Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Handmade gifts: the post-Christmas round-up.

This Christmas, I really wanted to make as many of the gifts I gave as possible, preferably using fabric and materials in my stash. The idea was to (1) spend less money; (2) give more meaningful gifts; and (3) use some of the heaps of fabric I have accumulated thus making room for new fabric!

Never mind that I have never been particularly good at sewing under Christmas deadlines in the past! This year was going to be different!

Result: Not too shabby, really.

Despite the fact that Christmas did not turn out quite as planned, what with the Bubonic Plague sweeping through our house, I did manage to finish making quite a few gifts, and I feel pretty good about the way it turned out.

In all, I made the following gifts (I didn't get pictures of all of them, unfortunately):

Velvet and cotton lawn scarves for two lovely work colleagues. So pretty. I must try to get pictures.

A tool-roll for crochet hooks and accessories, for my mom. These are easy to make, and you can really go crazy with fun fabrics. I made this on Christmas Day, because I am crazy like that.

Crochet hook caddy.

Handmade linen kitchen towels for my dad. They are bound with vintage bias tape and embellished with appliques of Echino bicycle and camera fabric.

Linen hand towels for Dad

A laptop sleeve, made from recycled Tintin t-shirts, for my brother. My brother and I share a love for the French comics that goes back 15 years and more.
 
My sister's birthday present, a country-music apron, just in time for X-mas! (Her birthday was in September, mind you. Not sure what I plan to do about her X-mas present. I'm running a little behind schedule, obviously.)

Krishna in handmade apron.

Reversible fabric headbands for my mom and Rebecca. (Note: I need to nake a couple of these for me too! They are awesome!)

I did not get everything done that I had hoped to do, but I did better at making gifts this year than I have in years past, and I feel pretty good about it.

I also tried to find some thoughtful second-hand gifts. I gave used books, vintage hankies, and vintage table linens as gifts, knowing that many of my friends would appreciate a well-loved, recycled item just as much (or, if they're anything like me, more than) a new item. In my mind, the fact that an item is retrieved from a dumpster actually adds to its value, and luckily I have some like-minded friends and family.

So you can imagine that I walked out of our friendly locally-owned used bookstore on Christmas Eve, thoughtful gifts in hand, flushed with a sense of virtue, and thought to myself, "Look how frugal I am!" Unfortunately, there was a $55 parking ticket waiting for me when I got back to my car ...

The moral of this story? If you want to be frugal, don't forget to pay the meter.

And now, besides a few IOUs, I will be returning to my regularly scheduled program of selfish sewing.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christmas: Pretty nice in the end.

Well, despite lingering coughs and tummy upsets, we managed to pull together a really fun Christmas morning. My little brother Harpal came up and spent Christmas eve and morning with us, providing a much needed dose of good health and energy.

Harpal.

My mom has apparently been crocheting for MONTHS, making hats and slippers for everyone, as well as these monster crocheted stockings, which we displayed against a not-so-attractive baby fence. These stockings can get a smile from even the sickest of sickos, because they are just so huge! And crocheted! And huge! My mother has a flair for the dramatic, definitely.

Crocheted stockings.

Joe is not quite old enough to "get" Christmas. He didn't really want to open presents, preferring to play with toys already opened and scattered around the room.  After opening up two toy trucks, he just wanted to be left alone with his trucks, thank you very much.

He did get a chance to try on some of Granny's crochet, though.

Joe in crocheted hat.

And then he spent the day in very serious, focused play. With his new fleet of toy trucks.

More serious truck play.

Joe works seriously with trucks.

This baby may not talk much, but he has a very serious work ethic. I couldn't get one smile out of him during this time - just looks of rapt concentration.


And now, we are all going to go convalesce. Happy Boxing Day!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas: Not turning out quite as planned.

So, my mom is in town this holiday season. I had ambitious Christmas plans. We were all going to visit Children's Fairyland to see the Christmas parade. We were considering checking out a local nativity creche, and maybe even going to Midnight Mass tonight at the beautiful new(ish) Cathedral of Christ the Light on Lake Merritt. And of course, I planned to post lots of blog posts with photos of our lovely Christmas decorations.

Well, as they say: God really had a chuckle this time.

