March 2009

10 years of roo pants

I like to keep my favorite pants around for a long time, using them as “art pants” after they’ve become too worn out even to wear to lab.  You may notice a theme to these pants:

There is one pair missing from the series—a lightweight cotton pair that met an untimely end during my neuroanatomy final the first year of grad school when the back pocket caught on the chair and ripped a large hole in the seat.  Before that there were several pairs in a similar style but made of olive green corduroy.  Each of these was my favorite pair of pants for a few years—the pair that was comfortable, went with everything, and made me feel generally good about what I was wearing—then began the long slow decline into art-pants-dom.

A charitable interpretation of this is that I found my “personal silhouette” (as the Sartorialist calls it) early on.  A less charitable interpretation is that my fashion sense is hopelessly trapped in the early nineties.  

With every pair I had a year or two of bliss before the pocket developed a hole, the zipper gave out, and I spilled something on them that I couldn’t wash out.  Then I began the painful search for another perfect pair, which generally coincided with a resurgence in the popularity of tapered stretch pants.  I should note that none of these is really “perfect.”  I was never crazy about the cargo pockets on the first one, the next two are cut too low, and the last one doesn’t even really fit around the waist, which is why I had to replace the buttons several times before finally giving up last fall and moving them into the art pants pile.

But now—now—my days of serial pants relationships are over.  I modified the Simplicity pants I made a few weeks ago and now present to you the Perfect Roo Pants:

Ok, maybe they aren’t that exciting to people who aren’t me.  But check out the waistband facing:

And the back pockets:

And best of all I have the pattern!  Which means I can make them again when these wear out!  

I’m not sure if these are quite the Platonic Ideal of pants yet—maybe they need a waistband on the outside?  But they sure are comfy.

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Who says you can’t eat well in Boston?

Like many recovering Californians, I have been known to say unkind things about the food available in my new non-California place of residence.   I might have even said that there was nothing worth eating in Boston— conveniently ignoring Mayflower Poultry, New Deal Fish Market, and Tosci’s ice cream, not to mention our discoveries of Tamanishiki rice and Sagyegeol Ssamjang (Korean seasoned soy bean paste, or “mouth crack” as we call it) which we made only after moving here, thanks to two Korean markets (Lotte and Reliable) in walking distance.  What’s still true (I think) is that the best meals we’ve had here have been prepared by friends, not restaurants, from Vikas and Sonali’s vegetarian Indian spread, to Farhad’s Persian salmon and rice, to Emre’s…er…Turkish delights.

Last weekend we had a real treat.  Matt and Melissa work just across the quad from me, and are consummate foodies.  We met Matt at the Whitney Fellows meeting, along with Beth, another foodie/Whitney fellow, and her husband Per.  A few months ago we had both couples over for an afternoon of lamb shanks, and this weekend Matt and Melissa upped the ante with Five Courses on the Theme of Spring.  Crab and Avacado Soup, Garlic Shrimp with Fresh Salsa, Asparagus with Ham and Poached Egg, Filet Mignon with Brussel Sprouts and Lima Beans, and a Trio of Sorbets for dessert.  Matt has a full description of the meal (with pictures) up on his blog.

I think the most impressive thing about the meal to me was the pacing.  Since I am a former Chicagoan, as well as a former Californian, I internalized the idea that part of a great meal is the extreme pain of an over-full stomach at the end.  Matt and Melissa’s dinner started at 5 and we walked home tipsy and pleasantly full at 12:30.  Well done!

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Places I used to live, part II

On Saturday I had dinner with Juliet and Helen at 1630 Page St.  Juliet showed off the new kitchen, complete with dishwasher.

The night before I went to Grandeho’s with Sarah and Ritu. Our wedding picture is still hanging on the board at the back of the restaurant!

And I got to stop by the Fort Mason printmaking studio to see Javier 

and Anita.


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A warm sunny day in San Francisco

 

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Places that I used to live

This is the California section of the Botanical Gardens in Golden Gate Park. It’s one of my favorite places in the world. My first two years in San Francisco I would stop by Arizmendi bakery every Saturday, get a coffee, then bring it here to sit for a few hours. I stopped by this morning and a nice lady took this picture of me.

And here is where I actually spent most of my six years in California:

 

I should note that I’ve gotten at least four compliments on my pants today; all I get in Boston when I wear them is strange looks.

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Evidence for the competing hypothesis

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You can’t go home again, but at least you can visit

I flew back to San Francisco last night.

