Wednesday, December 23, 2009

How NOT to Have a Happy Holiday.

It's not a good idea to go to the grocery store at 8:00 pm 2 days before Xmas with a 2.5-year-old.

It's an even worse idea to do this WITHOUT A LIST.

It's always a bad idea to go to the grocery store without a list, but it's so much worse to go into a store stuffed full! of holiday! cheer! and shoppers who have glazed eyes and flecks of foam coming out of their mouths, while dragging a 2-year-old (who, to her credit, was pretty patient with me) and oh did I mention we hadn't eaten dinner yet? ALL THIS WITHOUT A LIST. I spent $25, I have no idea what I bought, and I know I'm going to have to go back tomorrow. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Ed Emberly day

What we checked out from the library:



What we made:



Plus a couple other assorted attempts at some of the birds, which did not get finished because Piper kept ripping the little shapes off the paper as fast as I could glue them down.

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Middle



Has anyone out there been watching this show? It's funny. It's so funny, I end each 30-minute episode out of breath.

I laughed particularly hard at the Christmas episode, when the dad (Mike) offers to help with the Christmas stuff, because "It's no big deal, Christmas is easy! I don't know what you get so worked up about every year." By the end of the episode he is wailing to the mom (Frankie) "Okay, I'm sorry, I'm sorry! Christmas is HARD! This SUCKS!"

In fact, I may have laughed so hard that I fell off the couch, because it sounds just like the conversations that my husband I have around December 1st and December 21st of every year.

(photo stolen from Wikipedia)

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Grosgrain: Neige $100 Gift Card


Those clothes are freaking fabulous. I checked, and $100 will get you some nice stuff in their clearance section...

Neige $100 Gift Card GUEST GIVEAWAY!!!!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Friday Fashion: Shoes From Delia's

I love Delia's, although I feel a bit old shopping there these days. It's a website/catalog/store aimed at teens and 'tweens, which I am definitely not. But I've bought and worn their stuff since I actually was part of their target market, so I guess that just makes me a loyal customer, not ridiculous.

I think I have aged out of much of their offerings - I am not really in the market for Paul Frank bikinis, novelty t-shirts, or prom dresses - I'm never to old to shop for shoes.

Take, for example, these lovely things, the "Keds Dallas Wedge."
I have found myself loving yellow in the past year or so, and these hit all the right spots. They look like just the right mix of comfy and flirty and durable. Oh, and affordable, since they're on clearance for $29.99

There's a wide variety of Converse, including these beauties:
I love these "Converse Tweed Oxfords" very much (although I think that's a herringbone not a tweed but whatever), but I do not love the $55.50 asking price.

Side note: When did Converse get to be so expensive?! My favorite shoes are a pair of suede One-Stars that I have nearly loved to death and searching for a replacement has given me serious sticker shock. Right now, it appears I will have to replace my $15 super-comfy and awesomely-fitting originals with $70 shoddily-constructed ones that don't fit the same. I loved these shoes for the way the cradled my super-narrow feet, and all the ones I can find now have me feeling like I've just put on flippers. Anyway, back to the eye-candy:

These "Regal Boots" may be the answer to my quest for the perfect brown boot. Of course, there's also these, which may satisfy my totally inexplicable craving for a pair of cowboy-ish boots:

"Dingo Harness Leather Boot," $109.50. Similar, and also lovely:

"Blowfish Tough Stuff Suede Boot," on clearance for $79.50. Really, I think these have it all: a little bit Western with the saddle-yoke on the front, a little bit rock n' roll with the buckles, and a lot practical with the height, so that you don't freeze your legs off or get snow in your shoes.

I'm going to shut up now, because this post is long enough and I could talk about shoes all day.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Overheard in Our House

"Umm...hey, did you turn on those twinkling snowflake lights for her?"
"What? Oh, yeah, I did. Why?"
"Oh, good, the living room isn't on fire, then."

Although I suppose if it was, our house would at least be warm, because we are too miserly to turn up the heat. We walk around in thick socks and layers of sweaters and find excuses to bake things, but we will not turn up the heat. Our Northern pride will not allow it, even if our icy toes are begging us to.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Isolationist Tendencies

I hadn't realized, until we were traveling in Michigan, out of our little bubble of home/park/mall play area/Ikea how much we've shielded Piper from most popular culture. It wasn't (entirely) deliberate; we only have network TV (and used to have HBO, but my $@$(@*%^*^ feelings about Time-Warner are irrelevant to the topic). We rarely actively expose her to the things that are considered "kid stuff" in American culture - no jangly just-for-kids music, no 23-minute commercials for toys cartoons on broadcast-TV. I, for the most part, can't stand that stuff, and she doesn't seem to miss it. I actively dislike almost everything Disney has put out in the last 15 years and I really disagree with the values their animated features present, so we avoid those too. I'm too dweeby to keep up with whatever the hipsters' kids are listening to this week, so we just skip it all.

She knows a few of them, of course; short of cutting ourselves off from the outside world altogether it's hard to keep them out. She knows who Strawberry Shortcake is, thanks to a box of my old toys. She loves the dancing monsters of Yo Gabba Gabba, the British dog Kipper, and her best friend is an 18-inch fully-jointed Spider-man action figure from a thrift store. All of this is stuff she figured out on her own, from watching or listening. We try to keep the rest of it away from her attention, because we feel that there's no reason for her to know the name of every single cartoon character out there (and because she can't ask for what she doesn't know about).

When we are out somewhere and she sees one of the many, many licensed-cartoon characters on some piece of plastic crap from China, sometimes she'll take particular notice, but it's only in a general way. She doesn't know the word "princess" (she calls them "costumes"), let alone the name of each and every specific Disney one. My MIL tried for a long time -and still occasionally does- to refer to Piper as "our little princess, what a princess, she's such a pretty pretty princess" and I nipped that shit in the bud. Every time my MIL said it, I got queasy with visions of frilly pinkness and incessant demands for toys.

Piper has her own names for the things she sees, and we are happy to let her keep using her imagination on them. She calls Elmo "that red monster," Barney is "big purple dinosaur" and she thinks Dora is Strawberry Shortcake (except she says "Straaabery Portcake and it's so cute I want to punch myself).

Which is why I felt uncomfortable A LOT when we were hanging out with people who would correct her words for things, would say "No, that's Dora" or "that's not just a monster, that's Elmo" in a store. If she asked "who's that?" or "what's that?" about something instead of asking her back "Who do you think it is?" or "I don't know, what IS that?" like we do, they'd say, "Oh, that's Dora and here's Diego and here's 17 other characters from some cartoon..." or "That's a princess costume, princesses wear pink sparkly dresses and tiaras and look really pretty..." I cringed a little and wondered if she'd soon be asking for every toy Nickelodeon currently licenses. My dad let her watch an hour of Wonder Pets and the very next time we walked into a store, she started pointing at the toys and asking for the toys by name.

