Friday, November 16, 2012

Halloween Party

Back in the day, Devin and I hosted a pretty mean Halloween party. For three years in a row, we'd put out some boozy punch and our neighbors would look the other way while our apartment building's courtyard filled up with impressively costumed, impressively drunk twentysomethings.  
Some kind of space girl
The annual Boo-B-Q, as it was called though no food was served, was a hostess's dream.   Minimal planning, massive reward, and cleanup basically involved shoveling solo cups off every surface in the apartment and into big black trash bags.  Ah, those were the days.  

Planning a Halloween party for babies, it turns out, is nothing like that.  

Inspired by a set of green monster PJs we found at Target, I decided to make Oscar a little monster.  Devin and I would be his monster parents, with the twist being that we'd dress as archetypal, mid-century nuclear family mom and dad.   Think Betty and Don Draper... but monsters.  I don't know, it made sense in my brain. 

As usual, I had big plans involving fun fur, fake teeth, the sewing machine... But whereas in the past I was able to pull off grand designs, no matter how last minute (see: the Kermit costume from two years ago, or "The Other Great Muppet Caper"), this year it just wasn't in the cards.  

I bet I know where you think I'm going with this.  I'm going to lament how I had no time to shop for costume bits or pull anything together.  Not so!   I spent many hours pacing the aisles of Halloween stores, Michael's and JoAnn Fabrics.  However, the universe was working against me.  I couldn't find anything I needed.  

JoAnn let me down, only selling fur in normal earth animal colors.  No orange or blue or green.  The Halloween store was full of demon horns, but no friendly monster horns.  I don't know what I expected.  And my intentions of Devin and I sporting some rocking underbite fangs went right out the window when I discovered the teeth I wanted were kept specially locked away in the glass case by the register and sold for $30 a pop.  

I was forced to improvise.  

I bought 2 sets of demon horns, one for me and one for Devin.  They are supposed to stay on your head with a little black elastic band.  I must be a conehead or something because they kept sliding off the back of my skull.  And since wearing the string under my chin, party hat style, seemed uncomfortable, I picked up a headband at Michael's to rework them.

The demon horns were a little too severe looking for my monster mom costume.  So I rummaged around in my craft supplies tub and found some silver paint.  I couldn't manage to locate a brush, however, so I finger painted.

Then I hot glued my not-yet-dry-but-I-was-out-of-patience horns to the headband.  I used some some extra fuzzy pipecleaners I'd picked up on one of my many manic trips to Target (more on that later) and they wound and wound around the headband for very easy application. 

As for Oscar, I hadn't been able to embellish his monster PJs with colorful fur since apparently non exists for purchase.  JoAnn, you ignorant slut.  The only thing I had been able to do was commission Becca to crochet him a monster hat.

I don't know, I guess we look like something. 

Further improvising, in lieu of fun fur, Devin sprayed green stuff in his hair and beard.  He also wore a dad-like sweater that stayed on for about twenty minutes because it was 95 degrees on the day of the party. 


Like many a party-thrower, I fell victim to the Pinterest/Martha Stewart trap.  The one where you get sucked in with ideas like this:

And drive yourself slowly mad attempting to replicate something you'd hardly be able to pull off if given a month to decorate your home.  But you've only got six hours.  And the baby will be awake for five of them. You know, that trap.


A closer look at a few details:

This took me, somehow, three hours to accomplish during the late hours the night before the party.  It was the culmination of a week's worth of lunchtime excursions to the aforementioned craft places as well as Target (thrice), during which I dashed through the aisles, for no particular reason, shopping like I had a gun held to my head, throwing anything in my cart that was orange and/or black and/or under $10.  I should've taken a picture of the stockpile in the dining room. 

Aside from this table, the only other decor I could manage was another vinyl table cloth in the living room -- that one was orange and black striped.  So, I have some unopened packs of streamers and sparkly garland and various other goodies for some future Halloween gathering when I come dressed as someone who has her shit together. 


Were it not for a gross miscalculation of time, this could've been the one category I got right.  

On the menu were Deviled Eggs (made to look like devils), Monster Mash (some concept I came up with for a mashed potato bar), Buffalo Chicken Barf (buffalo chicken dip spewing out of a jack-o-lantern's mouth), and Yummy Mummies (which were originally named Mummy Dogs). 

