My addiction to classes

On Saturday, I went got my hair cut at Zippy’s Hair Studio, which is far away in the Presidio.  We are going to our friend Rohan’s wedding this coming weekend, and my bangs were out of control after four months of growth.

Here’s the haircut. It’s much shorter, just in time for San Francisco summer!

(But that’s not the point of this post.)

haircut

 

Hus-friend and I planned to meet up for Italian dinner after my haircut, so I walked the 1.5 miles from the Presidio to North Beach. It was a delightful walk on a sunny, clear San Francisco Saturday.

Presidio house

On the way, I stopped at Pincushion Craft, an adorable knitting and sewing store that I had been wanting to check out after seeing it pop up on Instagram. I really love craft stores: the combination of bright yarns and fabrics AND the possibility of starting new projects makes me giddy and only moderately overwhelmed.

While I was perusing the yarn selection, a woman came in and signed up for Pincushion’s “Learn to Sew a Skirt” class. She and her friends met the instructor, who showed them a mock-up of the skirt they were going to make. Then everyone ooh-ed and ahh-ed over the cute printed fabrics (me silently and totally not creepily…). I was sooooorely tempted to sign up for one of their beginning sewing classes, too.

After spending a significant amount on clothing last month, I’ve been more frugal this month, using yarn and fabric I already bought for small projects. I couldn’t really justify signing up for a $125 class that teaches me skills that I’ve already done (French seams, pattern usage, sewing machine basics). What’s more, I already purchased a sewing class on Craftsy, the online video-learning platform, where I will end up  making…guess what! A SKIRT!

You guys, am I out of control? Why is my compulsion to take classes so strong? I love, love, LOVE the idea of taking classes whenever I acquire a new hobby. This summer alone, I’ve had to talk myself out of taking classes or workshops in knitting, sewing, cooking, pastry, embroidery, French, yoga, and cycling. SELF, WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?

I guess I really love the idea of learning a skill from an “expert” and having someone on hand to answer my questions. Deep down, I think I measure my success in having completed a track of some sort. It gives me great satisfaction to have finished something (even though I quit a lot of things…); it makes me feel like I’ve “done” it and can move on to the next step, which is probably another class.

In reality, a lot of classes I take aren’t actually as helpful as I anticipate. They don’t usually cover things as in-depth as I would like. I leave feeling kind of like, “Hmm, I could have taught myself that.” And, you know what? That’s true. The Internet makes learning things ridiculously easy. I can watch videos on how to do stitches or different techniques, and I’m good at researching new skills pretty thoroughly before giving them a shot. I don’t need face-to-face classes.

I’ve talked myself out of taking another sewing class for now, at least until I complete the skirt-sewing class on Craftsy. Meanwhile, I should also work through the pastry basics class I also signed up for on Craftsy. (I just want to make éclairs!!) Then and only then, if I feel the compulsion to take a class to meet people and learn a cool new skills, I’ll allow myself to sign up for something.

Does anyone else love to take non-academic classes for fun? Am I just a weirdo??

Be Stylish, Self: Share Some Style

Recently, I decided that my attempts to be stylish weren’t going anywhere on their own. I found out about Share Some Style, a new personal styling service. In short, it’s like What Not to Wear, but without drama and weeping manufactured for television. In fact, I’d always thought to myself, on the rare occasions that I watched WNtW, “Wow, these people are so annoying. If *I* were on the show, I would just take whatever advice the stylists gave me because, well, they’re the experts.”

My Share Some Style experience with my stylist Nicole was pretty much that. She came to my apartment and “audited” my closet, which was mostly me making huge donation piles of all the things that didn’t really work (so, um, apparently my whole wardrobe). Nicole pointed out things like how boxy/square my tops were and how I should find items with waist detailing to accentuate my small waist.