More than that, it saddended me. When she pointed at Sponge Bob and said "Hey, look at that weird yellow monster guy!" and she got "No, that's Sponge Bob Square pants, and he lives in a pineapple, and here let me sing his theme song for you..." back from the adult she was talking to, I almost cried. I wanted to hear her thoughts on "the weird yellow monster guy." I wanted to hear what she had to say. And now it was gone, lost because someone felt the need to correct her imagination.

I know I can't keep this up forever. I am certain, when she gets to pre-school or kindergarten or playgroup or whatever, that some other little girl will give her a strict crash-course in The Ways Of All Things Princess, but for now I am pleased that she prefers the toys others have made for her and wooden blocks to tv-based toys with flashing lights and noises. She likes monsters and coloring and loves the giant bin of our old Duplo Lego pieces my mom brought down from Michigan. She likes dolls, but I don't call her "little Mommy" or assume that it's something coded into her cells because she's female. She likes to carry dolls and stuffed animals around, take all their clothes off, and give them drinks from her cups. She gives her babies a bath by holding them down in a bucket of water. I'm not ready to assume she's a nurturing soul just yet.

I am also certain that whatever little child gives her The Princess Lecture will also educate Piper about activities are "for girls" and "for boys." No matter how much we fight it at home, I'm sure what other kids think she should be doing will seem more important to her. So just as my heart fills with joy to see her playing equally with trucks, dinosaurs, dolls, and blocks, I've started to feel a sort of pre-sadness for the day when this innocence slips away. I know that one day soon I will bring out her dinosaurs and trains, and she will look at me and say scornfully, "Mom, those are for boys. I can't play with those. Now, where's my princess dress?"

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Just Another Day at Tragically Ordinary

Yesterday it was nice enough to go outside in shirtsleeves, so I battled the fierce wind, a curious toddler, and an unruly tarp to get the leaves raked up and and carted away from the front of the house. I was sweeping the front walk when I realized that Piper was awfully quiet. I dashed around the front of the house and found her standing in front of a bush we've never quite identified but which has recently sprouted clusters of tiny red berries. Piper looked at me and it was that look that every mother knows, no matter what form it takes: the I Have Done Something look.

"Did you eat one of these berries? Did you eat these?!" I asked, gripping her arms. She didn't appear to be chewing, but she was holding her mouth oddly, like she might have just swallowed really fast.
"I did," she said quietly.
"Oh, God. Did you really eat one?! Let me see inside your mouth!" she refused, and what followed was me trying to pry her jaw open and her shrieking and squirming away from me. I asked her twice more if she ate one, and every time she responded with the quiet and remorse-filled "I did" that usually means she did, in fact, commit the deed in question and knows she's in trouble.

I raced inside and booted up the computer.

While I was Googling "poisonous plants of North Carolina" and "NC Poison Control" to figure out what kind of berries Piper may or may not have eaten while we were outside (can you really trust the word of a 2.5-year-old?), Piper peed in her pants, took off all her clothes, ran around naked, then peed on the carpet.

While I was on the phone with Poison Control, she opened the fridge and climbed up the shelves, got some stuff out, and left the fridge door open.

30 minutes after THAT, she ate half the (cooked) bacon I was going to use for dinner sandwiches, and ran around touching everything with bacon-greasy hands.

And my husband wonders why I'm so irritable.

My Little Sister Evelyn Smock GUEST GIVEAWAY!!!!

These dresses are pretty darn cute:



I'm a big fan of simple clothes for kids. The stuff with tons of buttons and ruffles gives me hives. I really dig these, they would even work for winter layered over a long-sleeve tee and some leggings/yoga pants.

My Little Sister Evelyn Smock GUEST GIVEAWAY!!!!

First Step Photo Vinyl Wall Art $50 Gift Card GUEST GIVEAWAY

I need some of these:

First Step Photo Vinyl Wall Art $50 Gift Card GUEST GIVEAWAY.

Vinyl decals to go on the walls. Brilliant! Of course, I've seen this sort of thing before, but these are by far the cutest I've come across. They look awesome yet require minimal effort. Exactly what I like.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Grosgrain: Charm Design Guest Giveaway




Oh, man, look at those bags!


It's really too much for a bag addict like me to handle.

Click the link below for details on how to enter.

Grosgrain: Charm Design gift card guest giveaway.

Home, home on the range - er, subdivision

I am home again, grateful for some nice time spent with my family but really, really glad to be back in our quiet little house. We actually got back really early last Tuesday morning (like 2:00 am early), but then my mom was here all week so computer time was almost impossible to come by.

Because of the trip, I did NOT meet my goal of 30 posts in 30 days for November. I did pretty well until that last week and then it all went out the window. Oh, well, I tried, right?

I am still playing catch-up, a week later. While we were gone, my very nice husband took three of our more troublesome felines and got them shots, then took them to a no-kill shelter. He then had our carpets professionally cleaned, and moved our daughter's stuff from the den (which had been her bedroom because it was the biggest room with a closet) to the two back bedrooms. So now, instead of a giant room full of her stuff, a computer/guest room, and a room full of cat boxes and assorted junk, we have a playroom, a toddler bedroom, and a office/guest room.

He did not, however, balance the checkbook, pay bills, sort the mail, or attend to any of the other regular household-upkeep stuff that I do. My mom was here, and she played with Piper a lot, but somehow this did not translate into free time for me. I find that this happens a lot with my family. I spent three weeks at my parents' house, where there were plenty of people to play with my daughter and keep her occupied. Somehow, despite a roster of adult playmates, I did not complete a single one of the three knitting projects I brought with me (or the four that I added while I was there). I barely got to sit in front of a computer or check my e-mail on my phone. I didn't cook half as much stuff as I had planned.

Not only did I not get to the cooking and crafting that should've come with some kid-free time, I barely took any pictures, didn't get to visit everyone on my list, and didn't even make my requisite Michigan-visit trip to Belle Isle. There just wasn't time to do it all.

I do not know why this happens. It just doesn't add up, and I can't figure it out. I suspect that it has something to do with my mom, for the same reasons that it takes three hours to leave the house when she is with us and we never manage to get anywhere on time, or the mysterious force-field surrounding her which somehow means I never get one usable photo of Piper when she is in the room. There is some sort of warp in the time-space continuum surrounding her, and it throws a big monkey wrench into all my plans.

Piper, however, had a blast playing with her grandparents, aunt, and uncle. So far she seems to be re-adjusting fairly well. I thought she might freak out when we came back and all her stuff was moved around, but really she's quite pleased with the bedroom + playroom arrangement. It doesn't seem to have helped her sleep any better, but hey, I can hope, right?

Monday, November 30, 2009

Photos by Piper

Sometimes, when I give her my phone to fiddle with, just so I can get through the check-out line at Target or drive the last five minutes home without having her in complete and total meltdown mode, she boots up the camera. She really likes the shutter sound it makes when it takes a picture. Every time I flip through my pictures stored on the phone, I find 15 new ones of a patch of floor, or the view out the car windows as seen from her perch in the back. I get photos of her car-seat buckles, my chin, or her dad's shoulder. Some of them I delete immediately (who wants 17 photos of the carpeting in the play area at the mall?) but some I keep. They seem like tiny windows into her world, a glimpse of her view of things. I get to notice what she notices, for a change. Here are a couple she took while I was wandering around a dreaded Wal-Mart Supercenter, trying to explain to a friend which vegetable oil would be best for making a cake:





They are, at least, interesting, which is more than I can say for some of the photos I take.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

"I'm just going to drink my latte"

This is what happens when I leave my caramel-apple latte sitting around at the playground while I'm desperately trying to get a non-blurry photo of her face:



"Mmm! This is good latte. Mommy's latte is very tasty."