The day of the party I cleaned and cleaned, telling myself the cleaning cut off was 12 and then I'd have to focus on food.  Then suddenly it was 2:30.  The party started at 3. Crap.

I'd made the Deviled Eggs the night before, but ran out of steam before I could decorate them with red pepper and caper eyes to make them into little devils.  The next day there was no time, so regular ol' Deviled Eggs were served and there's a useless jar of capers sitting in my cupboard.

The Monster Mash actually went right.  Good thing mashed potatoes from scratch are really easy to throw together in a pinch.  Ha!  Set out in a crock pot to stay warm, they were served with bacon, sour cream, cheese and chives.  I forgot to take a picture so lets all pretend it looks like this:

The Buffalo Chicken Barf miraculously came together, though the presentation proved more off-putting than I'd envisioned.
As for the Mummies, I downgraded them to run o the mill pigs in a blanket and planned to shlap them together halfway through the party.  When I turned on the oven to heat it up, it set aflame the bacon grease hiding on the bottom of the oven and smoked out the whole party.  I turned the oven off, let it cool, cleaned it (yes, while wearing a dress and monster horns with a house full of people), then tried again.  Devin came into the kitchen, slicing through the thick haze of smoke, wondering what the hell I was doing.  The Mummies were scrapped.

Lastly, there were the snacks for babies, which were easiest to prepare.

For a week, Oscar was finding and happily eating discarded Cheerios in various nooks and crannies of the apartment.  I think he learned the very valuable lesson that when you encounter free snacks, you eat them, quickly and without asking any questions.


The biggest difference between planning a party for adults and babies is that babies, and their parents, do not care about any of it.  I don't mean they don't appreciate it.  They just aren't critiquing everything.  They are glad to be somewhere, to not be the ones having to host, and are too distracted chasing after their little ones to fuss over fancy decor and clever food names.

Everyone I talked to after the party said it was a hit.  So either they're just being nice... or I went overboard for no reason. 

Next time, I'm putting out a bowl of Cheetos and calling it a day.  Less flailing.  More playing.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Fall Harvest Festival

Halloween.  It's my favorite time of year.  The air finally cools off and we can all get cozy, eat fun size candy bars, and watch 13 Nights of Halloween on ABC Family. 

Last year, my typical Halloween enthusiasm was hampered by third trimester malaise and it took everything I had in me just to carve up a few evil gourds.  But this year, much like every horror movie villain ever, I'm back... with a vengeance! I have unfinished business. I will own Halloween 2012.  Let the blogging begin!

First, our coverage of the Underwood Family Farms Fall Harvest Festival.

Fortyish miles northwest of Los Angeles is Underwood Family Farms, a big-little family operation that serves as the city mouse's one stop shop for all things country, with a year-long calendar of seasonal specific events, as well as weekend festivals for folk music, antique tractors and (for some reason) Civil War Reenactments.  (We all remember Col. Mulholland's historic victory in the battle of Simi Valley, right?) And of course they also rent out their land, equipment and animals for movie shoots.

The farm's Fall Harvest Festival has pretty much everything you'd want it to: a pumpkin patch, petting zoo, tractor rides, and corn maze.  And, I don't know why this thrills me to no end, but you get your very own wheel barrow to cart around your pumpkins, jackets, assorted purchases, or small children who are sturdier and more predictable than mine.

We lucked out the day we went because the weather -- which had been out of control hot in recent weeks -- took a turn and it was a cool, cloudy, decidedly more fall-like day.

We started at the petting zoo.  Oscar, who didn't seem to notice our pets for the first chunk of his life, is now infatuated and spends much of his energy chasing Midge the Cat and squealing.  You can imagine how much she enjoys that...

So my point is he loves animals. Here he is, meeting an Alpaca.

Then, we took our tractor ride around the grounds.  Free with admission! 

Then we wrapped up the day frolicking through the pumpkin patch, which was massive and sprawling and had all kinds of different colors and textures of pumpkin.

We claimed two pumpkins to take home and grabbed a carving kit from the country store on the way out.   (How do I buy one of those kits every year and immediately lose it come November?)   We also bought some Indian corn for decorating and fresh picked apples... for eating.

