Over the weekend, we celebrated Maria and Jordan’s soonish-to-arrive twins with a baby shower! And really, it was more like a fun party with a literary theme, which was just as requested by the expectant parents. The idea was more celebration, rather than shower.
Having recovered from Freak the F*ck Out Catering for Narae’s shower (three years ago!!!), I decided to once again attempt that monstrous strawberry cake. It’s quite a confection (and maybe I totally stressed out the husband because I was hangry-baking), but it turned out even better this time! It looked a little wonky, but it tasted good!
Here’s the inside. Cutting a 9×13″ cake into three layers is no joke. I had to stick toothpicks into the sides to act as cutting guides and be very assertive (yet gentle!) with a long serrated knife.
For gifts, I wanted to give Maria and Jordan something special and homemade but also practical! I’d seen these knit berry hats for a couple years, but I’d never actually felt skilled enough to make them. As it turns out, they’re quick and easy to knit with soft cotton yarn. I finished each one in an evening and change.
As for the practical gift, I sewed these swaddlers/snugglers using soft balloon print flannel and adorable quilting cottons. It’s important to Jordan and Maria not to dress their children identically, so I didn’t want to give them two of the same swaddler. For one, I found this whale print:
And I’d been looking for a project to buy this crazy smiling-but-decapitated shrimp print for awhile. A swaddler was the perfect excuse! This was also fitting because we bought a huge platter of cocktail shrimp for the shower. Because everyone loves shrimp. Well, not people who are allergic to shellfish.
The swaddlers are basically a pouch with two velcro arms.
So you can wrap your baby up like a little burrito!
(We had to resist the urge to test it out on Bodger.)
Phew, I survived my first “lady obligation” of 2015 and didn’t burn the house down or drop a platter of cocktail shrimp! It was a great party, and I hope a wonderful celebration for Jordan and Maria as they get closer and closer to their arrival of their twin girls. I’m excited to see them as parents and honored that I could be such an integral part of their “kick-off.”
(After the last guests had left, we totally ordered Chinese, sat around in pajamas, and watched the first episode of this season of Orphan Black.)
For my birthday, Jordan and Maria took me and the Hus-friend to Sunday afternoon tea at Charles Chocolates! I’m so glad they organized this because I hadn’t gotten around to it, despite saying “Oooh, we should do that!” every time I walked by it.
We even dressed up! It felt like a fun-yet-grown-up thing to do. Though, admittedly, with twins on the way, I imagine Maria and Jordan feel like they’re doing a lot of grown-up things these days!
It was so nice to sit out in the sun (and cool SF breeze, ha), catching up and eating our delicate tea sandwiches.
Except let’s be honest, one tea sandwich is delicate. Three tea sandwiches plus dessert is SUPER INTENSE. Not to mention the super rich hot chocolate, which was actually more like the consistency of pudding.
It didn’t look like that much food, but we were very full at the end. The Hus-friend was particularly full because he decided (for some unknown reason) to eat everything on his plate.
After our tea, we took a refreshing walk (roll? waddle?) through a quiet street in the Mission. It was a lovely afternoon with friends! I feel so lucky to have these people in my life and to live in such a fantastic city.
Thanks, J&M, for such a treat! I may never be hungry again, but I’m happy to become aggressively full with you two anytime.
Because I was traveling for a work-related conference, I didn’t get to explore Montréal as much as I would have liked. It’s disappointing because I feel like people told me how amazing it is…and I was quite honestly underwhelmed. I really wanted to like it, but I guess I just saw the wrong things/parts of the city. (To be fair, I was downtown, and that’s basically never the nicest part to visit.)
I had the impression that it would be a historic city that just oozed charm, with quaint streets and a burgeoning artistic community. Everything I saw was basically…fine. There were some old buildings that were interesting, but not markedly cooler than anything else I’ve seen. Most of the interesting buildings I saw seemed to be student apartments, so they weren’t being displayed at their full potential.
I’m pretty sure I just saw the wrong parts. What I did see was a lot of compacted piles of dirty snow, pushed up against buildings or melting into a mud puddle in the corner of a parking lot. Maybe I was there at the wrong time of year!