First we all caught colds. Then Joe's cold turned to croup, a fun childhood illness that makes your baby sound like a barking seal all night. Then my mom got the stomach flu. Then I got the stomach flu. And yet another cold (or maybe the first cold had a second wind?). Now Steve has the dreaded stomach flu, I'm going through the hankies like you wouldn't believe (not only are they "greener" than Kleenex, but they are so much softer on a sore schnoz), and we're all wondering when Joe will start puking.

When I took Joe to the doc two days ago for his croup (at that point, Steve and I were simply sniffling a little), the nurse practitioner told us, sympathetically, "For the first three years of your baby's life, all three of you are going to be sick pretty much constantly all winter long."

Uh, yeah. We had already pretty much caught on to that, but still, it's nice to know that someone gets it.

So at this point, if we can rustle up a couple of presents, a couple of IOUs, and no one is actively barfing on Christmas morning, I will consider Christmas reasonably salvaged. If not, well at least we have each other, if not exactly our "health." Needless to say, no one is feeling particularly enthused about making a Christmas dinner.

The good news is that last minute Christmas shopping is just not possible. Nothing like lowering your expectations around the holidays.

Merry Christmas. Cough, cough, sniffle, bark.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Christmas trucks.

Mom is in town now and in a couple of days we are going to do some major Christmas decorating, so hold tight for more X-mas posts. (We are last minute Christmas decorators in my family. I think it's easier to get into the "spirit" a little closer to the date, plus trees are a lot cheaper in the week before X-mas.)

Mom arrived with a suitcase full of GIANT CROCHETED STOCKINGS for everyone in the household!

Just wait: If these don't make you smile, you will want to have someone check your pulse.


In the meantime, Joe got his first gift yesterday from Auntie Krishna, Uncle Mikey, and Cousin Jaki: A giant dump truck full of "Mega Blocks" chunky building blocks. A more perfect gift for my truck-loving, building-block-loving baby boy does not exist.

(Well, okay, but they don't make giant garbage trucks full of Mega Blocks, unfortunately.)

Here is a low-quality shot taken with my cell phone this morning. Check out those dimpled knuckles!

Joe's first Christmas Gift, 2010

Friday, December 10, 2010

Hearing: Normal.

As I suspected, Joe's hearing is just fine, and his failure to say "mama" is not because he can't hear (more likely it's that he gets his point across really well by grabbing my leg and putting his hand down my shirt).

But you want to know what is not fun? Trying to keep your super active, super wiggly baby boy sitting quietly in your lap, wearing headphones, for 20 minutes. Yikes. This is the child who: Will. Not. Wear. A. Hat. He has a whole set of evasive maneuvers reserved for removing things from his head, including the very clever rub-ear-against-shoulder-until-earphone-comes-out-method.

For a minute there, the audiologist wasn't sure she was going to be able to complete the test. But I locked Joe in a straight-jacket-like bear hug, and we were able to get through it and get the news that, indeed, being able to hear a garbage truck from three blocks away probably does indicate normal hearing. In case you were wondering.

Interestingly, he never seems to hear me when I tell him to please not go up the stairs for the millionth time in the past fifteen minutes ...

Diagnosis: Selective hearing loss. I think it's hereditary, and he got it from his father.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Another way to entertain your toddler while you sew ...

YouTube videos of garbage trucks doing their rounds.

Watching garbage trucks

This method may not lead to self-congratulation on what a great parent you are. But it is very effective!

(An aside: I bet you had no idea that there are tons of videos on YouTube of garbage trucks just picking up garbage cans and smooshing stuff, huh? Well, there are. And Joe loves them, in all of their boring, banal, trashy glory.)

I am working on a bunch of top-secret possible Christmas presents right now, so no photos of finished projects today. Hopefully I'll be able to dump a bunch on you at the end of the month.