So take that, last year's Halloween.  I am back on top!  Of this giant pumpkin.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The Matt Brewing Company

I remember once reading in a guidebook: "If you only have three days to spend in Italy, spend them all in Rome."

If the author of that book were to pen an article about Utica, New York, he or she would probably begin with: "If you only have three days to spend in Utica, you'll spend all of them at the Matt Brewing Company."

Founded in 1888 by F.X. Matt, a man with one of those "wait, is that your name?" names, the Matt brewery is home to the diverse array of Saranac beers.  And in the summer, it's Utica's nexus of society and commerce as it hosts a concert series, brewery tours and the finish line festivities for the Boilermaker 15k, previously explained here.

I don't think I stand alone in the belief that central New York is really good in the summer, which barely makes up for the rest of the year.  Summer is a short but glorious season, book-ended by unacceptable cold, cloud cover and snowfall.  Unlike my fellow Angelenos who are all, "Oh. It's sunny again," residents of CNY take full advantage of the outdoors while the gettin's good.  Devin and I have said we'd both spend our whole summer there if we could.

But we didn't have the whole summer to spare this year, so instead we crammed a lot of activity into one week in July, half of which was spent in Utica, doing brewery-related things.

First, we stopped for a a bite to eat with Devin's mom, during which Oscar fell madly in love with the restaurant's laminated specials men, and Devin fell equally in love with one of the beers on tap, Saranac's summer brew, Blueberry Blonde.

 Then, there was date night at Saranac Thursdays.

In the evening, the brewery opens its courtyard to thousands for live music and cheap beers, all in the name of charity.
I sampled the Blueberry Blonde and was relieved it didn't, as I'd feared, taste like blueberries.

As things wrapped up in the courtyard, we joined the masses who wandered to the many bars on neighboring Varick Street, where parking lots become patios for more live music, warm night air, and drinks in plastic cups.  I don't know who invented this whole scene, but good work.

Friday we found ourselves back at the brewery to take a tour.

It began in the dark lobby with a good deal of the brewery's history. Much of that got jumbled up in my brain, or possibly never processed in the first place because I was distracted sticking my hand in a barrel of chocolate malted hops.

One fact that did stand out was that an hour after the end of prohibition, the brewery began serving beer again.  Clearly beer takes more than an hour to make, so if you do the math, ol' F.X. was up to some tricky business.

The brewery is also home to an impressive collection of beer steins, many of which were put out as collectable items to market Utica Club ale.  We actually have the two main mascots, Schultz & Dooley, displayed on our bookcase at home.

After making our way through the dark lobby and hallways, we entered the guts of the brewery, where actual things take place.

There was something very Dr. Seussian about all this machinery.

The tour ended with the guide informing us that the tour used to end with a trolley ride around the outside of the brewery.  So that was pretty disappointing.  Apparently the trolley broke some years ago and that was that.  Someone, possibly even me, asked why they didn't just fix the trolley and she mumbled something about insurance and rare parts.  I would imagine a successful operation of their size could afford a whole fleet of trollies, so there's something fishy going on there.

Afterward, the whole group was led to the upstairs bar and invited to sample two pints from their large selection on tap.  Devin had about had his fill of blueberry, and opted for something dark and Guiness-like.  I don't recall the beer I had first, but I remember that the root beer I had second was amazing.  (After years of subjecting myself to an exclusive relationship with diet Coke, I happily re-discovered root beer during pregnancy.  Now there's no going back.)

Before leaving, we did a spent a little time in the gift shop, buying entirely too many souvenirs.  

Sunday we were back at the brewery for the Boilermaker.  Devin's two sisters were running, as well as my former running-mate Rachael.  We went to cheer them on and hang around the finish line for free beer.

So there you have it.  The F.X. Matt Brewing Co.  Fun for the whole family.  If your family likes beer.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Get Claire Dunphy A Job

Modern Family won a bunch of Emmy awards on Sunday, and last night was its highly anticipated Season 4 premiere. Maybe it’s because of all this hub-bub that I found myself thinking about the show as I lay in bed yesterday morning, snuggling with my 8 month old baby instead of getting ready for work.

