Thursday, December 29, 2011

I want to sew, but there is a seven foot tree in my way.

One major downside to sewing in the living space is that sometimes your space gets infringed upon by, you know, living. I love our Christmas tree and all, but I need get this giant tree out of here so that I can access my sewing machine again. Now that I've chucked my ridiculous handmade Christmas list, I'm feeling like I might actually enjoy sewing again. Especially, you know, for me.

First up: A zip pouch for my banjo fingerpicks. I'm thinking something basic like this.

Did you know I have never made a zippered case? But it can't be that hard, right? Right?

I've caught another cold (this is just not fair!), so I'm calling in sick (honestly, all of my clients are on vacation right now, so work is deadly quiet anyway), and I'm going to recruit brother/uncle Harpal to help me with the task of packing up all of the ornaments and getting this tree outtahere.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Lois Short: Banjo Picking Girl.

Things are still pretty busy around here, as we wind up this holiday season and this year with Chanukah parties, family gatherings, and trips to see friends. I'm still practicing my banjo as regularly as I can, though, and spending hours scrolling YouTube for good banjo videos researching banjo styles and techniques.

This gem gives me hope - maybe by the time I am Lois Short's age, I'll be able to play banjo this well (or maybe not, but maybe I can develop some kind of passable skill?). I still have some time. And check out her amazing smile at the very end. She's having a lot of fun. If you can watch this video without grinning from ear to ear, you might want to check your pulse. (What? Not everyone is filled with delight at the sound of banjo picking and purposefully off-tune folk singing? Well, you banjo-resistant folks are missing out, in my opinion.)

This amazing video was shot by Alan Lomax and crew in at Lois Short's home in Closplint (also known as Klondike or Rutherford), Harlan County, Kentucky.  July 24, 1983.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas.

Madonna with the Green Cushions (Maria Lactans), Andrea Solario, 1st quarter of 16th century, oil on wood, Musée du Louvre, Paris. (I just couldn't resist the adorable breastfeeding Jesus. Possibly Jesus breastfeeding as a toddler? Anyway, awesome.)

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Eve.

We made some Christmas cookies. Joe "helped" mix the batter in the stand mixer by getting his face dangerously close to the paddle. That is only a tiny fraction of the butter that went into this recipe.

Stand Mixer.

Later, after Joe put on his special mama-made red PJs (so what if they were made almost a year ago?), mama rolled out and cut Christmas tree shapes, and Joe helped Uncle Harpal put the sprinkles on.
Christmas cookies.


Joe was so excited about all of this that he hardly put his tongue in his mouth once. Sticking your tongue out really helps with concentration, don't you know.


Joe feels that it is important not to be too stingy with the sprinkles. Check out this look of rapt attention.

Some sprinkles were eaten. The cookies look great. I am pretty sure Santa will be pleased. Ahem. *Wipes crumbs off mouth.*

Joe thought Christmas Eve was pretty fun. He has no idea what's in store for tomorrow.

Merry Christmas and God bless us, every one!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Beginner's Mind (and other things I've learned from my toddler).

I've been having fun learning the rudiments of banjo picking these past weeks. I have been practicing almost every evening, after Joe goes to bed. At this point, I can pick out a few songs. Slowly, tentatively, with long pauses before "difficult" chord changes. ("Difficult" in quotes because I'm pretty sure that most seasoned banjo players do not have difficulty changing from C to D7. Ahem.) My fast-pickin' banjo days are still in the distant future, but I'm making progress.

This experience has been especially interesting as I am reminded of what it's like to be an absolute, rank beginner at something. This is something that is easy to forget. Like most 30-somethings, I tend to do the same things I've been doing all of my life. Things I am at least moderately okay at. Even sewing - although I am always learning new things, I haven't been a true "beginner" at sewing since I was in junior high school. I left my "brand-spanking new lawyer" days behind quite a few years ago as well and I am well-practiced in sounding like I know what I'm talking about (sometimes I do know what I'm talking about). My frisbee catching skills have been dismal since the dawn of time, and do not appear to be very amenable to improvement. But it's been a while since I wholeheartedly embraced "beginner" status at a new hobby.

What does it mean to be an "absolute rank beginner" at something? Well, it means you'll feel like you really suck. For a long time. Totally sucking at something can be a challenge for a perfectionist like myself. I like to be good at things. I don't like to be bad at stuff.

This is where observing your toddler can provide helpful hints. After all, toddlers are rank beginners at a lot of things. Joe is a beginner at many things - building tall towers with blocks, configuring train tracks, communicating with words. Does it bother him that he is not expert at these things? As far as I can tell - not at all.

When Joe sees something he wants to do, he just jumps in and gets to it.  With a smile on his face! When things don't work out the first time, when he falls flat on his face, he just picks himself up and gets back to it, usually still smiling (the black eye, on the other hand, will stick around for two weeks). He doesn't care what other people think. He takes joy in pointing out and naming things and it doesn't bother him that he doesn't enunciate every syllable perfectly. He delights in saying things as well as he can, and we delight in hearing him give it his best shot.

So here's a not-so-radical concept my toddler has a better handle on than I do: Learning is fun!