Other things on my mind:
  1. My mom is coming down for Christmas! She has apparently been crocheting up a storm making stockings and gifts for everyone. I'm putting off doing much Christmas decorating until she gets here next week, since I know it will be more fun to do it with her. Excitement!
  2. Quilts, quilts, and more quilts! There are so many amazing quilts on Flickr. Checking them out is my latest internet time-killer. Meanwhile, I am making slow progress piecing my latest quilt, between working on gifts.
  3. Joe is getting his hearing tested tomorrow. Just to make sure that his failure to say "mama" isn't due to hearing loss. I would be pretty surprised if it is. After all, this is the kid who wakes up when a dog barks ... two miles away. Who wakes up and runs to the window to check out the garbage truck ... on Fridays at 5:20 a.m.
  4. Dental work. Don't ask.
  5. The sad, sad fact that my dogs abandon their house-training every time it rains. Again, the less you know about this, the better.
  6. The genius and subtlety of Kazuo Ishiguro's writing. I'm reading When We Were Orphans right now.
  7. The genius, and less frequently, the subtlety of Garrison Keillor. Steve and I have been listening to recordings of the News From Lake Wobegon in the evenings lately, and they are so deliciously funny and soothing. It almost makes me want to move to Minnesota. Sure the winters are rough, but I hear they have central heat there ...
  8. How, next year, I really want to make an awesome wool or felt (or wool felt?) Advent calendar with little pockets that I can stuff with toys or candy for Joe.
  9. But I'm glad that this year, Joe is still oblivious to Christmas and the materialism that goes along with it.
  10. World peace and stuff. Of course!
Hope all of my readers are staying cozy warm this season!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

If you look up "sewing mania" in the DSM IV, you'll find my photo.

See that heap of stuff to the left of my sewing machine? I am suffering from a pretty severe case of too-many-projects-mania over here. Just in that pile (and not including other piles scattered around), I see an unfinished tote bag, a basted and halfway marked quilt, a partially pieced scrappy quilt that I think I hate but I feel guilty about abandoning, cut pieces of Version #2 of the Learning Curves Dress, an almost finished skirt (just need to hem it!), and a couple pieces of a corduroy jacket I'm making for Joe except I'm worried it's too small. Yikes.

What's the solution to this chaos?

Why, cut out yet another quilt, of course!

Who needs "Joe logic" when you can enjoy "Inder logic"?
Also in the pike right are multiple possible Christmas gifts that I probably won't finish until tax season. I don't want to get anyone's hopes up, so I won't go into any detail on those. If you get a package from me in April, that's what happened. (I just hope it's not April 2021, but that's definitely possible too.)

My head is overflowing with ideas, and I want to start all of them! Right now!

Actually assembling, troubleshooting, and finishing a single item? Meh. Boring.

No. I MUST KEEP CUTTING!!! Muah-ha-ha!

But hey, that's what's so great about hobbies as opposed to a job. I'm allowed to ditch projects and start new ones willy-nilly, right?  Just because I feel like it ...

*Maniacal laughter muffled by ever-growing heap of fabric.*

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Futile attempts to stay warm.

Record cold temps around here. Brrrr.

We are pretty sure Rebecca is quite a bit warmer than us right now - she is visiting her folks in Chicago. We hear they have this thing called "central heat" in the midwest. And this other thing, known as "insulation."

Our whole house is heated by a single gas fireplace insert and a couple of space heaters. The heat seems to go straight upstairs, while the knee to ceiling Victorian single paned windows and balsa wood construction ensure that we are left shivering even when the heat is on full-blast. So we bundle up in slippers, wool socks, sweaters, and blankets and make the best of it. Adding insult to injury, our energy bill goes through the roof every winter, even while our fingers remain numb with cold.

Joe stays warm by scaling baby gates in his fleece pullover.

The problem with construction in our part of California is that early settlers seem to have built houses under the assumption that (1) it is never really cold here; and (2) it never rains here. Now, this is true 80% of the time - you can see how someone who just spent the winter up in Donner Pass eating frozen comrades might get the impression that Oakland is a subtropical paradise. But the problem is that (1) sometimes it gets a little chilly; and (2) every once in a while, it rains (and when it does, it tends to rain a lot). And when that happens, we are really unprepared, and the rest of the country gets to see television footage of cars submerged on Highway 101, houses sliding off cliffs, or kids surfing down Los Angeles boulevards. I can only imagine the eye-rolling that goes on in the more practical parts of the nation. All I can say is excess optimism (some would say "stupidity") has long been a defining feature of Californians.

But anyway, back to our house: It's not that we haven't tried to make our house a bit more energy efficient. But unfortunately, we cannot afford to replace nine (charming!) seven foot tall windows with custom-fitted double-paned energy-efficent windows (I can't even imagine how expensive that would be). So Steve installed weather stripping on our doors, and put some of this plastic cling wrap on the windows. Unfortunately, Joe and the dogs delight in ripping it off, so poor Steve has to reapply it several times per winter and still, it has gaping holes most of the time, which probably (you think?) reduces its effectiveness.

