Apr 302007

I’ve been quite busy for the last few days. We’re working on some home improvement projects (I’ll probably post about them when they’re finished), we have been de-cluttering insane amounts of books and then I have been rediscovering my passion for bags. It all started with the fact that I bought a couple of new chocolate-brown clothes because of the fashion paradigm-shift. And despite just having bought a new purse in 2005 I had to get out and get another one. A black or brown one. Well, that was easily done though I had to settle for something affordable instead of the most beautiful purse I found. 380 € for a purse did seem a little much. So everything would have been well, I have a new purse which I like very much and I’ll still be able to buy groceries for the next weeks, but then I became hooked on a bag-making blog:

The bags are gorgeous, the blog is cheerful and visually stimulating, and best of all blogger Lisa is offering free tutorials on the blog.

So I went a little crazy and thought, why don’t I make myself a bag. An easy one like the big grocery bag with stuff sack. And she said it would take only one hour!

I went up into the attic and spent about an hour unearthing leftover fabric. I found something green and something purple which told me that the last time I sew must have been about twenty years ago. Apart from curtains and such. The next day I went to the local craft supplies shop. Well, I hope I’ll someday remember that it’s never a good idea to just go out and buy local where I live. What I needed was some fleece for padding and a bolt snap. Ha! There was exactly one snap, golden, ugly, heavy, and expensive and they didn’t have the right fleece. I bought some other lining because I didn’t want to leave the shop empty-handed, went home and decided to use what I had on hand. (Later I found a better snap at the hardware store…)

On my so-called “day off”, which means about 90 minutes of free time, I fetched my ironing board, iron (which hadn’t seen daylight for about two years), and sewing stuff.


I used an old newspaper for the pattern and started cutting the pieces out. Two hours later I was the proud owner of this:


Though I had to cut out one piece twice because I had forgotten to add the seam allowance to the top of one of the pieces, I didn’t dawdle. I think I might be what the Austrian author Christine Nöstlinger calls a “Haushaltsschnecke” (that’s household snail). Everything I do that has to do with housework seems to take ages. (On the other hand I think that having better tools might have helped with speed.) And speaking of seaming allowances, if it says, “Add seaming allowance to all pieces” then just add it. Don’t think you’re so clever and can leave it off. You might end up with a cozy that’s just a little too small. Just saying.)

After that day which I had devoted solely to the sewing project I was deeply frustrated and remembered why I had stopped sewing decades ago. I already knew that sewing projects require a lot more time doing things like ironing and pinning and thinking and then cursing because you just can’t figure out how the pieces are supposed to fit together than sewing time, but this was a little disheartening.

Since I absolutely wanted to finish this, though, I pulled everything out again on Sunday plus the sewing machine, and continued. First I finished the cozy. Well, I thought I had finished the cozy before I found out that I had to rip it up again because I had sewn it together wrong (I didn’t take a picture of this). But then I had this:


Progress! Then I tackled the difficult part. This is a picture of the half-finished lining bag (there wasn’t enough of the greenish fabric so I had to make it bi-colored):


And I really should have sewn the lining bag first because now I have an exterior bag with sewn-in folds where there shouldn’t be folds and a lining bag that’s smooth and perfect…

But eventually I was finished. It took about six hours for those of you interested and while having a cheap sewing-machine is better than having none there was a lot of frustration because the machine refuses to sew anything that might be a little thick. It just gets stuck and has to be persuaded by sheer force to transport the fabric. But who cares because now I have this:


Look at the interior:


And while I learned that sewing is something that needs lots of free time, a clear mind, and a room where you can leave the machine and the ironing board for a while, and more patience than I ever thought I might have, I also might be infected with the bag making bug.

Apr 242007

Every time we tell people that we don’t own a car they say, “Oh, I could never give up my freedom like that.” Okay. So for most people having a car equals freedom. They probably have an image in their heads like driving down the highway in a convertible with flowing hair. In summer. Not another car in sight. Like a car commercial. They think of speed and agility and power and strength. Not of being stuck in traffic looking for a parking space when you’re late and everyone wants to go shopping at once.

(Before you think I’m all “holier-than-thou” I have to add that my mother-in-law owns a car. It is sitting in our garage and we share it. But when this one dies (and it’s an old car) there won’t be a new one. For the money it costs to just have it sitting in the garage you can take a taxi to the grocery store every time and buy a piano on top of that.)