This is the spirit I'm trying to bring to the banjo. I'm not bad at the banjo. I mean, yeah, my Foggy Mountain Breakdown still leaves a bit to be desired (are you kidding me? I haven't even tried to play Foggy Mountain Breakdown), but that's not because I totally suck. It's because I'm a beginner.

There's a difference.

Thanks, Joe.

But I can still be inspired by truly great banjo players ... (Check out the way Earl Scruggs' right hand hardly moves at all! Dang! He could do that in his sleep! He probably does do it in his sleep! The man really makes it look easy.)

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Christmas in Oakland.

Despite catching a cold, we did manage to get a tree up this weekend.

Christmas in Oakland

This is probably the biggest tree we've ever had in this house. Since I can't even reach my sewing machine there behind the tree to the left, it's not looking good for any pre-Christmas sewing. That's okay. I'll just play banjo instead.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Banjo! (And bonus raincoat!)

Banjo and raincoat!

Every once in a while, there comes a really good day. Monday was such a day.

On Monday morning, I posted here about my desire to pick up a used banjo to start learning on. That afternoon, I posted a status on Facebook saying pretty much the same thing. Mid-afternoon, my friend Shelby offered me a free loaner banjo! Would I like to pick it up that night at our regular Sacred Harp singing?


When I got to the singing, my friend Linda handed me a bag containing a raincoat that didn't fit her and she was planning to give away. She brought it "just in case" I wanted it. She saw the FB banjo exchange, so she knew I would be there.

The raincoat fits perfectly.

The raincoat is totally gorgeous.

The raincoat is the perfect shade of tomato rusty red.

Heretofore, I have never actually owned a raincoat. (I also never carry an umbrella. I like to pretend that it never rains here. However, that is not actually the case, as I learn to my soggy regret every year.)

Hell yes, I want your raincoat, Linda!

I have been wearing my super awesome new raincoat all week. Who cares that it's not actually raining? Tomato red is a neutral, folks.

Banjo and raincoat!

And here's my loaner banjo! I've been practicing vigilantly er, diligently for three whole days and I can say with confidence that I still pretty much suck. However, I am having fun!

I have great friends.

My cup runneth over. Seriously.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Not sewing.

Apparently, the mere idea of sewing all of those Christmas presents was enough to completely chill my sewing mojo. I haven't so much as touched my sewing machine since announcing my intentions to make a guzillion presents for folks. There's nothing like a long to-do list and a hard deadline to drain all of the fun out of a hobby, right? Let this be a lesson.

Since sewing sounds about as appealing as getting a root canal right now, I've had to turn to other obsessions. So I've become fixated on learning to play banjo, and spent the past few days combing Craigslist for used banjos. Watch out - this may morph into a banjo blog, right before your eyes! (If this sudden talk of banjos seems a bit random to you, just keep in mind that I gave my child the middle name Roscoe after the great Roscoe Holcomb. My close friends and family have seen this coming for a while.) Just what I need, right? Another hobby!


In other news. Last night, we had dinner with our friends and their little boys. Getting ready to go, Joe was so excited to see his friends that he took off running towards the front door, and tripped and fell, hitting his face on a little metal space heater on the way down (thankfully, it was turned off). Ouch! He was pretty bummed for a minute or two, but characteristically got over it almost right away. I think I've mentioned that Joe has a freakishly high tolerance for pain, right? So we forgot all about it.

Well, a few hours later, we realized he had given himself a black eye! It took us a little while to remember the likely cause. (Ahem. A&J, sorry for jokingly accusing your child of punching my kid in the eye, ahem.)

Baby boy has a shiner.

It doesn't seem to be bothering him one bit now, but it looks pretty awful! My poor little bruiser.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Christmas Gifts Update, Harper's Style.

Number of Christmas gifts I plan to make this year: At least 5 or 6.

Number of Christmas gifts completed so far: 0.

Number of Christmas gifts started: 1.

Amount of time spent on one gift I have started: 10 minutes.

Average amount of time that each gift will require: 4-5 hours.

Number of days left until Christmas: 17.

Back-up plan: Huh?

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Old Man Jeans, with Photos.

As promised, here are Joe's new "old man jeans." Old man because they are high-waisted, elastic-waisted, pleated, and bright blue!

Old man jeans.

Here they are cuffed (they're pretty long on Joe - an accomplishment these days, when Joe seems to grow a half inch between cutting and sewing) so you can see that they are fully lined. In band-aid flannel. An appropriate choice for my little bruiser (who doesn't use that many bandages, because honestly, most cuts don't even slow him down for a minute!).

Old man jeans, cuffed.

I used to the Oliver + s Sketchbook Shorts pattern (of course), lengthened into pants. This was my first time lining them, and it was really easy. For the lining pieces I removed the details like pockets and fake fly. After sewing the legs and crotch seam, I basted the lining fabric to the outside fabric at the waist and then added the waistband. I folded up the denim for the hem.

Here's a detail of the fly. I tried the bar tack technique outlined in Sewing For Boys. I like it, although it does not mitigate the old man thing at all.

Fly detail.

And here's a detail of the cuffs, so you can see the lining fabric. This bandage fabric was part of one of the sock monkey flannel lines, I believe.

Cuff Detail.