See, plastic wrap on the windows.

And yesterday, in an effort to keep my fingers moving so as to avoid frostbite, I sewed up some "draft snakes" from scraps of wool, corduroy, and flannel.

Trying to cover up the half inch gap between the floor and the bottom of our back door.

They are stuffed with cheap pinto beans, to give them some weight and reduce the likelihood that the dogs will see them as tug-toys.


Some familiar fabric. Flimsy single-pane window.

How effective they are, I can't say. I'm sure they help a little, but not enough to counter the balsa-wood construction of our house, see above. I doubt this will take hundreds of dollars off our natural gas bill - it turns out pinto beans don't take the place of real insulation. But sometimes, it just makes me feel better to do something. And I was getting sick of my other sewing projects.

Might be time to knit myself some fingerless gloves.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Winter pants.

As you may recall, just thirty days ago, I was saying that Joe did not need fully lined pants because you know, it doesn't get that cold in Northern California - I mean, it's not New England, la la la de da ...

Do you have this problem where you cannot imagine any weather conditions other the ones you are experiencing right this second? If it's hot, I simply cannot imagine feeling chilly. And if I'm freezing my rear off, my mind rebels at the thought of short sleeves.

So anyway: How wrong I was! It doesn't matter that it rarely drops below freezing in Oakland, because our drafty, largely unheated Victorian runs five degrees colder than outside. (PSA: In the language of real estate agents, "charm" means no closets and cold toes.)

Enter, fully reversible corduroy/monkey flannel pants (that soft yummy flannel was a gift from my buddy Andrea - thank you!):

Monkey cords

These are the "Quick Change Pant" from Anna Maria Horner's Handmade Beginnings. I love the idea of this pattern, but the fit is just not as good as my tried and true Huck Finn Pants. Joe shows a lot of cute baby plumber crack in these. Next time I will alter the patterns a little to accommodate cloth diaper butt. What's the point of cozy flannel lined pants if your crack gets chilly?


Monkey cords close up

My friends and I have been chatting about the styles available in baby clothing. For boys, everything seems to be either "preppy," "surfer dude," "athletic," or "military." (Which is more variety than girl clothes have to offer.) Don't get me started on the rigid standards of masculinity underlying each of these styles. Eesh. But this conversation has reminded me - one of the fun things about sewing clothes for your baby is that it allows you a little more freedom to dress your child in fun monkey prints (or you know, stripes), bright colors, and simple practical shapes, all of which seem to be in short supply at Babies-R-Us these days. The result is that Joe's "style" could probably be best described as "unkempt stripey handsewn vintage Sesame Street." For my part, I like children's clothes to look like children's clothes rather than mini-adult gear.

Of course, I expect Joe's style to change as Joe develops his own ideas about clothing. But for now, I have full license, as Joe's primary interest in fashion seems to be in taking his clothes off.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Rebecca's apron.

Rebecca requested a full-coverage apron for big canning projects and "dinner on the grounds" for her birthday. Ooh, fun!

That was way back in September, mind you ... but anyway, here's what I came up with:

Rebecca's apron

The pattern is the cleverly named "1950s Protect and Serve Apron" from Decades of Style. I decided to forgo the goofy flower pocket in favor of something more practical. I love, love, love the back:

Rebecca's apron - back

I think I might make one for myself ....

But first, I have to make Apron #2, for my sister's birthday, which was also in September!

This is why I rarely make my Christmas gifts. Sigh.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Vocabulary.

Joe is one of those kids that you hear about - apparently too busy learning motor skills (read: learning to scale baby gates and turning his wagon into an all-terrain-vehicle) to bother with learning to talk. At eighteen months, he only says a few words. However, it would be wrong to say that Joe was not a talkative and expressive child - he makes his needs known very clearly through a rich and varied vocabulary of whining, screeching, and screaming sounds.Who needs symbolic speech?

But there is one word that Joe knows very well and says crystal-clear, all the flippin' time, and that's "Dad."

Sometimes it is "Dada," and sometimes it is "Daddy." Most often, it's just "Dad." Usually bellowed at the top of his lungs, whenever something interesting happens and Dad's not around.