But enough about architecture (which I definitely cannot speak about intelligently)! Let’s talk about FOOD!
I came to Montréal on mission to try poutine (cheese curds and gravy over fries), and that was not my jam. The fries get all soggy from the gravy, which goes against my religious beliefs that fries should be crispy. To be fair, the first time I had poutine was at a tourist trap, and it was gross. The second time was better.
I also tried a Montréal-style bagel, which I totally did not realize was a thing. It’s smaller, crispier, and sweeter than a New York bagel. I was pretty into those, but I love almost all bagels uniformly.
I also was told to try Montréal smoked meat, but the timing never worked out right. Also, I don’t really like pastrami anyway, so I had a feeling it wouldn’t be life-changing for me.
Our hotel (Le Westin, ha) was a stone’s throw away from Montréal’s small Chinatown, so obviously we had to take advantage of that. Jay and I, on a particularly off-schedule day, went out for a lupper (lunch-supper?) of pork buns and bubble tea. Because that’s what one should do when going to French-speaking Canada: patronize a Chinese bakery.
Oh, and also we fond a bust of Sun Yat-sen. K, cool.
Of course, no trip is complete if I don’t meet up with a blogger in real life, right?!? I have a super-big lady crush on the incredibly talented Anaïg of . Before I left, I contacted her to see if she had any time to meet up. Fortunately, we were able to get lunch together one day, which involved my taking Montréal subway system. (I will say that this was very easy and did not smell bad. And the station I needed was conveniently connected to the conference center!)
Meeting Anaïg was really delightful–she’s French but has lived in Montréal for a few years with her English boyfriend. We talked about her experiences living abroad, how we got into our respective jobs (She’s a speech pathologist.), and sewing! She’s a much more experienced and proficient sewist*, so it was fun to pick her brain and hear about how she got into sewing. Also, she wore a handmade dress that was so beautiful; you can’t really see it in this photo, sadly.
[*I’ve read sewist on some blogs, and I really hate the way that sounds. And that’s difficult because, in general, I’m trying to move away from gendered language when I can. Seamstress sounds better to me, but maybe just because it’s actually an English word.]
Lunch with Anaïg was actually the only time I got to speak French for a prolonged time in Montréal. Even though I heard French everywhere, almost everyone I encountered was bilingual and defaulted to English. (Again, I was mostly at the hotel and conference center, so this is to be expected.) Hearing so much of the Québecois accent was funny and startling after mostly interacting with French Francophones.
So yeah, I enjoyed my time in Montréal but left it feeling kind of…ambivalent? I’ll try to withhold judgment (Sigh, you know that is hard for me) because everyone told me how great it was. Fortunately, if I go back, I have a new friend who can show me the cool things that I must have missed.
Okay, opinion time — what cities totally underwhelmed you, and which ones were a pleasant surprise?
In addition to speaking for the first time at a conference, one of the BEST parts of my PyCon experience was reconnecting with some of my Hackbright classmates. There were alumnae from several “seasons” of HB there, but I obviously gravitated towards the ones from my class, having gone through so much together. To me, our class was GOLDEN.
One awesome surprise was that Meghan, who moved to Seattle with her husband, and JiaYi, who moved back to Singapore, were both coming to be at the conference. And even better, they’re both working remotely at the same company, so they work “together” (but apart, I guess). It was so good to see them after a year+, and I’m so happy that they seem happy with their jobs.
Meghan had made a dinner reservation for us one night, so several of us got together for fancy sushi. Then we took a chilly walk through Vieux Montréal. At one point, Meghan had recalled that last year at PyCon (It’s held in the same place for two consecutive years.), she had been walking across a square when a huge stuffed polar bear was being wheeled out of a store right in front of her.
So, of course, we serendipitously CAME ACROSS the polar bear and had to take a picture with it.
Note: The Polar Bear is even more horrifying than our goofy faces.
Meghan is a fantastic knitter, so I made sure to show her the cowl and hat I’d made. “This hat is so soft,” she said, “Do you know what kind of sheep it is?” “Uh, soft sheep?” I responded. She laughed and told me, basically, that that was bullshit. I hope I can visit her up in Seattle–she said I can stay at her house if I run the marathon!