And, no, it wasn't decaf. It was, however, a very long afternoon.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wishing a very happy, safe, and food-filled Thanksgiving to my U.S. readers. And, for that matter, a very happy, safe, and food-filled Thursday to all my non-U.S. readers.

I will be eating my weight in pie. Hey, I earned it, since I spent all of yesterday baking. I made the following:

Orange-cranberry-oat scones
Apple Pie
Pecan Pie
Pear Pie With Asiago-Rosemary Crust

Plus these awesome little cookies that are like sugar-butter thumbprints with a candycane & cream cheese mixture dolloped into the center. I finally packed them into Tupperware and made my brother hide them in the garage because I ate so many. It's pretty cold out there, they'll keep. And I won't get a bellyache.

And tomorrow? The glory that is turkey quesadillas.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Eating Pretzels on the Steps of Henry Ford's Boyhood Home



We went to Greenfield Village on Sunday with my dad. It was way fun. Except for the part where Piper jumped into a giant puddle of horse pee. That part was gross.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

RGR Giveaway: Gingerbread Skirt

Marissa of Rae Gun Ramblings is hosting a bunch of awesome giveaways, including one for this adorable skirt.


Pretty darn cute. Visit the above link to enter.

P.S. I would've posted a picture, so you could all see the super-cuteness of that skirt, but my parents, for some ridiculous reason, have nothing but Internet Explorer on their computers, and it sucks so bad that after ten minutes of trying I had no picture, my post eaten twice, and felt like PUNCHING THE WHOLE WORLD IN THE FACE. But I did try, because I love you.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Cleanliness is Next to Dadliness

My parents like it when I visit.

Not only do I bring the Sacred Grandchild, Best Baby Ever, Smartest Child In The Universe with me, but I cook.

And cook. And cook.

I cook big lunches and dinners and freeze the leftovers for my mom to take for lunch, or for everyone to defrost and eat on nights when nobody feels like cooking. When I leave, their spare freezer in the basement is full of stacks of neatly-labled Tupperware containers. I make a lot of food, and it's usually pretty healthy and whole-food focused. I use whole-grain flours, fresh vegetables, good meats, and as little fat and cheese as I can get by with. They all eat it and they love it.

My parents remodeled their kitchen a few years ago, and turned it from a cramped, dark horrorshow into a bright, airy space with TONS of cupboards and counter space. There is also a six-burner gas range...and my dad.

My dad does the dishes and cleans the kitchen. It is his chore around the house, his "thing" that he does, and he likes it that way.

Which means that I can come into a sparkling kitchen every evening, make honey-basalmic glazed chicken and pecan pie for dessert (or cheddar-potato soup, or tortilla soup, or turkey chilli, or pumpkin cupcakes with cream cheese icing), and not have to clean up afterward.

Sure, I tidy up as I go, like any good cook (or houseguest) should, but when I'm done eating, the mountain of pots, pans, and plates is not my problem. Someone else will deal with and actually prefers to do it himself.

It's fabulous.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Brass Hussy GUEST GIVEAWAY!!!!

Oh, man, look at this jewelry!

I know someone who would love this squirrel-and-acorn necklace (I mean, besides me):


Winner gets a $30 gift certificate to The Brass Hussy's shop. Visit the link below to enter.

The Brass Hussy GUEST GIVEAWAY!!!!

Grosgrain: Modern Blitz Designs Guest Giveaway

Another great giveaway, especially at this time of year! Free custom custom card design...wowza.

This is a great opportunity if you are like me - I always have all these terrific ideas for holiday cards, all this creative stuff just swirling around in my brain, but utterly fail when it comes to time, patience, and knowledge to make them a reality.

Visit the link below to check out the giveaway.

Modern Blitz Designs Custom Card GUEST GIVEAWAY!!!!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Grosgrain: The Handmade Dress Patterns Guest Giveaway

Grosgrain is featuring a very generous giveaway from The Handmade Dress: one each of Samantha's dress patterns.

These are so cute, and pretty much exactly the sort of thing I love to dress my little girl in. Go check out the giveaway at the link below, and then browse Samantha's shop. You won't be sorry.

The Handmade Dress Patterns GUEST GIVEAWAY!!!!

Stuff Under Twenty Giveaway: Silver Ring

I loooooove rings. Big ones, little ones, chunky ones, dainty ones. But rarely do I fall in love with a ring as hard and fast as I have just fallen for the one they're giving away over at Stuff Under Twenty.




Go check out the giveaway and comment to win. You have until tormorrow night, so hurry! Also go check out the beautiful items made by the sponsor, Sea Babe. This "Crisp Morning Air" necklace is now at the tippy-top of my wishlist.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Friday Fashion: Little Feet

I love Livie and Luca shoes. I have not yet bought a pair for Piper, but that has not stopped me from obsessing about them. I daydream about buying her these in every size:


Ahhhhh! Couldn't you just have a heart attack from all the cute?! These are pretty good, too:


And would get a lot of use, considering that half her wardrobe is purple.

However, at $47 a pair, for something that she would scuff in two seconds flat, these will have to remain on my wishlist, for now at least.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

I'm Sure This Will Be Less Funny the Older She Gets

Well, I missed a day, didn't I? I'll just have to post twice in one day to make up for it.

We had a lovely 4-day visit on the other side of the state, but I'm not sure if I'll be doing the Grand Tour like that again. Piper sort of freaked out about all the new places and lack of home comforts. Spending four days repeating every possible variation of "No," "Stop that," "Be quiet," "Stop touching that," or "Be quiet" wore me out. I'd never particularly thought of our house as kid-proofed, but after spending four days in places with crowds, quiet rooms, breakable items, tons of knick-knacks, steep stairs, sharp things sitting on the edges of counters, and zero toys, I truly appreciate how nice it is to be able to turn my kid loose somewhere and not worry.

Even here at my parents' house it's difficult - although my mom claims not to like clutter, there are magazines and yarn and crochet hooks and scissors and stacks of books and reams of paper and electronics sitting all over every surface. My brother is staying at the house while he prepares to buy a house of his own, so all his electronics and art supplies and leather-working tools and welding stuff and four cats are crammed in here too. They have an entertainment center whose glass door seems to exert a magnetic pull on my two-year-old and behind its magnetic spring closure exists a tower of things with intriguing buttons and knobs.

