Tuesday, October 30, 2007

the suspense is killing me

It's T&T (trick-or-treat) minus 24 hours, and Iris has yet to settle on her Halloween costume. Last year's lobster get-up still fits, but the girl is too grown up to impersonate a crustacean this year. Instead, the contenders are:

1. The Greek goddess Iris. The allure of this choice is obvious, with the additional benefit that I made a costume way back in March for her birthday party. She wore it all of about 10 minutes that day, so maybe it will actually get some mileage now. Yes, it is a little light for 50 degree evenings, but I'm sure it is absolutely authentic to wear a turtleneck and tights underneath to keep warm.

2. A princess, wearing one of the gowns from the royal dress-up trunk that a well-intentioned family friend gifted her, and which I hate with a passion. More on that momentarily. The dresses have been worn so often for dress-up play that they have a somewhat tattered, Cinderella-before-the-ball aspect to them.

3. Madeline. In an effort to distract her from the whole princess schtick, I have been pushing fictional females with more spunk and, well, literary merit. Iris is pretty into the Madeline costume idea. The only problem is that inspiration struck only a couple days ago, followed by a sinking feeling, which proved to be correct, that I had given away the French blue corduroy coat that would have been perfect to cannibalize for a Madeline costume. So, this is on its way, and we'll see if it arrives in time.

Thus does my aversion to fairy tale princesses trump my commitment to homemade Halloween costumes. Where, exactly, is the line between gentle parental guidance and out-and-out control-freakishness?

As a feminist from the Free To Be You and Me generation, I think I need some serious counseling on how to deal with a daughter who's fallen for the whole Disnified princess scenario hook, line, and glass slipper. Maybe it would be easier if I had had the princess bug myself as a child, but I never did, so I can't relate. For now, I cope by imposing arbitrary rules on when and where the accursed princess gowns may be worn (because if I didn't, she would wear them all the time, everywhere), resisting pleas to watch the Disney princess movies at home (not just because, well, over my dead body, but because I actually fear parts of them will be too scary at her age), and casting a revisionist spin on the stories we read ("You know why I think the prince fell in love with Cinderella? Because she was such a good person! She was so nice to everyone, even though her stepmother and stepsisters were mean to her.") I think I am probably (definitely) making way too big a deal out of the whole thing, but I am surprised by the strength of my feelings about this.

Oh, and one more coping tactic: read this. Pure genius.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Sarah strikes again!

Now wait a minute, wasn't I just showing off an unexpected windfall from Sarah – the fabulous toadstool T-shirt – the other day? What did I do to deserve another surprise package from her when I had scarcely thanked her for the first? Maybe it's her scheme to get me to post something already here in this little corner of the internet which is growing dusty, I fear, from disuse. If so, it's working. Look at this lovely apron she made:

Just in time for holiday baking! I love love love it. In fact, I was sorely tempted to wear it to a party on Saturday night.

And this wonderful little vintage dish which has already proven itself perfect for a pumpkin muffin and Halloween m&ms (not at the same time, not that there would be anything wrong with that). If that is not the jauntiest chicken ever to roost on ceramic, I don't know what is.

Sarah, thank you again and again!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

the Ryan Home of its day, or: secrets of the sex lives of Victorian middle management

This is the way the late afternoon sunlight (which is getting less and less late all the time – hello, fall!) looks as it falls through our wavy old window glass onto a door in my bedroom. I was lying in bed as I took this photo – I'm down with a crushing head cold, so have been logging a lot more time in said bed than I would really like – and when I opened my eyes to see this, I thought, too bad I don't have the camera nearby, but no way am I rousing my sorry self to get it. But wait! The camera is miraculously on my nightstand! And so I was able to capture the moment without bothering my congested little head about getting up.

That is just a side note, actually. What I really want to tell are two interesting facts about this door:

1. It leads directly into the bedroom next door, which, for obvious reasons, we have designated the nursery. (Yes, the child who sleeps there is now well beyond nursery-occupant age, but that is another story.) J and I always sort of assumed that our hundred-year-old house was built with this direct access between the parental and baby bedrooms in mind, that the convenience of the linked rooms was thanks to the foresight of the original owners/parents/builders. Then I was on my umpteenth tour of this local historic house* and, as I walked between Mr. and Mrs. Frick's bedrooms, separate but joined via a shared, private hallway, a light bulb went off: our house is nothing but a poor cousin of the Fricks'! Our interconnected rooms were not meant for easy back-and forth between parents and baby, but for the middle-manager-master and his wife, the mistress of the house, to have separate occupancy but private access. The baby slept across the hall, and if it cried, they didn't bother themselves – that was a job for the nanny, who lived upstairs.

*Well worth it if you are ever in the neighborhood, though in my experience the quality of the tour varies widely from docent to docent.

