Sunday, February 27, 2011

My child, the Indie Rocker.

Move over, Matt Berninger ...  Joseph Roscoe is here.

P.S. You can't see them that well here, but my self-drafted baby skinny pants pattern turned out great (they are more "straight-leg" than "skinny"). You can see more photos in my Flickr photostream. And Joe is clearly a natural hipster. I can't wait to make more. And then take more photos of my Joe with a furrowed brow. And then make them black and white. And then giggle. Life is good.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Food storage.

One of my long term goals is to stop using plastic containers to store food (except perhaps the occasional reused yogurt container or cheap containers for gifts), and to use glass or ceramic instead. Glass containers last forever (or at least until you break them), you don't have to worry about microwaving them (no BPA or other nasty chemicals leaching into your food), and they won't get brittle and crack in the freezer.

Pyrex glass storage.
Plus, you know, less stuff, less waste, cheaper in the long run, all those good things.

I have an assortment of these modern Pyrex glass storage containers with plastic lids, and they are great. You can buy them everywhere. They are microwave-safe, oven-safe (without the lids), and freezer-safe. The lids seal really well, so they're perfect for taking leftovers to work or freezing. The lids are also BPA-free, and anyway, they shouldn't actually touch your food much. (And no, I'm not getting paid to say this. Haha. I wish! Someone, please pay me for my blog!)

An eminently practical and versatile item. I'm a fan. The only problem: They're so ... boring. They're not the most aesthetically pleasing option.

(And you can't get replacement lids, which is a problem because I'm pretty sure my cupboards eat lids for breakfast.)

"But, Inder, who needs aesthetically pleasing food storage?"

Um, good point. No one needs pretty tupperware. But here's my theory (more of a thesis, really): If an utilitarian item can be made pretty, it should be.

Because, as you may recall, I love folk art.

What distinguishes folk art from "fine art"? I'm glad you asked! According to Wikipedia, "In contrast to fine art, folk art is primarily utilitarian and decorative rather than purely aesthetic."

For the purposes of this blog post, this means: My kitchen stuff should be nice to look at. Maybe even my food storage. So there.

So anyway, before the invention of Tupperware and BPA, people stored food in glass jars.  Because Rebecca loves to make jam, we always have canning jars in abundance. We use Mason jars for storing beans, grains, and other dry goods, as well as liquid leftovers like broth, stock, and soup, and they do have a certain old-timey aesthetic appeal. The jars are cheap, tempered so they can be heated or frozen without breaking, and they are endlessly reusable. Rebecca uses Mason jars for everything, it seems, even to carry water or hot tea. (Warning: The average Mason jar does not fit in a standard car cup-holder. I have tried. Maybe the little pint jars? Rebecca?)

You can purchase them by the dozen.
But, they are best used for storing liquids, or perhaps loose beans and grains. They are not ideal for storing leftover casserole or a sandwich. Try getting a PB&J into a Mason jar.

Anchor Hocking Co.
Which brings us to my latest eBay obsession (although I no longer indulge in much retail therapy, I still have a weakness for not-so-cheap second-hand goods) - vintage glass refrigerator storage dishes.

First, the classic, and still available brand-spanking-new, the Anchor Hocking Company glass refrigerator storage dishes. The Anchor Hocking Co. has been making these since the depression, at least. Why use crappy old plastic containers when you can store your leftovers in something that looks like this? (Yeah, okay, so it's not the most practical item to bring your lunch to work in, but maybe the regular Pyrex with lids will be okay for that.)

Or what about vintage Pyrex refrigerator storage? Those of you who are a bit older than me might remember these beauties; I was raised in the era of margarine and sketchy stained plastic Tupperware (in colors like "gold" and "avocado").

Be still, my heart
Now that is folk art, folks. Beeaa-uuuu-tiful. And practical. And green and stuff (extra green because, being second-hand, no manufacturing is required!). And did I mention pretty?

But before I get on eBay and start bidding on Pyrex fridge-ware in the "Gold Butterfly" pattern (what can I say? I feel some nostalgia for that whole mustard/avocado color line), I have a couple of questions for anyone out there who actually uses vintage Pyrex: Can you microwave it? I'm trying to remember if I ever microwave my regular Pyrex mixing bowls. I think so. Is that bad? If you have vintage Pyrex experience, please let me know! When you're trying to save money by eating up lots of leftovers, it's really nice if a food storage dish can be microwaved.

Now, please excuse me while I go peruse gorgeous Pyrex porn.

Who thought I could get so excited over food storage?