Piper stuffed a scarf into the VCR on our second night here. She came up to me and repeated "Is it stuck? Did you get it stuck? Is it stuck in there?" and pointed at the stereo cabinet. My dad and I both realized what had happened and looked at each other. My mom had crocheted her a kid-sized scarf complete with fringe, and she'd stuffed it into the tape slot on their VCR. I was concerned, but not enough to prevent me from hooting with laughter as my dad struggled to remove it. He was laughing too, as a worried-looking Piper repeated "Is it stuck? Grandpa get it not stuck?" while he gingerly extracted the threads.

Fortunately, my parents adore Piper and think that pretty much anything she does is amazing. She rarely manages to irreparably damage anything, and after raising three of the most destructive and devious children known to mankind, one semi-well-behaved toddler is a breeze.

For example: when we were 13 and 16, a disagreement between my brother and myself turned into an all-out brawl, during which he slammed me bodily into a wall. Drywall wasn't really meant to withstand the force of teenage fisticuffs, so there was a pretty big hole. We managed to hide it from them for about six months, and even then they only found out because that wall covered an old chimney and bats started getting inside the house.

Then there were the mad-scientist experiments conducted by my brother involving frogs and electricity; the time I drove one of our cars into the ditch and got back out without mentioning it to anyone; and my sister, the human spider monkey, climbing to the top of the cupboards and throwing dishes down.

We broke things, we experimented, we made applejack (fermented cider) in the basement. We nailed things to the floor and pilfered tools and drank from their open wine bottles and replaced it with water (like they wouldn't notice). Sometimes, as exasperated as I get with my own kid now, I have to laugh, because when I ask her why she did something she gives me the classic "I don't know, it just seemed like the thing to do" look. I remember giving my parents that look many, many times, and having absolutely no explanation for the incredibly dumb or dangerous thing I had just done. Now I find myself on the other side of that look, the beginning of a lifetime's-worth of asking "Why did you do that?! What is wrong with you?!"

Of course, I'm sure my parents are just cackling with glee at all this. They've been using the "I hope you grow up and have a kid JUST LIKE YOU" threat for years.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Rootless

It's so odd to come back and visit a place where I once lived. I told my husband once that as much as I love seeing all our old friends, I find it difficult and a little unnerving to come back and hang around Kalamazoo.

"When I'm here, I like to see everyone and hang out and go to all our old favorite spots...but then I want to go down the street and home to my bed and curl up under a blanket and wake up in our little apartment and walk across the back yard to go get fresh bagels for breakfast. But I can't do any of that, because it's not our apartment anymore, and we got rid of that blanket two moves ago, and tonight we're going to be crashing on someone's sofa bed because we don't live here anymore. We're in this place that is so familiar, this town we once loved and called home, but we have nowhere to go. It makes me feel so rootless and unconnected, like I could just fly off the spinning planet."

He laughed and called me silly, until a few years ago when we came back for a wintertime visit and found ourselves driving down our old street in the dark a few weeks before Christmas, looking at all the ramshackle Victorian houses with their crooked strings of lights. There was a light on in the apartment that we had once lived in and loved so well, and we knew the radiators would be gurgling away, making the place toasty warm.

"Okay, you're right," he said as we slowly cruised past our old building. "I want to just pull into our driveway and go home, but I can't. It feels like I ought to be able to just park in our old spot and go right upstairs. But I can't. Our stuff isn't there; it's 3,000 miles away, in California. That sad little fake tree you used to put up isn't up there, or those pine candles you got that smelled like toilet cleaner. Our super-comfy bed with the sad old comforter isn't there, either, even though my body wants to go upstairs and tumble into it. Even though I almost just pulled into the driveway out of habit, we don't live here anymore. It still feels like home here but it's not home. Oh, I don't like this at all."

But there's nothing to be done about it, is there? I'd love to win the lottery and buy our old apartment building and turn it back into the gorgeous pre-war duplex it once was. I'd love to live in our old neighborhood, close to our friends and right in the middle of a vibrant and diverse community. But those things wouldn't change us back into the people we were then, or give us back the life we used to have here. We're different, the town is different, some of our friends have moved away and those that remain also have very different lives from what used to be.

I know all this, but every time I'm here I am filled with longing, because I think it is the last place that truly felt like home.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Books on the Wall, II



Part of a failed attempt to make our house look cool like in Ready-Made Magazine.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Stumbling Down Memory Lane

We've already been visiting here in Michigan for a week. It seems like barely any time has passed, yet also like we boarded that plane a long time ago. Either way, we've been having a blast. I met up with my friends who live in the area, and since most of them have kids Piper's age, she's had more playmates in the last six days than in the last six months. I am doing pretty well, I think, given that my social skills are sorta rusty. Months of regularly interacting with only one other adult human will do that to you.

Today we made the two-hour drive over to Kalamazoo, on the west side of the state, which is where my husband and I both went to college. It's a fun, funky college town and I had forgotten how much I love it here.

I met some friends downtown for lunch and as we walked back to our cars and took in the autumn scenery, we all realized just how much time we'd spent in the bars along W. Michigan Ave.

"Maybe it's better that Piper isn't old enough to care about getting my personal tour of this town," I remarked. "Becuase 85% of it would be places I got drunk."

Ahh, college.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Win 20 Pairs of Baby Legwarmers

Baby Snazz must have people around who are as obsessed with the baby legwarmers as I am, because they're having an awesome giveaway. 20 pairs of legwarmers! An unimagninable bounty of riches, as far as I'm concerned. See their contest page for entry form, rules, & regulations.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Friday Fashion Ramblings: What I Mean by "Less"

I am a many-times-confessed Bag Addict. I like to look at Purse Blog and drool over all the fabulous bags. Perfectly innocent.

But this is what they consider "getting the look for less":

I guess some people would consider that "less," but $268 is still way outta my price range, you know? Especially when I can get this at Old Navy for $24.50:



Is it real leather? No. Does it have a designer label on it? No. But unless somebody is looking really hard at it (and I always have to wonder who does that?), all they will see is me with my sweet-looking handbag.

The truth is, I would feel MORE confident carrying around my $25 handbag than I would a $268 one. Yes, the $268 one is swanky - and the $1595 one is even more so - with lining and real leather and probably some hand-stitched something somewhere, but these very pricey handbags have very specific care instructions. They need to be conditioned and kept stuffed full of paper to retain their shape and cleaned very carefully, et cetera. I would feel so nervous carrying that thing around in my klutzy arms as I navigate my very messy life. Whereas my $25 bag can probably withstand a few knocks and bumps. I can cram it full of snacks, spare clothes, sippy cups of chocolate milk, toys, notepads, knitting projects, and all the other 10,000 things I have to carry around on a daily basis, and not worry that it will get stretched out of shape. If that sippy cup should leak, I can just empty the bag, hose it out with my kitchen-sink sprayer, and hang it up to dry.

Don't get me wrong, it would be nice to have the opportunity to spend hundreds (or thousands) on a handbag, but, for now anyway, I don't pine for anything I would ruin in two hours.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Back Yard View

Look! I'm even blogging on vacation (or is it "vacation"? Because this trying-to-cram-everyone-into-one-visit stuff is hard work, yo).