Siena, who was actually in town being her usual badass self and presenting at DroidCon, and I had fun on our Montréal lady dates. I surely impressed her on our romantic evenings with my French (Ha!), and we also consumed a lot of insanely bad-for-you Canadian cuisine.
“I heard someone say that the reason healthcare is free in Canada is because you need it. You would die if you ate this all the time,” she said, as we tucked into a shared dinner of macaroni and cheese with pulled pork poutine. Siena gives zero fucks, and I want to be more like her.
Even though Rebecca and Ava live in the Bay Area, I’m embarrassed to say that I have barely seen them since I graduated. The last night, when we all should have packed and gone to bed for our early flights, we stayed up in Rebecca’s room, chatting, laughing, sorting through her 400 pounds of tech swag, eating room service cheesecake, and shooting promotional foam darts at each other.
Well, Siena colored, or, as Rebecca said, “Did God’s work.”
Oh, and we got tattoos to commemorate our first times speaking at tech conferences. Just kidding. These were swag, too. I actually really liked my lightening bolt, but it disintegrated in the shower this morning.
Rebecca, who now sports a neon-green mohawk showed us her very efficient way of traveling with two backpacks that keeps both arms free. I love her combination of enthusiasm and unbridled cynicism and admire her ability to bounce back from something very dark and continue to love people. She’s really an amazing person (and also supports me in the creation of a blog where we air our grievances called “I don’t like things”).
I felt weird saying this, but then Ava said it this morning, so I don’t feel bad anymore. I basically had forgotten how cool these ladies were, or perhaps they were cooler than I remember. Ava, one of the first people I met before Hackbright started, and I have a lot of similarities, like our lifetime membership in the Modern Face of Temperance club and old-lady tendencies. For some reason, though, I always remember more of how we different: her willingness to confront people whose opinions she finds offensive and/or problematic but also,her belief in the inherent goodness of everyone, at least at first. I’m always pleasantly surprised at how well we get along (and feel guilty that I don’t see her more often). She’s just so cool. I also learned that she coined the term “hackbrighting,” which means crying on the bathroom floor.
These days, I’m not so involved with Hackbright, and I can’t really speak to how it is because I’m not there, and the curriculum and instructors have changed. What I know for certain, though, is that one of the integral parts of my experience was the group of women. As a naturally very vocal and judgmental person, I am eternally grateful that I got to interact at a totally deep level (not just small talk) with women who are so different. It humbles me to see their strengths, many of which are my own weaknesses, and it reminds me that I can get along so well with people who come from different backgrounds and walks of life…basically, as long as they have a good sense of humor.
So, my first PyCon has come and gone. What’s more, my first tech/professional conference-speaking gig is over! I’m not sure why I used to be so intimidated by speaking at academic conferences. PyCon was super fun and, while certainly not perfect, it was a fairly friendly, inclusive, and supportive group of people!
Since my first (and only) tech conference prior to PyCon wandering around, slack-jawed, at FutureStack through Hackbright, the experience was somewhat different this time. I now have a job programming in Python, and all of the talks are about Python or related technologies. There’s a mix of subjects: cool things people have built, security and architecture, diversity and self-care, common “gotchas”…not to mention tutorials, “open spaces” to hack things together, and lots of opportunities to network and get together with other Python-writers.
Oh, and another reason why this was different? I was speaking!
Jay and I submitted our talk proposal back in September, were accepted to speak in December, and then started actually writing our talk, like, uhhhhh last month. It was a good review of what we had actually written (a “smart” rate tracker to help catch spammers and fraudsters on the site), and it was an exercise in combining our approaches to presenting into one, unified and coherent format.
We got into Montréal late Wednesday night, bummed around the city on Thursday, and started attending talks on Friday. I saw some really interesting and informative ones, like one on how Disney used Python to make Big Hero 6 and one on building secure systems. Most of my interests skewed backend since that’s closer to what I work on, but fortunately, if I missed a talk, the turn-around to get them up in high-quality video on YouTube is amazing. Now, I can just watch the ones I missed online.