P.S. Snow, my ass. Humph.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The run-down.

When I feel like it Every so often, I like to do a little list of the random things we're up to here. So, here goes:

1.  We're freezing our butts off, once again. This has been the year of bitter cold snaps. Supposedly it might snow this weekend? In San Francisco? Check it out! We don't see that snowflake symbol much in these parts.

Steve's talking about snowboarding down Lombard Street.

I'm thinking, yeah, I'll believe it when I see it.

    2.  Our little late-talker is picking up the sign-language like you wouldn't believe. These days, it seems like he learns new signs every day. I can hardly keep up! Just yesterday, he signed "phone" and "butterfly" for the first time! This must be the blossoming of communication skills everyone promised would happen around two.

    While Joe's too busy signing to condescend to say most actual words, he does indulge in some animal sounds. He recently learned "quack," and I managed to catch this action shot - isn't he the cutest?

    Saying "quack"!

    (Sometimes when I'm cooking, Joe likes to bring one of his books into the kitchen and sit close to me so I can look over to what he's pointing at and say "Fire Truck!" five million times. So, yes, he is sitting on the kitchen floor.)

    Joe's learning to talk, but pretty slowly, so next week he gets an assessment with a speech pathologist. Chances seem good that the recommendation will be to start speech therapy with him. We've heard that speech therapy is actually a ton of fun, and I'm excited to see how it's done, so this should be interesting! In the meantime, we have been having fun making sounds and communicating in whatever form Joe prefers (signing, squawking, pointing, etc.).

    3. It recently came to my attention that Joe has outgrown many of his hand-made pants. Including the orange wood grain pants. And the pony butt pants. Sniffle. What to do? Make more baby pants, of course! So I made these gray cord pants for Joe:

    New pants with back pockets.

    They're really not too exciting as far as pants go. Gray corduroy, eh. But here's the super-crazy-exciting part (for me): I think I can say I drafted the pattern myself! That is, I started with Heather Ross's "Huck Finn" pants (also the basis of the pony butt pants and wood grain pants above), but that pattern maxes out at the 24-month size, and Joe is now pretty much a 2T or 3T (hard to believe, I know). So I tweaked and tweaked and tweaked, and then I free-hand drafted front AND back pockets, and ta-da! They're enough different from the starting point that I think I can say they are "self-drafted" pants! Woo-hoo!

    Flushed with confidence from this enterprise, I decided to draft some "skinny baby pants" (because, you know, every good Oakland hipster needs some skinny pants). We'll see how that goes.

    4.  Which brings us to this update ... Thanks to the lovely Andrea, I have chosen fabric (from the stash) for a dress to make from the Built By Wendy Dresses book. I have also traced the pattern in my size, and added seam allowances. So I am almost ready to actually cut fabric and get going.

    This would be a good time to explain that this book doesn't just give you patterns. Rather, it gives you a starting point, then guides you through the pattern-drafting/alteration process.

    I admit, I find this a bit overwhelming. I mean, technically, the dress-making skills should not be beyond me. But sometimes, the endless possibilities can be ... too much. I spend a lot of time pondering options, and very little time making actual decisions on the options. What can I say? I'm a Libra! I don't want to choose: I want ALL of the dresses!

    5.  We just got the new America's Test Kitchen slow-cooker book, and plan to get a ton of use out of Rebecca's slow-cooker, trying out recipes.

    6.  Although this has been the winter of the cold-snap, I'm still getting excited about my summer garden. (Update on winter garden: Pretty much nothing germinated except the peas, which were promptly mowed down by slugs. Sigh.)  I am soliciting information on good tomato varieties: What worked for you? What TASTES the best? I'm thinking this year, I'll plant only heirlooms. The "Early Girl" type-hybrids tend to be good producers, but the taste is so forgettable and mediocre, who cares? Talk to me about gorgeous, plump, colorful heirlooms, folks. Oh, and I need one cherry plant. What should that be? As with sewing dresses, sometimes having less to choose from is just so much easier.

    That's it for now! Enjoy the snow?

    Thursday, February 17, 2011

    Celebrate the Boy!

    After finishing up Steve's shirt, I needed a quick and easy project - some fast if not instant gratification before I start making dresses for myself, a project that requires I learn some actual pattern drafting skills (fun! challenging! intimidating!).

