Sunday, December 31, 2006

quiche benadryl

This morning we were invited to the last brunch of the old year at our friend Christina's house. Iris was so excited she could barely sleep last night. I spent a long time patting her back in bed and explaining, over and over in various ways, that a good night's sleep would give her plenty of energy to enjoy herself at the party.

So this morning she proclaimed, "I got a good night's rest! I have allergies!"

Happy new year! May your immune system recognize only authentic invaders in 2007.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

on the sixth day of Christmas

I'll tell you what my true love gave to me, but first, let's set the scene:

We had a wet Christmas. This gave me an excellent excuse to stay in my pajamas all day.

Iris had her own ideas about proper Christmas attire. Immediately upon waking, she donned her party dress, a velvet and taffeta number which she wore virtually constantly between its bestowal by Auntie Gaile and its forced consignment to the laundry by her mother.

Unfortunately, the magic of Christmas morning was undercut by her tears at finding that Santa had come – and gone. More than the presents he'd left, she wanted to meet the man. But she rallied (putting on the party dress helped), as we see in this picture of her regarding the bounty under the tree.

Now, finally I can reveal what I have been making lo these many weeks!

First, a quilted blanket for Iris, nice and big, to replace her inadequate baby blankets with which we have been making do up till now. It's three layers of cozy flannel, a solid and a print sandwiching a piece of a retired old bedsheet. All in all, a very satisfying project.

Here it is in action. She sleeps on a mattress on the floor now since there is no way her behomoth of a crib is getting moved out of her room – not that a certain party could settle her head for a long, or even a short, winter's nap on Christmas:

Iris also got the new and improved version of one of the shirts from my to-do list back in September, finally finished just in time for Christmas. The original plan was a Totoro applique, but for some reason that idea was a bit intimidating and I kept not doing it. Then the Woollyhoodwinks came into our lives, and with them Iris' consistent declaration that Ludic is her "best girlfriend in the whole neighborhood," and presto! a new idea was born.

Now, since our family Christmas m.o. is to give just one or maybe two gifts from each to each, I could and should have stopped there. But in a modest version of getting carried away, I could not resist making her this scarf from the same soft fleecy knit as my father's scarf. Iris' is based on an imported one I saw in a schmancy children's boutique. I feel vaguely guilty that I stole an idea rather than supporting a local business. But the budget would not support the purchase of something I could make myself for a miniscule fraction of the cost, and Iris and I are pretty happy with how the homemade version turned out.

I can't decide if my favorite part is the nose, which is a painted wooden bead, or the tail, a shred of a striped T-shirt I've had since college.

For J, freezer paper strikes again, this time in the form of the great emancipator. I make him wear it every time I listen to my Sufjan Stevens Come on Feel the Illinoise cd, which is to say, constantly.

And from him to me, homemade candles from stubs and drippings we've hoarded over the years, because we're thrifty in odd little ways like that.

I hope everyone's holiday was full of light, love, and sweet relaxation.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

observations while having the purloined lipstick cleaned off her face

"Lipstick comes in lots of colors. Houses come in lots of colors, too. Why people have sides like squares?"

There's a post-Christmas post coming soon, I promise. Just as soon as I restore the original color schemes of my house and child.

Saturday, December 23, 2006


Goodbye ponytails. Hello Christopher Robin. (Oh, and this is my 100th post! Whoo-hoo!)




one more for good measure:

Iris on the Jabberwock* (inspired by the Alice in Wonderland tree):

"Jabber rhymes with zebra! That's a very nice, surprising animal. Jabberwock is a made-up animal. Why we have one in our zoo? [Um, we don't have one in our zoo.] It's not a real animal 'cause it doesn't roll in the mud."

* another bit o' trivia about me: I know Jabberwocky by heart.

Have a frabjous Christmas, everyone.

last-minute gift idea

For the little ones on your list this year, why not a box of plastic cocktail mermaids?