Steve has to shut the door upstairs and turn up the white noise to take a nap, because in his absence, the screaming of his name is pretty much nonstop. When Steve leaves the house, I spend a lot of time saying, "Dad's not here right now, Joe. He's buying us groceries/buying the dogs kibble/getting the car's oil changed/whatever."

To which Joe responds in disbelief, even louder than before, "DAAAAAAAAAAAADDDDA????!!!!" The volume is such that I am pretty sure that Steve can hear the call even from the Jiffy Lube.


Joe does not say "Mama," ever, instead relying solely on various whining and crying sounds to indicate that he would like me to pick him up, give him milk, or please, for heaven's sake, locate his father so that he can have some fun.

If Joe could say more than three words, he would probably say, "Mama? Pul-eeze. Yawn." Then, "Hold on, check out that TRUCK! Awesome! Wait, where's Dad? DAAADDDDD! It's a TRUCK!"

Needless to say, I think both Steve and I have mixed feelings about the new Dad-obsession. It's gratifying to be the current center of your child's universe, definitely, but it's also tiring, and it makes it really hard to take a nap! (Ask me how I know this.)

Similarly, I spend a lot of time muttering, "What am I? Chopped liver?" and pleading, "Say MAMA, Joe. Watch my lips, Joe! MA-MA" (to no avail). But I have had some amazing naps.

Just a little family resemblance going on here.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Street view.

You've heard of Google "street view" art, right? So this is the Google Maps street view of our house.


This photo was obviously taken before we pulled up the cement in the front yard, started landscaping, and put in the fancy new gate - I'm guessing it must have been taken around the time we moved into our house three and a half years ago.

But that's not the reason it fills me with delight. Can you see what I'm looking at?

Yep, right there ...

It's a pit bull! 

A pit bull who is never allowed to check out the front yard unsupervised, by the way (because she is a naughty, naughty girl). So I imagine Steve or I must be just out of view.

Apparently Omie was the only member of the family to see the Google car come through. What were the chances? Oh, if only that dog could talk.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Eighteen Months.

Joe is a year and a half old! It boggles the mind, doesn't it? He's been out of the womb for twice as long as he was in it! And, ooh-boy, watch out world: Joe's has one BIG personality!

Happy Halloween

Joe likes: Brushing his teeth, strawberries, watching garbage trucks, pushing around things with wheels, climbing very high, milkies, chicken, taking his shoes off, eating with a spoon or fork, standing on chairs, eating food out of a muffin tin, howling like a coyote, animals, construction sites, baths, and reading books.

Joe dislikes: Avocado, getting his diaper changed, having his face washed, doing cute things (okay, anything) on command, wearing shoes, having the toothbrush taken away, spicy food, staying put in a highchair, saying goodbye to mama, and being told "no."

Me, I just love that baby boy.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Sick.

I'm over here on the couch, watching bad television and occasionally blowing my nose into a cloth diaper, while Joe helps himself to the dogs' water bowl and handfuls of kibble. Hey, at least he's not going hungry.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Dress your baby in stripes!

Joe got some new pajamas delivered yesterday.

New delivery

Can you tell I love to see babies in stripes?

Joe turns everything into a car

Yay stripes!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Autumn pants.

After the coldest, foggiest, stupidest summer ever,* Northern California has had a gloriously warm and sunny autumn. I have been pretending that it will never end, and that I will be wearing breezy summer dresses all winter, but realistically, there are signs of fall in the air. The equinox was weeks ago. Yesterday we had our first rain of the season. Daylight savings is coming up soon. After a late start, the tomatoes are almost spent. I broke out my knee-high boots today. Time is passing. Sigh.

I'm definitely a fan of long days and warm weather, so it's hard for me to see autumn as anything other than the beginning of months of wearing thick socks (in our badly insulated house) and leaving work well after it gets dark, ugh.

But there are some definite perks to the season. Namely: Fall colors, and corduroy.

Trying to make the best of this, and keep Joe's tush warm in the bargain, I made these from scraps left over from previous baby pants projects:

Cord pants.

Yes, that is red baby-wale corduroy, embossed with ponies. On his butt. (And now I have used every last usable inch of the pony fabric!)

Here is what they look like from the front:

Cord pants, front.