Some of the ones that were recommended to me, and which, I will recommend to you are:
PyCon was also a huge networking/recruiting/advertising event for companies. Many companies sponsored with booths giving away tons of swag–some cool and practical and some utterly useless. My inner-minimalist cringed every time I saw someone carrying around a bobbing foam dragon on a metal stick, and I mean, does anyone need another of those cheaply made re-usable grocery bags at this point? Because I had packed so efficiently, my approach to the Expo was “curated swag”–taking only what I really liked or felt was useful. I left with an umbrella, a few WOMEN’S FIT tee-shirts, and a bottle opener, and a nice water bottle.
[A sidenote on shirts, please. Don’t call them “Unisex” and expect that makes everything OK. “Unisex” clearly means FOR MEN: crew necks, longer sleeves, no shaping to a woman’s body. If you want women to wear your shirts and give you free advertising, please consider making them actually for women.]
On Saturday, I crawled/fell out of my heavenly hotel bed and regretted my decision to run the PyCon 5K Fun Run. And yeah, this was not a race of champions: the course measured 2.83 miles (by my Garmin), and the bibs were recycled from the organizer’s friend’s leftover race. (They said “Prairie Dog Half Marathon, 10K, & 5K – Castle Rock, Colorado” on them.) It was also chilly with a stiff headwind. Still, I was happy that I did it, plus Jacky ran it too! Those fiery lungfuls of cold air were a throwback to my grad school running days….
I know it looks like Jacky and I took this picture in front of an abandoned murder warehouse, but it’s actually on the historic Vieux Montréal port at the 5K finish.
Plus, I got a sweet V-neck ladies tech tee-shirt with the conference logo on it! I didn’t purchase an official PyCon shirt, so it was a useful and nice surprise!
And, of course, on Sunday afternoon (the last day of the official conference weekend), Jay and I got up to talk. I was honestly not that nervous because of years of performance and teaching experience. I had faith in my ability to break down a technical subject in a clear and understandable way, and Jay and I had practiced…a lot. Still, this was my first official conference presentation on a technical subject, and looking out into the audience, there were a lot of “stereotypical” programmers: white men in tech tee-shirts. Not, of course, that these men are not advocates for diversity in tech or were particularly discouraging; it’s just an abrupt confrontation of the fact that I was the minority: a short, blazer-clad woman, talking animatedly about backend datastores.
Fun story, while were on the way to the “Green room” for speakers, I ran into another presenter wearing the same thing: jeans, white shirt, and blazer. Obviously, this necessitated a photo. Power outfit! Her name is Ying Li, and here is her talk, “Where in your RAM is ‘python san_diego.py’?”
So yeah, the talk! That happened! I think our slides were pretty awesome.
Here’s a pre-talk selfie I insisted we take because Jay puts up with so much of my crap. It doesn’t look like the talk was well-attended, but it got pretty full in there. Lots of folks interesting in rate-tracking, apparently!
Even better, after we ended our talk, we had so many people ask questions! They were legitimately interested in our implementation of a rate tracker and had follow-up questions for us both during the scheduled Q&A time and after we left the room. That’s one thing I really like about PyCon–for the most part, people ask questions because they truly want to learn more. There aren’t a ton of questions that I saw to the effect of “YES, I HAVE A QUESTION. MY QUESTION IS AN OPINION ABOUT WHAT YOU SAID.”
Phew, it was big conference and probably an introvert’s nightmare (Meghan told me that she had to go back for knitting breaks in her quiet hotel room.), but I had a lot of fun! I’m not sure I want to go super regularly because the travel component is tough, but I like meeting people, and I definitely enjoyed speaking. I’m already thinking about talk proposals for next year!
Also, a big THANK YOU to everyone who supported me and Jay during our talk, particularly the Hackbright ladies and EB folks in attendance and everyone who tweeted out about our talk before/during/and after. It was like having a fan club, and I super-appreciate it!
I’m here attending PyCon 2015, a tech conference devoted to the Python programming language (what I learned at Hackbright and write for my job). I’ll probably write a comprehensive post–or, at least, have a post full of photos and captions–once the conference is over. My talk is tomorrow afternoon, so that’s exciting!