After purging basically my entire wardrobe, the next week, we went shopping together. Nicole flew around stores (DSW, Madewell, J.Crew), picking out things for me to try on. I had emailed her links of looks I liked in advance, so she had an idea of what pieces to get to try to make those styles work for me. After I got over my initial discomfort of changing in front of someone, I was like, “Cool, whatever you say is fair game!” I ended up with a lot of versatile but stylish pieces. Apparently, you can wear oversized tops (which are super in right now), so long as they drape or flow…just not weird boxes.

The stylist’s fee seemed steep at first, but I got to put the unneeded hour of my closet audit (I just had so few clothes!) towards the shopping trip. What’s more, I realized that I saved just as much, if not more, than the styling fee by having someone tell me what not to buy.

(It was so, so painful to see how much I spent on clothes at once, but I figure that I bought an entire wardrobe in one fell swoop, rather than spending the same amount gradually over a long period of time.)

I’ve been trying to take pictures of my wardrobe throughout the week, and here’s some of what I’ve worn:

 

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(One of the sweaters I was allowed to keep.)

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IMG_3028 IMG_3034 IMG_3039 IMG_3071 IMG_3076

So yeah, not that different from my style before, but definitely better fitting and more flattering. The idea of this whole adventure is for me to learn how to be more stylish on my own. With a good wardrobe of staples hanging in my closet, I feel more confident about this goal. Plus, getting dressed in the morning is more fun when I have nice things to put on.

(I did not get paid by Share Some Style to write about this experience. However, if you want to sign up, using my referral link here will give me $25.)

Sorbetto top, my first garment

Okay! I sewed an article of clothing: the Sorbetto top by Colette. I chose it as my first garment because 1) it looked easy with only two pieces and 2) it was a free pattern. (And also, Laura recommended it to me in a comment. Hi, Laura!)

I’ve recently been feeling weird about blogging projects. If I don’t blog them, do they still count? Of course they do! Thus, I made a conscious decision to spend my time sewing, not taking pictures of the process. It’s not like people will learn anything from my ganky project assembly.

Here’s the one in-process photo: cutting fabric and using my first pattern. Cutting out and assembling the PDF pattern was one of my favorite parts. I love cutting paper precisely. And cutting fabric, which you may have heard I HATE, was spectacularly easy when using a pattern. Tracing and snipping along lines? Please, I can do that in my sleep. Way easier than trying to make perfect free-form rhombi!

cutting Sorbetto top
In lieu of pattern weights, I used coasters, juggling balls, and candles.

I zipped through the pattern assembly and fabric cutting, and so on Sunday afternoon, I also got to launch into the sewing. I’ve heard that while you think sewing is all about machine-time, the majority of your time is spent cutting, pinning, and ironing. Alas, such drudgery! Like Carrie said, I just kept thinking of it as putting together a puzzle, and each step was important for creating a finished product.

Speaking of the finished product, here it is! I used some kind of thin cotton fabric that I bought online, and for the sleeves and neckline, I used white bias tape. That’s about all I know. Colette sorbetto top

I was going to set up my tripod and take photos of myself wearing this top, but I was too lazy. Also, I don’t think those photos would have been any nicer as I don’t have a good spot for flattering self-photography in my apartment. As such, you get photos taken upstairs, in front of my mirror, with poor lightning.Colette Sorbetto top

(I’m not normally into child-ish braids, but my attempts to do milkmaid braids this morning fell flat. So flat. Pigtails it was!) Colette sorbetto top

I made the top exactly as directed, so I guess the pattern is cut a bit short. It might not hit me at the most flattering part of my body, but–hey, let’s be honest here–I don’t plan on leaving the apartment in this top any time soon. For one, if you look up close, you can see all kinds of gankiness: poor hemming, rogue threads, things that don’t quite line up. I don’t mind, though, and it’s perfect for sleepwear!

I’m really proud that I sewed my first article of clothing, and it gives me hope that with practice, I will improve…a lot. I’m just happy to have made the first leap into garment sewing!