We left in September of 2007.  We put all our belongings in a box, left out house keys on the desk at 1630 Page, and caught a cab to the airport.  I remember it was the first time we had trouble finding a cab on Haight Street.  Even at 4 in the morning.

It was strange to be back in the city.  After a year and a half away it has become a mystical place in our heads.  David and I have two long-running arguments about San Francisco.  He claims in was always sunny and warm.  I say it was sometimes rainy and foggy.  I claim that you could get a week’s worth of produce for $20.  He says no way.  Based on my one day back, I would say he was right about the weather, and I was right about the produce.

The strangest part was going back to the Keck Center. I went into the lab and took a look at my old rig room/the Doupe Lab utility closet. Its hard to believe I lived there for six years, or that I managed to stuff a La-Z-Boy into that space. I’ll admit that I didn’t actually go inside the rig room. I was afraid maybe I wouldn’t get to leave.

I had lunch with our lab sisters: Helen, Jenn, and Sonja.

 

I ran into Chelsea and Fab outside UCSF.

I chatted with Allison for a good 2 hours.  A little of it was about our paper.

Laila and Gerard were at home writing.  Gerard is graduating in 10 days!

And I had dinner with Jon, and Toby, and Sarah.

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My desk is a disaster waiting to happen

In an effort to make a little room for David in my our studio, I have combined my sewing and art desks into one.  On the left are the latest color studies (I’ll scan them in for a better look when they are dry).  On the right is the sewing machine.  And in the middle…that’s right, it’s a palette covered with wet oil paint.  I’m thinking the bohemian paint-splattered look is going to be very popular this spring.

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I am never buying pants again

Although I only really started sewing  a few months ago, I have been thinking about learning to sew for a long time.  I thought about learning to sew every time I tried on pants that didn’t fit—which is to say, every day.  Because I put on pants every day.  And none of them fit.

Last time I counted I was in 23rd grade. You would think I could find something else to think about besides pants.  But the truth is I spend an awful lot of time thinking about pants.  Does anyone besides me think that the default pair of close-fitting blue jeans that everybody seems to wear all the time is neither comfortable nor particularly flattering?  They are cloying and heavy in the summer, provide no insulation in the winter, and are too tight to comfortably fit long underwear underneath.  Not to mention that it is impossible to find a pair that fits.

The ideal pair of pants sits comfortably on top of my hip bones—neither impeding my breathing nor threatening to expose my derriere every time I need unplug some equipment at work.  It fits closely over the top of my hips, then falls in a straight line from the widest part of my body to the floor.  There is plenty of room for air circulation in summer or a pair of smartwool long undies in the winter.

The ideal pair of pants is in fact the giant stripey blue pair that Alan brought back from Thailand for David.  But since we can’t all have awesome Thai pants, I had to make some.  I decided to start with Simplicity 2896 because they looked wide and comfy.  I made a muslin first, got some fitting advice from the lovely ladies of pattern review, and here is the result!  They are comfy and purple and ridiculous.  I will have to make anther pair soon because I can tell I’m not going to want to take these off.

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Inspiration

David and I went to see Coraline this weekend. Its a stop-motion ghost story by the director of the Nightmare Before Christmas, with a creepy creepy sewing theme.

What got me really excited about the movie was the concept art, which you can find in various places around the internet. I love the grays and yellows in these landscape illustrations by Chris Appelhans:

I also love the sketchiness of his illustrations, and the way you can see the photoshop brushstrokes and scribble lines.  His Queen of Hearts is another favorite of mine.

David has been trying to convince me for years to learn more about digital art and I’ve resisted on the grounds that I spend all day in front of a computer—why would I want to come home and do the same thing? If I could learn to use Photoshop like this though I might reconsider…just think how many more paintings I could store!

In another link off Drawn I saw this cool add for an “anti-social social”— unfortunately in Montreal.  The idea is that drawing— or any form of art really— is a fairly lonely enterprise.  Wouldn’t it be nicer to do with other people around?

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about important it is to have people to make art near (which is very different from people to make art with).  One of the reasons I loved printmaking in San Francisco so much was the atmosphere of the printmaking studio.  It was quiet—people were mostly working, not talking— but there were always people around to answer questions, give encouragement, and steal ideas take inspiration from.  A large part of my new enthusiasm for sewing is that Pattern Review, and its associated blogs, provide an online equivalent of the same thing.  And I suppose this is also the reason that science is actually a good field for me, at least now that I work in a real lab and not a utility closet.  I work mostly by myself, but I get to work near other smart nice people who help me with my dissections, ask me about my experiments, and occasionally invite me to play Street Fighter II with them.  Its a pretty good life.

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