28 November 2008

Repurposed > Hats & Blankets

So last weekend, while I was at my mother's house and casting about for things with which to occupy myself, I found myself raiding a drawer of tee-shirts to turn them into hats for babies in Haiti. I swear, there must be two hundred tee-shirts in her house - but that I had the time to cut and sew more.

Two tee-shirts, a red one and a yellow one, became four little baby hats - one yellow, one red, and two half and half. But then, the remaining pieces of the shirts cried out to me, "you can't throw us out!", so with a rolling cutter (a genius device if ever there were one), I cut out a mess of 5" squares, sewed them together, backed it with a piece of a flannel sheet, and tied it with red embroidery thread. Ta da!

You may notice that there's some blue & white striped fabric in that there quilt, but no matching hats. Well, that's because the first two hats I tried, using a blue & white polo shirt, were a complete disaster because I failed the cardinal rule of sewing: I sewed the right side to the wrong side. And since it's a jersey knit, it was just impossible to rip the seam so I gave up.

Today, the hats and quilt are going in the mail to Maine, and from there they'll be packed up to be sent to Haiti, to be included in Safe Birthing Kits. These kits - consisting of plastic sheeting, hand sanitizer, a sterile piece of string and razor blade, and these newborn baby caps - have the potential to reduce infant and maternal mortality, and give babies a safer, healthier start.

There is something inordinately gratifying about repurposing a tee-shirt to help make the world a slightly better place.

(crossposted at Did You Buy That New?)

26 November 2008

Wordless Wednesday: Apple Pie

Proud mama reporting back from the first kindergarten parent teacher conference. Just today, for the first time, she wrote two words all by herself:


Oh, and that isn't a picture of a sleeping dragon - it's the side view of a pie in a blue pie dish - that's the crust along the top edge.

I think I have to make an apple pie tomorrow?

Also, she's not a psychopathic serial killer - I started by asking that and the teacher laughed merrily and said she thought she was a politician or lawyer in the making. Which is funny because from day one we've said she's going to be the Mayor (and yes, that was well before I got to know O The Joys, who has a Mayor of her own).

I'll shut up now. Have a lovely Thanksgiving tomorrow.

25 November 2008

No Smoking, Or ... ?

Not that I want to, in fact I've never even tried it, but you really can't smoke anywhere in New York City. My favorite sandwich shop, around the corner from my office, has a decal on the wall reminding you that you're not allowed a cigarette.

Every time I'm in there waiting for my decadent hot delicious sandwich, I ponder the sign. What I think it means is, if you light up, someone will hit you in the head with a hamburger. But the thing is? They don't sell hamburgers.

24 November 2008

Lava Girl Returns to Award a Prize!

Remember Lava Girl?

Well, I entered her in a contest and won best homemade costume.

Remember Nana Star?

Well, she's the prize. And since we already have the doll, I asked if I could give the prize away. So, if you have a smallish child who would like a charming doll whose clothes come off and who fits into the Groovy Girls clothes, leave me a comment by the end of the day on Wednesday the 26th, and I'll make a random pick.

21 November 2008

It's Christmas!

You know how our Canadian neighbors celebrate Thanksgiving six weeks before we do here in these United States of America? Well apparently they do the same with Christmas, because I came home yesterday and found a shoebox full of Canadian sweets in the mailbox, thanks to the divine Mad. I tell you, it made my day.

I had a couple of the maple cookies with my bedtime tea last night, my husband devoured a box of Smarties and found himself transported back to England as a five year old, I ate the Coffee Crisp with my coffee this morning (breakfast of champions?) and I'm looking forward to the Chicken Bones.  Candy called Chicken Bones?  Bestill my heart.  

Thank you, oh sweet and fair Canadian for spreading social justice, erudition in children's literature and treats throughout the blogosphere.