It hasn’t been all tech though. I’ve eaten a lot of unhealthy food, gone on a few runs, explored some of Montréal, enjoyed sprawling out in a king bed by myself, caught up with Hackbright lovelies, and even made some new friends. And, of course, I’ve spoken French, though not as much as I anticipated. The curse of bilingualism, I suppose.
By the time I write next, I will officially have presented at my first tech conference, and that will be awesome.
I know how much Kim loves detailed posts about what people put in their suitcases (Ha!), so I thought I’d share what I packed for my upcoming trip to Montréal.
(I’m going to speak at a conference with my teammate Jay about a piece of technology we built. It will be my first time visiting Montréal. I’m very excited!)
Here’s what I’m bringing.
Bottoms: 1 pair of blue jeans, 1 pair of black trousers
Top Row – Silk printed top, Chambray button-up, Gray sweater
Bottom Row – Black tee-shirt, White tee-shirt, Black camisoles (2)
Sleeping and Fitness:
Tee-shirt & Yoga pants for sleeping/watching Game of Thrones in hotel room on Sunday night.
Socks, sports bras (2) for running.
One tech tee-shirt and two tech long-sleeved shirts.
One pair of running shorts, one pair of running capris.
(There is a conference 5K on Saturday morning. RACEEEEE!)
Black wool blazer
[Mittens, but then I decided I was overreacting and can deal with hands-in-my-pockets.]
And then this mackintosh to top everything off. It’s apparently going to be cold and sometimes rainy, so I figured, this covers both cases.
Underwear, “normal” socks
Chuck Taylors. It’s a tech conference. I’m going to wear the same sneakers everyday.
Running shoes (to be slung over my bag handle)
Toiletries bag with minimal makeup, hairbrush, lotion, deodorant, mouthguard, toothbrush.
For tech, I’m bringing:
My Garmin + charger
My iPhone + charger
My Kindle + charger
My work laptop + charger
Anything that I don’t plan on wearing tomorrow fit into my Timbuk2 Commuter messenger bag, which has a convenient back pocket for my laptop.
For my “personal item,” I’m carrying my smaller everyday messenger bag, which will have anything that spills over, like my wallet, my Kindle, and my knitting.
What I realized while packing is how much I like dressing in primarily neutral colors, mostly black and gray. When I add color, it’s almost always a shade of blue. And I tend to add brighter jewel tones in any accessories, like my emerald green scarf or red bag. This reduced palette wasn’t an intentional decision — it is what I’ve gravitated towards in trying to cultivate a minimalist wardrobe. And it works for me!
I’m traditionally somewhat of an over-packer because I want to be prepared for all scenarios, but I hate coming home with clothes I never end up wearing. I made sure that every piece I put in my bag can be worn in at least two outfits, so I should be good to go.
I’m off to Canada tomorrow, but don’t worry, I’ll probably blog from there, too.
When we went to Paris, I picked up the pattern for the Sureau Dress by Deer & Doe at Lil Weasel. I had been eyeing the pattern for awhile, but since it’s only available in hard-copy, I waited until we went to France to purchase it. And then I waited three and a half months to sew anything!
(The instructions are in English, so I didn’t have to follow along in French. I’m not that brave yet.)
First, I made a toile to ensure that I had proper fitting. According to the size chart, I was mostly a size 38. I had some very thick and stiff muslin to work with, and it predicably made for a thick and stiff draft of the dress. As in the cups in the bust stood up of their own accord when it wasn’t on my body (much to Jessica’s amusement)! Still, it was good to practice all the techniques like gathers and putting on the sleeves before actually sewing the dress on fancy fabric.
Practicing on the toile was somewhat confidence-boosting, but I have to say, the finished result was so farm girl, I hesitated to make the dress for real. I mean, the length and fit were pretty good, but the stiffness of the fabric meant that the dress sat funny in certain places. It wasn’t a terribly inspiring experience.
Still, the anatomy of the dress seemed promising: above-the-knee skirt, three-quarter length sleeves, and a fitted bust and waist. Those are all things that are flattering to my body type, so I decided to go for it.