(“It looks like a running singlet!” said the Hus-friend, “What?!? Running singlets are professionally made!”)

Details

Pattern: Colette Sorbetto

Size: 6

Materials: (Oh, just looked this up!) Red Dotted Swiss Batiste (semi-sheer) and bias tape

Alterations: None.

Exploring Britex

This weekend, I went to Britex Fabric, the huge fabric store and San Francisco landmark near Union Square, for the first time. I’d been meaning to go, but after hearing how expensive they were and reading some negative Yelp reviews, I was intimidated to go in with only my barely novice sewing skills. I mean, I’m not making any projects that merit anything more than $8/yard cotton, right?

Britex Fabric storefront

Fortuitously, on Saturday, Carrie who blogs about her crafty endeavors over at Oh, She Dabbles, was in town for a wedding. I emailed to see if she’d like to meet up, and she suggested that we explore Britex together, which was perfect since neither of us had been. When I first found Carrie’s blog, I had a feeling we might get along because “dabbling” is, in my mind, a nicer way of saying “aggressively acquiring hobbies.” And my suspicions were confirmed by meeting her in person–she is delightful and super-interesting. (She lived on a boat in SF after college studying GREAT WHITE SHARKS! WHAT?!? SO COOL.)

We wandered through the four floors of Britex, spending the bulk of our time in the remnants (=cheaper) section on the top floor. There are just so many bolts of fabric; I’m not entirely sure how you actually shop there. People must go in with very specific ideas of what they’re looking for. Otherwise, I think you’d end up in a corner somewhere, stroking the soft silk and rendered completely incapable of making purchase-related decisions.

Carrie was looking for something special to bring home from her quick trip to SF, and she ended up with two yards of nice silk for a top. Oh, yeah, that’s another thing–she taught herself to sew fairly recently and is already making so many items for her wardrobe. She encouraged me to jump into garment sewing, likening it to “putting together a puzzle,” which she thought would appeal to my engineering side. (I still forget that I get lumped in with engineers now because hellz yeah, I’m a software engineer!) That made me really excited to get started!

(But oh, geez, you guys, this top that I started today is so wonk-tastic. You don’t even know.)

I didn’t get anything, but I did leave feeling much less intimidated by Britex and hopeful that in the near future, I’ll be able to make some really cool things with fabric and notions that I purchase there.

Thanks to Carrie for making time in her busy schedule to meet up with me!

Mica & Carrie at Britex
Matching military jackets, ha!

Staking out my claim on the Internet

After some consideration, I’ve decided to keep MicaPie alive for several reasons. Mostly though, I’d be sad to let it die after six years or regular writing. And, to be honest, I couldn’t come up with a better name that could generally encompass all that I write about here. (Now that I think about it, I’m not sure that I’ve ever explained this. “Micapie” is sort of my dad’s nickname for me, though now he says “Pie” more often. I don’t, however, like pie all that much.)

In Silicon Valley, a lot of people know you (and vice versa) by your social media presence. Your business card has your Twitter handle on it, and there is a lot of effort put into staking out your claim on the Internet. At Hackbright, Instructor Liz told us to try to come up with a memorable Twitter handle as part of our “brand,” which while douche-y, is kind of true.

I have owned the micapie.com domain for awhile, but I don’t actually have it on the two other forms of social media that I use: Twitter and Instagram. I use @micaswyers on both. I had some initial trepidation about using my full name, but I don’t post anything that wouldn’t mind my employers knowing about. In fact, the VP of engineering found the WVT blog through my Twitter profile and was delighted to read about the time we passed through his hometown, Yuma, AZ!

The current holder of the @micapie handle on Twitter and Instagram is a woman in the Philippines who doesn’t seem to post very often to either (though she told me she frequently checks for updates). I was thinking about approaching her to ask if she would be willing to give up “micapie,” so that I could be uniform across my main social media outlets.

