Saturday, September 30, 2006

sticky note

Two posts in one day, making up for none all week.

Iris, after overhearing a parental conversation about Thai food for dinner: Sticky rice we are having.

J: Yoda is right!


I took this photo of the back of a building while walking home from the library yesterday. I've got a notion to post it to the There goes ya neighborhood! group on Flickr.

We went to the library in search of a book about gorillas and came home with My Body is Private, a borderline-age-inappropriate, random pick off the shelves that Iris then would not let go of. So we've been doing a lot of reading and talking about why Julie does not want to sit in Uncle Ted's lap. (In case you're wondering, Uncle Ted didn't do anything wrong; Julie just didn't like it, so it was okay for her to say "no.")

Almost a full week since I've updated here. Where has the time gone? We're all hale and hearty again, so I can't blame the viral plague that felled us last week. No, this week has been all about slogging through circumstances beyond the edges of what I'm comfortable writing about in public, mainly, a protracted family crisis. Fortunately not in my immediate household, but still, a situation which has placed heavy demands on time and emotional energy.

So I've been pretty distracted and not very productive, at work or anywhere else. I do, however, hope to get in some craft-therapy time this weekend, or at least some furniture prep. Last weekend was perfect painting weather, so I got the little table and chairs primed. Now the dresser awaits. I'm still waiting to be visited with the perfect vision of how that will look when finished. Though it's for a child's room, I don't want it to look childish. Ideas are percolating, but I haven't had that "aha!" moment yet.

So, since I don't have much to show for myself, I'll share some other recent sources of crafty pleasure.

These banners hang from the ceiling of our local Whole Foods grocery store. Each panel was made by a different person or group, and the whole thing was sewn together. Say what you want about Whole Foods being "Whole Paycheck," etc, but I've never known a national chain to interact with the community so much like a local business.

I picked up this 1970s Danish DIY book for $1.49 at the thrift. While some of the pictures are quite dated, even lurid:

Others I find very appealing. Check out that patchwork baby sling-swing. Meets modern child safety standards? I doubt it. But prettier than the commercial ones in Disney prints or standard-issue Baby Navy? Heck yeah.

And this embroidery, while rocking the rustic aesthetic of the 70s a bit too hard, appeals to my love of streetscapes, real or illustrated.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

domino effect

This picture could so easily have been taken by my parents when I was Iris' age:

All the toys I had when I was little are sadly long gone, shed in a succession of family moves. I've made an effort to track down duplicates for Iris of a few that I remember with special satisfaction, like the Fisher Price barn (moooo!). But these animal dominoes – I had forgotten about them completely until I passed a box of them on a sidewalk table, going cheap for $1. The instant I laid eyes on them, thirty-some years collapsed and I remembered vividly how I used to play with them on the floor in ways I was always inventing anew (I never actually learned the official game of dominoes). And that is just how Iris plays with them now. This morning she made a row of all the pieces with Marienkäfer (ladybugs) on them, then counted them up. I believe there were eleventeen.

Still achey and sniffly but a Sunday that lives up to its name and new shoes are proving to have detectable anti-viral properties. Maybe I'll get some sanding and priming done after all.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

clothesline illustrated

Hello computer. I've been kind of out of it all week and I am not sure if I have lots to report or nothing at all. Part of the point of this blog-thing is that most of our family's news is of the quotidian variety ("We ate pancakes! and I'm thinking about painting a dresser!") that does not merit a special phone call or email broadcast. But does anyone really care that a viral haze has descended upon our household and we wish we could sleep it off but toddlers with colds don't sleep very well so we all have dark circles under our eyes to complement our red, over-blown noses? That kind of update reminds me of when I was in college and everyone was constantly talking about how late they had stayed up and how much work they had to do. Borrring. So, let's see what I can scrounge up for news unrelated to nasal discharge.

Well, for one thing, I made another pillowcase and took some better pictures, so here they are:


backs (or other fronts, if you like)


I love the way things look hanging on a clothesline. Two Septembers ago our dryer broke and we had several weeks of hanging all our laundry to dry before we saw winter coming with its chilly promise of frozen undies... that was when we finally sucked it up and bought a new dryer. Having a broken dryer was a lot prettier than our current circumstance of broken dishwasher (still!), let me tell you.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

corners of my home: iris' room

So if you’ve stopped by Kiddley lately, you’ve gotten a glimpse of Iris’ room.