20 November 2008

Arte y pico

All week long, there have been six or seven workers on the penthouse roof of the building across the street from my office. I can't quite tell what they're doing, but it has something to do with the facade, or the iron railing, or both; they're all lined up along the railing, evenly spaced and reaching and bending pretty much simultaneously. The best part of the whole spectacle is that each one of them is in a red hooded sweatshirt. It's kind of like the seven dwarves, though I can't hear if they're whistling as they work.

An embarrassingly long time ago, Ms. Scribbletown gave me an prize, the Arte y Pico Award. It's pretty, isn't it? Here's what she said about it:

I did a little digging and discovered some rules for awarding this prize. I won’t bore you with any but the crucial piece of information: you have to pick five blogs that you consider deserve this award in terms of creativity, design, interesting material, and general contributions to the blogger community, no matter what language.

Herewith, five blogs that make me want to whistle and therefore deserve a prize.

  • For creativity, Bookmaking With Kids. If you have kids or work with kids, you'll want to go see what she's got to suggest for book arts projects with said kids.
  • For design, A Very Mary Design. She's all about the rubber cement - gluing bits of this and scraps of that together to make all sorts of charming things.
  • For interesting material, Kyla. Honestly, I don't know how she does it. But she does it with grace and strength.
  • And for general contributions to the blogger community, Mothers With Cancer and Glow In The Woods. Both are group blogs, the first focused on what you might expect, the second on "babylost mamas" - and both form community around tragic, difficult, awful circumstances.

Now what have the seven dwarves across the street have to do with the Arte y Pico? Style points for the matching sweatshirts (creativity & design) and teamwork (community).

Fragile threads we hang by. Oh well, I tried.

19 November 2008

Wordless Wednesday: My Daughter, the Rock Star

At least she's strumming with her right hand...

18 November 2008

First Glasses

I started wearing glasses when I was five, because I had amblyopia. The amblyopia - lazy eye - was treated with patches and exercises and bifocals. Imagine, bifocals on a five year old. My peers always thought my glasses were broken.

My mother has always been anti-frou frou, anti-pink, anti-rhinestones. She dressed her two girls in blue (and her boy child as well). When it came time to go get my first pair of glasses, she took me to the optician in the moderne building in the next town, where they pulled out a tray of child-sized frames. It was divided in half - rhinestone-bedecked pastel cat eyes on one side, sober-looking tortoise shell on the other. My mother picked out a pair of tortoise shell frames and proceeded to get into an argument with the optician. He insisted that "those are for boys, she can't wear those" and tried to force her to buy a pale blue number. My mother won - after all, she was paying for them.

I ended up wearing those glasses for four years - they appear in the class photos for third grade, but not fourth.

Not long ago, I found a loose photo floating around at my mother's house. In it, I'm nearly seven, my brother was four, and my sister was about a year & a half. And I'm wearing those glasses.

These days, I still wear glasses, but I've got a cunning rimless pair that disappear on my face. Over the weekend, I went to the optometrist because I felt like I couldn't see anymore. What did she recommend? Bifocals. I feel like I'm in kindergarten again.

17 November 2008

Groovy Santa

A couple of weeks ago, after the child got invitations to five birthday parties in a two week period, I thought I was being the clever parent by ordering five Groovy Girls on-line in one fell swoop. You know, to populate the gift closet.

I'm here to tell you it backfired.

On Saturday, we went to the supply to pick one out for the Sunday birthday party. We discussed the merits of each of the five, and she picked one to give away to that particular friend. Shortly thereafter, she dissolved into whining hysteria "but I want one too". Mind you she already has five or six, including the bride she'd gotten for her own birthday a week prior and the mermaid she cadged out of Daddy on a recent trip to a mall. After much carrying on, I caved and told her that if she was very good all day long, she could have one.

She lived up to her promise and I let her pick one of the four dolls at day's end. We took its tags off, she took its clothes off, everything was copacetic.