Last, and probably least (it is so hard to get Joe to pose for photos these days!), Joe wearing the pants and relaxing on the couch.

Old Man Jeans

And here's the side view. They don't look as old man on Joe as they do on the hanger. But I still think he needs a Fred Rogers cardigan to complement these.

Old Man Jeans

I have a bunch of other projects just waiting for the sewing mood to strike. Check out this pile! I bought a couple new Oliver + s patterns for Christmas presents for some of the little girls in my life, and I'm excited to get started on them, and trying not to think about how unrealistic my holiday sewing list is this year.

New projects pile.

That's orange corduroy on the bottom of that pile.  And red flannel with bees, and blue velveteen, and a soft organic ditzy floral on top.

So much sewing to do! So little time!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Still no camera ...

... So I figured it was time for a little update in list form. You know, like how I used to do?

Ooh. I'm rusty. Here goes.

  1. We had a lovely Thanksgiving celebration at my sister's house last Thursday. So. Much. Food.
  2. I have so much to be thankful for. Especially, my family and my friends. What a great idea for a holiday.
  3. This past Friday ("Black Friday" in the U.S.) Joe and I got to see our good friends Melissa, Robin, and their little boy Miles, visiting California all the way from Brooklyn! The weather was great, the grownups had some good chats, and Joe and Miles chased each other around the house squealing and laughing. It was lovely. I just wish these folks lived closer!
  4. For my part, I was perfectly happy not to set foot in a single retail establishment on Black Friday. I saw all of you crazy shoppers sitting in your cars, stuck in traffic backed up a mile outside the mall, breathing in a haze of exhaust. Shudder.
  5. I did, however, take advantage of some internet sales at both Oliver + s and Britex Fabrics. Cough cough.
  6. As intimated in a prior post, I am currently reading Victor Hugo's Les Miserables. Stating the obvious: It's really long. It's also really heavy, even in paperback. I'm getting a workout carrying this 1,200 page tome everywhere I go. It's also pretty great, though. Hugo knows how to build up a scene. Often over hundreds of pages. Going off in tangents until you've forgotten what it was the book is about. But then there will be a Transcendent Moment. Which usually finds me on BART (since that's where I do most of my reading), gasping for breath and wanting to read the scene aloud to a bunch of vacant-eyed fellow-commuters. I begin to understand the hype.
  7. I am seeing the National and Wye Oak this Saturday! Super excited! I haven't been to a concert in a long time, I've wanted to see the National forever, and when it comes to Wye Oak, I have all the zeal of the newly converted. Also, a bunch of my friends are also going! Wahoo! I hope they don't play too late, though. I am ashamed to admit, it's hard for me to stay up much past 10:30 p.m. these days.
  8. My brother and I just watched the first season of Sherlock. I am a huge fan of the Arthur Conan Doyle stories, but I thought the recent film adaptation was, as far as faithfulness to the story goes, awful (the steam-punky costumes were pretty cool; it was, you know, just the plot that was ghastly). After seeing that, I was burned out and purposefully avoided Sherlock, which is a modern remake of the story. Well, that was dumb. Because whereas Sherlock Holmes the movie was depressingly inane and nothing at all like the original stories, Sherlock is refreshingly intelligent and an absolute nerd-fest for a lover of Arthur Conan Doyle. So many inside jokes! So much fun! Ah, good television. My only complaint is that somehow, the first season is only three episodes? Ending in a cliff hanger? (One that calls to mind Sherlock Holmes, his arch-rival, and a waterfall, ahem.) Torture!
  9. We haven't put up a Christmas tree yet, although we're planning to. Later. With two dogs and a two and a half year old, Christmas trees are a constant hazard that must be closely monitored. No need to rush into the dogs-eating-ornaments and kids-knocking-down-trees-on-themselves season.
  10. Once again, I seem to be coming up with all sorts of plans for handmade Christmas gifts. Yet, I am pretty sure that it would be impossible to actually make all of them between now and Christmas. It's unclear how this will work out.
  11. Joe's speech is progressing wonderfully, as is his potty humor. Suddenly, he spends half the day explaining that Omie (our dog) poo-poos, and daddy, and mama, and Harpal. Everyone poo-poos! *Gasp.* Recently, at a diaper change, he very seriously explained to Dad that in fact, Omie had pooped in his diaper, not him. "Omie poo-poo diaper!" He was totally framed, you know. That was not his poo-poo!
  12. I know, I'm the one who said that I wanted to know more about what was going on in Joe's little noggin. And now I know. Wow.
Righto. With that ... have a great week, everyone!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Old Man Pants.

So I made these awesome lined denim trousers for Joe. They ended up looking like total old man jeans. High waisted, elastic waisted, bright blue denim. Hilarious! I can't wait to show you!

But I left our camera at my sister's house on Thanksgiving. Drat.

Hopefully she'll drop it off this week. But in the meantime, things might be a bit quiet here. Or at any rate, visually uninteresting.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Joe's Quilt.

Speaking of things that have sat on my sewing table unfinished for a year, this is what I'm planning to work on over this long weekend. It's a quilt for Joe. I'd like to finish it before he turns 20, if possible.