That being said, I’m wondering how important that consistency is. I mean, is it ACTUALLY important? Is having “MicaPie” more of a branding move than having my actual name? If I do manage to get @micapie, should I keep @micaswyers as well? I assume everyone knows how to contact me and knows my blog address, so I doubt it matters whether changing the handles will have a real benefit. That being said, I do love consistency and uniformity….

As always, I’d love your thoughts on this!

Dinner rolls

Today is the Hus-friend’s birthday. For his homemade dinner (steak and caprese salad), I played with fire a bit, making something new: dinner rolls! I’m weirdly intimidated by yeasted breads because of their double rise–it’s just so much planning!

I used this recipe from the Kitchn. The dough was a bit fiddly: it came together rather slowly, and I had to add flour so that it didn’t resemble a giant bowl of paste. After the first rise, I got to do the most exciting part: form cute, smooth dinner rolls balls. Then it was 40 minutes for the second rise, where my little dough packages became soft and pillowy.

dinner rolls, rising

There’s something so satisfying about baking homemade bread! It was thrilling to watch them puff up in the oven. That’s right, folks, it’s non-stop action in our apartment.
dinner rolls fresh from the oven

 

Also, check out the sweet Ferrari I got Hus-friend for his birthday!

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Aha, just kidding. Of course. I mean, obviously.

The beginning of the end?

My relationship with WordPress has been tumultuous at best over the past year. For some reason, cron jobs are not running well, and my scheduled posts miss their publish time, which means I have to publish them manually (so what’s the freakin’ point?!?).  I also find the WYSWYG editor a bit cumbersome, and it’s often excruciatingly slow and/or tedious to perform simple tasks. Prime example: Trying to categorize and add tags to all my old posts. It would take me weeks, if not months, to get through it all. There have been many a night where I’ve sat down to write a post and ended up screaming about how much I hate (HATE!!!!) WordPress.

(Also, generating a preview to read before hitting publish. WHY DOES IT TAKE SO LONG?!?!)

I’ve been looking at some smaller, sleeker blogging alternatives, specifically the open-source Ghost. It offers almost none of the bells and whistles of WordPress (most notably, no native comments), and I think I’m okay with that. On the flip side, you write posts in markdown (something I use at work), and it is much, much faster than clunky old WordPress.

Here’s the thing: MicaPie, which is going on six years old, is a hell of a lot to migrate to another platform, especially one as young as Ghost. For one thing, I prefer to hide–but not delete–my early posts, written back in 2008 as an “online diary” on Blogger. I’ve hidden a lot of the posts that were written prior to my migration to WordPress in June of 2010, but this kind of “private” categorization isn’t available in Ghost. In fact, I tried the migration to Ghost process locally on my machine, and it was kind of a disaster. Don’t even get me started on migrating all the comments (Sorry for the change to Disqus commenting–it was part of my failed attempt to test migration.)

I’ve been feeling so weighed down by my behemoth blog recently, and this research makes me feel like maybe I should retire MicaPie and start fresh with a new blog. I wouldn’t delete MicaPie–I’d probably just migrate it over to wordpress.com and redirect the URL.

(The other advantage of moving to Ghost is that I’d learn a lot in the process about how it’s built and how it works.)

Starting fresh means that I have to/get to pick a new blog name, which is no easy task. I spent most of the weekend brainstorming domain names. (Tragically, disasterbox.com is taken. WTF?!?) If I go this route, I want to think of a title/domain name that has longevity, one that encompasses all the things that I write about without being trite.

Long time bloggers and blog readers, I would love to hear your thoughts on this.

  • Do you follow bloggers who let a blog retire and start a new one?
  • How do you feel about comments–yea or nay?
  • WordPress vs. other platforms?
  • Is blogging even still a thing? (Stella keeps telling me that blogging is kind of over.)
  • Blog title/domain name suggestions?