The inspiration for these came from Anna Maria Horner's book Handmade Beginnings. Her "Quick Change Trousers" have a cute contrasting bottom. I love that pattern, but I wanted the contrasting panel to be larger, and I wasn't keen on making a pair of fully-lined, reversible pants (this is California, after all, not New England - the seasons don't change that much). So I used my go-to baby pants pattern (the "Huck Finn Pants" from Weekend Sewing), and simply cut the back pattern piece into two pieces, added seam allowance, and eyeballed some contrasting pony cuffs.

Bad insulation or no, every time I just look at these, I get a warm, tingly, 1970s home-decor feeling. My only regret is that I could not applique pony-knee-patches onto them because I don't have enough fabric. Ah, well. Next time.

More cords.

Happy October!

*According to me.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The great avocado mystery: A graphic screenplay.

Trouble? Who, me?





Rebecca: "Where did my avocados go?"

Me: "What?"

Rebecca: "I had four avocados, and three of them are gone! I left them right here in this bowl."

Me: "Uh oh. Joe does like to grab avocados ..."

Rebecca: "They're probably in the living room or something. Crap."

Me, looking around for remains of avocados used as projectiles, toys, dog snacks: "I don't see any evidence of avocado here. You'd think something would be left over. Maybe he took them into the backyard?"

Me, calling Steve: "Hey Steve, Rebecca is missing three avocados. Did you see Joe playing with them?"

Steve: "What? Avocados? No, sorry, I pretty much kept Joe out of the kitchen today."

Rebecca, in a huff: "Fine, I'll just make something else. How could they just disappear? I should have kept them out of Joe's way."

Me: "Sorry! Ugh. Where could they have gone?" I wander back to the dining room to look around a little more.



Still huffing, Rebecca, opens toaster oven intending to toast her tortilla and then eat it WITHOUT GUACAMOLE. Sigh.

Sudden shrieking sounds emerge from the kitchen. When I turn around, Rebecca is on the kitchen floor, making squeaky noises and helplessly clutching her stomach.

Me: "Rebecca! What's wrong?"

Rebecca, sputtering: "Look!!!!!"*
That's right, all of the trays and racks have been REMOVED from the oven, but at least the avocados are safe and sound.

I'm sure this makes perfect sense to Joe.

* If you're thinking, "You let your kid stand on stools and play with a toaster oven?," the answer is, "Well ...  yes ... sometimes ... sigh." (Followed by half-hearted, lame statements about spirited children and laissez-faire pro-exploration parenting philosophy. Collapses in exhausted heap on the couch.)

Friday, October 8, 2010

Eating on the run.

A glimpse into the life of a "spirited" child: This is what happens when you forget to strap Joe into the high chair. 

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Visiting Miles.

Some photos from our recent trip to New York City!

We stayed in Park Slope, Brooklyn with our wonderful friends and hosts Melissa, Robin, and Miles (of the fabulous blog, Miles and Moms). We had a great time in NYC. Highlights of the trip: Pizza, deli sandwiches, bagels, cannoli, Columbian food, Indian food, Buffalo wings ... well, you get the idea.

(And of course, our friend Nami's wedding! Too bad Joe had to be hauled out of the wedding horizontally after only an hour or so, kicking and screaming! Sigh. Note to self: Hire a babysitter next time. Sorry, Nami! Congratulations!)

When they weren't keeping each other up all night with alternating crying, Miles and Joe played together beautifully. Well, Joe never threw a temper tantrum on top of Miles, at any rate. And there was a lot of playing, strolling, laughter, and giggling.

But as soon as I pulled the camera out, both babies did their best impression of forlorn, Depression-era, orphan children:

Handsome, kind, delectable Miles. Too bad no one loves him. (HA.)

Two babies, watching trucks drive by, hoping the nice garbage truck guy will adopt them.

Miles plays with his toy drum. That person to the right? Definitely not his nice mommy.

Miles eats yogurt. He only gets a small ration.

This yogurt ration is serious business!
Don't let these kids fool you with their serious expressions - there was a whole lot of FUN happening on this trip! I just didn't quite catch it on film.

(Sheesh, I feel like I should make a very serious documentary with these photos. Lighten up, kids!)

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Front yard progress.

We recently installed a new fence and gate in front of our house. One that will, we hope, keep dogs and baby in and crack addicts out. (That's not asking too much, right?).