The Hus-friend helped me pick out the blue (Surprise! I know you’re shocked!) linen at the Fabric Outlet. I was, of course, running up and down the aisles, touching all the bolts of fabric and freaking out about everything being the wrong color or too thin. I’m glad I finally settled on linen–it’s not transparent, and it has a nice drape, unlike the toile muslin.
I didn’t take any pictures sewing up the dress because really, do you care about how the dress-making process looked? Probably not. Here are some quick notes, mostly for myself:
I followed Paunnet’s archived sew-along, which helped keep me generally on top of things. I followed her advice for a gaping neckline/shoulder adjustment of 1cm. I could probably have done 1.5cm.
Make even gathers is super-hard. The gathers in the bust are definitely not symmetrical.
Exposed zippers are also hard. I’m still not sure about the “right” way to do this.
I used the overcasting stitch/foot on my sewing machine to finish the seam allowances because linen seems to unravel just by looking at it. It doesn’t look as professional as, say, a finish done by serger, but I don’t have a serger so whatever.
I cut the fabric and sewed most of the dress on Sunday. On Monday night, I put in the zipper. On Tuesday night, I put in the sleeves. On Wednesday night, I hemmed the sleeves and skirt.
Without further ado, here is the finished dress with me being a bad model and looking SUPER KOREAN:
I love the little red rose buttons on the faux placket! I picked them out back in December when Pat took me to a fabric store in Richmond. They add such cute detail to the dress, even if they are completely decorative and non-functional.
I left the skirt length as is which surprised me because the patterns are drafted for taller women. It looks fine at this length, and I think I would have been uncomfortable had it been any shorter.
For the sleeves, I cut them back to half-length because I’ve heard that it’s best for your sleeves to end at the smallest part of your waist.
So there you go, my very first handmade dress!
Once I get up the nerve, I’ll probably make another Sureau (I mean, I own the pattern after all), and I hope it will go a little faster the next time. I might go down a size (36) because the 38 is a little roomy in the bodice and sleeves. Apparently, I don’t know how to measure myself accurately.
The slight puff in the sleeves makes this dress a little “girlier” than my normal wardrobe. That being said, I’m trying to make my style slightly more feminine anyway, so I’m okay with this addition to my closet. I actually wore this dress to work on Thursday for my birthday and am happy to report that my biggest fear of the seams disintegrating spontaneously did NOT come true!
I didn’t have anything to blog about tonight, particularly because I’ve been using my free time to finish sewing my first dress (and knit a sweater and watch The Jinx.)
In the mean time…
We put together a coatrack at work. Before we attached the arms, it looked like a wizard’s staff. I told Eyal, “We should take a picture of you saying ‘You shall not pass!” like in Lord of the Rings.” He told me that he would take a picture of me saying “You shall not pass.” And I have no shame. Whatever. You shall not pass. I like that I work in an office where I can be silly…and also, wear jeans with a sweatshirt and loafers to work.
Back soon with dress pictures! (You’ll never guess what color it is. Ha.)
I made these homemade Tagalongs for the first time in five years (as a going away gift for someone leaving at work). Man, I hate dipping things in chocolate. It is time-consuming and makes my hands messy. I didn’t actually eat a whole one–just a bite of the Hus-friend’s–but they were devoured at work. So I still can’t say if they are worth the effort.
I ran ten miles for the first time in several months in the company of the SFRRC. Unfortunately, I forgot my Garmin, so it’s like IT DIDN’T EVEN HAPPEN. It felt good to finally get back up to a double-digit run as I’ve been slowly building back up my weekly mileage. I’m enjoying the increased fitness (like, a three-miler not feeling like a slog) that 30 miles/week brings.
The Hus-friend and I went climbing with Jordan, and we finally got up “Tito,” one of the climbs that has been eluding us for weeks (Weeks!). It’s not the most technically difficult one we’ve tried, but for whatever reason, we repeatedly got stuck about 10′ off the ground. I’m not sure what finally changed, but I like to think it’s that my arms got stronger. Hooray!
Also, on several people’s recommendations, we started watching HBO’s The Jinx. It is soooo interesting! (Mom! Are you reading this? You must watch it!)