That's because Claire, of Loobylu fame, used a photo of it in her post about the “Go to your room! Kids’ rooms at home” group on Flickr. Claire being Australian, I'll put it this way: I was chuffed! ("Chuffed" being my favorite British English word that has no American equivalent. Rough translation: pleased as punch.) If you haven’t seen Kiddley lately or at all, you really should click on over there. It’s a great and engaging site for grown-ups interested in making their own fun with kids.

Or, if you’re not ready to go just yet, look at some more pictures of Iris’ room:

As it was in March 2004, the nursery ready and waiting (and waiting… and waiting…. Someone, not naming names, was not especially eager to trade the comfort of the womb for a room of her own).

I feel a pang of wistful nostalgia when I look at this picture and see the mobile over the changing table on the left. Baby Iris loved that mobile so! She smiled at it before she smiled at us... she used to have whole conversations with it in fluent babybabble... it spun quietly in reply. It became like a member of our family. We called it Mr. Mobile.

People always ask about Iris' crib. It's a handmade hand-me-down, built by a father of 12(!) for his brood in the 1970s. By the time we inherited it, a dozen small, sticky, teething occupants had taken their toll on the finish, but a coat of gumdrop green paint and some new hardware and it was good to go again. It weighs about eight tons and barely fit up our staircase, but it and the changing table J fashioned from a vintage vanity saved us hundreds of dollars in furnishing the nursery. Plus, I love all the built-in storage and the way the railing opens like a gate.

Two years later: a toddler lives here (but still sleeps in The Crib. It’s too huge to move).

The 50s chair with fins for arms was rescued from the alley on trash day. It’s upholstered in plastic – perfect for a kid’s room! The little table served as ring-bearer at J’s and my wedding; I later painted it and moved it into Iris’ room, where it has been repurposed as a chairside reading table.

This is the photo on Kiddley. J built the shelves, brackets, and pegs for hanging puppets and backpacks, and I painted and decoupaged the toybox. Other than that, it’s almost embarrassing how many things in the picture are from Ikea.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

what a weekend

If you'd think Dan Zanes and Friends would put on a great show...

You'd be right! Next time I get to the store five minutes after it closes, or the bus pulls away when I'm a block from the bus stop, I have to remember we scored the last three tickets. Dig the toddler mosh pit. Ours bounced around in there for a while with Buddy, her teddy bear, but mostly wanted Mama and Daddy to twist and shout, jump and jive as she hung on for the ride.

Everything is new once. After Dan Zanes and an early dinner, Iris got "emmy-ems" from a candy machine. And guess what: they do so melt in your hand.

THEN, as if we hadn't stretched her stamina enough (why was Dan scheduled to play right in the middle of his target audience's naptime?), we went to a baseball game, where J was torn between rooting for the hometown underdogs, the Pirates, or the playoffs-bound Mets, to whom he swears a deep familial loyalty. Iris wears a Mets shirt given her by her aunt and holds a monarch butterfly magically bestowed by our seat attendant. I was glad she didn't pursue the "why it not fly away?" line of questioning too closely, because the obvious answer to anyone who has read Charlotte's Web was that it was languishing.

On the crafty front, I'm pleased to report I can check one whole thing off my project to-do list. Last weekend I dissected a couple of our oddly large supply of discarded-but-not-trashed bed pillows to make two toddler-size ones, and this weekend I got a start on sewing pillowcases for them.

Almost all the fabrics I used were vintage sheets and bedspreads, including one – the night-sky one – which was mine when I was little. I changed design ideas for these midstream, deciding simpler was the way to go, but didn't want to waste pieces I'd already cut; hence the patchworky aesthetic. Also, I didn't have matching thread for all the fabrics, so I did the topstitching on each one in a contrasting color instead, and was happy with how that turned out... except for the parts where it is painfully obvious that I cannot sew a straight line. ( I can draw one though! I'm not completely lineally challenged!)

These were kind of hard to photograph. Here's the flip side of the bottom one, the patchworkiest of them all.