Specifically, it dawned on me that of the three households featured on the show, none have two working parents. All have one parent who stays home –Claire, Cam and Gloria. This is all well and good for any ol’ TV show, but for a show celebrating the modern family… well… I’m just sayin’…

[And before I go inadvertently ruffling any feathers, let me be clear I am not interested in drudging up the working mom vs. stay at home mom debate. That argument is old and tired and anyone with any real sense can see both paths have their pros and cons and it’s nobody else’s concern what any woman chooses for herself and her family.]

So we’ve got this show with gay dads, an adopted Vietnamese daughter, an old man with a weird step-kid and a trophy wife young enough to be his daughter. Why, in the midst of all this heavy-handed modernism, didn’t the show’s creators throw in a working mom just for good measure?

It wouldn’t even be that hard. Claire Dunphy doesn’t appear to have anything to do but bounce around her house all day like a startled parakeet, worrying about her three kids who are old enough to pretty much handle their own day-to-day affairs. And in a previous episode, thanks to a cameo from Minnie Driver, we learned Claire once held down something of an impressive career. The writers have practically handed themselves Claire’s next character arc on a silver platter: Time for this mama to bring home the bacon.

I think this situation bothers me because as a lifelong couch potato, I grew up on TV and I can’t think of many shows airing now or in the past that really dealt with life as a working mom. And if any of you dare mention Up All Night, I will scream. That show makes me want to just throw up. Oh sure, that’s precisely what my life would be like if my baby only existed 5% of the time. I’d be all hanging out with pseudo Oprah and stomping around in knee-high boots.

The TV universe is full of heroines who get pregnant, have a baby on a season finale, and then by the following season, they’re back to their fabulous lives as if nothing had ever happened. (Rachel Green, I’m looking at you.) I’m the pesky viewer, watching at home wondering whose minding the baby. Did everyone put a Charles in charge and then check out?

We always see stay at home moms at home and working moms at work, but what happens when the working mom is at home? The Middle, which also returned last night, attempts to answer that question. Frankie Heck goes to work at the car dealership by day, and by night her and Mike struggle to get it together -- forgetting to buy groceries, missing appointments, going to sleep in an unmade bed of mismatched linens. These are my people. I can relate to Frankie Heck, which is unfortunate because she’s a complete mess. It’s like my TV is shaking its finger at me. “See what happens when you don’t put someone in charge of the household?” Chaos.

To conclude, I’ll reference the sentiment of Liz Lemon (an aspiring working mom) played by Tina Fey (an actual working mom), when she lamented, “Murphy Brown lied to us!” Murphy Brown promised we could have it all. Then she failed to show us how to accomplish it. (Didn’t she leave her baby with her painter or something?) She became another one of those characters with conveniently vanishing and reappearing baby syndrome. I don’t think it’s so much that she lied to us; she just left us wanting more.

But at least she was a role model. Her single mom story line made pop culture waves. Hers was a time when a young mom could say, “It’s all good. I got this. I’ll be just like Murphy Brown.” Now it’s, “I’ll be just like…” I challenge you to finish that sentence with a comparable character on TV today.

So as a TV addict fully immersed in the fall season, I appreciate the strides that TV is taking to feature the ever-evolving modern family of stay at home moms, stay at home dads, gay couples, gay dads, surrogate moms, single moms, divorced parents, remarried parents, families with money, families without money… All I’m asking is can we just send Claire freaking Dunphy to work? Someone get this woman a pant suit and lets see what she’s made of. Please, let me turn on my TV and see her put in a full day at the office and then return to her immaculate home, put on her navy button-down and help Luke with his homework, break up a fight between Haley and Alex, and have a romantic dinner with Phil. Let me see someone do it all and do it well so I can say, “It’s all good. I got this. I’ll be just like Claire Dunphy.” Otherwise I might turn into the B in Apt 23.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Insanity Workout: Part Two

Well, we made it.  By we, I mean me and Devin since I talked him into getting on the Insanity bandwagon too.  It was a hard sell that involved my DVRing the infomercial and forcing him to watch it before I'd put on The Daily Show.  Anyway, Month One of Insanity is now complete.

For those of you keeping score at home, yes this would mean it took us like 6 weeks to complete the first 4 weeks of the program.  That's because during the 4th week we added up all of the workouts we'd had to skip for various reasons and realized we'd missed a full week's worth, so we took week 5 to play catch up.  Then I got a bad cold so even that plan got derailed. The important thing, I think, is that we have not given up. At least, not completely.

Here's my impressions of the program, week by week.