Here's the view from our back yard in mid-October:



As my friend who lives in Chattanooga puts it, "In the South, it's like Fall all Winter long." While the trees are bare up here in the Great White North, our trees in Charlotte only started coming into full, riotous color a couple weeks ago.

While there are many things I don't like about living in Charlotte, the six-months-of-Fall aspect isn't one of them.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Just to Make You Drool


Sweet-potato cupcakes, with orange cream cheese icing, topped with dried orange cranberies. I made these as a surprise for a friend's birthday. They were good.

Monday, November 09, 2009

LOUD.

This was originally written after I got back from our last visit to my parents' house. I thought I'd dust it off and actually post it, since I am in the thick of Loudsville again.

May 1, 2009:

Piper and I spent two weeks in Michigan, staying at my parents' house. It was two weeks of pretty much constant traveling and bustle, as we careened around trying to see everyone and do everything. I think I managed to hit everything on my list, squeezing in a few hours at Belle Isle on Monday. I was glad I got to go, since a trip out there with my swanky D60 was at the top of my to-do list. I LOVE it there. Practically everything is old and abandoned and crumbling and beautiful. I got a lot of shots of the abandoned zoo this time. I did not get to stop at all the spots I wanted to, since my mom and Piper were with me. It was nice to have my mom along to distract the kid, but she was ready to go after about 45 minutes. My mom, that is, not Piper. Piper was cool with it all, she would've happily played on the giant playground, splashed in puddles, and chased geese until she dropped in her tracks.

It was nice to be around people again, to have friends to hang out with and playmates for Piper. It was also nice to come back to our little house. I needed some peace and quiet because I always feel like my parents' house is so LOUD. The TV is always on and the volume is cranked up. Everyone is always talking, and instead of turning the TV down they all talk over it. And then over each other. The phone rings constantly, and since they got Caller ID a few years ago they refuse to answer the phone most of the time, they just stare at the display and ask each other "Do you know that number?" "No, do you?" "It's a telemarketer." "Well, I'm not going to answer that!" "I'm not either!" while the phone rings and rings and rings.

My mother's younger brother calls at least three times a day. Her work calls at 5:00 almost every morning, and then again at 6:00 to ask if she's really, really sure she doesn't want to come in today (she's an on-call nurse and picks her own days). The phone ringers are all cranked up to maximum volume because my mom says she can't hear it ring when she is outside gardening. Never mind they've just had six months of snow and she told me that since she had no time for gardening last summer, this year she's going to let it all go. Apparently doing absolutely nothing but watching the snow fall or the flowers grow in her back yard still requires a ringer volume of 11.

Her cell phone plays an irritating, hokey country song - also at maximum volume - whenever she gets a text message, which is about every 20 minutes since several of her siblings got cell phones this past year. She learned how to download songs and ring tones onto it, which play at ear-splitting levels whenever anyone calls. Her computer speakers are turned up to max, too, and she is constantly playing YouTube videos of my cousins' Christian band or those crazy animated "You're a great friend!" forwards with the tinny music.

Their next-door neighbor has a machine shop in his garage and mechanical noises issue from it until the wee hours. While we were there, not only was he running loud machines, he pulled up a semi truck with what appeared to be a portable Army barracks attached to it - camouflage and all - and started cleaning out his house. They recently sold it, but somehow get the keep the garage (with noisy machine shop intact).

When the phone isn't ringing, my mom is talking to one of her siblings or her mother or numerous friends, re-telling the same stories (mostly about how much she hates her job) over and over. Loudly, of course, bellowing into the receiver over the sound of the TV, the computer, the stereo, and ten people talking.

My brother comes over and puts on music and cranks the volume up; he shows my dad stuff on the computer, video clips that I can hear when I am upstairs at the opposite end of the house. My sister comes home and watches Food Network, turning the volume steadily upward to try and drown out the rest of the house. Which, of course, makes everyone get louder.

And whenever I say anything, they all act like it's my problem. In the car, my brother put a CD in and immediately turned the volume up to 35 before it even played. Piper and I were in the back seat and nearly got blasted out the window.

"Hey, can you turn that down?" I asked. "It's really loud back here."
"I can barely hear it up here," he said.
"Well, turn the fade all the way to the front, then. We're getting blasted." I showed him where the appropriate knob was, but it didn't make much difference so I asked him again to turn it down.
"I don't think there's anything wrong with it. The fade is all the way to the front now and I can barely hear it up here!"
"And I am telling you that it is too loud. It is too loud for me. It is too loud for Piper-"
"-look at her, she doesn't seem to mind. Your ears are just too sensitive. You have a problem."
"I am her parent, and I think the music is too loud to be good for her hearing."
"Loud music is awesome, I don't know what your problem is. Why are you teaching her to be an old fogey? Turn it down! Psh!"
"Listen," I said, "you claim you can't hear it up there. But you started talking louder when it came on. So at least some part of your body acknowledged that it was beyond normal conversational level. The volume control is at 35 right now, that is more than loud enough."
He made some crack about me being an "old fart" and turned the music off entirely, saying again that I had some kind of ear problem.

This exchange is pretty typical of my family. It's not me, it's you; it's not my fault; I didn't do it; you're the one with the problem, not me.

I was upstairs putting Piper to bed when and I heard the TV blaring from the living room downstairs. Upstairs and across the house, I could still hear every word of the annoying car commercial. I went downstairs and asked my mom why the TV was so loud.

"What?" She said. "It's not loud. I don't think it's loud. I mean, I didn't turn it up. It was just that way. The commercial came on and it was loud. But I didn't set the volume control. I didn't do it. I didn't make it loud. It wasn't me."
"So you couldn't, say, turn it down?" I picked up the remote and turned the volume down.
"Well, I didn't turn the TV on. It wasn't me, I didn't make it loud. I didn't know, maybe somebody wanted it that way or something. But I didn't make it loud, it's not my fault. It was the commercial that was loud."
"Yeah, but it didn't occur to you to maybe turn it down when it got loud?"
"Well, I didn't turn the TV on. It wasn't me. And anyway, I don't think it's that loud."
I sighed. "I could hear it all the way upstairs. I was trying to get Piper to sleep and it woke her up."
"Well, I don't know. It's not my fault. I didn't do it."

This is the way they all react whenever I say anything about the TV being loud. It's the commercials, they're loud, it's not my fault you can hear it from the end of the driveway. I can't do anything about it, the commercials are just so loud. Then they have discussions and complain about how loud commercials are these days. It never occurs to anyone at any point during these discussions to turn it down when a program goes to commercial.

Friday, November 06, 2009

My Favorite Things, #2: The Crazy Boots



My sister bought these for me back in August, for my birthday, and I didn't think I'd ever wear them. They seemed a little too UGG-like for my taste, and they would probably be useless against rain or snow. I couldn't figure out where they would fit in.

Fast-forward a few months, and I'm looking for something comfy to slip on with my layers of skirts and legwarmers when we're about to go out to dinner. These happened to match perfectly with the brown skirt and blue shirt I'd pulled from the "probably clean" pile at the bottom of my closet. They were fast to put on, they were comfy, my feet were not freezing like they had been in my other pull-on boots the day before. Just like that, these little boots moved up from "what the heck?" status to "how did I live without you?" ranking.