At the end of the day on Sunday, she came to me tearfully. "This is not my favorite; I want a different one." I explained that she couldn't have another one, the tags and clothes were already off of this one and that we had to save the rest for her friends who were about to have birthdays. "But this is not my favorite" she whined.  After an idle threat that I would take them all and throw them out, I told her that she could ask Santa Claus.  She ran off and got paper and pen, and after a couple of false starts (like using a piece of paper the size of an index card), and my dictation of all the letters, she produced her first letter to Santa.

And the doll who wasn't her favorite? She went to sleep clutching that one in her arms.

14 November 2008


I'm a little obsessed with recycling clothes into something new. Last year for Christmas, most of the people on my list got a felted bag made out of an old sweater.

This year, I think the little girls will get felted ponchos, inspired by something I saw at the Beehive Co-op. I haven't yet started the washing machine, but I have the sweaters to hand.

In the meantime, I've got another inspiration percolating: Hats for Haitian Babies. The October Just Posts were announced the other day by Mad, and Jen, and Su (and you should, as always, go check them out, especially because one of my posts was included). Su's post pointed me towards a project called Caps to Cap-Haitien - turning your old t-shirts into hats for newborn babies in Haiti. As soon as I have a few spare minutes, I'm pulling out the sewing machine.

This post inspired by Parent Bloggers Network and Klutz, and I approved this message.

12 November 2008

11 November 2008

How to have a really memorable day

Start by going to the dentist. Learn that the tooth you broke last week during your teaching moment with your child, when you did a compare and contrast analysis of Smarties vs. SweeTarts, is going to require a crown, to the tune of $1600.

Go to the office for forty minutes, drooling because your mouth is shot full of Novocain.

Head home so you can catch the train that will get you home in time to be at child’s school by 1:30 for birthday "story/snack".

Space out on the train and forget to get off at your stop. Take cab home from the next stop, to the tune of $15.

Go to child’s school. Read "The Gardener" and hand out Rice Krispie treats.

Drop car off at gas station, because you noticed that the inspection expired at the end of last month. Walk home.

Get a call from the mechanic, who tells you that the twelve-year old car won’t pass inspection without two new front tires. Discuss situation with husband, who says you need four new tires, to the tune of $500. Breathe a sigh of relief that he didn’t insist on high-performance tires, which would have cost twice as much.

Go to a last minute appointment with the gynecologist because you’ve had your period for two weeks. Sit in the waiting room for half an hour, irritated because there is neither phone service nor internet access.

Grit your teeth through an endometrial biopsy, because the gynecologist wants to see if there’s anything amiss with the lining of the uterus. Be calm when the scheduler says you can get a pelvic sonogram appointment in a month, even though the gynecologist wants it done within the week. Grit your teeth through a blood draw by a phlebotomist who can’t find a vein.

Pick up child. Pick up husband. Pick up prescription.

Decide to go out to dinner with child, even though there’s really no need to spend any more money and there are leftovers, because it is her birthday after all. Arrive at restaurant and find most of the tables lined up into a table for 30 for someone else’s birthday party. Order a scotch on the rocks because it’s been a long day. Have heart sink when the birthday party guests turn out to be eight years old, because 30 eight year olds? Make a lot of noise.

Go home. Give child her presents.

Go to bed at 7:30.

10 November 2008

Birthday Girl

My girlie turns five at 5:36 this afternoon. When I asked her what kind of birthday party she wanted, she said "I want a surprise party." Um, okay.

So I sent out invitations to a "surprise party", arranged for her to spend the afternoon at her grandparent's house, and proceeded to obsess about the party without actually doing any preparations. But in the 24 hours before the screaming children arrived, we pulled it together.

I liked the idea of a party game called "Clean Up Your Room" which involves dividing up the players and having them throw socks at one another, so I got twenty pairs of socks at H&M (wonderful socks, sold cheap by the five-pack), figuring that the socks would be fine party favors. In fact, we never did play the game, but every little girl went home with two pairs of new socks. (I think I get a prize for the queerest party favors ever.)