Week 1: Off With A Bang

A minute and a half into the first warm up, I felt the sense of overwhelming and immediate regret I might experience if I were to try skydiving.  I spent much of the subsequent workout pacing around the room with my hands in my hips, catching my breath as Shaun T. and his team continued hopping around on my TV screen.  I had no idea there could be so many moves with the words Power or Jump in their names.  And don't even get me started on the dreaded Power Jump. 

The program also came with an eating guide to maximize results.  Essentially, the idea is to eat 5 healthy meals a day to boost your metabolism.  Normally I overlook the flimsy eating guides that come along with home workout programs, but this time I was going to try my darndest.  I went to Trader Joe's, stocked up on chicken, vegetables, cottage cheese, eggs, and more chicken.  Then I spent a night preparing meal items for the week ahead.  I got in the habit of making a pot of slow-cook, old-fashioned oatmeal at night so that I would have it ready to nuke a bowl of it in the morning.  Can you believe it?  Could I be any more put together?

All of the physical and dietary effort was paying off.  By the end of the first week, I was all, "I think I've lost ten pounds! (Actual pounds lost: 0) I feel so toned!  I have so much energy!  I sing the body electric!"

Week 2: In Which My Life Found Out Where I Was Hiding And Came After Me, Demanding I Pay Back All The Time I Owed

How I managed Week 1 is an inexplicable phenomenon.  By Week 2, things were going about how I expected them to.  I had to do some work on Tuesday so I had to skip that night's workout.  Then I had dinner plans on Wednesday, so another workout went out the window.  I didn't have time to go grocery shopping so I lacked the supplies needed to maintain my 5 meal a day menu.  And eating all of those meals was something of a project in and of itself.  Making oatmeal was one thing but have you ever noticed how long it actually takes to eat oatmeal during a hectic morning routine?

So, The Insanity Program and I reached something of an understanding.  I would diverge from the calendar and meal program as much as needed to keep my...a-hem... sanity, and I would promise to cut out junk food and white bread.  And, even though the last thing I want to do after putting the baby to bed is heave and throw myself around the living room, I'd do it anyway.  Because I'm not a quitter!

Week 3: Oh Screw This

Here's the thing: After 3 weeks of this madness I'd expected to lose at least one pound.  So what gives?  Every night, I'd test Devin's resolve.  Throwing my head back and dragging my feet, I'd whine, "I don't feel like doing this.  It's not even working and it's so hard."
"Oh no you don't.  You got me into this we're not stopping now."

Week 4:  Back In The Saddle Again

If I were to have a personal trainer, he or she would probably say something like, "All this negativity you're carrying around... THAT's what's weighing you down.  That's why you aren't dropping pounds."

In Week 4, I started trying to look at the positive side of this experience.  I could now make it through the whole warm up without stopping.  This maybe doesn't seem like it should be an accomplishment, but it is.

Also, I think it's a good thing Devin and I found something to do together aside from watching TV while one or the other or both of us fall asleep on the couch.

On Monday we did the first workout of Month Two.  It was twenty minutes longer than any workout in Month One.   And at one point, Shaun T. introduced a new move that had us both exclaiming "What?!" at the exact same time, with the same pitch and volume.  I was just starting to be able to get through these workouts with minimal breaks.  And now... this?

Discouraged though I was, I will say that as I was standing in the kitchen later that night, trying to remember why I'd just walked in there (it was to empty the dishwasher, I concluded), I caught my reflection in the mirror in the dining room.  There was a mysterious shadow on my shoulder.  Turning into the light, I finally realized what I was looking at.  A muscle.  A real one.  A new one.

And then, this morning, I stepped on the scale after avoiding it since Week 3 and discovered I'd lost five pounds!  Holy shnikes, it worked!  I've never lost so much as a pound on purpose in my whole life.

Let's see if this can motivate me to finish up the program.  Just a few weeks to go.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Insanity Workout: Part One

Because I'm an American woman, I don't have better things to worry about than the way I look and what I eat (and the relationship between the two).  Now, on the average day, I don't give it too much thought.  But every so often, for a variety of different reasons, I'll launch myself into I Will Get Thin And Fit mode.

And then I disengage in about 3 weeks.  Or 3 days.

Don't believe me?  Look, I've chronicled much of it here, here, here, here, and here.