    So I broke out the adorable oliver + s Sailboat Top and Pants pattern, which I ordered a few months back, and whipped up a pair or seriously adorable sailor pants for Joe. The pattern was everything that the sewing blogosphere had promised - well drafted, with clear and straightforward instructions. Although the project seemed a bit too complicated to finish in one day, I actually had no problem putting these together in a couple of hours using a leftover piece of red linen I had in my stash. Of course, the fact that I am now a ninja buttonholer didn't hurt. Yes, it's true - by the time I did my ninth buttonhole on Steve's shirt, I had thoroughly conquered my fear of buttonholes. Yay!

    Oliver + S Sailboat Pants
    Thanks Joe, the toy cars were a nice touch.

    These are a little summery for Bay Area winter (or, let's be honest, Bay Area summer): good thing Joe runs hot and never seems bothered by the cold.

    Oliver + S Sailboat Pants

    I tried to take some photos of Joe wearing the pants, but he was all over the place. I couldn't get him to stop moving (this must be how he keeps warm). And of course he chose that moment to play with very non-photogenic items, like the baby gate we use to gate off the kitchen. So I got a ton of shots like this one - a blur of red and orange and boring household stuff, and you can't see the pants at all.

    Attempting to photograph new pants.
    Herding toddlers.

    At one point I grabbed him by his shirt and managed to capture this terrible shot where you can sort of make out the pants. (As well as my hand and the tip of my slipper, and a great close-up of the baby gate, sigh.)

    This is the best action shot I got.

    Oh well.

    Coincidentally, one of my favorite sewing blogs, Made by Rae, just kicked off a month of sewing to "Celebrate the Boy!" Recognizing that boy's clothes really "get the shaft" in the pink-dresses-and-ruffles-obsessed sewing world, she does an annual month of posts on sewing for boys with cute photos and other goodness. So, what the heck, count me and my squirmy, unphotographable toddler in! I added "The Boy" button to my sidebar, go check it out! Even if you sew for a little girl, it's just really refreshing to see simple, bold styles in non-floral prints.

    (Look at me! I'm actually participating in the blog-world!)

    Saturday, February 12, 2011

    Steve! Happy BirthdayChristmasValentines!

    I finally finished Steve's shirt!! The sleeves are a bit too long, but the fit through the body turned out great.

    Steve's new shirt.

    Don't look too close at my buttonholes. They function. That's the important thing.

    Steve's new shirt, detail.

    And the back. (How did I sew those pleats in the WRONG direction?? How? Oh, well, whatever.)

    Steve's new shirt, back.

    It's a shirt. It doesn't have holes in it. He'll wear it. There are things I would do differently if I do it again, but that's always the case. I'm really happy with how this turned out. Steve jokes that at the rate I sew for him, he can expect another handmade item from me in about four or five years?

    Monday, February 7, 2011

    Baby curls.

    We still have never cut Joe's hair. Because it's curly, you can't tell that it now falls well past his shoulders when it's wet. It's hard to believe that only a year ago, this same baby was bald as a cue-ball. I remember inspecting his bald scalp in the Spring sunshine last year, speculating on whether his hair was reddish like mine. (Answer: No.) There was another phase where he had a major curl-hawk and looked like a Who down in Whoville. But now it's close to attaining baby 'fro status.

    Anyway, here's the issue:

    Steve doesn't want to cut Joe's hair yet, and I understand why: It's totally awesome and adorable.

    On the other hand, Steve generally isn't the one constantly conditioning it and trying to detangle it (because I generally take bath duty). Joe uses quite a bit more fancy salon leave-in conditioner than his father does (Steve also has curly hair; my straighter hair gets limp and oily just thinking about leave-in conditioner). "No More Tangles" simply doesn't cut it for Joe - a thicker formulation is required to keep those locks lustrous.

    I've considered just trimming off the long bits in the tub one of these days, but the last time I tried to cut Steve's hair, I gave him a pronounced mullet. After that I came to the conclusion that I really suck at hair-cutting, so I'm afraid I'd botch this up too. It doesn't help that 21-month-olds are not known for sitting still while you go at their heads with very sharp implements - bad things can happen. Worse things than a mullet.

    On the other hand, I dread becoming that mother who spends every bath-time ruthlessly ripping through her child's tangles, sadistically muttering "Just one more minute!" as the poor child cries out in pain. (This is exactly how I remember my mother handling my long, fine, wavy hair as a child. But now I realize, it could happen to anyone!)

    What to do?

    Meanwhile, wow! Look at those beautiful curls.

    That hair is just getting longer and longer.

    Friday, February 4, 2011

    Fun with Cosleeping.