More are in the works, because lord knows we'll want to change them often when runny nose season strikes. Watch this space.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

goodwill aplenty

It is my ritual to stop at the Centre Avenue Goodwill after Iris and I go to the library. The kids' clothes section is consistently a wasteland of wash-worn knits and tattered velour, but I often find nice things for J and me. Yesterday's haul:

Brand-new jacket, still with tags. It's a petite size, unlike me, but it works if I don't try to button it.

I love super-long scarves and I love stripes. This fits both bills.

A throwback to summer, half price. I'll probably forget about it over the winter and it will be a happy surprise when I find it in my closet come spring.

Friday, September 15, 2006

damn you, Phil!

We are all home today. It is overcast and just cool enough that we all pulled out our jeans to wear on a morning excursion to Whole Foods for coffee (or milk, depending on which family member you are) and muffins.

I am going to try not to think about work too much this weekend, but I do have to get one thing off my chest before I retire the subject, and I'm warning you, it ends with a Dilbert analogy. It's that not pretty.

Lately my job has been flirting with me, me and my decision to quit. The fact is, I like being Someone (at least a small, provincial someone) in my field.

Just this week, I got to attend a really smart presentation by some out-of-town design consultants at a schwanky club, which is so not my scene but I do enjoy the open bar, constantly circulating hors d’ouevres, and general atmosphere of Gilded Age opulence as an occasional treat; give a presentation on my work to a class of wide-eyed undergraduates – very rewarding; and receive a hand-written invitation from a former NY Times fashion editor, who has bought the Granite Building downtown, to her private preview of said building.

The point is not that my job is so glamorous, because that could not be farther from the truth. The point is – actually there are two points: 1. I like my chosen field and really don’t want to leave it, and 2. Notice that all of the above-mentioned events took place outside the office.

As a non-corporate drone, I’ve never seen my life in terms of Dilbert references, but I do now feel as if I’ve wandered into the cartoon in which Phil, the Prince of Insufficient Light and Supreme Ruler of Heck, wearing a devil costume and brandishing a spoon, visits Dilbert in his cubicle and says: “You can choose eternal high pay, but your work will be burned in front of you at the end of each day. Or you can choose eternal poverty, but your work will be useful and appreciated.” Just substitute positive/poisonous work environments for the high/poor pay.

Hokay. Now that I've hung my own little cartoon version of a Faustian dilemma out for all to see, here are some gratuitous pictures of things that make me unambiguously happy, followed by another reference to my favorite invertebrate:

My carnelian bangle and red mary janes

Striped tights and Austrian boiled-wool houseshoes on two-year-old legs and feet

Iris wanting a spoon to stir her drink just like Mama stirred her iced coffee.

Iris on octopi: Why ottopusses have eight arms?

Me: So they can grab lots of things.

Iris: Like books! They can grab eight books!

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

one more for the to-do list

Make a housewarming gift for my mother, because she is finally moving here! This has been in the works for a long time, but for a variety of reasons it has been a long, hard road. I am so glad it is finally ending just about a mile up the street from our house.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

works in progress mind

I could write this list in my notebook, but if I do it here, I'll actually be accountable. Or feel that way, anyway.

1. Make a toddler-size pillow and pillowcases for Iris. She has just recently started liking to rest her head on a pillow while she sleeps, and she uses this one, which we have kept in her crib since it was thrifted for her by a friend when she was a wee babe. Works for her, but with all that hand-embroidery, not so easy for me to keep clean. I'm going for something more washing-machine friendly.

2. Appliqué these secondhand plain fall shirts for her.

3. Paint her little table and chairs. I think I finally know how I want to do it.

4. Finish the dresser. Waiting for J's help on this one.

5. Start planning and making Christmas presents and an Advent calendar. I hope and intend to have another handmade Christmas this year.

6. PURGE. I am feeling overwhelmed by magazine back issues, unworn clothes, well-meaning gifts I have stored but never used, and just plain tons of stuff. It's time to go through it, room by room, and file and throw away and donate, donate, donate.

There is more, oh is there ever more. But I want the satisfaction of crossing things off, so I'll leave it at that for now.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006


One of the joyful things about this summer has been that Iris is now a part of our block's kid social life.

