Archive for December, 2011

Bonne année 2012 !

Posted in Biographical, Journal at 14:53

Ruinart brut champagne box, open

This is a meme I’ve done for two years now: at the end of 2009 and the end of 2010.

1. What did you do in 2011 that you’d never done before?
– Became a French citizen (dual US citizenship)
– Finished my Masters degree in comparative literature at the Université de Nice… with honors! (I still can hardly believe I managed it)
– Started sewing seriously, for my own wardrobe, rather than just one or two pieces a year
– Subscribed to the opera in Monaco Monte-Carlo

2. Did you keep your New Year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
I don’t make New Year’s resolutions, I decide things as I go.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
Yes, a childhood friend! Also, more colleagues had babies. All are happy and in good health, though one delivery was a bit scary.

4. Did anyone close to you die?
A grade school classmate early in the year, yes.

5. What countries did you visit?
Italy, but only briefly, and only Ventimiglia, which is on the border with France.

6. What would you like to have in 2012 that you lacked in 2011?
Last year I answered “peace”, which was abundant in 2011, I’m happy to say. Right now I’m at a place where I genuinely don’t feel I’m lacking anything important. I do hope that others missing that peace could experience it.

7. What dates from 2011 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
The day I freed myself from a man who turned out to have been dishonest all along. As happens with that sort, his false self fell apart all at once. Having experienced that before (not in such a close relationship, though), I knew to just let him drop and move on. I’ve been terrifically relieved since then, thankful for friends and happy for my independence.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Clearly, finishing my Masters degree with honors, in French, while working full time. I was so nose-to-the-grindstone that three months after my thesis defense, I’m still cleaning up piles that formed in my apartment!

9. What was your biggest failure?
Due to school expenses, again I didn’t manage to get my bathroom water damage repaired. This is a priority for 2012.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
2011 was remarkably healthy for me.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
Sewing patterns and fabric. I’m set for the next few years. Also, my new cycling shoes. They’re so great, it’s like having a new bike.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
Definitely, without a doubt, the same as last year: my friends’. Their presence, sincerity and kindness meant a great deal to me. I feel blessed to know so many neat people, who value empathy and trust.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
Appalled – he knows who he is and why. Depressed – not for very long, paradoxically. It reassured me of the value of honesty, responsibility, and empathy. Seeing people who are so fundamentally dishonest that they can convince you of sincerity for a short while (with a well-practiced false self), is more depressing for their own account. They’ll never know what it is to trust another, nor what it is to trust themselves, even. Any joy and attachment they may display are naught but a camouflage for profound alienation.

14. Where did most of your money go?
Mortgage, food, and books.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Finishing my degree and riding my bike!

16. What song will always remind you of 2011?
This one, posted by a friend in response to a joke I made about being a cannibal (my Oregon university’s mascot is the Duck, and I baked a free-range duck for Christmas):

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
a) happier or sadder? Much happier.
b) thinner or thicker? Same.
c) richer or poorer? Richer, again, though that’s not saying much :)

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?
Bicycling and playing my digital piano, but that would have meant spending less time on my studies.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?
I’m thinking about this and can’t come up with anything. Everything contributed to healthy growth, even the negative.

20. How did you spend Christmas?
At home alone, but surrounded by Christmas cards and well-wishes from friends :) And not entirely alone, thanks to my two feline sweethearts.

21. Did you fall in love in 2011?
I thought I was falling for a bit, but nope. Instead I learned to better appreciate trustworthy friendships; the love that already exists in life.

22. How many one-night stands?
I’ve never had a one-night stand and dare say I never will. I think I’ll delete this question next year, it’s kind of pointless.

23. What was your favorite TV program?
“Sense and Sensibility” (the BBC miniseries, which I only just watched this year, and loved).

24. What was the best book you read?
Roots of Survival: Native American Storytelling and the Sacred by Joseph Bruchac.

25. What was your greatest musical discovery?
1980s punk rock. I missed a lot of it as a kid.

26. What did you want and get?
An excellent graduate education.

27. What did you want and not get?
I suppose this could have an obvious answer, but it doesn’t, really. Sometimes, when you don’t “get” something that you thought you wanted, you discover that you’re surrounded by things that are just as wonderful, in different ways.