But I didn’t want to write about cars though I could go on and on, I wanted to write about what gives me a feeling of freedom. First it’s this:

It’s not because they are red though it helps. These shoes are a symbol to me. A symbol that I value myself enough to buy myself real comfortable shoes. They tell me that I can walk everywhere. That I am strong and capable. And independent. I’m not dependent on a machine; I can just walk away whenever I choose to. And my feet could carry me to China and back again. It would take a little while, I know; that’s why I’m not walking everywhere. But for my everyday life I can shop, go to preschool and back, go for a walk in the woods and all I need are those shoes. They are special walking shoes. For nordic walking to be precise, though I don’t do this often (haven’t pulled my sticks out in half a year or so). My feet don’t hurt. When I was in my twenties and had moved to the city my feet always hurt. In cities you have to walk a lot more than in the country. Then I discovered walking sneakers. With expensive shock absorbing thingies in the heels. Ha! When I visited a friend in Berlin and we went sight-seeing one day from 9 to 3 we came home and she lay down on the floor with her feet up on a chair saying, “My feet are killing me.” And I stood next to her thinking, “Well, my feet do feel a little uncomfortable, come to think of it.” And that was all.

The next thing that gives me a feeling of freedom is this:

I know, it’s not very pretty. Though it is red which is always good. I bought it when I was at my biggest. Right now I’m waiting for oversized jackets to come into fashion again.

I had wanted a gore-tex jacket since 1990 when I first discovered that there was such a thing. What I love about this jacket is that I can wear it all year round. It has a fleece jacket inside that you can zip out when it gets warmer. It is light, it is rain-proof but you don’t feel like you’re wearing a plastic bag. When I’m out walking and it starts to rain I just pull the hood up and I’m comfy again.

Every day when I’m bringing my son to preschool I have to smile when I see the other parents struggling with finding parking space and fiddling with keys, car seats and safety belts. My son and I just walk there. Quite slowly because he’s only four. Then I say goodbye to him for the day and there’s this feeling of freedom rushing in. I zip my jacket and just go. Often I take a detour for the sheer joy of walking. I move, I can think, I feel the air on my face, the pavement under my cushioned shoes – bliss. It’s even better when I got for a walk in the woods. Unencumbered I just walk and look and think. It makes me happy.

There was a time when I felt guilty about this sudden feeling of bliss and freedom I have at the door of preschool every day but then I remembered the times before my son was away from home five days a week. I remembered the walks I took with him. They were the only form of exercise I did in those days. I put him in the stroller, donned my walking shoes and my trusty jacket and started walking. And I felt the same feeling of elation. Even if he spent most of the walk screaming, it was worth it. When he was a baby I often put him in the sling. Then I could even walk in the woods. Or go to the city. I could laugh at stairs and narrow doors. I would just keep on walking. Stepping over obstacles. Free. Strong. Independent.

So don’t tell me freedom is about convertibles or motorcycles. I’m really not one of those women to whom it’s all about shoes but in this case shoes are very important. Shoes one really can walk in. Free.

Apr 142007

but I didn’t buy them. And I feel like a bad mother for it.

It isn’t as if he had expressed a liking for pink and girlish things only yesterday when we went to buy new sandals. For weeks he has been saying that he only likes colors like pink and purple and that he wants pink sneakers or pink socks or whatever pinkish clothing caught his eyes in the supermarket.

I have been thinking about this for ages. Periodically he wants to be a girl or a woman. He then wants to be called like Leah instead of Leo and pretends that he is a female astronaut or the mother of his teddy who’s then called Kokolishba (he made that name up). Leah by the way is Brazilian. Kokolishba is her son, they are both visiting Germany and Kokolishba is four years old. Sometimes Leah is married to the child’s father whose name is Kokolishba too. Of course Leah wears skirts and dresses and likes to got to the spa, dye her hair and wears make-up. As a mother I can say that this Leah is much easier to bath than Leo. After a few weeks of pretending to be female my son always finds something else to play, reacts to his real name again and that’s it. Until the next time.

Of course at four he is the age when all children are thinking about gender roles and about what things are appropriate or not for men and women. It is the age of conventionality. We meet a man with long hair, my son starts laughing, “But men don’t have long hair!”, how ridiculous. I say, “But of course there are men with long hair. Just like women can have short hair. “But women have long hair!” So what about your grandmother and the kindergarten teacher and …

He come home one day and says that he only likes colors like black and brown nowadays. Because he’s a boy and boy only like dark colors. Like a good feminist mother I say, “But you can like all colors. Whichever you want.” “But only girls like pink and purple.” “But boys can like pink and purple too.” Obviously he took that to heart. When we went to the supermarket two weeks ago there was a display of children’s clothing up front. My son wanted to have pink, um, “Gymnastikschuhe” (the nearest would be ballet slippers I think but in Germany small kids wear those during gymnastics). I said that he already had some. He wanted pink socks. They were too big. I was relieved.