J and I bought these B.I., before Iris, when I guess we thought of ourselves as having a lifestyle that might include cocktails garnished with buxom, brightly colored molded plastic. But they have never been so much a part of our lives as now. Iris sorts them by color. She measures and cooks them in her kitchen (mmm, mermaid fricassé!). She tosses them into her cup of water for a swim. She puts one at every place at the dinner table when she "helps" to set the table. That crunch underfoot? Well, it used to be a mermaid. Just another example of how having a child has transformed our lives.

Today we went to the art museum and took in a Christmas concert in the Hall of Architecture (where, incidentally, J and I closed down a reception on our first pseudo-date). There are always great big decorated Christmas trees there, and this year their theme was children's books. The Alice in Wonderland tree was pretty spectacular, though my hasty snapshot does not do it justice:

But my favorite was the tree based on The Mitten, a Ukrainian folktale retold in a book by by one of my favorite children's illustrators, Jan Brett. The tree decorations actually bore no resemblance whatsoever to her pictures, but I loved them anyway because they were giant origami:

Naturally, we had to introduce Iris to the plaster cast of her mythological namesake.

I'm contemplating trimming the twenty-first century Iris' hair into a short bob. Pro: No more straggly ends. Con: too short for ponytails. Yes, the weight of the world is on my shoulders. It feels good to have time – and brain space – to contemplate such frivolities with a week off stretching luxuriously ahead of me and, after that, just four more days at my old job. Of course, now that the end is in sight, I'm feeling.... not regret, but wistful about giving up this work I have done for eight years. I have already said goodbye to my boss, since our last day in the office together was Thursday. We parted as friends, and I am glad about that.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

ostentatiously blowing my nose every chance I get

Because it gives me an excuse to whip out this jaunty little tissue holder by the talented and thoughtful Meg. Actually, since Iris woke up with another cold yesterday, it's more like I'm ostentatiously blowing her nose every chance I get. But I know how these things go and my sinuses are sure to be next. Iris was so enamored with this little giftie, she adorned it with her snowman bracelet (I guess she felt the tissues were not quite dressed up enough) and carried it in her own purse when we went out. Just so long as one of us has it, our sniffles are covered.

Meg also sent this adorable elfin matchbox and festive votive holder (no, I'm not going to be making my two-year-old a cocktail in this one).

But I might be persuaded to share some of my Rittersport with her. So nostalgic... Meg, how did you know I used to have these when I was a little girl in Germany?

Thank you!

Saturday, December 16, 2006

nice to meet you!

What an intriguing bunch you are! Thanks for sharing your tastes and talents, your idiosyncracies and experiences, your scars and overdrafts and guilty pleasures. Your comments were so much fun to read, and I have definitely felt my winter/holiday blues lifting. Can't hurt that it's the weekend and the sun came out today, too.

I mean to visit every one of your blogs and leave a comment for you too, but for today, I'm going to make good on my previous promise and tell you a little bit more about me:

I'm double-jointed.
I majored in English in college.
I am an only child, but I wish I had a sibling.
I own very little make-up but I almost never leave the house without lipstick.
I met my husband in my office.
I drink decaf.
I dislike pineapple.
I can swim but not dive.
I have lived in three different countries and ten different cities, and of all of them, I felt the most at home in Boston.
My outlaw past: I have a framed poster in my house which I stole from a Japanese train station.

I hope the getting-to-know-you goes on.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

shamelesly seeking comments

This morning Iris asked me, “Why is that bird lonely?” I thought she was reading a lot into its faraway facial expression until I realized what she really meant was, why is that bird alone? Why is there only one?

So I set about trying to explain to her the difference between alone and lonely, including the puzzling fact that it is possible to feel lonely when you’re not alone. A feeling I must admit I've been well-acquainted with lately. Sorry, I really mean to keep it chipper here in aonekoland, but this happens to me every year around the holidays. I guess, despite my last post about making peace with the holiday season, there are still some things about it that get me down – things that are harder to pin down, harder to remedy.