[Ocular warning: Some of those links go back to my old blog, which is a bit of a color shock]

If you have neither the time nor the inclination to read up on old posts, let me summarize that my issues with losing weight are always owing to some combination of the following factors: I'm lazy, I'm busy, I'm tired, I'm cheap, and food is delicious.  That's all.  Otherwise I'd look like Kate Upton.  I swear it.

But anyway over the last couple of years I hadn't really thought much about it.  Then I got pregnant and really didn't think about it.  Then I had Oscar and lost nearly all of the my pregnancy weight in a matter of weeks.  And when it came to the remaining poundage, I took refuge in the "well, I just had a baby" excuse.  

Not that it's just an excuse.  I'm happy I have so much good stuff going on, but between the demands of a working full time, taking care of a baby, and maintaining the sort of household expected of adults, it's a wonder I manage to keep myself outfitted in clean underwear daily.  Never mind fitting in a quick 3 mile jog or preparing a wholesome meal of freshly steamed this and ginger marinated that.  [Whenever I see flawless, yoga-pants wearing MILFs in the produce section of Whole Foods I resist the urge to throw sweet potatoes at their smiling heads.]

It's no surprise that sometime in the hazy daze of the last 6 months, the scale started going back up the other direction.  Jeans got tighter.  Arms got flabbier.  I found myself saying and thinking the things I remember from Slim Fast commercials on TV when I was younger.  "I avoid cameras." "I see pictures of myself and can't believe it's me."  "I hate the way my clothes fit."

AND THEN one day I was in a gift shop looking at some trinket when a guy behind me said, "I already brought one of those to the register, sweetheart."  Puzzled, I spun around to find an embarrassed man who quickly explained, "I thought you were my daughter for a second.  So sorry!"  All was well and good until I spotted the man with said daughter minutes later.  She was a young woman I would've guessed had 50 to 75 pounds on me.  And he'd mistaken me for her.  From behind, no less.

Fortunately by the time that incident occurred I'd already ordered the Insanity workout system, used, from a seller on Amazon.  It was listed with the ominous description, "This was way too hard for me.  Good luck!" 

What is Insanity, you ask?  Only the latest fitness racket I've been suckered into.  Check out this video if you haven't seen the infomercial.

And if you haven't seen the infomercial, you must not be awake watching TV every morning at 6:30 like I am.  I think I sat through the full infomercial no less than fifteen times before  I finally broke down and ordered it. 

At the time of writing this, I'm in my third week of the program.  I'll give you my full report and week to week updates at the end of month one.  Will I lose twenty pounds?  Will I be offered a modeling contract?  Will I abandon all hope and use Disc 2: Plyometric Cardio Circuit as a McFlurry coaster?  Stay tuned.  

Monday, July 23, 2012

Tiny Passengers

One of the least inspiring lessons I've learned as a new mother is that for some folks, behavior during air travel is how your parenting capabilities are measured.  It doesn't much matter that you have a happy, thriving child.  Can you keep that child's face-hole shut on a plane?

Earlier this month, Devin and I traveled eastward for some family time.  At 6 months old, it would be Oscar's first flight.  Of course I was nervous.  How could I not be?  I'd been on my fair share of flights with inconsolable babies.  I'd avoided making eye contact with the distressed mother as she paced the aisle of the cabin, bouncing and shushing her wailing bundle of joy.

Nobody likes a baby on a plane.  Babies sitting in supermarkets: delightful.  Babies on the beach: adorable.  Babies on planes: death stares.

I'm pleased to report, we did okay.

The first flight was a short burst from LA to Vegas.  He slept most of the time. And the time he was up, he smiled and did the cute-baby act.  The old woman sitting next to us was enamored and reminded us to get a picture of this important First.

During the short layover, he stayed in good spirits, amusing the group sitting across from us as the gate.  Though, we were in Vegas and they appeared to still be drunk so I think would've been amused by anything.

Oscar even wore his Syracuse shirt in honor of our trip
Later, he would have a massive poop-splosion and the shirt would arrive in Syracuse sealed in a plastic bag, buried in our carry on
When we seated ourselves (we were flying Southwest) on the second, longer flight from Vegas to Albany, we encountered our first real baby-on-plane haters.  We shuffled our way in to our seats, and were getting ourselves situated when the guy in front of us took a good look at who he was dealing with: a demon disguised as blue eyed 16-pounder, quietly and contentedly playing with a water bottle.  The horror!  He got his wife's attention, motioned toward us, and then they quickly got up and moved several rows back.

