Friday, February 24, 2023

Fabulous Fashion Friday #4

Another snippet from Coming Closer, from later in the book. Claire decides that her sister needs a little something pretty and Ava, proud as always, wants to refuse but is unable to once she gets her hands on a pre-war Japanese embroidered kimono which Claire got in Paris after her honeymoon.


     It’s a robe... no, a kimono. The word floats into my mind. I didn’t even know that I knew what a kimono looked like, but this is certainly one. “It’s beautiful,” I say inadequately.

     It is a pale, dusty pink, a color once called ashes of roses. I don’t know if that’s the right name now. Without thinking, I rub the fabric between my fingertips, judging. Silk crepe, the best quality I’ve ever felt. 

     Flowers spill over the shoulders and down the open front of the kimono, with pale tendrils ending just above the hem. The inside is a darker pink, making me think again of roses, though that’s not what these flowers are.

     “Cherry blossoms,” Claire days, reading my mind. “It’s Japanese.”

     “I thought you said it was French?” I take the kimono from her, spread it across my lap. It is simultaneously weightless and substantial. The embroidery is heavier on the back, pink-and-white flowers massed across the shoulders, interspersed with vivid green leaves. The silk thread has texture under my fingers. The flowers are so lifelike I almost expect them to have a fragrance.

     “We bought it in Paris,” she says patiently. “It’s from Japan. Stand up, let’s try it on.”

     “It’s too nice—” I try to fight her off but I’m afraid she will damage the kimono in her enthusiasm to dress me up. “Fine.”

     Putting it on, I look at myself in the triple mirror I normally avoid. The dampness outside has loosened my hair, and it falls in waves to my chin. My cheeks are flushed, my eyes bright. But for the telltale tightness around my mouth, I am almost unrecognizable.

     “I can’t wear this.” I slip it off regretfully, trying not to think about how it felt. How I looked.

     Claire bundles it up and thrusts it into my hands. “You have to.” She reaches into the box and throws the sash—pink on one side, green on the other—on top of the pile. “If you don’t take it, I’ll put it in the rubbish.”

     “You wouldn’t.” In spite of myself, I clutch it to my chest.

     “I would, Ava, and I will.” Claire laughs delightedly. “Now, will you take it?”

     It is the most beautiful thing I have ever touched, and I want it so badly I can barely breathe. I think of the skill and the hours devoted to the embroidery of all those blossoms, the many thousands of miles it has traveled to reach my hands; I can’t let her destroy it, and she would, just to prove her point. 

     “Fine,” I mutter. “I’ll take it.”

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Progress, of various sorts

This past Friday, I had another appointment with the retina specialist, and actually got some good news out of it. 

I've been seeing pretty well over the last few weeks, to the point where, when I'm outside, I push my glasses up on my head and try to manage without them. The right eye (the one that had the cataract removed) has healed and stabilized to a point where my distance vision is way better than on the "good" eye, the one that has yet to be fixed.

So my question for him was, if I'm seeing this well with no new lens inserted, why would I bother to have that done. Yes, I'll still need glasses, but I've worn glasses for 50 years, and I didn't go into cataract surgery expecting to stop wearing them. And I'll still need them for close work, and 90% of my life appears to be close work. So why?

And he... agreed with me. He said it still wouldn't be his choice, but that's mainly because he'd like to get me too 100% clear vision, not because what I want isn't medically sound. 

But what I want will get me something that both the cataract and the retina doctors want, which is for me to fix the left eye. By all estimates, the cataract isn't as severe (and so hopefully will come off without as many complications), and even if that's the case again, now I know what I've got to look forward to, and that a non-optimum surgical result still gets me a pretty good result visually.

So I'm back to the cataract doctor in a week or two, so she can look at my progress and we can set a date for removing the yellow film from my left eye.

I thought I was going to have all this done before my birthday in January. HA.

But still. It's progress. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. And it's only a little bit blurry. 

Friday, February 17, 2023

Fabulous Fashion Friday #3

This week we have a snippet from Coming Apart, After Ava visited Claire in Philadelphia and made a dress for her.