On closer inspecton, I think the buckles keep them from looking too house-slipper-y, like a lot of cloth boots I see. My husband thought I looked "cute" in all my layers of scarves and skirts and legwarmers and hoodies; I just hoped I didn't look like a bag lady.

Psst: For Thing #1, see this post.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Halloween 2009: The Least-Blurry of the Batch

It is so HARD to take non-blurry photos of little kids! I really need a speedlight flash for my camera; the built-in pop-up flash did little but blind everyone around me.



As you can see, we made a valiant effort with the hat, but it didn't last.



Anyway, the little witch trick-or-treated like a seasoned pro. One trip around our friends' neighborhood netted more than enough candy for a two-year-old which is why I have, um, rescued her from having to eat all those Kit-Kats and Milky Ways. Now someone is going to have to rescue the button on my jeans from my ever-expanding candy gut.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

NaNoBlo...whatever

Isn't this the month where people try to post on their blogs every day?

I think I am accidentally doing that. Sort of. I missed a day. But since this is entry #2 today, does that count? I can take an average at the end of the month, right?

My husband took Piper out today for some one-on-one time, since Piper and I are going to be gone for a few weeks starting Saturday. This leaves me with a blissful block of uninterrupted writing/crafting/working/cleaning time.

I am finishing up some Pay-It-Forward swap packages, hoping to have them out before I leave. If you're still waiting for yours, I'm sorry about my slowness, but I promise to make up for it. Honest. You'll see.

I am also sorting through about 4GB of pictures, cleaning the kitchen, working on a short story, scheduling blog posts, and combing through the wall of unread stuff in my RSS reader. How's that for multi-tasking?

And all of this just to avoid packing.

Procrastinating.

Last week, I decided to go to Michigan for a visit. The cheapest tickets were, weirdly enough, for a Saturday less than two weeks away. Which meant that I had about 9 days to prepare for a nearly-month-long stint away from the house.

Because I am a masochist, I clicked "buy."

And promptly spent the entire next day re-organizing my yarn and updating my Ravelry queue. I did not pack, or clean, or do laundry, or any of the other things I should've been doing. I did take care of some book-keeping stuff, but that was mostly because I was already online.

I have also decided that before I go, I will finish two of my three remaining Pay-It-Forward swap packages, do a bunch of blogging, and re-arrange my bedroom.

We leave on Saturday - this Saturday - and I haven't started packing yet. I don't even know where three-fourths of the stuff I want to take is.

Procrastination is really an art, as far as I'm concerned.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Best Halloween Ever.

On Saturday, we had the best Halloween ever. It was a pretty simple night; we carved a pumpkin, went trick-or-treating with friends and their little boy, grabbed some food on the way home, and watched Hocus Pocus until our eyelids grew too heavy to keep open.

In order to understand why this pretty normal-sounding Halloween was the most awesome Halloween we could imagine, I will tell the story of our other Halloweens.

Our pre-kid Halloweens were pretty lame afairs; we never got invited to parties, so there was never any reason to dress up. We never got trick-or-treaters at the apartments we lived in. The one time we tried to have a Halloween party of our own, hardly anybody showed up and we were left with a keg of beer and a freezer full of Jell-o shots. Halloween had been my favorite holiday when I was a kid, but once I reached grown-up status it just left me feeling uncool and unfulfilled.

Once Piper came along, we had a reason to look forward to pumpkins, candy, and all things spooky again. However, her first Halloween did not turn out so well, which really upped the ante for the following year's festivities. Not only would it be her first trick-or-treat (at 16 months, she was old enough to enjoy dressing up and carrying a plastic pumpkin, even if there was no way we were going to let her have all the candy), but we had a crappy first Halloween to make up for.

I scored a bat costume at Old Navy the weekend before Halloween for just $5, which was good, because prior to that we were sort of clueless about what to dress her up as. My mom had sent not one but two cat costumes, which Piper was intrugued by. However, they were far too large and had way too many pieces (main body suit, tail, hand pieces, foot pieces, hood) for either one to be practical. So bat it was.

I dressed her up and took some pictures outside while the light was still good. We waited until dark, nervously anticipating the first doorbell ring. We had bought candy and handed out a few pieces while wrestling the little bat back into her costume. Since it was her first trick-or-treat, we both wanted to take her. We put some candy in a pumpkin bucket on the front porch along with a little sign I had made:

We figured this would hold them for the 30 or so minutes it would take to walk Piper to a few houses up and down the street. We'd only lived in our house less than six months, so we were just going to hit the houses of neighbors who waved "hi" most often and then call it a night.

We turned on the porch light and set off down the sidewalk. We didn't even get to the edge of our yard when a group of kids came up to our door. I turned to watch them, hoping our honor-system candy dispensary would meet with trick-or-treater approval. I heard rustling and a whoop, and dread crept into my chest. More noise came from the group and the kids started to scatter. I felt my stomach drop to somewhere around shoe level. I started back across the yard toward the group of kids, feeling horror-struck and confused.

"They jacked all you candy!" yelled one girl as she hurried past. "It wasn't me, they took all you candy! They jacked it all!" The group of kids streamed past me, and one of them kicked the tiny pumpkin we'd carved for Piper. It spun like a top and wheeled out into the yard, its lid flying into the darkness beyond the porch light.

I looked at our front door area. The Halloween pictures Piper and I had colored together earlier were still taped to the door. My naive little sign was still there, too, hanging above the now-empty candy bucket. It lay on its side, forlorn in the yellow glow of the porch light. I picked it up and unlocked the front door, then put it just inside the doorway. I took down the sign and tossed it inside the house, all the while trying not to cry.

I felt dumb for being so shocked, but I couldn't help it. The very first group? Really? While we stood at the edge of the yard? I didn't understand how those kids could be so...callous. Hadn't they seen my charming sign? Didn't they care about the time it took to carve the little pumpkin they had just used as a soccer ball? Wasn't this just a fun night, not a symbol for the limitless greed of poorly-parented children?

I like to play the supreme cynic, but, as I discovered that All Hallow's Eve, it turns out that underneath it all I still assume people are basically good. And I was wrong. It was also one of those times when you get slapped hard in the face with the knowledge that the world does not think the way you do. I would have never, no matter how rabid my thirst for chocolate, have EVER taken more than one piece of candy. Even my little brother at his most candy-hungry or my all-her-teeth-are-sweet-ones sister would never have dared. We would have known that God could see us, and our mother, and our own consciences. We would have known that it was wrong, undeniably and unquestionably wrong, to take more than our share. To find so many kids who did not have those checks and balances, kids who were living in our neighborhood and would be my daughter's schoolmates one day, was more than disappointing. I felt crushed.

