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


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.