Wrapping up the year.

Victorian image of Father Christmas stalking two hapless children. Sort of.

I’m combining months here, partially because I never got around to posting and partly because both directing and performing the in holiday show this year put the rest of my life entirely on hold for several weeks. I have to remember not to do that again. This year has been a mixed bag. I made a lot of progress and managed to do more than I thought possible, but I also fell short of some of my personal goals. I’m going to approach 2020 a little differently, and am working up a new sew of monthly and longer-term goals for the new year.

Goals for 2019 – November/December Progress

Send one real letter a month.
I sent out my holiday cards late again this year, but I did send them.

Sew at least one garment a month.
I didn’t sew anything either month. I had a project ready to go after the play closed, but I came down with a rotten cold and lost all of my sewing time!

Send newsletter at least once a month.
Nope. I’m seriously wondering whether to scrap it altogether.

Make one apartment improvement a month.
We got speaker stands for a couple of the surround sound speakers that have been just hanging out on bookshelves and the corner of the desk. This should improve the sound profile as well as making room for my new printer, so this is a win-win.

Go on one outing with Lennox a month.
We went to see a National Theatre Live screening of the original stage version of “Fleabag” (fantastic) and spent an afternoon playing mini-golf and videogames. Let it never be said that we have no range!

Read one physical book I already own a month.
I started three but haven’t managed to finish any of them yet. I have been, um, very scattered. [shrug emoji]

Track spending on books, clothing, and sewing.
I did great in November on books ($37.15), then totally blew it in December ($72.61, including two full price pre-orders I forgot about, ouch). Contrarily, I overspent on sewing in November ($116.18), then really improved in December ($36.80, most of which was a big PDF Plotting order of copy shop pattern prints). I spent a mind-boggling $586.52 on clothing over two months, which makes me queasy to contemplate. (I got an overdue client payment and a large lump sum from another job, so this was paid from cash on hand — thank goodness.) I really don’t recommend changing sizes unexpectedly. I had to replace my good winter coat, all of my underwear, and most of my bras — and that’s not counting day-to-day clothing. I also bought tights and shoes for the show, and a fancy-pants cardigan to wear to a wedding in December. But none of that excuses the amount I spent. In fact, this has inspired me to tackle a clothing project next year.

Track daily writing habit.
I didn’t. I also didn’t write much. My life was completely out of hand these last two months, frankly.

Post weekly IG photo.
I think I posted a single photo in November and two in December.

Run robot sweeper, vacuum bedroom, tidy, and clean bathroom weekly.
The cleaner came both months, and I’m sure I cleaned another week in November, but between the show and my cold, I didn’t manage another cleaning in December. Oh, well!

Longer-Term Goals

Reduce fabric stockpile to less than 100 yards (plus scraps) by the end of 2019.
I finished the year with 141 yards to my name. Taste the failure! It tastes like cotton voile and rayon ponte. I called it in October, and I was right — there was no way I was going to make the goal. Also, Lennox and I do “treat yo’self” for Christmas, and this year I got a lovely order of fabric from Mood. He got a beautiful winter coat. Sadly, neither of us got an authentic Batman costume.

Treat Yo'Self to a Batman Costume.

Find a way to keep performing.
I did that, at least. Even if it was often terrible, it was truly worth it in other ways. I loved working with those kids.

Combine websites, transfer blog, forward other domains, purchase an SSL certificate.
Still on hold until 2020. I think I’m going to rework the web design while I’m at it, and I definitely need a new avatar photo.

My November/December Frugal List

None of this outweighed my clothing spending, so all of this is moot. But I’ll post it since I tracked it.

  • Paid for November Seamwork subscription and all of my Patreon pledges using funds earned taking surveys and from eBay sales.
  • Downloaded two free Amazon First Reads ebooks, four Audible Originals, and four Prime Reading titles.
  • Used a coupon on lunch out at Sweet Tomatoes with Lennox.
  • Had a free small drink from points accumulated on my Regal Entertainment card…but we bought popcorn to go with it, so maybe that’s a frugal failure!
  • Downloaded a free graphics set from Creative Market.
  • Signed up for three months of Kindle Unlimited for $0.99. I keep a list of titles in the program and wait for promotional periods to read them.
  • Had two free drinks on my Starbucks card.
  • Checked out an ebook from the library instead of spending $2 for it on sale. I often forget that I do little things like this, but those actions add up over time. I’m thinking about tracking my library savings next year instead of just the cost of my reading because I think that would be an eye-opening number.
  • Got a free book on Google Play Books. I sometimes forget that the app exists!
  • Got a Kindle book for free using a special credit earned from a previous purchase.
  • Read 11 ebooks and five physical books from the library. I also read four Prime Reading books.