So yesterday I bought him new sandals since the old ones were too small. We entered the shop and looked at sandals in his size. “I want these.” he said, pointing to very, very girlish pink ones with flowers. “Or these.”, he said clutching those:

Well, if they were to be pink those would have been acceptable to me. But then what if the other children in preschool would laugh about him. “Look at Leo”, they’d say, he’s wearing girly shoes!” and then they’d laugh like my son laughed when he saw a man with a ponytail and then he wouldn’t want to wear them again. Shoes for 45 €. I tried to interest him in the same model in blue. No chance. A sales woman came. “But you can’t have pink shoes. You’re a boy.” and then to me “Is he in preschool?” “Yes.” “The other children would make fun of him. Children can be cruel.” In the end us two grown-ups showed him all the advantages of pretty blue and mud-colored sandals. Now he has a pair that is very suitable for jumping into puddles:

He’s very happy with his new shoes and claims that he can jump better and run faster with them. But I feel rotten. I never would have thought that I would discourage my son to follow his taste. Mind you, I wouldn’t want a girl to be dressed all in pink either but I’d tend towards brighter colors, more orange, yellow and red. Have you ever compared the boy and girl section of a clothing department? Well, I suppose you have. Rows and rows of bright and colorful girl’s clothes followed by about half the amount of things for boys. And then you can choose between blue, grey, and mud-colored. With pictures of trucks or skaters.

Why isn’t there more unisex clothing for at least the smaller children? Bright and cheerful colors? Why does everything for girls have to be pink and frilly? Why are horses girlish? Since when? Horses used to be for knights and warriors and work. Now they are girl stuff. Why does there have to be so much gender distinction? Why did my mother-in-law fear that my son would turn out gay when we gave him a doll for his first birthday? (And for his third another one?) Why aren’t there more male dolls?

I don’t know if I should have made a statement. Buy my son pink sandals. They would have looked mud-colored after a few weeks anyway because, seriously, white soles? Very funny. Are they machine-washable?

When I became a feminist at age 13 I never would have thought that 18 years later people would still say things like, “But everybody knows that men can’t iron.” “Men just can’t talk about feelings.” , “You know, I never can figure out computers, but that’s because I’m a woman.” Okay. So women don’t have brains and men don’t have feelings? A boy has to be interested in sports, computers, soccer and fighting and a girl has to be interested in dolls, horses, fashion and housework. Wow, I’m glad I figured that out.

And the other thing I never would have thought would be that nowadays it’s okay for a girl to play soccer but a boy still isn’t supposed to play with dolls. I’m really angry about this. I’d like to live in a world where everybody can wear what he or she wants. Pink, blue, high heels, sneakers, who cares.

But I’m not living in such a world and so I wonder: Should I have bought him pink sandals?

Oh, and later that day I went out and bought him pink socks. With horses. And hearts.

(There’s a follow-up to this post here.)

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Feb 252007

Orange is my most favorite color in the world. It’s vibrant and fiery and friendly and sunny and warm. And it suits my complexion.

It’s also associated with the second chakra, with – according to Sonia Choquette – our vitality, our emotional and sensual well-being. With quite basic needs though not as basic as those attributed to the first chakra, the foundation where our personal power and well-being originate. The first chakra is associated with the color red.

Sadly, orange will soon be out of fashion again. You can see it. Right now clothes for young women are brown, soft pink, black or white. Orange clothes can only be found in stores for women age 50 and older. So, out of fashion it is.

This happened to me once before. At the end of the seventies, orange vanished and I had to transfer my love to hot pink. Well, I might like pink too, but pink doesn’t like me. I can live with red, that’s okay, but not as good as having the choice between red and orange.

There was a shirt I once saw and didn’t buy at the time because I was pregnant then, and I still lust for it: Indian, tie-dyed, orange, red and pink with an image of Ganesha on the front. Ah.

I’ll be quite content as long as they leave me at least some color, but I fear the days of black only are coming back. Not that I have anything against black as such. Marvelous color. Especially for shoes and pants. (Even for blogs.) But tops?

You see, I’m an autumn type. That means I look good in brownish colors, moss green, burgundy, burnt orange or terracotta. Some autumn people may wear caramel or pastels but not me. Pale colors, white and especially black or pink make me look s if all color had been drained out of my face. Oh, and don’t forget gray.