Joe's Quilt Progress
That little pouch was embroidered and sewn by my paternal grandmother, Nanny. She was quite the hand-quilter!

I thought that I was done hand-quilting this, but on second thought I decided it needed more quilting. I have never met a quilt that I considered to be too densely hand-quilted. On the other hand, I'd like to finish it while Joe is still a child, see above. It's a delicate balance. But. It needed a bit more.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving! (If you are celebrating this week, that is. Otherwise, have an awesome Thursday.)

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Lotta Jansdotter's All-Day Tote.

I was cleaning my sewing area this morning (it does happen, very infrequently) and found an unfinished project, the "All-Day Tote" from Lotta Jansdotter's Simple Sewing.  This book has a lovely Scandinavian minimalist aesthetic, and it's a great book for a beginning sewist. The projects really are "simple."

The All-Day Tote is a simple tote bag with a few pockets.

All Day Tote

I've made it once before, from denim lined in brightly colored vintage tea-towels. Unfortunately, I didn't blog it. Although it didn't turn out perfectly, that was a hard gift to part with!

So, about a year ago, I decided to make one for myself, in gray wool lined in some of my beloved Joel Dewberry orange faux bois fabric. I love this fabric so much.  It's one of my favorite fabrics ever. It's mid-century modern, quirky, tongue-in-cheek, and it's orange! Which is why it was just wrong that I only bought a yard or two of it when it was available. Now it is out of print. (Dewberry still makes wood-grain quilting cotton, but the precious and never-to-be-seen again fabric is a heavier twill with a dreamy soft hand.)

This has caused me serious and lasting regret. Why didn't I buy more? Why? Why didn't I get some in green too? Whyyyyyyyy? 

For kicks, check out the last project I used this fabric for - Joe was just a little dude! Those were the best pants ever, and I kept putting them on him even when they had turned to "man-pris."

But I digress. So anyway, I cut out and interfaced the pieces for this All-Day Tote about a year ago, but then Christmas hit, and I set it aside. It was forgotten for a variety of reasons, including that I found some aspects of the project intimidating, and I think I had a premonition that it wasn't going to be all that I had hoped.

Today, cleaning off my sewing table, I carefully packed away some other unfinished projects, but took a second look at this one. Hmmm, I thought, I could just finish this. Right now.

And so I did. It was no problem. I don't know why I was intimidated (perhaps I'm a little more confident now than I was a year ago). It only took an hour or two.

Here, I tried to recreate the photo in the book. What? The photo in the book was not indoors and in front of a dog crate? Quiet, you.

All Day Tote
Oh jeez, are those sewing threads still hanging from my cardigan? My blog is totally super polished.

It's a fine little tote, if a little bit floppy (and I interfaced the living daylights out of it!). It will be handy for the farmer's market and the library and hauling Joe stuff around. I used a different wool plaid with a bit of orange for the handles.

All Day Tote
Glamor shot on ironing board.

The lining is a bit baggy. I really should go back in there and shave a little bit off the bottom all around. But after languishing on my sewing table for a year, what are the chances?

Here, it is holding my reading glasses, keys, wallet, and my current novel, Victor Hugo's Les Miserables. I know, you can't even see that enormous book in there, but it's in there, trust me. Anyway, you know, just the bare essentials. There is room for a lot more. I could fit The Grapes of Wrath and War and Peace in there as well.

All Day Tote
It has a magnetic closure and a key fob!

It's definitely not my best work, but it's fine. I will use it. I'm glad I finally finished it!

And it is lined in dreamy orange faux bois!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Luka Hoodie "Reveal."

I finished the Luka Hoodie last night, and I am so pleased with it. It's probably the nicest thing I've made for Joe to date.

Unfortunately, in a trend that does not appear to be improving, the photo shoot this morning did not go well.

Me: Joe, let's try on your new hoodie! It has blue trains!

Joe: No! No boo fway!

Me: Joe, let's just try it on real quick, okay? Mommy made you a nice warm hoodie!

Joe: No!

Me: Joe, can you just put it on for a minute to see if it fits and let mama take a picture?

Joe: No boo fway! No fway! No! No!

(Mild struggle ensues. I murmur reassuring something-or-others about how he's really going to like his hoodie once he gets it on, while Joe says "no no no no no!")

Cord pullover
What happened to my hand?

Me: Let's roll that sleeve up a bit more.

Joe: No! Off! Off! Shirt off! OFF!

Cord pullover
He's trying to take it "off."
Me: Please, Joe? Please? Just let mama take a picture?

Joe: No please!

Cord pullover
Well, shoot. This is not going well.

Me (looking at that sad face): Sigh. Okay, we'll take it off. Sorry, Joe.

So, okay, apparently I am such a mean mother that not only do I spend days sewing warm, cozy, and practical clothing for my child, with his interests (blue trains!) specifically in mind, but I then make him try them on, and then I try to take photos of him.

I mean, what kind of monster?

(I am really appreciating this blog right now, because y'all are a way more appreciative audience than Joe!)

Blarg. Since my model was so uncooperative, you'll have to make do with a few detail shots on my ironing board.

Cord pullover
I've been holding onto these great buttons for a while - I had only three! Perfect!