28. What was your favorite film of this year?
I didn’t really pay attention to movies, what with my studies.

29. What did you do on your birthday?
Relaxed a bit from work and studies.

30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
The year was immeasurably satisfying as it was; I’m happy with it.

31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2011?

32. What kept you sane?
Friends and creativity, as well as Kanoko and Susu (my cats).

33. What political issue stirred you the most?
The Occupy movement.

34. Who did you miss?
Faraway friends

35. Who was the best new person you met?
Sue! We need to meet IRL too :)

36. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2011:
Being responsible, compassionate and assertive is very invigorating.

38. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year:
Who needs lyrics when you have rock, a muscle car chase, explosions, and CATS? (There is also a dog.)

Happy holidays

Posted in Cats at 16:21

"I would like a bird for Christmas."

After watching me eat stuffed quail, Kanoko hinted that he too would like a bird for Christmas. Then Susu joined him. She turned 4 months old on Christmas day, and has been growing visibly.

Birdwatching kitties

May your holidays be filled with warmth and cuddles!


Solstice street find

Posted in Crafts, La France at 21:12


Here’s something I never dreamt I’d find in the trash one day: a vintage sewing machine. But find it I did, this morning, just before the truck came! It reminds me of my mother’s Bernina 830 I grew up using, although this machine is simpler and heavier-duty. Made by New York Sewing Machine Co. (not to be confused with New York Sewing Machines Inc. who replied to my query to say they never made this machine), its model number is 408, and that’s about all I know. It has an external motor built by French company Luxor, but I doubt it’s a retrofit since the motor is anchored by screws:


It is missing the foot pedal to control the motor, but that’s not a problem with this sort of machine. The large stitching wheel still moves smoothly by hand. The previous owner took very good care of this machine; nothing is rusted, everything internal is oiled and impeccably clean, the machine still works! But it had indeed been abandoned: as well as being in the designated trash pickup area, it was very dirty on its surfaces. But as you can see, it came threaded.

Why would someone throw away a working sewing machine? Unfortunately it’s probably easily explained: it’s a simple machine, with just straight and zigzag stitches, nothing more. Modern-day sewing machine manufacturers tend to tout fancy embroidery machines with any number of stitches, but all you really need are the two basic stitches and a way to control their length, width, and tension. This machine is built like a tank, entirely made of steel, apart from the heavy-duty plastic base (which hinges away to access the bobbin mechanism). That also probably worked against it for whoever decided to toss the machine: it’s big, not exactly the latest fashion, and weighs a ton. But it will probably outlast the home sewer’s Pfaff hobby 1030 that I have. I’m looking forward to trying it out seriously this weekend. I love its simple design lines.


Sunny autumn

Posted in Cats, Cycling at 20:21

2004 GT i-drive XC 2.0

We’re having gorgeous weather here in southeastern France this autumn, with noon temperatures so balmy that I need neither a coat nor a long-sleeved top! It’s been beautiful for mountain biking. I still have the GT I bought almost 6 years ago. Here you see it in my entry, set against the bedroom door, also showing off those floors I worked so hard to restore! Recently I bought new shoes, a pair of Mavic ‘Chasm’, which were recommended by the same shop where I found my bike. The two guys there have always been great. They don’t know I have a website, so this plug for their shop is entirely my own decision: drop by Vélo Concept if you’re ever in Nice and need anything road- or mountain-bike-related, even if it’s “just” for a city bike (they carry those too!). They’ve always listened to me, their recommendations have always been reliable, and they have great senses of humor, to boot.

I love my new shoes. It’s like having a new bike. The difference with my previous mid-range lace-up shoes truly surprised me. When I stand on my (clipless) pedals, it feels like I’m standing on solid ground. I already loved climbs before; now they’re even better, because there’s no loss of muscle power in any corrections due to unstable shoes – my feet stay where I put them, moving the pedals.

In other news, I haven’t updated recently because I started a new project at work a few weeks ago. It’s enjoyable as well – all in all, life is good. Kanoko and Susu are still like two peas in a pod (very bouncy peas in a constantly-moving pod), and Susu is as much of a sweetheart as Kanoko, so I’ve been feeling very spoiled by two adorable, well-behaved cats who gleefully share their time together and with me.

Susu, 3 months old