2. The door, like all the doors and woodwork on our second and third floors, is faux-woodgrained. No, not by me, good heavens no. By a craftsman (presumably he was a man) who must have made his living dressing up cheap woods to make them look more expensive. On our first floor, in the rooms that guests would see, we have the real McCoy, quarter-sawn oak; on our second and third, which would have been seen only by the family and servants, we have this, pine painted to look like oak (in some rooms) or walnut or mahogany (in others). It's so expertly done that J and I did not realize it was a faux finish until well after we'd bought the house. I actually love these faux-finished doors more than if we had expensive wood throughout. I love the idea of this craftsman, who must have sold his services to local builders, making poor woods look more expensive as turn-of-the-twentieth-century tract houses went up in the former farmlands of the east end. Of course, the irony is that nowadays, you'd pay more for such fine craftsmanship than you would for a real oak door.

To late – and dark – now for me to try to take a close-up picture, but I'll try to post one tomorrow for all the old-house geeks who are still with me.

What are the quirks of your house?

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

just how I wanted to spend my morning

Bathing the dog after he returned literally shitfaced (and shitnecked and shitbacked and so on and stinkily so forth) from his morning constitutional. Of course the need for this was discovered just as J was heading out for a meeting, so I was on my own to find out whether what they told us at the shelter – that Jasper is good for baths – was true. Verdict: so not true! We were sold a bill of goods! Or more accurately, I suppose, we adopted one. Suckers.

Anyway, after that ordeal I had to make myself feel better so I went to the kitchen to fill a prescription for café au lait and waffles with strawberry jam. Then, finding I still had not quite recovered, I put on this fabulous T-shirt that Sarah sent me a couple days ago:

There, now I'm starting to feel restored! Those of you who follow Erin's lovely blog may recognize this as a ringer for the shirt Sarah made for her. Indeed, that is because this shirt was originally supposed to be Erin's, but due to a sizing mishap, got passed on to me instead. Sarah's extra labor is my luck! And I'm pleased as punch (in a dorky way, of course, because can a person who uses the phrase "pleased as punch" be anything but dorky?) to be T-shirt twins with Erin.

My friends and family who read this are laughing right now, because I am well-known in my circle for my aversion to mushrooms. However, I make an aesthetic exception for cute red-and-white spotted toadstools. It's probably some genetic throwback to my German ancestry. In fact, what was I thinking – I should have taken this picture outside with the Gartenswerge. It just goes to show, you can take the girl out of Germany, but you can't take Germany out of the girl.

Sarah, I could just whip you up a big batch of mushroom quiche to thank you. To echo Erin, you rock. My day is better already.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

rest assured

Iris on Jasper's watchdog abilities:

"Jasper will chase off rats, Jasper will chase off monsters, Jasper will chase off whales, especially any monster whales. Jasper doesn't bark at people. He barks at other animals."

Saturday, October 06, 2007

just thought I'd share

Three years of family portraits in the Smicksburg woods:




with a name like Smicksburg, it's got to be good

Yeah, it's been almost another two weeks since I've turned on the lights over here, but I'm not apologizing for it anymore. It is what it is – and what it is right now, mostly, is soaking up this crazy endless summer while it lasts. I know I should harbor a healthy skepticism toward it because, after all, it's got to be global warming, but I can't help it – I'm loving these bonus days of sunshine and skirts and sandals.

So, what with it being 85 degrees and all, it was a little hard to get in an autumnal mood for our annual family trip to the Fall Festival in Smicksburg. Especially since the day really started off on the wrong foot, if not the entirely wrong side of the body/bed/pick your metaphor. Iris was fitful and whiny, J and I fed up... I believe that cancelling the trip was in the offing at one particularly low point this morning. Thank goodness we managed to pull it together as a family and persevere through the hour-and-a-half car trip for our annual stroll through the shops and walk in the woods.

The drought has been murder on the foliage, but there were still plenty of pumpkins, yard sales (no luck, but fun looking), baked goods, and face painting. We missed out on the latter, much to Iris' dismay, but ice ceam was offered and more-or-less cheerfully accepted as a consolation prize.

Which brings me to a log of the food the child has eaten today:

1/2 peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich
approximately 6 grapes (let's hear it for nutrition!)
brownie from bake sale cunningly sited outside Saturday morning music class venue
ice cream

Think that had anything to do with the meltdowns? She did not eat dinner, but conked out in the car on the way home from Smicksburg and was carried straight to bed. Possibly the first time I have ever succeeded in transferring her sleeping person from car to bed, probably because her body was so completely depleted of good wholesome fuel, but a triumph of (selfish) sorts nonetheless, because it meant a rare grown-up dinner at home for J and me.

All's well that ends well.