Cord pullover
There is a hand-warming pocket and also a "secret" pocket under the flap. You'd think a child would love this, right?

And for you real sewing geeks, here's the inside, which I'm also really proud of. This gives a good view of how I lined it (to showcase but conserve blue trains - the rest is sage-green flannel) as well as the little placket that I added behind the buttons (not in the pattern) to help keep drafts out.

Cord pullover

This pattern, which came from Sewing For Boys, takes some time and care, but the final results are absolutely smashing, and I could not be more pleased. The pattern instructions are probably perfect for an intermediate seamstress, and I would warn beginners that there is not much hand-holding. Readers are expected to understand technical sewing language. But in my opinion, this is also the great strength of this book: While I love an easy project as much as the next person, I also love how many satisfyingly complex patterns are included in this guide. It's the more challenging patterns in this book that really kick the genre of "sewing book with patterns" up a notch or two.

(Hey, look at me! I think I might be an intermediate seamstress now! Wahoo!)

I should note that I was not able to finish the hoodie hem and sleeves the way the book suggests. It's a long story, but basically, I had made a few changes and taken some steps earlier in the sewing that precluded the origami-like finishing process. When I got to that point of the pattern, I was like, "Whoa! Complicated, but total genius! Too bad it's too late for me to do that!" So then I finished it in a more standard way, just folding everything under, pressing, and top-stitching. Ah, well. Next time, I suppose.

The size (2/3) seems perfect, with plenty of room to grow (I added length to the sleeves for the cuffs, so don't be fooled by the super long sleeves). It goes up to size 6/7, I think!

Basically, it took absolutely forever and a day to make, and I love it. The million dollar question: Forget loving it, will Joe even wear it?

Well, we'll see, but I think so. I think there's something about the whole trying-to-photograph-him-for-the-blog process that just makes Joe contrary. Too much pressure. So tempting to assert his independence by saying "no no no!" I bet if I put this on him and let him run around a park or something, rather than asking him to pose for photos, things would go much better.

Toddlers can be fickle creatures.

Poor kid. I hope I haven't scarred him for life by sewing him an awesome hoodie and then hoping he will wear it!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Luka Hoodie.

I'm finally trying one of the patterns from Sewing For Boys! I was ambitious and started right out with an "advanced" pattern, the "Luka Hoodie." It's a pullover hoodie/windbreaker.

Luka Hoodie.

Super cute, right?

I cut this out on Friday evening, so I was hoping to blog the completed hoodie today, but it was not meant to be. This pattern earned its "advanced" status not by being super difficult, but by having kind of a lot of pieces! Doesn't help that I decided to use a different lining fabric in the hood and on the cuffs than the rest of the lining, in order to showcase (but also conserve) my precious and costly Spoonflower blue choo-choos.

See them there, in the hood? Here's a better view.

Periodically, Joe stops by to point and say, "blue fway!"

So far, it's coming together well, with just a few idiosyncrasies caused by my modifications (as usual). I'm hoping this will make a really cozy little pullover for my little train/fway-lover.

More soon!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Train tunnel.

The other day, when we were all just trying to keep moving in order to ward off the chill,* I decided to turn a big shipping box into a little house for Joe. Well, I thought it was going to be a little house. I put a window in it and everything. But Joe had other plans.

Train tunnel.

He didn't want to get inside it or set up his dolls in there (who was I kidding? his baby doll is currently buried up to its neck in the back yard). He wanted to push his trains through it. Duh. So I cut out a little opening on the other side, making it the strangest looking "fway** tunnel!" you've ever seen.

Train tunnel.

Can I just say that my cardboard crafting skills leave a lot to be desired? Wow. Martha makes it look easy (to state the blatantly obvious). My cardboard box house/tunnel looks like total crap. I'm going to blame that on lack of appropriate tools. Yeah. I'm sticking to that story.

But he likes it. And it was free. And it kept my hands from getting frostbite for a few minutes (however, the exacto-knife did give me a blister; cutting sturdy cardboard is not as easy as it looks, see above). So. Anyway. I'm reminded once again that it is usually not the most expensive toys that children like best.

* We finally buckled and turned on the heat. Just in time for temps to dip into the low-40s last night (which isn't so bad if your bedroom is not also that temperature). That means, according to this table, that in just the past week, we have seen 40 degrees of variation in temperatures. Nutso. Can we go back to 80 degrees, please? Heck, I'm not greedy - I'd be happy with mid-60s.

High of 81, low of 41.

** "Fway" = Train. The speech therapist calls this "consonant cluster substitution." Some children will substitute easier consonant combinations for more difficult to pronounce clusters. Which is why it's really funny when Joe says "fway track!"

Monday, November 7, 2011

Saturday, November 5, 2011


Happy November! For me, that means a new billable year at work and the chance to relax a little bit after the most hectic month of the year. Of course, there is still work to do, but some of the pressure is off. Whew!

But it also means I can no longer argue with the changing seasons. Let's just get it out there: I'm not a Winter person. Blech. There isn't much romance in wet, dreary Bay Area winters.

The end of daylight savings is tomorrow, which means that for the next couple of months it will be pitch dark when I get home from work.