    As I have sharedwhined in the past, baby boy Joseph is not the best sleeper. Even by crunchy granola cosleeping nighttime attachment parenting standards, this kid is a ridiculously light sleeper. He's very sensitive to sounds, light, being touched (also not being touched), being breathed on wrong, etc.

    He has been like this since birth. Joe screamed the second I tried him in the bassinet in the hospital, and has disdained sleeping in cribs, cosleepers, or on any other non-human surface ever since. In case you were wondering, it turns out that the comment "He's so alert and wide awake for a newborn!" actually means "He will never sleep!" Now, almost two years later, things are much improved (for example, Joe will go to sleep for his father! and sleep by himself until the adults come to bed! hallelujah!), but we still sleep two adults, two dogs, and one baby in our queen-sized bed most nights.

    (If you're thinking, "no wonder they can't get their baby to sleep in his crib when they haven't even taught their dogs to sleep on their own," um, you may be onto something.)

    Survival tip: When you spend your nights being kicked and groped by a perpendicular almost-two-year-old, fully aware that you are getting a lot more sleep this way than you would in any other arrangement, it's extremely important to maintain your sense of humor.

    To that end, it is important to remember that having a very light sleeper has definite perks (in addition to being excellent birth control)! Let me share. So, counting at least ELEVEN blessings:

    1. It's cheap. Who needs a crib? Who needs cute nursery items? Cosleeping even eliminates the need for warm pajamas! (Note: If you dress your cosleeping toddler too warmly for bed, be prepared to have him kick your covers off all night long.) Cosleeping requires no additional furniture, no additional square footage, and no cutesy accessories. Save your money and spend it on yourself instead. And the fact that your child will not go to sleep for anyone other than a parent saves a bundle on restaurants, date nights, and babysitting.
    2. It's great for your milk supply (and keeps you trim too)! While your better-sleeping mom friends complain about not being able to pump enough milk at work to satisfy their growing babies, you will never have that problem, probably because your baby ingests two thirds of his calories at night. (This is euphemistically termed "reverse-cycling.") Similarly, you never need to worry that your picky toddler isn't getting the nutrition he needs. And for me, anyway, breastfeeding is the best diet ever. For every pound Joe gains, I lose one (while eating very, very well). Forget the benefits to my child: it's all about me and my needs.
    3. You make your friends grateful! Since pretty much every other baby on the planet sleeps better than yours, your parent friends will thank their lucky stars that they are not you. You'll be happy to oblige.
    4. It's green! See above regarding frugality. Instead of whining about how sleep-deprived you are, you could gloat about how environmentally sound it is to sleep five mammals to one queen-sized bed. Pat yourself on the back for bucking our consumerist culture and living closer to the hunter-gatherer norm! (At this point, try not to cry.)
    5. Only one set of bed linens to launder! This one is self-explanatory. We'll ignore the fact that said linens need to be laundered about five hundred times more often that they otherwise would.
    6. You always know what's up with your kid. If Joe gets sick, I know. Immediately. Don't ask.
    7.  You can continue to use that second bedroom as a makeshift walk-in closet. Remember, I live in a Victorian. A blue-collar, working class Victorian house. Working class folks in 1896 did not have nearly as much clothing as I do, so it probably makes sense that we have only one functional closet for two bedrooms upstairs. But that's not working for me and my wardrobe. So our small second bedroom functions as a large closet. Since Joe won't be sleeping in there anytime soon, this arrangement works great.
    8. It's super snuggly. I don't always love cosleeping. Especially when my arms are freezing because Joe is kicking my covers off all night, or when I wake up with a foot pressed against my nose, but there are plenty of times when I can't imagine it any other way. There is nothing like middle of the night baby snuggles, or waking up to your toddler's smiling face playing peek-a-boo.
    9. You will always know when the garbage truck is coming down your street. Even the one that comes really early, at 5:15 a.m. on Fridays. Joe sleeps even more lightly than usual on Thursday nights, in excited anticipation of garbage day. At the first sound of the hydraulic lift, Joe flies off the bed and runs to the window. Even when you're bone tired, you have to admit, the enthusiasm is infectious. The child is passionate. About garbage.
    10. One day, your baby won't want to sleep next to you anymore. And that will be good, and as it should be, and you will be sad, and probably decide to have another baby. It's nice to be needed. Enjoy it while you can.
    11. Babies smell good. They really do.

    Tuesday, February 1, 2011

    Buttonholes, oh dreaded buttonholes!

    Steve's shirt is complete except for seven buttonholes and nine buttons!

    I am a bit afraid, but motivated to finish, because I just got this book:

    Which is to say, sewing for me, me, me!