So I took her up one side of our street while Ryan stayed home and handed out candy. I walked with her up to the first house and giggled as she held out her little plastic pumpkin and chirruped "tweets!" We'd been working with her for a couple of weeks, and this was as close as she could get to saying "trick or treat." Our neighbor three houses down chuckled and put a tiny candy bar in her bucket. Piper peered over the rim of the bucket at it, then looked at me with big round eyes. By the third house, she was running up to the doorways and confidently saying "tweets!" all on her own. We did the west end of our street, then I traded with Ryan and he took her up the eastern side. She got enough candy to fill her little bucket halfway, and we even let her have some (after, of course, we *ahem* checked the quality on several of her mini-Butterfinger bars). The rest of the night wasn't bad, but even with all the good stuff, the sour feelings left by the candy-robbers lingered, for me at least.

This year, when a friend invited us to come to her neighborhood and trick-or-treat, I jumped at the invitation. Right then and there, I made the decision to leave our neighborhood in the dust as far as Halloween was concerned. Our feelings about living here have grown steadily more bitter over the past year, for several reasons (like, oh, I don't know, our neighbor's stupid dog killing our beloved cat, for starters) and I just wanted to go somewhere else for the night.



And you know what? It was fantastic. Our friends' little boy is only 13 months old, so he spent a lot of time tugging at his costume and staring saucer-eyed at the parade of costumed kids as we wheeled him around in his little red wagon. Piper had a great time, alternately riding with him, walking up to the houses, and being carried around. We hung out with our friends for a little while after the kids had had enough, and then we picked up some food on the way home and watched my favorite Halloween movie. It was pretty much exactly the Halloween I envisioned.

I hope yours was as good as ours. Welcome to November!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Friday Fashion Ramblings: What Other Me Would Wear

It was so fun to play pretend-dress-up last week, I thought I'd do it again.

I like to think of this ruffly navy number as something Other Me would wear. With a great big white handbag and a really simple necklace.

Other Me is someone I invented last weekend, while I was shopping with a friend in a store that catered to six-foot women who don't mind showing a bit of...well, everything. All the clothes were ones that would look good on a really slutty supermodel. They were dirt-cheap (both in price and in quality) and not really my style. For some reason, I fell in love with a pair of really inappropriate-for-me shoes (let's put it this way: they would've been totally at home on a dominatrix, whereas I trip over my own feet even in sneakers) and my friend looked at me like I was nuts.

"They're not for me," I said. "They're for Other Me. You know, the me that isn't married and isn't chasing a two-year-old around," I panted as I dashed around the store trying to prevent Piper from leaving with merchandise or knocking anything over. "The me that's a famous writer or fashion-magazine editor and lives in the imaginary New York City of the movies, where everybody wanders around dressed in $500 shoes and you can always afford a cab if you don't feel like walking."

Her eyes lit up. "Aaaaahhh," she said. "I gotcha."

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Moral Fiber

So, the second part of Cookie Girl's visit involves more moral dilemmas (and moral failings) on my part: After we established that we would not be ordering cookies without more information, it was getting late. It was past dinner time; the meal I had been working on when she rang the doorbell was cooling in its pans on the stove. I now faced another problem: either invite her to dinner, or find a way to shoo her out the door. I told her it was 7:00, and asked her when her mother told her to be home.

"Oh, she didn't give me a time," came the sunny, cheery answer. "She never tells me when I have to be back. She never tells me when to come home."

She could have been fibbing, of course, but since she had previously spent almost seven hours at our house and nobody came looking for her, I doubted it. I didn't think this kid had much in the way of adult supervision. I wanted to be a good person, but I didn't exactly want to invite her to dinner. I tried to tell myself it was because we didn't have enough to go around or she might have food allergies, but really it was because I wasn't sure if I could handle this kid. She's not my kid, so I couldn't exactly put her in the corner if she refused to eat her nutritious meal and asked for more candy, you know? It already makes me mad when my own kid won't eat what I cook and demands other things; how would I handle it if someone else's child did it to me? She'd already gotten a Popsicle and a handful of the mints she saw in a kitchen drawer and then pretended not to know about but specifically asked for. I didn't think she'd be the kind to eat all her vegetables without a fight, and something told me they weren't big on quiet family dinners at her house.

It was also, I am somewhat ashamed to admit, because I didn't want to encourage her.

When I was growing up, my family were always the ones who had extra kids around. My parents fed everybody who showed up at our door, no matter how little we had. We never worried about bringing extra people home or inviting them to dinner. Our friends with less-than-stellar home lives always had a haven at our house; day or night, if someone needed a place to go, they could come to us. My parents treated everybody like their own kids, be it hugs or curfews that needed handing out. And I really do believe that they helped a lot of the kids who hung around. Some of those kids, now grown (and some with kids of their own!) will tell you that for themselves.

I always thought that I possessed this generosity of body and spirit. I thought that I had taken to heart their lessons about helping people because it is the right thing to do. But standing in my kitchen, setting the burners to low in an attempt to re-heat the dinner I'd spent 45 minutes cooking earlier, I knew I had not. Because I didn't want this kid. I didn't want to feed her, and have her show up at my door every other day expecting to be fed, the way she now zooms in and asks for treats because of the one time I gave her banana bread and Capri-Sun. I wanted to pretend that we could be a kind presence in her life, stepping in for her mostly-absentee parents, providing a different perspective and a little direction. I knew the reality would simply involve her showing up at our door randomly asking for cake and Kool-Aid, dragging out all Piper's toys, and forgetting to say thank-you.

And I couldn't do it.

I couldn't invite this kid to dinner, couldn't watch her pass up the healthy foods that I work so hard to make and even harder to get Piper to eat. I couldn't invite her in to occupy my daughter's made-for-tiny-kids furniture and possibly break it in the process; I couldn't watch her boss my kid around and eye Piper's toys with envy. I was not at all the good person I wanted to be, ready and willing to feed and entertain some stranger's child just because my daughter didn't mind (and maybe even liked) playing with her.

I gave them a 30-minute time limit and let them keep playing. It was 7:45 when I finally got the little girl convinced that Piper needed to eat dinner and go to bed. I wondered again where this girls parents were, that she could be in someone else's home at nearly 8:00 on a school night and nobody would come looking for her, or apparently even expect her to be home.

I re-warmed the dinner, and we ate quietly. I felt a pang of guilt with every bite I took, knowing I should've invited her to to stay. I guess I'm pretty far from the good person I want to be, because despite the guilt, a teeny tiny part of me was glad I wouldn't have to share my bacon.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Monday, October 26, 2009

Guilt-Chip Cookies

There's a little girl in our neighborhood who loves Piper. This is great, except this girl is six years old and seems to think of Piper as an overgrown baby doll. She tries to pick her up and haul her around, and while Piper is remarkably tolerant of her attentions, it makes me uneasy to have her staggering around carrying my kid, dangerously close to dropping her on the massive anthills and upthrust tree roots that populate the dirt around here.

This little girl also likes to hang out and play with Piper...which is again, great, except that this means she takes Piper's toys right out of her hands and breaks them and bosses Piper around. She pesters us to bring more and more toys out into the yard. She climbs, sits, and swings on Piper's built-for-kids-under-3-years-old-or-less-than-45-lbs swing set. I wince and try to gently tell her that it's built for little kids, as the plastic swing sags and its support beams start to buckle. The little girl sometimes complies, but a lot of the time, she tells me "No, it's okay, see?" and swings harder, her butt in the swing hovering three inches off the ground. The whole swing set rocks and tips and thumps with every movement.