There used to be a time when I wore black, grey, red and green exclusively. With very pale makeup and very red lipstick. Those were the early 90s. Vampire look. Then a friend told me that maybe grey and black were not the ideal colors for me and you know what? Nobody has asked me if I felt sick when I was actually healthy since I changed my look.

So, I’m mourning the fashion shift. There were orange tops, orange sweaters, even orange purses, backpacks and shoes. One time they even made my favorite computer wear tangerine. No more.

Do you think it will come back sometime? In 30 years or so? For now I’m stockpiling on moss-green and brown.

(This is what happens when I cheat and use my writing group assignment for a blog post. And when I write my writing group assignment on the way to the meeting on the train. The train ride only takes 20 minutes. I’ll be back with regular posting next week.)

Jul 052006

First mistake. Second mistake: I thought it’d be easier not to got to big city but stay in the suburbs. So I went into the local dessous shop with an extraordinarly dumb name. I go there with the top that I’m going to wear to my sister’s wedding and say that I’m looking for a matching bra, no see-through straps, not beige and not white. The sales woman looks at me and says,

“You’re probably a 75 C.” (Note to reader, these are German sizes.)

“I’m not sure, I have lost a bit of weight recently.”

Then, what is she bringing for me? Right, a couple of white or beige bras with see-through straps. With padding. Some have straps you can take off, which leaves you with a cup that stands away from your breasts. Funny sight. And which size does she bring? 80 C. Me:

“I’d rather have a 75, please.”

“But then it’s so tight.”

“But I’d like one in 75 anyway.” (So that it’ll still fit, when I continue losing weight.)

“But it’s better if it isn’t so tight.”

After I insist, she brings one in 75 C. Me:

“The cups are too small.”

“I already told you it’ll be too tight, I’ll bring you the 80 C.”

“Please don’t, it’s the cups that are too small.”

“But that’s C, you had C in the other bra as well.”

Um yeah, but 80 C. At that point I should have left the shop immediately.

(For co-reading men: The number represents the measurement around the body under the breasts in centimeters, the letter represents the size of the cup with A being smaller than B. Now for the catch: Women with wider rib cages usually have bigger boobs as well, so the cup of 75 C is as big as the cup of 80 B. So 80 C equals 75 D. Men don’t have to know this. But women who work in dessous shops do.)

At last she wanted to tell me that a brown, padded monster with fake printed black lace would be perfect. She even would have sold it to me without the matching string. Sadly, that bra was: double the price I had wanted to pay, extremely ugly, and – too big. The fact that a bra holds somehow and keeps the boobs from spilling out when you’re not leaning over does not mean that it fits.

I uttered a lame “I have to think about it, because it is a little too expensive” and fled. (To be true I uttered an even lamer “I have to ask my husband about this.” I lied.)

1 1/2 hours wasted and no bra in sight. (During those 1 1/2 hours I dressed, undressed, put the top on, undressed … )

Home, eat ice cream.

After the ice cream I tried again. I went to a shop my MIL knew. They have Triumph bras. Nice. In the hour I spent there I didn’t see a single sales woman. They had a sale and it was quite crowded, ‘though. Most of the bras were not quite what I wanted, more in the line of what my granny would like. (At least nobody tried to sell me a string.) By the way, my bra size is (but you already guessed that) 75 D. The first thing I did was buy me a black sports bra like the others that I’ve been wearing exclusively for years. (I have a white one too.) Since I’ve been shrinking the ones that I bought while still breastfeeding (90 C) don’t really fit anymore. (And the Intermezzo in the dessous shop showed me why I like to buy my bras in the sportswear shop.)

I love these bras: they don’t pinch, they’re comfy, you don’t have to fear your boobs falling out when you lean over, they don’t have seams, they’re looking good, and I don’t have to change when I’m doing yoga, or something. Only their broad comfy bra straps don’t look good under a tank top. But I would have worn it anyway if my eyes hadn’t fallen on another table with bras on sale. Now I have a turquoise bra with wires too! Sadly the cups are a little too small (75 C), but the top I’ll be wearing has ruffles in all the important places. (Um, I know. I wouldn’t have thought there’d be a time when I’d be wearing something with ruffles, flowers and bows, but trust me, it looks fabulous.) I trust myself to go on shrinking (and then it’ll fit), and it cost me only 10% of the brown monster.

I don’t know, why I’m still letting myself be pushed around by sales women, but if you’re going to buy a bra, read Bitch PhD’s tips about the right choice in bras, part 1 und 2 and this thing by Oprah.