And we're already freezing our rears off in our high-ceilinged, uninsulated, underheated Victorian house. Seriously, I would not be surprised to learn that in 1896, Oakland homes were constructed from balsa wood. I swear I can feel the wind coming through the walls. Although our winters are very mild, the inside of our house is usually about the same temperature as outside, and our mild winters are not nearly mild enough for that!

We have been holding out and have not turned the heater on yet, because (a) it costs approximately one million dollars a month to operate; and (b) it doesn't actually warm the house up that much. But I don't know how much longer we'll be able to stand wearing hats and gloves in the house.

But. At least we don't have to shovel snow or try to extricate our cars from three inches of ice every morning.

Joe's rocking his fleece footie sleepers now.

Yes, he bonked himself in the eye. It's almost healed up now.

I've been overflowing with sewing inspiration lately but not actually sewing. You know how that goes. I may be suffering from idea-overload. I have fun projects in the works for me, and I also want to make Joe some really cozy clothes for our cold house.

First up: Organic cotton knits from Spoonflower! Owls and trains: Two of Joe's favorite things. I think these are destined to be PJ sets. (I was especially pleased to find an owl print which is not overly gendered - most owl prints are really girly.)

Trains and owls!

I also want to make Joe some really warm fleecy slippers. Everyone in this house needs slippers: socks don't quite cut it here, what with the draft that seems to seep through the floor. The slippers that Target sells are cheap and ugly and I know I could do better. For that project I've been eyeing this tutorial from Folkhaven. I was thinking I could probably find an old, ugly fleece at the thrift store that would be perfect for some recycling (have I mentioned that the word "upcycle" bugs me? I can't approve of all of these new words the youngins keep making up). Sewing For Boys also has a great sweatshirt-style pullover pattern, so I'll need a men's large! 

Speaking of sweatshirts, I could use your thoughts: Here's a lovely, warm, shearling lined hoodie of Joe's. The zipper is broken and I ripped it out. Should I replace it? Or should I do a refashion and make it a pullover like this? Ideas?

Hoodie with broken zip.
Excuse the dog hair. That's par for the course in this house.
That's it as far as craft news! My fingers are frozen just typing all of this out! Have a great weekend, everyone!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011


You guys! Halloween was awesome! It went so much better than I ever dreamed.

The two-pronged approach of peer pressure and candy totally worked to reconcile Joe to his shark costume, and he wore the whole thing, hood and all, for an hour of trick-or-treating last night!

Sure enough, once he realized that other kids were dressed up with things on their heads, he was far more amenable to his own headgear. When he realized he could walk up and down the street, grabbing handfuls of shiny, colorfully packaged candy from strangers, I'm pretty sure he forgot all about his costume (when people commented on "the little shark!," he just looked at them blankly, like "huh?").

After one or two houses, Joe had the trick-or-treat methodology figured out, and took to it like it was his heretofore unrealized true calling in life. He barged ahead of his dawdling friends to the next house, briskly climbed the stairs, presented his bag (soon bursting with candy) to the occupant, said "tick teet!," got his candy, said "dink doo!" and pressed on to the next house.

He did run inside strange houses a couple times. I had to fish him out from behind someone's couch once. But in general he was highly efficient.

His business-like attitude cracked me up.

All I can say is, this child was born with an intense work ethic. He has remarkable focus. My goodness. (Whatever his other issues may be, ADD is off the table.)

And he said "tick teet!" at every house! And wasn't shy at all! (Ahem, barging into strangers' houses?) Even six months ago, this would have seemed pretty seriously unlikely for my silent little cling-monkey.

What's even funnier is that while Joe loved filling his bag to the brim with shiny and crinkly packages, he is completely clueless about candy, so he was quite content to be rewarded with a single Oreo at the end of the evening. He seems quite happy to reinvest his profits into his parents business.

Job well done, son.

And he wore his costume!

We may have lost a remora fish in the shuffle. A small price to pay.

I didn't bring my camera, but our friends took some photos, so hopefully I will have photographic evidence that Joe did not hate his costume to show you soon!

I'm just tickled pink that everything went so well.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Tomorrow is Halloween, and things are not going so well.

As hinted, this year, I decided to make Joe a Halloween costume from scratch. (In past years, I did not. Did I mention that my firm has a Nov. 1 to Oct. 31 billable year? I am usually too busy to make it to the pumpkin patch.)

Joe loves sharks. His shark PJs are his favorite. So I figured I'd make Joe a shark costume.

Steve suggested that I attach some remora fish to the belly of the shark. You know, those fish that use their sucker-heads to grab onto a shark and travel around with them, eating their leftovers? They're awesome.

Good idea, Steve!

I procrastinated a little, partly because I don't have a pattern, and I was trying to work out how to cut this out in my head ...

So yeah, I started last night, making the tunic first, because that was easy and didn't require much brain power. I traced the general shape of one of Joe's hoodies to get the armhole and neckline right. The back of the tunic has a simple little slit to get the tunic over his big head (also, I sewed a cute stuffed dorsal fin onto the back).

Then I slept on it. The hardest part was working out how to cut out the hood and its curved pieces. Initially, I found this pretty intimidating.