So here's the progression. When we bought our house, the whole front yard was cement. If you look us up on Google street view, you will see a car parked in the front yard. Classy, huh?

This "before" photo features a dead tree over the porch, a decrepit bench, a "green bin" (we do municipal compost!) and random litter.

Cement, dead tree, trash.
When I was pregnant with Joe, we saved up and paid a couple of guys with jackhammers out to get rid of the cement. That took a couple of days. But we didn't immediately replace it with much - just some cedar mulch. Here is the front yard right after the cement was removed and before we laid the mulch.

A little better.


Since then, we have made slow progress in landscaping the front yard. The mulch was probably a good idea, because, despite the moonscape you see above, we've found the soil to be quite friable. This year, we planted some baby trees - a fig and a maple - and tons of creeping thyme, rosemary, sage, and oregano. And a couple of tomato plants, of course.

And just this week, we finally got rid of the ugly chain link fence and had a new fence and gate installed. Not too shabby, eh? (Golden evening light should get some of the credit for the improvement.)

Dead tree finally gone - replaced by fig, maple, herbs, tomatoes.

I admit, our progress fixing up the front yard has seemed excruciatingly slow at times. But when I see this, I feel that, slowly, but surely, it's coming together. That's a nice feeling.

P.S. We're off to New York City for a long weekend! Stroller - check. Ergo baby carrier - check. Awesome brand new toys to bribe Joe with on the five hour flight - check. Eek. Wish us luck! Have a great weekend.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Pro-development books for babies.

Until recently, Joe was never much of a reader. Two pages into every book, he would run away and get back to his usual activities - harassing sleeping dogs and throwing stuff - leaving me to finish up by myself. Which I often did, because ... well ... I'm a nerd. I want to know what happens!

But recently, Joe has been pretty excited about books, and frequently makes it THREE WHOLE PAGES into a book! Very exciting!

Joe seems to especially enjoy books about trucks and earth movers (things he loves in real life, too), so, eager to encourage any kind of book lovin' in my little bruiser, I went out and bought a bunch of books about trucks and construction equipment. Which Joe loves.

Like this one:

Trucks

Just some pictures of trucks. Nothing too controversial. That tow-truck is enormous, the kind that can tow other enormous trucks!

Tow truck

And this classic, which inspired me to decide, at age six, that I wanted to be a garbage truck operator when I grew up. ("Great!," my parents responded, "Aim high, honey!")

Scarry

This one makes construction machine noises, which Joe loves and Crouton HATES.

Noisy Building Site

It's great that it represents construction workers of all different races, and even includes some women workers.

But then you find out, at the end of the book, that the workers are building an ugly residential subdivision! Which is called "Sunrise Developments" and ... well ... ugh. Don't these folks know that the residential housing market is totally stagnant right now?

Sunrise Developments?

But as far as pro-development propaganda goes, Joe's absolute favorite machine book, Machines At Work, really takes the cake.

Machines at Work

It has colorful, vivid pictures, and short, punchy sentences.  

Knock down lovely historical building.

Like, "Knock down that lovely building designated on the National Registry of Historic Properties!"

Bulldoze that Tree.

And, "Bulldoze that 200-Year-Old Native Heritage Oak!"

Build new, ugly, modern building.

And, "Build that Giant Eyesore Parking Structure!" Yikes.

Clearly not the most environmentally friendly message!

So I've decided to write an Environmental/Local Government Lawyer Board Book, which will present a more balanced view of development and construction, and will include exciting captions like "Prepare Environmental Impact Report!" "Seek Planning Commission Approval of Tentative Subdivision Map!" "Vest Those Entitlements!" "Mitigate impact to the Red-Legged Frog!" and "Record Conservation Easement on Adjacent Marshland!"

Maybe it will even show the construction of pedestrian- and bike-friendly, mixed-use, public-transit-accessible, infill, brownfield development? Archaeological and biological consultants will visit regularly to inspect potential archaeological resources, mark drip lines for Heritage Oaks, and check for nesting raptors. Giant water-sprayers will keep construction dust at a minimum, and big dump trucks will remediate the hazardous wastes in the soil (which were caused by an underground gas tank, of course - it's a brownfield).

The final development will feature clearly marked bike lanes, drought-friendly landscaping (watered with reclaimed water, of course), recycling bins, and municipal compost.

Oh, this is going to be SO COOL.