Looking Toward 2020

I have a lot of change coming in the next year. I will be working in a new office starting in January, and Lennox and I will hopefully be moving sometime after March. These are both positive changes (I honestly can’t wait to leave this apartment), but they’re also stressful. I learned a lot this year, both about my capability and my capacity for overwhelm. I have several ideas to explore in the new year, and one of those is blogging more (and about different things than just these lists). Happy New Year! Let’s get stuff done.

August, or they say failure is how we learn.

It will be easier to say what I actually accomplished in August than to list my lengthy failures. I sent my newsletter once, went to see “Design for Living” at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston with Lennox, finally got management to fix the floor in our apartment, and got my fabric stockpile down to 114 yards — though that involved cutting out a few things that I haven’t yet sewn. And that was it. I spent way too much money, didn’t track anything (except my reading, which is a long-standing habit), and made virtually no progress on any other front.

I’m hoping to be back on track in September. I’ve declared a personal Austerity Month where I’m not only temporarily lowering my spending, but also planning to sell a few things, as I want to build my personal savings back up. I wanted to take voice lessons again this fall, but I’d let the balance drop so low that I couldn’t justify the expense. I’m also hoping to sew a couple of the things I already have cut out, but other than that I just want to do better this month. It shouldn’t take much effort to pull that off!

More like “2018 Make None,” amirite?

I discovered when reviewing my 2018 Make Nine list the other day that I had failed pretty spectacularly in accomplishing much on it. Reading the list literally, I made exactly one item: my beloved Suki Kimono.

I did try two different trousers patterns, neither of which went beyond the muslin stage due to fitting issues — and I did make an A-line dress from my Concord tee pattern, but not technically a swing dress. So I’m not sure either count as completed items.

I also knitted a few inches of progress on my Baktus scarf, but I’ve come to realize that I am no longer really a knitter. I do intend to finish this scarf, and I’m not ruling out knitting a hat or two in the future, but knitting is rough on my hands (pain-wise) and I don’t watch much TV these days, so I have less need for an “occupy my hands” hobby. Furthermore, if I’m going to be brutally honest about it, I was never very good at knitting. I’m also a very slow knitter, which always tried my patience. I intend to finish this scarf (eventually) and then let go of most of my yarn. I’m going to hang onto my favorite knitting tools, but I intend to knit very sparingly in the future.

I like the idea of the Make Nine challenge — and I did sew several things last year — so I’m going to attempt it again in 2019, only with rather different parameters (post coming in January).

On arrogance and ruination.

A few quick notes for people who write in library books:

  1. If you’re going to write in a library book, use a red pen for maximum impact.
  2. If you’re going to alter punctuation in a library book, use the correct proofreading symbols to do so.
  3. If you’re going to proofread a traditionally published, copy-edited, and previously proofread book be sure that you have an intimate understanding of grammar and punctuation. Be very sure that the changes you’re making are absolutely correct.

It takes a certain kind of person to write in a library book. It takes another kind of person to alter punctuation throughout an entire library book — incorrectly alter punctuation, in every single instance. I gave up reading the book in question (excerpt pictured above) because the added commas were so glaringly incorrect that it made my skin crawl. I wanted to find the inarticulate comma monster who defaced this perfectly innocent murder mystery and slap them in the face with a glove and demand satisfaction.

Let me explain something. I understand arrogance very well because I am inflicted with that particular malady. Have you ever heard of a psychological condition called Imposter Syndrome? I definitely don’t have that. I sort of have the opposite of that. When I walk into a new room, I’m not secretly worried that I don’t belong there or that I’m a fraud. Very often I walk into a room and think: Oh, come on. I am so much better than these people.

Part of the problem (and at least I do see that there is a problem) is that, as a kid genius and a long time stage performer with a truckload of training, I have often been the best/smartest/most talented person in a room. Not every time, of course. But just often enough that the feeling was sometimes justified. I have been — many times — an arrogant little shit.

I refer to myself these days as a recovering asshole. (“Hi, my name is Sarah, and I’m an arrogant asshole.” / “Hi, Sarah!”) I’m not as awful as I once was, but I still have my arrogant moments.

And even I would never deface a library book with incorrect punctuation. Never. Even if the punctuation was truly incorrect and I was in the right.