Feel free to leave a comment or email me about this! Much thanks in advance.

sunflowers at SF farmer's market

Make the dough rise

I recently learned a fun (using that term liberally here) linguistic fact!

In English, we say “to let the dough rise,” but the French say “faire monter la pâte,” which translates to “make the dough rise.”

pizza dough rising

I was amused that in English, we’re like Cool, dough. You do your thang! I’ll just leave you alone to become delicious. 

By contrast, the French are like Dough, I command you to do my bidding! Rise up and conquer!

I guess I could postulate and hand-wave here about linguistic relativity and the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis: Anglophones believe that we have less agency in cooking matters, whereas Francophones see themselves as masters of cooking, capable of bending the culinary world to their wills. But that would be silly and humanities grad student-y, and I have left that world behind [for good!].

Long story short: I made pizza from scratch for the first time in a year, and it came out a little “rustic,” but still delicious! (Getting the dough from the peel to the pan without sticking is so difficult!)

homemade pizza

Top five places in the US?

An acquaintance recently asked me for my list of the top five places that a foreigner should visit in the United States. You’d think we’d be good at this since we drove 12,000 miles around the country last summer, but it’s a lot harder than it sounds! Hus-friend and I tried to come up with our list(s) and decided that it was too difficult to narrow it down to just five.

What would be your top five list? Does it include “quintessential” American sights? Is it mostly architecture and historic monuments? What about food and experiences?

I’d like to give this friend a comprehensive list, so help me out in the comments, please. I don’t think it’ll be possible to give only five, though….

The 2014 SF half marathon

SF Half Marathon medal

Half Marathon #7 is in the books! For this one, the first half associated with the San Francisco Marathon, I made the decision to run without starting my Garmin so that I wouldn’t become overly concerned with my time. At the See Jane Run half last month, I really fell apart at the end, and constantly checking my watch caused me a lot of stress. Having completed that one a few weeks ago, I just wanted to slow down and enjoy the opportunity to run in this city that I like so much.

The first half crosses the Golden Gate Bridge, which was, for the most part, a great experience. I had never run across it because getting there from our apartment is too far for anything less than a late-stage marathon training run.  With an early start time, the runners crossed the bridge in the cool morning air, just making out Alcatraz through the fog to our right. The downsides were (1) that there was only one lane for each direction, so things got crowded and (2) people were stopping to take so many selfies. Judgement all around.

While I struggled with the last two and a half miles, I achieved my goals of running up the Fort Mason hill (a mere blip on the elevation chart) and the long ascent from the Bay up onto the Bridge without stopping to walk. On these inclines, I leaned forward and focused on maintaining a constant level of exertion while dropping my speed. Charging up hills isn’t my thing, but I think I’m getting better at my not-dying strategy.

I’ve decided that I prefer smaller, less commercial races. There was just too much masturbatory race behavior in this one. I don’t have time for that shit and hate (HATE!) having to weave around people who wear headphones and stop midcourse or pull up short in front of me to take a selfie. There is a special circle in hell reserved for these assholes. I like more low-key races with less rampant commercialism and self-congratulatory behavior.

Ryan and Joe (Ryan’s grad school roommate) stayed with us last night, and the three of us ran the first half this morning. It was great to see both of them; maybe we can make running races slowly a thing. (What do you say, Ryan?) Hus-friend ran the full marathon–his second–and PR’d by four minutes! On hills! He said he was near bonking at the end and really struggled through the last seven miles…except he didn’t have to stop and walk or puke or weep openly, which is what I associate with bonking.

I had a fun time this morning and though my time was not my fastest, by far (2:17:28), I didn’t want to die at any point. In fact, a few times, I thought to myself, “Man, if I could run this easily and unconcerned with time, I’d do another marathon.” This remains to be seen…

Bodger, though he did nothing but sleep this morning, pretended that he had also traversed the city on foot and lay down all afternoon. What a bum.

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