Last year she was too little, barely emerging from babyhood, and the bigger kids had no interest in her. But this year, they stop by, and Iris runs to join them as their play roams up and down the sidewalk, in and out of front yards and porches. These are not playdates. They are the spontaneous games of neighborhood kids of different ages, who go to different schools, but who gather in the long evenings to play outside with sidewalk chalk, bubbles, bikes and trikes. Iris even got initiated into hide-and-seek and red light, green light. She is the youngest, and she's thrilled to be a part of the big kids' games.

Of course, there are always less-than-idyllic moments, squabbles over sharing and turn-taking. This is expected. What I didn't expect was for Lucas, who's four, to show up at our house yesterday with a toy sword and a toy gun.

I was not sure what to do, so I cobbled together a quick policy: I would not ban his gun, obviously a cherished toy which he wanted to (alternately) share with and show off to Iris, from our house, but neither would I condone it. Way to take a stand, right?

When he started chasing Iris with it, pointing it at her and pulling the plastic trigger to set off a snapping sound, J told him not to point guns at other people. "But it's not a real gun," Lucas protested.

True, and I'm sure he sees no difference between his gun and his sword: both are swashbuckling props, plastic and basically harmless. He doesn't know that swords are of movies and museums, while guns are Americans' murder weapon of choice. I found myself wondering about his mother, who just the other day was telling me she doesn't let Lucas say "fart" because she finds it vulgar. I'm not saying that a family's linguistic rules should determine its boundaries for creative play, or that she's a bad parent for letting Lucas have a toy gun. I'm just saying – what am I saying?

I'd like to say I'd never buy one for Iris, but what if she begged and begged and begged? Is there such a thing as handling a toy gun responsibly? I actually don't want my child playing with guns at all, even toy ones, but I also don't want to be judgmental of others, especially in front of her. And it was a lot easier to play down the gun as just another toy than to go into a potentially disturbing explanation of Why I Don't Like Guns to a two-year old, or a four-year-old who's not my own, for that matter.

As Iris becomes more and more engaged with the world around her, this parenting thing is just going to get more and more complicated, isn't it? What would you have done?

Saturday, September 02, 2006

goodwill hunting

Wait, I don't think I made that title up. Are great finds blogging alike?

I have been waiting for this for years! Temporama at 50 cents a piece! There must have been a time when everyone and her sister was getting this for a wedding present – it's ubiquitous in vintage shops, around these parts anyway. I have always liked it, just never wanted to pay vintage shop prices. But then, there I was in the Goodwill on East Ohio Street, where I never find anything, only now I have to stop describing it that way because it was like Temporamarama. Not a complete set, obviously, but plenty to build on, and I expect it to outlast our easy-come easy-go Ikea dishes by decades.

But wait, there's more. Do you take one atomic particle or two in your tea?

I'm a sucker for pretty little Japanese things, so I couldn't resist this pretty little Japanese pitcher for 99 cents, though I did have to field questions from J about why we have so many little pitchers and creamers. I told him someday we'll have a big syrup-tasting party.

And I found new sheets for our bed, just in time to replace our old ones, which fell into shreds last week. Although I would not necessarily have picked these out new, it is uncanny how well the colors go with our room. The polka-dot pillowcases are from a different set that also happened to be at Goodwill, and I like them better than matching ones (which they didn't have anyway). Very autumnal, no?

Now, this bowl is not from Goodwill, but I fell in love and the vintage shop price was right. I'm not sure the photo captures it, but in each of the leaves you can see the weave of the silk used to screen them.

Other tidbits, good, bad, and neutral:

Yesterday Iris' friend Natalie came over to play. She has two daddies, so what do you think she called J? "Daddy." Aww! Somehow the girls' (considerable) combined energy created an anti-toddler field; J actually caught one of them handing the other a toy, saying, "Your turn!" Clearly an experiment to be repeated.

I know it it is hardly a tragedy compared to this, but my dishwasher is broken and can't be fixed till Wednesday.

Supposedly we have Tropical Storm Ernesto to thank (or blame, if you like) for this chilly wet weather, but it feels like September arrived and someone flipped a switch: Activate Fall. For the first time in months, we ate breakfast indoors. (homemade strawberry shortcake!) I feel like wearing fleece. Drinking hot tea. Ironing. Off I go.