Think about the sheer moxie that would take — the pure, unadulterated hot-shitness of it all. What makes a person pick up a ballpoint pen and say to themselves, “I took an English class once, and I can clearly see that this book is missing all of the important commas. I must correct this injustice if it’s the last thing I do! BY GOD AS MY WITNESS, THIS SHALL NOT STAND!” And then, tongue tucked in the corner of their mouth in concentration, said person, in deep concentration, proceeded to add and subtract commas at will. “There,” the person must have whispered triumphantly into the night, “now everyone will see the depth of my genius and understand that only I — and I alone — can command the comma perfectly. I do not need any trained proofreader or sly copy-editor to pollute my unblemished efforts. Bow before me, library readers, and see how I have bested them all!”

I expect they devolved into paroxysms of maniacal laughter at that point.

You see, the kind of arrogance exhibited by the person who defaced this book isn’t like my on-again-off-again overabundance of (occasionally unwarranted) self-confidence. This is the kind of arrogance that ruins things for everyone who comes after them. My arrogance tends to injure me socially — no one loves a braggart — but this kind of arrogance hurts other people. In this case, it hurt me — and I’m just arrogant enough in my own right to make an issue of it.

To make a long story short, do not deface library books. Especially if your punctuation “corrections” are wrong.

Panic update.

Here’s a fun thing you can do if you have panic disorder that’s triggered by strong smells: Decide to use a tiny squirt of that conditioner sample you got in the mail. Sure, it smelled innocuous in the packet, but it actually came from Satan’s fragrant garden of horrifying chemical rot.

First, go completely out of your mind because the smell is on you, on your fricking body. You can’t escape it. Throw open the shower curtain to get some cooler, fresher air to hyperventilate. Give yourself a little pep talk as you try to rinse the horror from your hair. Sacrifice a perfectly good towel to blot away as much of the (extremely stubborn) conditioner that still remains. Wash your hair again with unscented shampoo. Rinse thoroughly, then smell the ends. Panic again. It still reeks. Wash your hair twice more. Have one more minor panic when you see how much hair has fallen out during this procedure. Condition with your shitty-but-blessedly-fragrance-free regular conditioner.

Clean up all the water on the bathroom floor from your initial shower curtain yanking hyperventilation session.

For best results (as in maximum panic), do this with a pre-existing stomach ache somewhere between the hours of 2 and 3 a.m. when you have to get up early the next day.

Try to sleep, but spend the rest of the night wondering whether you should wash your hair just one more time to be safe.


Ding-dong, the year is dead.

Wrapping Up 2016

2016 was not a good year for me. Or for a lot of people. Many of our heroes died. There were garbage elections in several places. It has been tough.

I definitely had a rough time on a personal level. My health was worse than usual: I had to have a tooth out, I had the second worst respiratory infection of my adult life, I had a foot injury. All of this had an effect on other areas of my life, too. It took over two months to unpack after we moved, and I got behind on my paid work. I had to let two private clients go this year, and haven’t been able to work as many hours outside the house as usual, either.

My 86 year old grandmother’s memory is finally starting to fail, my 64 year old father has become frighteningly frail, and our cat went suddenly blind this year. Misery not only loves company, but seems to have a house full of guests at the moment.

It has been a year of terrible decision making — both on the micro and macro level. I see both the American election and the earlier Brexit vote as an aspect of this, and our personal choice to move house. We decided to move over some pretty petty bullshit, without clearly thinking through the consequences, and it was a big mistake. But just like the US and the UK, the Crowder-Chan household will just have to deal with the consequences and make plans to better our situation later.

This is the part where I’m supposed to say that it wasn’t all bad in 2016, and of course it wasn’t — not in its entirety. It just feels like it was. Sure, I got to visit my family in Missouri for the first time in seven years, and I started work on my second novel. I read like a maniac this year, and plowed through 421 books. But does that outweigh the stresses and tribulations this year wrought? Realistically, no. No, it doesn’t.

The usual platitudes don’t help. “You’ve still got your health!” Do I? Please see above. “Next year is a blank slate — surely it will be better!” Will it? It looks pretty grim to me. “Well you’ve just got to stay positive, and…” Nope. Let me stop you right there. I don’t. Just let me wallow for a while. I have legitimate reasons to feel legitimately bad right now, and although this wallowing won’t be a permanent condition, I’m allowed to feel like shit when my world is shitty. You and Pollyanna can show yourselves right out, thank you very much.

2016 has been a garbage nightmare year. The best I can say for it is that it’s finally over.

I am a walking disaster.