But this morning I realized I could just cut some generously sized pieces in something grossly approximating the right shape, and I got to work on the hood. There were some adjustments, but basically, my guesses were pretty darn close! *Pats self on back.* Anyway, it turns out that in this case, pure trial and error can work instead of careful pattern drafting.

It turned out awesome, people. I mean, I'm just super stoked with how it looks. At this point, I was thinking to myself, "Why didn't I make a hammerhead shark costume! That would have been even cooler!"

Shark costume.
This shark has blue eyes just like my little boy.

There is an inner hood (traced from Joe's hoodie) and then I stuffed the space between the inner hood and the outer hood to give the shark some poof.

Check out those gray corduroy remora fish! Steve, you are so clever! (You too, Inder. More back patting. I cannot even stand how clever I am!)

Remora fish.
Parasites. Yum.
Joe! Let's try it on!!

He was okay with just the tunic component. He immediately started ripping fish off his belly - always fun.

Shark costume fiasco.
At this point, he was distracted by fish.
But after I tried to introduce the hood, things went downhill. I should have known.

Shark costume fiasco.
Uh, no thank you, Mama. (Mama says, ahem, see that dorsal fin in the back?)

Shark costume fiasco.
Uh, did I say no? Heck no. Take it off, please!

Shark costume fiasco.
Off! Off! (I don't care if my uncle kisses me and tells me I look great!)

Shark costume fiasco.
I am reassessing my belief that my parents really love me.
It kind of reminds me of trying to put a "Gentle Leader" harness on my pit bull. Except I feel more of an obligation to respect my child's comfort levels than my dog's (and, for that matter, I'm pretty respectful of my dog's comfort levels).


Excuse me: I'm just going to go lie down and cry now. Won't take a minute.

So. Not sure how we're going to manage to trick-or-treat tomorrow. Wish me luck.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Inder who?

On Tuesday night, Google disabled my email account (and every other Google-related account I have) and removed this blog from the internet. If you visited at that time, you would have seen a notice that stated that my blog had been removed, and that this is usually done for a violation of Google policies. Click on Google policies, and you would discover that the big ones are child porn, hate speech, spam, and copyright violations.

Remember that scene from Back to the Future where, due to disruptions in the space-time continuum caused by time travel, key characters start to slowly disappear as their actual existence is called into question?

Yep. That's how I felt. I love Google products, and I use them for everything. Email, feed reader, social networking, this blog. I have an Android phone, which links into my Google account, which even stores my phone contacts. And of course, there is the small matter of the three years of my rather mundane and pedestrian existence that is recorded in this blog (which I have never backed up). And "little" things, like my list of family recipes and Joe's now out-of-date list of words is stored in Google Documents (which I have never backed up - are you sensing a theme?).

I never backed any of these things up because (call me naive) it honestly never occurred to me that it could all be taken away, all at once. Of course, I knew that accounts could be hacked, and I could be denied access, that one of the other of these programs could be compromised, but I never thought that it could all just vanish?! Silly me.

I'm not one to indulge in conspiracy theories. I figure, I'm not important. I'm really pretty boring. I mean, this is a sewing and parenting blog. Largely, I try to avoid controversial topics and stick to my day-to-day (well, except the time I said that I don't use bleach). I do my best to avoid violating copyright laws. I don't post illegal Mp3s. I credit my sources. I'm a rule-follower.

So it was a bit disorienting to have my entire internet identity disappear without any stated reason. Everything was working fine, and I went to give Joe a bath. When I came back, I had been locked out of pretty much all of the technology that I regularly use.

I didn't even have the means to let people know that I couldn't read my emails and that I had lost their contacts on my phone, because I didn't have my email/phone contacts.

Some complaints were filed. (Did you know you need to have an active - that is, not disabled - Google account to appeal the removal of your blog from Blogger? Who came up with that rule?)

Tears were shed.

Brain was racked trying to think of a possible  "violation of policy" I may have inadvertently committed, but I'm pretty sure I've never engaged in any kind of child porn or hate speech. If I've ever inadvertently violated copyright, I hope someone would ask me to remove the offending item, and I would gladly do so.

Attempts by family to comfort me were rudely pushed away.

Joe said, "Mama SAD!" (At which point I tried to buck up a bit.)

Cobbler was eaten.

At this point, I'm pretty sure that part of my right arm and the left side of my face became somewhat transparent, as the space-time continuum was breached, and I started to cease to exist.

Without Google, what am I?

More tears were shed.

More complaints filed.

And then, a few hours later, magically, my account was restored and I was let back in. No sign of any hacking, no sign of any unusual activity, no sign of any policy violation. No written response to any of my complaints or desperate pleas for help. Restoration of my accounts, and silence.

Whew. Thank heavens.

But I'm still a bit jumpy. I don't know why my account was disabled and my blog removed, and I don't know why it was restored. What I do know is that I will be backing up my blog from now on. And my child-like faith in Google is definitely a little shaken. I am reconsidering the way I have been entrusting one company with every last bit of my personal information. I mean, I still think Google is cool, don't get me wrong, but ohmygosh maybe I should export my contacts, hello.

What Google gives, Google can take away (pursuant to their policies, with or without reason, and with or without notice).

Got it.

