It's nearing the growing-out stage at which I will need to revisit my manicurist as I have been informed that a powder manicure removal is not to be attempted by amateurs, but if  you don't look closely, these nails show no indication that I have used them to scrub pans multiple times in the past two weeks.

3. Also, Boy#4 spent a couple of days at the HotC, and oh, people, it is so fun to have grown-up Boys in the house. Not only are they good conversationalists who tell interesting stories, they cook. For Labor Day lupper (like brunch, but between lunch and supper) Four made falafal to go with my homemade pita bread and it was one of the best meals I've had in ages. I was the worst mother ever when it came to teaching my children to cook (I am territorial and impatient in the kitchen, which is not a good look) but all four of our sons have turned into excellent, adventuresome chefs.

4. Also, Husband heard my shriek and evicted the minuscule snake from the back steps, and was very sweet about my unapologetic dumping of that task on him. He reminded me that years ago one of the Boys found a tiny garter snake on those same stairs and we survived that horror so we will probably live through this one as well.

So while it is still raining, I'm now drinking a nice cup of coffee during my break between classes and feeling somewhat less cranky.

Also, Doc Martin isn't gone quite yet.

*The knitting project was a shawl named "Waiting for Rain" by Sylvia McFadden that I worked in a beautiful yarn I got on sale and still thought was a stretch for my budget. I'd link the pattern, but I'm lazy. Knitters, find it on Ravelry. 

Monday, August 27, 2018

Avert Your Eyes (Fingertip Edition)

Oh, gosh! I'm sorry!

Did you not pay see the title of this post and accidentally glance at today's "beauty shot"? (I use that term ironically.) Well, believe me when I say that the assortment of copyright-protected shots of funguses, infections, and other stomach-turning maladies that result from a Google search of "strange fingernails" is even worse than the image you see here.

We are now at T-minus 47 days in the countdown to the Wedding of the Century Part Deux, which means that the speed of Project Mutton Into Lamb is accelerating. (As, obviously, was the usage of capital letters in that previous sentence, for which I apologize.)

The Mother of the Groom dress has been checked off the list, and although I'm not posting any online pictures until the day of the ceremony or thereabouts, suffice it to say that I love it. It is so fancy and princess-y, in fact, that I realized the hands emerging from its sleeves were not up to snuff.

My hands can be charitably described as well-used. They have developed Grandma Veins(TM) and age spots because I'm an overachiever even though I don't have grandchildren and still feel quite young. They have converted years of piano playing and knitting into knobby index knuckles. They have been mistreated (one fingertip crushed by slamming into a Suburban door, another scarred by injudicious use of a cutting tool) and my fingernails are routinely used as screwdrivers, pot scrubbers, back scratchers, weed diggers, and label removers.

But I am optimistic, always, and when a young and beautiful friend said that all my hands needed was a dip manicure, I believed her.

I have never had a manicure in my life. Oh, I've slapped some clear polish on my nails, and when Boy#1 and Lovely Girl were married I asked the woman doing my pedicure to clean up my cuticles, but a full manicure? See the list of things I use my hands for and tell me if that seems like a good investment. (Rabbit trail: Almost every time I am in the nail salon I see teenagers in the salon having full manicures and pedicures. HOW DO THEY AFFORD THIS?)

So last week, when I was in for the every-four-weeks maintenance on my summer feet, I asked the sweet girl who does that job to also give my fingertips a makeover.

"A dip, please," I told her. "I like my nails short, and I'd like a French tip."


I was the worst manicure subject ever. Even though she warned me to PLEASE STOP MOVING MY HANDS, I apparently have ticklish fingers because every time she grasped a different digit I flinched. By the fifth application of powder and polish I was getting the hang of it but did you know that you can't blow on a dip manicure, or wave it around, or do any of the things you'd normally do to make it dry more quickly when you have already been in the nail shop for upwards of two hours and there are miles to go before you sleep? Poor Kelly was beside herself.

"I CANNOT FIX THEM!" she warned me, probably remembering the number of times I've limped back into the shop after smacking my new pedicure as I got into the car. "THEY WRINKLE!"

So I sat there with my hands quieted, pondering the new reality in which my fingernails wrinkle. It's the logical next step, I guess, since the rest of my body seems to be more Shar-Pei every day.

Five days later, I'm optimistic about my fingertips. My instructions of short plus French tip means they are not exactly what I want to see (a little too much of both of those) but the durability seems excellent. In fact, as I picked baked-on casserole off an under-soaked Pyrex last night I forgot to pamper the nails, and they were still shiny and unchipped when I finished.

Now if I could only do something about those Grandma Veins....