After a couple of weeks of improvement in our spending, I had to go and have an accident that put me in the emergency room one night, and will have a few follow-up appointments. Thank goodness I have health insurance these days. I didn’t for many years, and even though our deductible is enormous and ridiculous, at least I can see a doctor when I need it. If you’ve been insured for a long time, you may not realize that without insurance, doctors charge you right up front — as in, you pay or you don’t see a doctor at all. And a regular office visit is generally $200 and up!

So this week’s list is to the point:

  1. My accident impaired my mobility, so I did almost no shopping at all. I sent Lennox out for groceries, and that’s about it. (I did buy a DVD from Amazon, but it was only $5 and it was a replacement for one someone borrowed and never returned! At least it was a bargain.)
  2. Since I last posted, I read 8 library eBooks and watched one DVD from the library.
  3. Took advantage of my need to move around less by catching up on some client work. Found a little silver lining there!
  4. One of my clients came to pick up her payroll reports and brought me a box of macarons. Free cookies are always a nice bonus! They were wheat-free, too — most macarons are made with almond flour — so I could eat them.

Needless to say, the apartment is still kind of a wreck. I have never unpacked so slowly in my entire life. It’s excruciating. Next time I am outsourcing everything I possibly can. My only goal for the weekend is to get the dining room table put together. Keep your fingers crossed that I don’t lose another toenail! Heaven forbid. I shouldn’t even joke about that.

The rare pity party.


I stayed home sick from work today, but still managed to wear something for Me Made May. These are a pair of frankentrousers made from an old Burda pattern and Seamwork Moji. I’d made a previous (slightly more successful, due to the more stable knit I originally used) pair of lounge pants from this pattern, and although these pants don’t look great, they’re very comfortable.

I didn’t like the waistband or the crotch curve (I know, I know — me and my crotch curves) of Moji, but I loved the leg shape, so I used the waistband and crotch shaping of an old Burda pattern for drawstring pants that I knew fit very well. Then, just to make it more complicated, I made it from a knit. (Both original patterns were meant for wovens, but I do this all the time.) It all worked out. I really like both pairs of pants I’ve made from my frankenpattern.

I am feeling pretty gloomy today, though — comfy pants aside. I have limited energy at the best of times, and though I manage it very well, there are still times I can’t do much and just have to rest. Today I’m having very low energy combined with a recurrent stomach issue that comes and goes. I couldn’t go to work, and I won’t be able to go to choir practice tonight, either.

I hate committing to some plan and then being unable to follow through. It makes me feel terrible. I do my best to manage my energy (and my expectations), but there are times when I simply can’t do what I said I would. I know that everyone flakes sometimes, but I’m always mortified when I do. It’s worse, too, when it’s something I have particularly been looking forward to — like singing with this choir — but again, there’s not much I can do about it.

I have a good life, a happy marriage, lots of interests and hobbies. I’m better off than a lot of people. I get a lot done, despite my limitations. But I’m only human, and sometimes I get frustrated and angry and very sad that I’m not better, or healthier, or more able.

And today I’m having one of those sad and frustrated days.

Where you been at, dawg?

There’s this thing you disbelieve when you’re young — that time flies by and one day you realize that you intended to do something and suddenly it’s three months later and you’re not at all sure what happened. Hashtag: Time Keeps On Slipping Slipping Slipping Into The Future.

Turns out this is a thing that happens often enough to the casual blogger that I don’t have to blame it on incipient age — though I won’t deny that I stand at the threshold of my dotage. (I’m still reading those Regency-set novels — can you tell?)

Anyway, I’ll post again once something strikes me as “postable.” Someday.

Ban clowning.*

The next person who attempts to disparage my (assumed) eating habits had better do so in a way that is grammatically correct, because the phrase “eating healthy” is wrong unless the word “healthy” is followed by a noun.

Because adjectives don’t modify verbs, people.

The phrase you’re looking for is “eating healthily,” using the correct adverb form of the word. Or even “healthy eating,” because in that context “eating ” is a noun.

I don’t mean to be pedantic (except, of course, I really do), but this is basic grammar. Basic. And it’s true that I have also been shamed for being an “elitist” for my grammatical tirades, but there’s nothing wrong with using correct speech or good manners. Neither my grammar nor my manners are perfect, but I will always strive to correct these shortcomings.

If that makes me a monster, then fuck it. I’m a monster.

A monster who knows the difference between an adjective and an adverb.

*Title is unrelated to post, although as a coulrophobe, I really do support the ban of all clowning activities.