A Loose Garment

Crafting a Life on Life's Terms

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Too Fierce To Care

I woke up recently and realized everything I thought I wanted six months ago had completely changed. Drastically.

One of the byproducts of my style experiment is the discovery that I don’t actually care about fashion. Which is not the same thing as not caring about clothes, but back to that in a minute.

Sometime in the last month I magically stopped caring what others thought of how I presented myself. This is not to say that I have gone to seed – rather that my only criteria for leaving the house now are my personal standards of aesthetics and hygiene. Those are certainly affected by the culture I live in, but my point is that I don’t think about it when I’m in public anymore, and I’ve totally disengaged from fashion mags, etc, without purposefully trying to.

What’s more interesting about this is how it’s renewed my interest in knitting and knits. Two reasons: One, I’ve discovered that, for me, pants are bullshit. (Insert giant exclamation point here – this was a huge shock to my androgynous closet.) But as a cyclist I need a compromise. Hence, knits in the form of leggings, etc. Two, turns out what I’ve really been interested in this whole time is craftsmanship. What fanciful delights can people make, and how well can they make them. Nevermind this whole trend-and-shopping business, what’s interesting to make and look at?

Now, as we all know, No interest in fashion + Strong interest in crafts = Middle Aged Cat Lady in Purple. Some of my favorite people are MACLIPs, so no judgment. Let’s just say that, gratefully, I’m not a cat person.

What’s actually been holding my interest all year is this . . . :

(My 3 month old pepper plants, started from seed)

. . . because they turn into stuff like this:

(Mmmmm, strata!)

This slow transformation into a Mini Earth Momma began, I think, over a year ago. While at MassArt, I realized that most of the students around me were really energized by the world of fashion and designers, and for me the opposite was happening. The more I learned, the less I wanted in. As a result, I told myself that activewear was my calling – and it very well may be. At least the center motivation for that (on a good day) is taking care of oneself. But don’t get it twisted – that’s still definitely part of the fashion industry.

I’m trying to embrace these shifts, rather than fight them. There was a lot of self-doubt mucking things up in my cranium, but at this point it’s mostly been cleared away. I’m starting to learn about farming and more about cooking, while still attending to things I said I would do from what feels like my past life. Exposed Seam is still very much happening, and I am still excited about it most days. Making stuff that makes it easier for people to get out and get active still very much interests me. And after a short list of personal items I’m keen to knit through, I’ll be returning to sweater & home design in my “spare time”.

In short, I’m becoming a homesteader. Laugh if it so moves you.

My favorite thing about all this is the liberation I feel today. Suddenly, I’m free from:

– the constant feeling of “if I only had X” and the time lost searching for “X” (in vain, usually)
– the time suck of engaging in media that isn’t truly relevant
– others’ opinions about what is worth my time
– the feeling of being uncomfortable in my own skin

What started as an excuse to clear my closet of clutter and buy new clothes became a much bigger journey. All the in-between steps of sorting out my colors and venturing back into heels (a failure, btw) were useful in and of themselves, but also because they were breadcrumbs along the trail to the true destination. Once I had enough puzzle pieces sorted out, the picture became clear: I have seen the real me, and she is too fierce to care.

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To Jew or Not to Jew, That Is the Question

I’ve been thinking about Jewish identity as relates to food the last few weeks. Two factors play into this:

1. Matisyahu now looks like a young Scott Thompson. (from Kids In The Hall, eh?)

2. We have a chef-friend who is very into the pig, and also into the Jewish. He and his wife are great friends of ours, and they seem to be able to combine prosciutto and Shabbat with impunity.

Last year I read Kosher Nation and found it to be helpful really only in one regard: it left me feeling that Kosherization by organization is a racket, especially with regards to meats. The 1970’s idea that perhaps local, fresh, humanely raised, potentially organic meats and produce may be the “new Kosher” very much appeals to me. I think it’s fair to say Sue Fishkoff somewhat takes that stance in her book as well.

That at least left me feeling clear on where I stand with regards to certification of foods. But it didn’t leave me any less confused about kosher prohibitions in general.

A saying I find very useful is “Take what you need and leave the rest.” The problem with that is, with Jewish law, where do I draw the line? And if the answer is that everyone’s line is drawn at different points that happen to work best for them, then where is the boundary of Jewish identity?

These are questions most Jews (er, well, at least most Reform rabbis) deal with on the daily. Is it okay to be a Cafeteria-style Jew?

The other question is, how much of my desire to bend the pork-and-shellfish rule is really out of cultural and peer pressure? No one is actually pressuring me, but I have this internal struggle of wanting very much to fit in with my Italian family and my pig-loving friends, and to share fully with them in foodie delights.

Food is a really big deal for me. Earlier in life it was a big deal because my relationship with it was disordered, so I spent many years selfishly imposing dietary restrictions on myself and those around me. Now that my eating and self-image are largely healthy, I feel a sense of responsibility to not impose unnecessary restrictions on myself or those I love. I consider food central to personal relations, so I have a real desire to remove barriers to bonding.

On the other hand, some restrictions are more important than bonds, or even forge bonds themselves. To wit: alcohol is an absolute no-go for me in any form. This is so crucial that if it were difficult for me to bond with someone in the absence of alcohol, I would let them fade away. Likewise, there are many people I have gotten to know well and now cherish because we have this alcohol-free commonality.