I'm a lawyer. I understand that policy. I don't think it's an unfair policy (or more to the point, I understand why a "fair" policy here would not be legally prudent). I understand why it's necessary.

I just didn't think it would be applied towards little old me.

Famous last words, huh?

So anyway, readers! If you've made it this far, thanks for listening.

(One strange side effect of all of this is that the past three weeks of posts are being repeated in your Feed Reader if that's how you view this blog - sorry about that!)

Might be time to think about getting my own URL.

Monday, October 24, 2011


Joe will be two and a half next week, and he is now well into the age of symbolic pretend play. This is really fun. And, at times, a little surreal.

For example, Joe has decided that my cheap brown leather belt with gold studs is a "snake." A snake that likes to slither all over the house, through the "cities" that Joe builds with his blocks, and occasionally knock buildings down with its gold buckle head.

"Mama! Snake boom crash city!"

"Oh, the snake knocked over your city and made it go boom, Joe?"

"Snake. City. Big tower! Boom crash!"

You'd think the idea of a giant snake that takes down whole cities would be terrifying to a small child, right? Think again: Joe is the power behind the scary snake. It's all about agency, folks.

So, needless to say, when I tried to put the "snake" on and wear the "snake" to work over a cute tunic last week, all hell broke loose.

"NO SNAKE, MAMA!! NOOOO SNAAAAAKE!!!" (Joe's still working on terms like "mine" but he gets the idea across as well as any 2.5 year old.)

I gave in, of course. It was clear to me that the snake's value to Joe as a prop for imaginative play far exceeds its value as an accessory. Simple parental math.

Train World

Joe loves to build things with blocks, so there have been lots of "cities" lately. Here's one I helped him build around his train tracks. Plain ol' train tracks are bor-ing, didn't you know? It's way cooler if the train has to go through "tunnels!" and "cities!" although, watch out, because things do go "boom crash!" (He may have learned the boom crash thing from Thomas & Friends. You could make a really fun drinking game out of that show - if you chugged a shot every time a train derails into a ditch or lake and the narrator says, "Luckily, no one was hurt," you would not last through a whole episode.)

Trains and blocks

Since Joe is speech-delayed, this recent intensification of symbolic play is more than just amusing and fun (and surreal, what with the cities and towers and leather snakes). There is scientific evidence that symbolic play is closely linked with language development in children, and the two usually develop side-by-side (with late talking children engaging in pretend play later than other children). It has something to do with the way the brain learns to process symbols: children seem to learn symbolic play around the same time that they start learning symbolic language.

I will say this for having a speech-delayed child: It has made me so much more aware and appreciative of the processes by which we learn language. Basically, human brains are complex and amazing.

Trains and blocks 

Joe's speech is still behind that of his peers, but he is learning so quickly, it's hard to feel too worried about him these days.  His vocabulary is so big I lost track of his "word list" months ago. Joe's vocabulary now includes loads of nouns ("tower" "city" "train" "tracks"), a good number of useful verbs ("go" "fly" "walk" "sleep"), lots of adjectives ("wet" "yellow" "big"), and a few comic book exclamations ("boom" "crash" "whoa") for emphasis. He says "shoot!" when he's upset, with disturbing clarity (yes, could be worse).

And sure enough, with this larger vocabulary comes a greater imaginative world, where trains and snakes travel through cities of blocks, with "tall towers" and "big tunnels." It's hard to know which came first, the talking or the play - just like the scholarly articles say, I think they are developing side by side.

Train world

"Mama, snake boom! Fix big tunnel! Fix city!"

It's pretty cool.

Sunday, October 23, 2011


I turned 35 this past Wednesday. That's an age that seemed solidly in the "grown-up" camp when I was a child (heck, even when I was 20), so it's funny to hit it and realize, I'm still a total goofball. Granted, a total goofball with a husband, child, mortgage, and increasing number of "smile lines," but nonetheless a goofball.

Wednesday birthdays are not too exciting at the best of times, and this one fell during some of the busiest and craziest days of my legal career to date (even my boss, who has been at this for 30 years, was amazed at the progression of legal disasters this past week). But I still managed to squeeze in dinner and a margarita (okay, two margaritas), so all is well.

Of course, I had to get myself a couple of birthday presents. That's how things work around here. So I finally purchased Sewing For Boys, which has been on my wish-list for a while now. It looks awesome, people. Jam-packed with well-designed patterns. These ladies have really stepped the sewing-book genre up a notch.

I also spent a pretty penny on custom-printed organic cotton knit from Spoonflower! I can't wait for that package to arrive.

But before I make even more clothes for Joe, who is rolling in hand-me-downs and really doesn't need clothing (besides, he'd rather be naked anyway), I think I will make something for myself. First up, Colette's Peony, in a navy blue ikat. I was not planning on making the cummerbund, as I like the lines of the dress as-is. We'll see whether I can squeeze the longer sleeves out of my fabric, as I was possibly a bit too stingy in purchasing yardage. But pockets, of course, are non-negotiable.

This project will involve a couple new skills ... I was planning to line it, and it calls for an invisible zipper. Eek! I'm sure you'll be hearing all about that!

Now, if I could just get some of that grown-up patience and wisdom that folks promised would come in my 30s ...