The dress pictured here was the jumping off point for Ava's creation, but in navy blue bias-cut satin.


It is the first of August before I am brave enough to wear the dress Ava made for me. I haven’t even tried it on; what I saw in the mirror during the final fitting surprised and disturbed me enough that I put it in the back of the closet. But this is a special evening, and Prue Foster will be there, which makes me feel a bit braver.

For someone so buttoned up herself, Ava has created a dress far more daring than anything I have ever worn. The navy satin is staid enough, but stitched on the bias, it flows over my curves like paint. It is cut nearly to the small of my back, but in the front, a simple drape at the neck offers only a shadow of cleavage.

I look at myself in the three-way mirror, trying to decide if it will cause a scandal.

“My God.” Already in his tuxedo, Harry stands in the doorway. He takes off his glasses and peers at me.

A blush climbs from the drape all the way to my hairline. “Is it too much?”

He gives a tiny, stunned shake of his head. “You look amazing.”

“Ava made it when she was here.” I turn in a small circle. “I haven’t had the nerve before now.”

“She should visit more often.” Harry slides a hand down my satin hip. “I don’t know if I want to show you off or keep you to myself.”

I smile at him. “You lucky man, you get to do both.”

Wednesday, February 15, 2023

Feels like spring

Just short one this week, to thank everyone for their kind words about Harriet, and for sharing their own stories of pets past and present. No matter how much it hurts, the fact that we're willing to go through it again - and again - says something about us, and them.

The weather's been in the 50s for the past few days, so despite what that pesky groundhog said, I'm feeling like spring. I've been walking a lot, looking at the green shoots of daffodils and crocuses popping up in gardens all over town, and holding myself back from clearing out the garden beds in my own yard.

Two more days until my next appointment with the retina specialist. My eye still gets tired and a little itchy by the end of the day, but my vision is so much better that even without the new lens, I've been walking around without my glasses. He told me there was a chance that I would end up with correctable vision, and that going through the second surgery to insert a lens might end up being optional. If that is indeed the case, I'll take the option of glasses, thank you very much. 

Not having to go through a second surgery on the right eye might make me a little more amenable to the idea of fixing the left one, say, next year.

Friday, February 10, 2023

Fabulous Fashion Friday #2

Another snippet from Coming Closer, this one from the very opening scene of the book. Because who doesn't love vintage undies?


I rummage through Claire’s underwear drawer, sorting by fabric even as I catalog the delicious colors: ice blue, orchid, butter yellow, ivory. A shocking black georgette slip with insets of handmade lace. One piece step-ins of peach satin with tiny bows at the straps. Bandeau brassieres in ballet pink crepe de chine with matching pants.

Pulling out a long, bias-cut slip in smoky lilac, I hold it against me, careful not to let my roughened fingertips catch on the satin. “Good lord, this is too pretty to cover with clothes.”

“It’s a negligee,” she says, ducking her head. “There’s a matching peignoir in the closet. With ostrich feather trim. Do you want to see it?”

“No.” I shake my head. “But something that lovely deserves to be seen.”

“Well, it is.” Claire’s color deepens. “It’s one of Harry’s favorites.”

It is my turn to blush. “I feel older and thicker by the moment.” I fold the gown and put it back with the rainbow of shining fabrics. “But I asked for it. If I’m going to sew for these women, I need to know what they wear under their clothes.”

Wednesday, February 8, 2023

And then there were none

A recent Harriet - not bad for an old girl

This was not the post I planned for this week. But if we all know one thing, it's that life does not go to plan.

Harriet was born in or near my backyard when I lived in West Philly. Her father was Vladimir Putintat, the tom of all toms, and her mother was named Alice. Vlad and Alice were an unusual couple - they would bring their kittens to my yard, he would disappear, and she would nap, knowing that the kittens were safe. Eventually, when the kittens got old enough, their parents didn't come back for them and I had more cats. This system worked well for a long time.