So I have a small favor to ask. If you’re reading this, and especially if you’re a regular of any kind, would you leave a comment telling me one thing about yourself? (Or more – I mean, if you want to spill your whole life story, knock yourself out! no pressure to sum yourself up in one little factoid! – but one is all I ask.) I would be pleased to meet you. In return, I will tell you as many things about myself as comments I receive. If that's not incentive, I don't know what is!

I'll leave you with another picture from the archives since I never seem to be home anymore during the light of day, fleeting as it is. Oh, I'm sure that is not contributing at all to this little malaise. But the solstice is only a week away!

PS Hi Dad! Hi Kat! Hi Ronica and Amy! I know you’re out there!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

hark! the handmade holidays rule!

Still crafting behind the scenes so I have no pictures to show, just a true confession: I am a recovering Scrooge. I have disliked Christmas and, especially, Christmas presents, since I was a teenager. Thanksgiving has long been my favorite holiday because it is all about feast and family and being thankful for what you have rather than greedy for what you don't. Then comes Christmas, which of course is all about feast and the family too. But for years, while I scoured the stores to fulfill my reluctant obligation to purchase the perfect gift for every family member and friend, suffering piped-in Christmas Muzak and fake-o decorations in the process, I would think, Spirit of Christmas who?

I am not even religious, so I did not object to the commercialization of Christmas on the traditional grounds. Still, I did and do in some sense feel that some things are sacred. Every once in a while I would catch a glimmer of Christmas gift-giving as an expression of love and generosity, freely given, through the enormous commercial that is the Christmas season and feel... sad. Trapped and sad.

I married into a family that embraces Christmas with a fearsome enthusiasm. In a way that was infectious, but it also made it impossible to lie low. I had to come to terms with the fact that I was never going to realize my true Christmas dream of spending the day blissfully alone, watching movies, drinking champagne and eating dark chocolate. When, a couple years ago, the whole family agreed to tame the wretched excess, that helped. So did J's and my decision, after we had Iris, to spend Christmas at home instead of on the visiting circuit so that we could begin to establish our own family traditions.

But the real turning point for me was deciding that one of those traditions was going to be opting out of a commercial Christmas. Last year, for the first time, I handmade almost every gift I gave, and I finally felt an inkling of Christmas spirit – the joy of giving, if you'll pardon the phrase. I actually felt like I was giving something of myself rather than something of my money, and it felt good! The time and effort I spent on my handmade holiday were probably about the same but much more enjoyable, the money I spent considerably less, and I figure my odds of pleasing the gift recipients are at least as good as with the stuff I used to buy.

I suppose someday Iris will rebel and want authentic storebought whatnot so as not to be outcast among her friends whose families participate more or less gladly in the Christmas spending frenzy. She will certainly have plenty of family of her own to indulge her, and so be it. She will have to make her own peace with the wretched excess of not only Christmas commercialism, but our whole crass American culture year-round. I certainly do not judge anyone else for indulging in Christmas shopping. There are many ways for the thought to count, and my family, especially, does have a knack for giving the most thoughtful gifts – they are so much better at that than I ever was. But I do hope that in our little household, we can continue the tradition of making things for each other, showing Iris that is one way to give.

So, not that anyone asked, that's what handmade holidays mean to me. Craft on! Signed, Scrooge No More.

Thursday, December 07, 2006


So I handed in my resignation on Tuesday. My last day is not till January 5, and I won't start my new job till a week after that, but I'm already giddy with excitement. Whenever I've told someone where I'm going to work, the response has been some variation on the theme of "You'll really like it there!" Which is sweet music to my ears. As this past year in my present office has shown me, no amount of good work can compensate for a miserable working environment. Sad but true. Actually one person described my new office-to-be as a loving but dysfunctional family, which I must say made me feel right at home.