I scratched my Smitten Kitchen itch, and made four of her recipes that I've had bookmarked (the cake, two kinds of cookies, and a squash/onion galette). We made a mess of sandwiches for kids (jelly, peanut butter & jelly, cheese) and adults (ham), along with a potato frittata (so there was something for the gluten-free friend). Drinks on hand were cider, seltzer, milk and red wine (you know, for the grown-ups).

The children (and their adults) arrived promptly at four, ran screaming around the house (well, the kids did, anyway), and then quieted down and hid in the living room when Mir was approaching the house. When she came in, they mobbed her - it was a sight to behold (she's the tall blonde with her eyes shut, and the party favor socks are in the bowl on the right).

They ran around the house, hid in her closet (I found six girls in the small closet at one point), played pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey (with the inflatable donkey my husband brought home from the party store - who knew such a thing existed?), ate cookies, opened presents (yes, I'm a fan of public present opening, it's chaotic, but the little girls seemed to love the giving) and finally blew out the candles on the strawberry pink lady cake with cream cheese icing. I tell you, that cake is something else. I think it's one of the best cakes I've ever made.

Finally all the children went home, and I had a glass of wine.

Verdict? Fun.

Most hair raising present? Mermaid Barbie. Yup. Barbie has entered my house by means of her flipping flapping tail.

Most entertaining present? The eensy digital camera that came with a scrapbooking kit. The child has been taking pictures left and right, and they are art. Art, I tell you. The thing has no viewfinder, no flash, no focus, no nothing, and she's just shooting at everything - posing the dolls, posing the Barbie, posing the Daddy. Of course, the thing doesn't work with a Mac, so we had to download the pictures to Daddy's work laptop, not very kid-friendly or anything, but the pictures we did rescue? Priceless.

That's Mermaid Barbie, leaning against the dish drainer full of glasses. Art, right?

07 November 2008

Friday Funny

Yesterday morning, the child woke up and the first words out of her mouth were "What for you bury me in the cold, cold ground?" It still makes me laugh. She says it with an accent, just like the Tasmanian Devil does. Do your kids watch Looney Tunes? They should. Here's Devil May Hare:

If that doesn't do it for you and you need bloggity funny, go read I Need a Martini Mom, a post that I nominated for an October ROFL award.

And if that's not funny? Tell me a joke, 'cause I'm out of funny.

06 November 2008


Her spark is gone.  She’s a weakened shell of a person, sitting in a wheelchair, no longer complaining about the profligate use of paper towels under her roof, or the stains on the living room carpet.  Disinterested in eating much other than toast, perhaps because toast is what she remembers to ask for.  She’s always cold now, this woman who for years hasn’t had the thermostat above 60° in the winter.  And she sleeps.  For a while, she’d claim to be awake with her eyes closed – no longer.

It’s harder and harder to get her up and out of bed – besides being weak, she’s lost some ability to control her legs, and a fall the other day reinjured the ankle she’d sprained last spring.  It wasn’t even much of a fall – just a gradual guided sinking to the floor between the bed and the wheelchair – but her ankle seems to have been twisted and now it hurts.  

Fortunately, she’s not otherwise in pain.  For whatever reason, the cancer, untreated for quite some time now, is not manifesting itself via pain.  Oh it’s there, we know it’s there, it doesn’t just disappear, but it’s not hurting her, not physically anyway.  

I wonder what she knows.  She hasn’t recently said "I don’t know how much longer I’ll need to be in this hospital bed", but when she did say it, not so long ago?  She was planning to get better and move back upstairs into her own bed.  I honestly don’t know if she knows that she’s dying.  How does one know?

04 November 2008


I voted this morning. I took the girlie into the booth with me and she helped me pull the big red lever to close the curtains. We clicked the little levers, none of this electronic stuff where we live, no sir, thank you very much, pulled the big red lever again to record the vote, and exited, blinking into the sunshine.

