Miscellany

Lovely, lovely Antwerp

Hello, hello. And Happy New Year!

Yes, I know that’s a bit late, but only in internet time–which pretty much came to a halt for two weeks. We had a very quiet and unplugged Christmas in Antwerp, Belgium. My husband and I lived there briefly before we settled in Austin, but continue to visit at least once a year. This year we used the holidays as an excuse to gather with a few friends who traveled from Prague and Berlin. I love European cities at Christmastime… the families gathered together in the squares, huddled against the cold with cups of mulled wine, the relaxed holiday pace.

We peaked into the Christmas Day mass at St. Mary’s, where a glorious tenor was belting out American black gospels.

{This one is by my husband. I have a sorry lack of pictures of the entire two weeks but I’m not the iPhoneographer around here. He somehow climbed on the rooftop of our apartment for this one.}

Antwerp is, in my humble opinion, one of the friendliest and most relaxed cities in all of Europe. My favorite activity here is just to sit on the crowded Meir and people-watch for hours on end–the Flemish walk to the sound of their own drum with offbeat style at every age. (I’ve also never heard so much whistling in any place. People whistle songs to themselves–constantly. Surely a sign of happiness?)

It also has a reputation as a fashion and shopping mecca, and I’d be remiss if I never wrote about it on this blog. There’s every kind of fashion from high street to luxury packed into the small streets. You may have heard about the Antwerp Six, a collective of designers (Dries van Noten, Ann Demuelemeester, etc.) from the Art Academy here who basically put Antwerp design in the international spotlight in the 80s. These designers have their stores here and you feel their influence in much of the design. I’d name that influence something like post-street-pop-Japonisme. (There’s a huge representation of Japanese design here–including the pioneering designers of the 80s. I should write a post about that connection sometime.) The MOMU fashion museum is a rare treat with a curated exhibition that changes a couple of times a year and a permanent historical collection.

Since lace was on my brain when we left Austin, I thought I might find some here–after all, this is Belgium, right? Surprisingly it’s hard to find fabric stores in Antwerp and I didn’t have much patience to explore in the gale-force winds and rains that haunted our last week.

But it was exactly the holiday we needed. Friends, lounging indoors and talking, lots of Irish coffee, more talking. And Chocolate. Every. Day.

New Year’s on the Scheldt. (One of two pictures I took! Yep, it was that relaxed.)

I’m looking forward to getting back to sewing…. and catching up on the crazy zillions of blog posts in my reader!

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Happy Birthday to Me

I’m an autumn baby and I love having a cusp-of-things kind of birthday. I always associate my birthday with big change. Fall, rather than mid-winter, always feels like the new year to me. (I always felt like New Year’s resolutions were so strange… maybe I live on the Jewish calendar!)

My birthday was a week ago and we decided to leave Texas for the much greener pastures of the borders of Yorkshire.

Somehow we didn’t get any actual pictures of me facing the camera but I have to say the scenery upstaged us anyway. Apparently this is where they shot parts of the final Harry Potter.

A few days later our friends took us for a lovely day at Chatsworth estate. (This has also been home of many film sets, including being Mr. Darcy’s “Pemberley” in the last Pride and Prejudice.) My lovely friend Jen is a textile artist in Sheffield–I had to include this because I love how her colors looked against the sky that day.

I’m 41. It sounds so big to write that down. Did you know that Winona Ryder turned 40 last month? To me, that’s the official sign that Gen X is going into middle age. (Did you see her in Black Swan? Strange and gory.)

My 40th year took me by surprise. I didn’t want to think it’d be a big deal, but it was. I was suddenly crowded with unexpected thoughts, as perhaps many women are, about the rest of my life–about health, children, career, places to live and how to manage it all. All good questions. I started this blog as one of my new resolutions (it started right before my 40th), as a way of challenging myself to write and focus on one particular passion.

I share the same birthday week with my mother and her mother (both seamstresses!). I’m happy to say that my grandma is 102 as of last week, and she’s a sharp and witty lady–she is now mostly blind and no longer sews or knits, but on her birthday last year told me she listens to audio books now, about 20 a week!

Here’s to new horizons and giving oneself permission to change routes!

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Looking Better around Here, Methinks

I am one of those bloggers who cannot stop at just one theme or template. Nooo. I have to keep trying new ones, tweaking old ones.

This blog was actually my first experiment in wordpress.com but I found it limiting and have since installed WordPress on my own host. I started out using the Duster theme but didn’t like how single entry pages had no sidebars. At the same time, Duster is nice because it is very, very uncluttered. I like lots of white space and good typography and there are a lot of themes that really squash too much in too little space–and go overboard with fonts.

So I installed Canvas and gave it all the same CSS style that I used in Duster, with a few new upgrades.

I’m curious, though, about how people read blogs.

*Do you like to see lots of sidebars?

*Do you scroll through blogrolls? They’ve been around since the beginning of blogs and I wonder… these days I find blogs through comments or boards and not through blogrolls.

*Google FriendConnect: what is it for? If I subscribe to a blog in my Google Reader, that seems like enough, so signing into FriendConnect seems like a superfluous thing. Am I wrong?

*The biggest thing I’m curious about is–do you like to see the entire post on blog pages, or just a teaser/excerpt? Or do you generally read blogs in your reader first (which bypasses the whole excerpt thing anyway)?

I have another blog on which I occasionally write about design things. I wonder if it’d be useful to put some code or blogging engine tips here, specifically for sewing/fashion blogs?

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