Here's where I learned another, better lesson as a new mom.  When people do stuff like this, you don't care.  If he didn't want to sit near us, fine.  Seeing as I had no idea what was in store, he may have had the right idea.  Who knows?

Eventually a very nice woman sat in the aisle seat of our row.  She didn't mind that she had to get up a dozen times as we made bathroom trips, or that Oscar kicked her in the arm when he was trying to get comfortable in my lap. 

By the way, I need to figure out the math on this, but somehow there is an effect of pressure, airspeed, or wing contour that causes a baby on a plane to triple in size for the duration of the flight. 

When we landed in Albany at 1am local time, a few of our fellow passengers commended us on doing such a good job and having such a good baby.  I wasn't sure how I felt about that kind if compliment, but I took it anyway.  And I sort of hoped the guy who switched seats overheard it.  So, okay, maybe I do care.  A little.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

How To Make Pillowcases In Just 5 Short Months

Before Oscar was born I thought I was a very, very busy person.  Then after his arrival, I looked back on those times and thought, "What was the matter with me?  I had so much free time!"

On weekends, I don't want to do anything but snuggle Oscar to make up for time lost during the week at work.  As a result, those 2 days fly by with bills unpaid, floors unswept, and laundry unlaundered.  And craft projects... are you kidding?

And so it goes that I launched a mission to re-cover the couch's throw pillows in mid February, and did not revisit it until May.

Join me, if you will, on a journey back in time to when Oscar was just a wee little nugget that slept the whole day away, while his mom kept herself locked up in a dark and dusty apartment.
At one point, during what felt like Oscar's fortieth feeding of the day, I looked at the couch around me and realized I hated it.
A once comfy and practical sectional, it was now misshapen, stained, and smelly.   Unfortunately, buying a new couch just wasn't an option.   It was time to give the pillows a makeover.
I know they don't match.  How did I let this happen?
I'd actually been planning to do this for a while and had requested --and received--a brand new sewing machine for Christmas.  But then, stuff happened.  Like a new human.

Surveying the living room I decided it certainly wasn't lacking in brown.  Brown couch, brown rug, brown walls, brown coffee table, brown pillows.  What it could really use was some nice bright blue accents.

So I sped off to Joanne Fabrics for some material.  My mom was in town, and came along to help me assess my options.

We wound up with this trio.

Two soft and fuzzy fabrics, and one that was less so, but would spice things up. 

I found a step by step guide to making throw pillow covers.  I won't go into detail here with the exact steps, but I recommend checking out that link if you too have several months to spare on a sewing project. 

Before attempting step one, I needed to back up and do step zero: remember how to work a sewing machine.  Mom and I unpacked it from the box, looked over the instructions on threading the bobbin, selecting the stitch type and all that.  Oddly, though I hadn't done it in probably 10 years, it all came back to me.

Now I was off and running!  And then Oscar woke up...

The next day, I was off and running!

It took me seven hours to make the first pillowcase.  But there were a lot of stops and starts in my process.   Also, it took a bit more time because I wasn't half-assing it like the way I normally do things.  I wanted these to look presentable, so I did things properly, like ironing the edges where I'd hem or double hem.

When I removed the first pillow from its case I realized I'd been too kind with my assumption that the innards were "perfectly good."  Still, I was in it now, so it would have to do.


The design I was following didn't call for any fasteners to keep the case closed shut, but I think it was meant for nice full, firm pillows and not this cheap piece of shit pillow I was working with.  So there was a gross gap.

Hello, my name is Mr. Pillowface
Nothing a little iron-on velcro can't fix. 

Now we're talking.

The second pillowcase took about 45 minutes.  Clearly I had the hang of it, so I'd be able to bang out the next 5 or 6 in a couple days.

Then the rest of February, all of March and April, and half of May went by.  With friends coming over for cocktails one Friday, I had a burst of motivation and finished three more pillows.

And this brings us to July.  5 months later.  I still have 3 pillows to go.  But for the sake of this post let's just pretend all of the completed ones are in these After pictures.