I was the 130th voter in my district. When we arrived at around 7:45am, there were about 10 people on line, and it didn't take long to get finished. The press corps dramatically outnumbered the voters. There were satellite trucks outside, still and video camera crews, print reporters. They were all awaiting the Clintons, but to fill out their stories and pass the time, they were interviewing people on the way out. I talked to an AP reporter, and was interviewed on camera by a local TV station. The TV station wanted to know if I'd been a Clinton supporter; the AP reporter asked if I was going to be able to accept whichever candidate won. It's a curious question - I'm not going to like it if McCain wins, but I won't have any choice about "accepting" it.

My mother voted several weeks ago, and I am relieved to report that she is alive (though not well) today. My relief stems from the fact that I helped her with her absentee ballot, and stamped and mailed it for her. At the time, it crossed my mind that she could well-nigh no longer be amongst the living come Election Day. In that case, I wondered, would her ballot still be valid? But who would know, besides me? Would it have been incumbent upon me to report her demise to the Board of Elections? It is a conundrum, a predicament which I am glad to have avoided.

Interestingly, the answer to this puzzle is dependent on the state in which you live* even though the Federal Help America Vote Act dictates "minimum election administration standards" and includes a mandate that election officials "shall perform list maintenance with respect to the computerized list on a regular basis" by coordinating with State agency records of deaths and felonies. That would seem to dictate the disenfranchisement of dead voters. Except in Florida. Ah, Florida.

Anyway. Clearly I'm not the only person who wonders about these things. Here's a cartoon that was in last week's New Yorker.

Did you vote? What are you waiting for?

*If you want to read more about dead voters, check these articles at USA Today and Slate and WCIV.

03 November 2008

Sorting Moky's Books

I find myself staring at the bookcases everywhere. The past several times I've been to see my mother, I've distractedly perused the books lining the living room, where she lives these days. Finally, I started pulling things off the shelf, stacking and restacking, looking for just the right sequence. I showed some of my "drafts" to my mother - she thought I was trying to sort the books with some content-driven rationale. Ah but no, it's just the titles we're interested in here, with a little attention to the design of the spine - the title must run the long way, not crosswise.

Somehow, the earnest "Towards a New Psychology of Women" led down one dreadful path.

And "This Thing Called Love" comes to no good end.

I tell you, it's like eating peanuts.

02 November 2008

Bat Out Of Hell

Here’s the thing about meatloaf – it doesn’t need a recipe, it needs an attitude. Yeah, you need some meat, but everything else is mutable.

Start with an onion. Whack it up and toss it in a pan with some fat – olive oil, butter, bacon fat. You choose. Sweat the onion until it’s soft, maybe a little golden. Try not to burn it; you’ll just have to scrub the pan. You really object to onion? Skip it. You’ve got scallions or shallots or garlic? Sure, use ‘em.

Use whatever ground meat you like – beef, turkey, pork, veal. I like a mixture of beef and turkey. 1 ½ to 2 pounds of meat will work in a regular loaf pan. You need some starch to bulk it up – use oatmeal, bread crumbs, crushed crackers, leftover rice. I freeze the bread crusts that my diva daughter rejects – “it’s too crunchy!” – and buzz them in the blender for tossing in a meatloaf. Recycling, you know.

Now comes the fun part. Open the fridge and cast your eye upon the myriad odd jars and leftovers. Ketchup is a natural, but why not replace the ketchup with chutney? Or duck sauce from the Chinese takeout. Mustard’s good, either prepared or dry. I like a bit of sautéed chopped greens – spinach, braising mix, swiss chard. Or a handful of chopped fresh parsley. Oh, look at that! Baba ganoush! In it goes. You got an egg? Toss that in. Don’t forget some salt and pepper.

Work all the ingredients together with your fingers, fling it in a loaf pan, and bake it for a while. Yum.

The basic premise is meat + starch + flavorful wet stuff = good mixture for divine meatloaf. Be brave! How can it go wrong?

(And you thought this was going to be about Meat Loaf...)