She is constantly asking for food, candy, or any other consumables she thinks I may have around. I gave out juice boxes and banana bread one day for helping us in the yard when she, her sister, and some other neighborhood kids helped us bury Chick and ever since then she asks for more every time she comes over. It's not a casual request, either; she peers around the back door and scans the kitchen counters for signs of recent baking. If I tell her no, I don't have any today, she asks "Well, do you have something else?" She asks for a drink and I give her water. She looks disdainfully at the plastic cup and says "Don't you have any juice?" If I tell her not today, she will try to look into the refrigerator to prove me wrong.

This little girl came over one day last week selling cookies. Cookie dough, to be more specific, one of those godawful fundraiser things that have kids hawking crap nobody needs to make pennies per item for their school. I wanted to help her out; I really did. But she came to our door first asking if Piper could come out and play, and then absently asked us if we wanted to buy some cookies. We said we'd take a look and she invited herself inside. Piper was finishing up a Popsicle, and the little neighborhood girl asked for one (and when she'd finished it, another). We gave her a Popsicle and while we looked over her sales materials, she started playing with Piper.

She had handed us a three-page brochure and order form for frozen cookie dough which cost $14 or $16 per box. That is a lot of cash for us to be dropping on cookies sold by six-year-olds, and I started to get a sinking feeling. Closer inspection revealed that the envelope into which we were supposed to place our form of payment had no information on it. There were merely blank lines where her school, classroom, and teacher's name should've been written. In fact, all the lines on everything were blank, except for the first line of the order form where someone had half-filled in an order and then crossed it out. The only other sheet she had handed us was a glossy one-page flyer showing all the really! great! prizes! a kid could get if they sold enough cookie dough to feed Western Europe for a year.

We asked her what school she went to, and she told us the name, which was unsurprisingly the school right up the road. When quizzed about her teacher's name, she mumbled something and went back to playing. We asked her when we'd get the cookie dough - there was absolutely nothing on any of the materials about when this "gourmet" cookie dough would arrive - and she said we had to pick it up. We asked her when and where and she said "I think at the school sometime...I don't really know." She couldn't tell us anything else about the cookie sale.

I had been mentally berating the person who had started an order and then crossed out their name, but suddenly I understood their position very well. I did not particularly want to turn this girl loose with a check or cash which may or may not make it to the teacher, for some cookies which may or may not ever arrive, which we might have to possibly go pick up "sometime" from some part of her school.

Eventually we told her to have her teacher fill out the envelope with the correct info or give her an information sheet so we'd know what to do, then bring it to us and we would order cookies. By now I had spent 45 minutes agonizing over this terrible moral dilemma and feeling like an ass for not buying any cookies. The little girl, who didn't seem to care if we bought 50 cases of cookies or none at all, had spent the time nosing around our house, playing with Piper, and rifling through our kitchen drawers looking for candy.

She got a handful of starlight mints, and I ended the day feeling as though I needed to go to confession for not buying some overpriced cookie dough.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Friday Fashion Ramblings: Forever 21 Dresses

Kathleen at The Tumtum Tree made a rather alarming (or is it amazing?) discovery recently. And oh, Dude, it's even on sale! This prompted me to go poking around on Forever 21's website, because I always forget that I like to shop there. Er, rather, I like to shop there for some things, since not a lot of their clothes are built to accommodate my extremely generous bustline.

I guess that is part of the appeal of online window-shopping; I can sit here at home in my jammies and browse page after page of lovely frocks without going into the store and actually having to face the fact that there is no way I could ever, ever squeeze my, um, ladies into one. But from here, I can pretend all I want (for free).

Take this dress for example. I luuuuurrrrve it. It's so 1920's to me, I would need to curl my hair just to wear it. I would have to get a perfect cloche hat, or a sparkly headband with a feather, and a long bunch of pearls and some gorgeous button-strap mary janes. Then I would walk around pretending to be Marion Davies, partying it up with Charlie Chaplin and WRH on board that yacht with poor doomed Tom Ince. I would have to watch The Cat's Meow for inspiration. And probably Citizen Kane, too.


Look at this dress. It's in that azure/aquamarine blue that I find myself crazy for right now (two knitting projects and counting in that color) and would not go amiss with my Cat's Meow look described above. Or I could put on a choker with a big white flower, don a pair of strappy metallic sandals (like, oh, I don't know, maybe these), and pretend to be Carrie Bradshaw for the day. I could do it in this dress, too.

This dress is simple yet dramatic and it sort of reminds me of Jennifer Garner's style in 13 Going on 30 (I love that movie). I think it would be a really adaptable piece...even if it does look a little like lingerie from Frederick's of Hollywood.

I am not, however, so sure about this thing. Or this one. Or this dress either. They all look like bad 1980's couches, the sort of upholstery you see on the neglected furniture occupying college-house front porches.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Little Boxes (Of Vegetables)


Three weeks ago, we picked up our last produce box of the season. They're still doing the boxes for a little while longer, just not at our usual pickup spot. The logistics of getting all the way downtown (sorry, I mean Uptown) once a week have recently gotten quite complex, and as much as we love the boxes, we have not been able to figure out how to get to the other drop point at the appointed time.

This means that for the first time in several months, I have to go to the grocery store. It's not that I didn't go before; we needed bread and milk every week or so. But this? This roaming the aisles, half-assed list in hand, struggling to figure out what I'm supposed to be buying in order to keep us from eating our shoes some time during the week? It's HORRIBLE.

I had gotten used to starting with ingredients first - looking at our weekly box and going "Okay, I have 6 ears of corn, 2 butternut squash, 4 tomatoes..." and figuring out what to make of them. Now I have to start with an idea or (worse yet) a recipe, tracking down ingredients and trying to use the stuff I bought before it goes bad. Which, since it's no longer the super-fresh local things we had been getting, means I have about ten minutes before it starts to grow fur and bite my hand when I reach into the produce drawer of our fridge.

I find the produce department at the grocery store sort of revolting now - all those piles of over-waxed apples, irradiated avocados, sickly, pale tomatoes, strawberries the size of ping-pong balls (with about as much flavor). All that stuff which seemed tolerable before but is utterly disgusting now that I've had the real thing. All that stuff that has traveled so far to get to us, sprayed with God-knows-what to keep the bugs out, all picked far too green yet it still spoils a day or two after I get it home. It's one thing to be making do with tasteless, grainy trucked-in produce; it's even more irritating to have it rot practically on the drive home.

Monday, October 19, 2009

That's My Girl

Piper dragged a huge bucket across the living room.

"I'm going to drink my pumpkin latte," she announced as she picked it up and carted into her room. "I be right back."

She wandered out a minute later, pretending to drink out of the bucket and smacking her lips. "Aaaah," she said. "That's good latte."

You betcha, kiddo.