I won't say "speaking of which." I'll just say that my father and stepmother visited last weekend, and we took that as an excuse to start Christmassing it up early around here. And since I gave my father his gift, I can now stand back with the camera to reveal the whole thing:

A scarf of the softest fleecy knit on one side, pieced-together woolens and velvet on the other, with a couple "windows" on the solid side for the patterns on the reverse to show through. Hope it keeps you warm all winter, Dad.

In remotely related news, this morning on the bus I was watching a woman crocheting a baby blanket and it made me contemplate the ingenuity of the person or persons who invented crocheting and knitting. I mean, if turning fibers into textiles is your goal, I think weaving is kind of a no-brainer. But using sticks to twist and twirl a single length of string according to arcane patterns until it makes something you can wear? Who first woke up in the middle of the night and said, I've got to try this? Knitters and crocheters, past and present, I salute you.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

decking the halls

The men strung lights from trunk to top

While a little elf spun nonstop

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care

And the ornaments with messy hair

The mantel was trimmed with evergreen

All by the nutcracker o'erseen.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

change is good

Listen! That loud exhaling sound you hear is my immense sigh of relief. Today I can finally say what I have been waiting and wanting to say for months: Santa is bringing me a new job this year. In the new year, actually, I'm going to begin working for a bigshot local philanthropic foundation, doing work I care about with people I like. Imagine!

My new job is part-time, a change of pace I will welcome, even though it won't exactly mean the rest of my time will be my own. In January I start teaching again – a university undergraduate course on historic preservation – which is always a pretty intensive commitment. But whereas in past years I have guiltily stolen the time for my class from other parts of my life, usually work (bad) or family (worse), this part-time gig should open up some breathing room. The idea is to even have time left over for writing – this* and my book.

* I know, I've been holding out on you. Mainly because J's name is on the byline too, and we were worried about my outing him and his blog, on which he comments freely about local politics, while I was a city employee. But now what are they going to do, fire me?

Oh, man, is it going to feel good to resign. Bittersweet, in fact, but heavy on the sweet. Last night we celebrated with cocktails. Iris even had one of her own. We are very, very bad parents. If it helps to know this, J called it a virgin Shirley Temple because it didn't even have fizz, just water, lemon, and a maraschino cherry. Her glass: a votive candle holder.

You can go ahead and say the weather is not in synch with my inner emotional climate if you want to, but I know it all revolves around me! The sun came out today, allowing actual light to enter the lens of the camera for another Christmas crafting sneak peek. This is a more generous one than usual since the gift recipient is not old enough to find her mother's blog on the internet. Although she does see it occasionally over my shoulder. Must be careful.

Friday, December 01, 2006

where there's a will, there's a toddler

Sometimes, even when there's not much going on, I still seem to have plenty to say. This is not one of those times. This week, I'm put-my-head-down-and-drool-on-my-desk tired and it's all I can do to sustain basic functions: go to work, dispense food, comfort, and encyclopedic knowledge of the world for Iris*, launder and clean for the next round of houseguests. Christmas crafting has ground to a halt for the moment. I did make something last week that I'm pretty pleased with, and I'd show a sneak peak of it but lighting conditions are not on my side.

* "Show me on this ball [the globe] where big bad wolves live."

If Iris had a blog, it would never lie fallow for lack of observations. The other day we were discussing why, in The Wind in the Willows, Toad resists his friends' intervention to get him to give up his reckless driving habit.

"Why Toad says, 'Poo poo! I will never give up motorcars!'"

"Because he doesn't want to listen to his friends."


"Because he's strong-willed. You know, you're strong-willed too. You have been ever since you were a tiny baby."

"All my life I am strong willed! Why everyone is strong-willed?"

"Everyone is not strong-willed. Some people aren't. Everyone is different."

"No they're not! Everyone is strong-willed!"

I'm not going to argue with her.