My husband lies in between, just like my Judaism. We share some crucial restrictions, as well as a love of our faith. We also share a love of most foods, but he comes with a desire to avoid, at minimum, pork-and-shellfish, and sometimes the meat-with-dairy issue as well. He’s welcome to do that, and up to now I have happily done the same. I worry that should I ultimately decide otherwise, it would cause a rift in our bond, which is the most important personal bond I have.

Which brings me back to Matisyahu. My first thought when I saw his new look was “I wonder how his wife took this.” Obviously this would have been a dialogue – you don’t spring that shit on your spouse if your relationship is solid – so she was probably really supportive. But if you’ve been married to someone who’s been frum for a decade, likely since you met them, it could be an adjustment.

Let’s assume she’s awesome and they’re awesome and it’s all good. The same could be said of my husband and my marriage, so what do I have to lose? On the other hand, do I actually have anything to gain – even just my own food-related pleasure – by going fully treif?

I think this is really more about me learning to please myself rather than others. I want to please my husband by remaining kosher-style, I want to please my family and friends by being treif, and I want to please god and I don’t really know how. So in the final analysis, it looks like I’m going to have to trust my gut. (And to answer your question, of course the pun is intended.)

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Things I’d rather be doing today

1. Working on my project for class (which is due tomorrow). Maybe during lunch . . .

2. Knitting these (from this book).

3. Making another one of these salads:

4. Reading this book so I can finally get it back to the friend who lent it to me (and because so far it is hilarious).

5. Reading Amanda Palmer’s Blog. The Rocky Horror veteran that I am wants very badly to attend this.

6. Working out. No, really. Four days without my regular bike commute and I feel very unlike myself.

7. Making love with my man.

8. Dancing.

9. Moving into our new digs.

10. Having a leisurely lunch with my besties.

What would you rather be doing today?

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From Italy With Love

I called my grandmother this morning for the first time since getting engaged. She lives in Rome and I am terrible about calling her on the regular. So she was understandably the tiniest bit clippy when I said “Yes, I’m getting married!” and she replied “I know! Your mother told me.”

She’s well, everyone else in her family is sick. It’s depressing albeit reality, and I called a friend to ask what I could do to be of service to her, since she doesn’t need cash and really, that isn’t the point anyway. If she were in desperate material need, we would have seen to it she got help ages ago. And when my grandfather died, indeed my mother did just that. Today, it’s about finding some way to make her life a little sweeter and more joyful while she’s surrounded by (not to sound too dramatic here) portents of death.

The answer? Oh the toughest questions always have the simplest answers – share my life with her. Reach out to her more regularly, tell her what I am going through, send care packages – not of money, but with photos and things I’ve made and anything that conveys that she is a part of our family, and while there are many endings, we are full of beginnings too.

This is an important lesson in service, because I will get nothing material out of doing this, and it requires time and energy and repetition, so I cannot do it once and then pat myself on the back. Nor can I expect that she will call me or write to say thank you, since communication for her is harder than it is for me. The point is finally do something for her that is all about her, and has no trace in it of what she can do for me. Embarassingly, though honestly, that is a new thing.

La Tartine Gourmande fittingly had a recipe up this morning for stuffed zucchini, one of my favorite dishes she used to make. One way I’ve been honoring my grandmother is to cook for Jonathan and I more, to cook simple, thoughtful meals with fresh, healthy ingredients, just like she did. (Gazpacho and grilled cheese sandwiches with Gruyere this weekend – YUM.) For his birthday tomorrow I used the skills she taught me in her sewing room to make part of his gift. She is living through me and affected my life in ways she may not know or understand, and as I write this I realize that showing her that may just be the best way to say thank you.

Obviously, no Etsy updates this weekend. We took the time to do a HUGE unloading of the attic through, I hope the garbage collectors who come this morning are patient and willing! It was such a relief to get a good portion of the house emptied, and I am just trying not to think about the rest of it for now.

Visiting Mary V. at the Franklin Mill Store this evening. Excited to see her, trying to just keep my head on-task for the day until I get to leave and zip down there, followed by hopefully a nice dinner with mum and bro. Clearly if I am already thinking about dinner, “keeping it in the day” will be challenging today, but I am up to the challenge.

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Saturday Breakfast On a Workday

A nice treat this morning was tiny potatoes with yogurt & chives, and some smoked salmon with egg (whites):

Being able to take the time to cook this simple, satisfying spread for a change (my usual breakfast is a Luna bar and a piece of fruit) really helped us ease into the morning.

And I can’t say enough about Trader Joe’s Greek Yogurt Dip with chives. A brilliant solution to the fromage blanc problem.

Life, work, and more life today. Pictures of a beautiful scarf I made a few weeks ago and some market tote bags to be added to Etsy on Saturday. Mais, avant que je travaille, another right proper déjeuner.

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La Tartine Gourmande as Deus Ex Machina

NPR recently mentioned La Tartine Gourmande in a cooking story, and I have been hooked ever since.

The combination of her beautiful food photos and light punctuations of French among her writing somehow gelled together in my brain with visions of the now-defunct Oilily, my days at the office spent listening to Frenchpod, and some of the France-inspired items I recently added to my Etsy shop.

The result, voici, is a warm, bubbling feeling in my gut – brand identity, I has found mine.

Ten years ago, this is not the identité I had in mind. Thank goodness for time and color.


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