Harriet and her brother Nicky were the last of the old West Philly herd of cats. We lost Nicky in April, 2021, and we lost Harriet two days ago.

She was approximately 19 and 1/2 years old, and had been holding well. She was always small - one of those perma-kittens - but that just meant when she transitioned from being a fussy eater to not wanting to eat, the weight dropped even quicker. I'm not even sure if there was anything specific wrong. At a certain age, the wheels just come off the bus, and when a cat reaches that age, I'm not going to take her to a vet to have them figure out what's wrong. What's wrong is old age, and the one thing we can do for pets as opposed to people is to arrange to let them go before they're suffering.

Harriet in the jungle
On Monday morning, I called the visiting vet who helped Nicky along at our house, but they didn't have anyone available until Tuesday late afternoon, and that suddenly seemed like a long time when Harriet was deteriorating so rapidly. So I called around to my neighbors, found someone who could drive me to the local vet, and made an appointment. I don't have anything against the local vet, but having it done at home does save their last memory from being a ride in the car.

The only food she'd been interested in in 2 days was cream cheese, so I took some of that with me to distract her.

The tech pushed back a little bit when I said I was there for euthanasia, but when the vet came in, he looked at me, looked at Harriet, and said, "You've been doing this longer than me." He gave her a quick once over and said he could feel a mess in her abdomen, probably lymphoma, which explained the swiftness of her decline. It's also similar to what took out both Alice and her brother, so sad but not entirely unexpected.

He did what needed to be done quickly and compassionately, and Harriet passed with her face in a spoonful of cream cheese. Not a bad end, as far as that goes.

Tiny Harriet with Alice (mom) and Nicky
I am now a woman without a cat. Which hasn't happened in 38 years. I've always overlapped before, so there was never a vacancy. This is going to be really, really strange.

Friday, February 3, 2023

Fabulous Fashion Friday #1

Coming Closer (Ava & Claire Book #2) has a lot of sewing and 1930s fashion in it - two of my favorite things. 

In honor of my favorite fictional sisters, I'm starting a series of #FabulousFashionFriday posts on Facebook and Instagram to share some of the photos I've accumulated while researching this book, along with snippets, if there is one that applies. 

Obviously I'm sharing here as well, because, well, 1930s fashion? Is that enough reason?


 The sort of dress I would normally make for Claire—bias cut and sinuous, to counteract her primness—would garner the wrong reaction in such a crowd. My sister must look like the what she is, the beautiful wife of a prominent businessman, and her figure, while unavoidable, should not be on blatant display. 

But fashion leans toward the form-fitting. I spend the rest of my work day thinking about it, making bad drawings, and finally haul myself out to the drugstore to surreptitiously look at movie magazines for inspiration. And I find it, in an issue of Silver Screen—a profile of Joan Crawford, illustrated with photographs from several of her pictures, including Letty Lynton, where she is clad in a gown that seems equal parts ruffles and attitude.

Wednesday, February 1, 2023

59. How the heck did that happen?

My birthday was yesterday. How am I 59? I don't  feel 59. I don't, on most days, feel 39.

I think it's the biggest trick our bodies play on us as we age, that our minds don't age at the same rate. I am continually surprised when my back hurts or my knees pop or - appropriately enough - my eyes don't work properly. Who said I could fall apart?

Last Friday, I saw the retina specialist and he was quite pleased with how my eye was healing. He reduced my eyedrops from four to two, and said he'd see me in three weeks (so February 17) to check my progress and hopefully give me a date for the second surgery.

The strangest thing is that as my right eye is healing, it's got better distance vision than the "good" eye, but I can't just walk around without glasses. (I tried, I tripped over a curb and almost fell on my face). No peripheral vision or depth perception (yet) on one side does not make for safe walking.

In other news, I've just about finished edits for Coming Closer, I'm making notes for the third book (because my head won't shut up), and I'm thinking that I'll add a regular book review feature to the blog because I've read so many good books lately it seems a shame not to share them! Also, many are by other indie authors and it's hard for them (us) to get the word out, so if it's a book I can genuinely vouch for, you'll see it here.