Friday, February 29, 2008

Diaper Duty

I was looking on the website today and I saw something that struck me funny. It was a description for a diaper-changing table. It reads, "Designed with mother's in mind, our changing table offers ..." Setting aside the fact the grammatical error on the word "mother" for a moment, WTF? I'm fairly certain this is 2008, and by golly, men DO change diapers. Not that I'm really surprised—everything is still pretty mommy-centric these days. Now that I have a wee one, I guess I have become extra-sensitive to the way things are so geared towards moms, and not just the un-fun aspects like diaper changing. It just starts to irk a person when the world is so mommy-slanted. What about the daddies?

Like last weekend when we found ourselves at a restaurant with no changing table in the men's room (food wasn't that good, either). So guess who is obligated to change the “dipee”? Me. Not that I mind, but it’s the principle of the thing. And what about when I’m not there? How’s a guy to change the dipee then?

As a stay-at-home dad, Mr. Pumpkin finds himself literally up sh#t creek without a changing table quite frequently. He often enlightens me on who has the best family restrooms and changing areas in the places he and baby frequent. For instance, Har Mar Mall has a family restroom, but it’s inside the women’s restroom. Fantastic idea.

On the other hand, Target downtown has a very clean family restroom that works perfectly when it isn’t inhabited by a homeless person. A couple of times we’ve taken Baby Pumpkin out to a bar and there’s no changing table in either restroom, but that’s because people aren’t supposed to take their babies to bars, I presume. I guess we’re different.

Anyway, I came across a brilliant idea while I was perusing one of my new must-read-often blogs, Tapir’s Poop, written by a local stay-at-home dad. It was the website has a list of NYC men’s rooms with changing tables in them, complete with Google Maps functionality! I also found an article in the NY Times about his web site that I thought was pretty dead-on.

It got me thinking. Do we need to do this for the Twin Cities? I think it so! Then we should invent a diaper-changing table that is antimicrobial, has hand sanitizer built-in and has a place to hang the diaper bag, and we can sell it to all the chumps who don’t have a changing table in their men’s rooms. Problem solved!

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Butter Pecan Me, ASAP

I went on a bit of a baking frenzy tonight. I made two things, both of the butter pecan variety. Why, you ask? Well, it's my dad and sister's birthdays (technically it was last weekend), and I wanted to make something other than the usual birthday cake.

First, I whipped up these truly phenomenal pecan shortbread cookies from Gourmet magazine. Can I just say how much I love Gourmet magazine? I'm not really that good of a cook, so I rely on Gourmet to put together awesome menus and have a great variety of stuff in each issue. And they even have a section of stuff that takes under 15 minutes! But, I digress.

I also made a batch of butter pecan ice cream out of my new Ben & Jerry's cookbook. I just pulled it out of the canister and it tastes like frozen whipped cream. I guess that's because that's sort of what it is. It is so freakin good I can't believe I didn't sit down with my spoonula and eat the whole thing myself.

Back to Gourmet. I am also making this month's vegetarian cassoulet for the birthday dinner. No one is a vegetarian and I've got some picky eaters of the under 6 variety, so we'll see if it goes over. Hopefully we don't have to order pizza. I guess we can always just eat ice cream and cookies and be done with it. That's all I need, really.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Baby Shower Madness!

Saturday I went to a baby shower, and now I'm planning one! My friend Jen is due in June, so I'm hosting a shower for her in April. I put together her invitations tonight, and I think they look darn cute. So cute that I also listed a set in my Etsy shop.

I want to plan a good craft project for the shower. I know everyone does onesies, and I'm not opposed, but I've been researching other ideas just to see what the options are. We also talked about a time capsule. I think the idea is to do something other than play games (especially the ones like candy bar/diaper-sniffing, which are gag-inducing to some). Anyone have any fabulous crafty shower ideas? I'm also hunting for great prizes for the guests and any other ideas you've got. I think this is my first baby shower hosting experience, so I'm in need of help!

Here are some neat things I saw when researching baby showers on Flickr!

Baby Block Cake
Dish Towel Apron Favors
Baby With Pacifier Cupcakes

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Gettin' Busy Making Bibs

My good friend Kristen is expecting in March, and so I made her some bibs for the wee one. I knit up this bib in a really sweet baby blue and then in red, using a basketweave pattern. I would have liked to make this one with the sailboat, but I just don't know how to do the multicolor thing unless it's stripes. Here's another cute one for a girl, but she's having a boy so that was out. This one is cute, too, but much too patriotic (it's an American flag bib). If you want to sew one, here's a great printable pattern. This is another great sewn bib, with a little "catcher" for all the dropped stuff.

My little Pumpkin has just started his foray into solid foods, and I am having fun thinking up things to feed him. So far he has eaten squash, sweet potato, apple, rice cereal and banana. And thank goodness for bibs, because it gets everywhere. Especially on his pants. He likes to open his mouth up really wide, and when I come in for a landing with the little spoon, he clamps his mouth down and brings both hands in so he can shovel in the contents using his fingers. It's pretty hilarious. Then, for added effect, he sometimes blows bubbles with the food in his mouth. When he gets tired of waiting for me to refill the spoon, he starts to eat the high chair, leaving a lovely smudge of gunk all over it. Precious.

Next week, I'm unveiling a project I completed as a birthday gift, but haven't yet given away. I'm so hopeful that it fits; it's a first-time project for me. Yipes! Wish me luck!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

New Fabric Shelf!

(photo by zanzara on etsy)
It's been a challenge coming up with innovative ways to organize my craft room. I want to be sensible about how much I spend, I want to buy stuff that's recycled or repurposed or handmade, and I want to make as much of it myself as I can. Enter the cool, modular shelf I *just* bought on etsy from zanzara to put my fabric on. Right now it's stuffed in an Ikea drawer dealie and it really is not easy to look through or see what I have at a glance. I'm looking forward to having it all on display with my new shelves. Yippee! Can't wait till it arrives!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

I Made Some Thingamajigs! For Thread Organization!

Well, to be perfectly honest, my husband made most of it. I just came up with the concept and did the painting. But here's what you need to make your own:

--1 box of big nails with small heads (I'm sure there's a technical term, but I don't know it)
--1 one-by-one inch board, about 36 inches in length
--some paint and a paint brush
--screws to attach it to the wall

From there, I'm sure you can figure it out. After I painted the boards, we nailed in about 18 nails per board, and angled them upwards slightly. Then, we screwed it into the wall, and done! Unfortunately, as with my ribbon organization project, I underestimated how much I had. I guess I'll need to make a few more of these for the rest of it!

If you're more inclined to buy a thread organizer, I've seen some of these around or on ebay, or if you're really lucky you'll find one like this shaped like a sewing machine. I saw a slight variation of what I came up with on Monica Andrade's blog here.

We finally got our carpeting installed, so I'll be slowly re-establishing the craft room. It already feels so spacious without the guest bed. I can't hardly wait to fill it with stuff!

Monday, February 18, 2008

Baking Bread for Dummies

I like to bake bread, but I don't do it that often. When I was a kid, my mom would buy the frozen loaves and rise them and bake them herself. I just can't get that awesome smell out of my head, so I like to bake my own, too. I tried the bread machine, but it just doesn't quite cut it for me. So this weekend I tried out the awesome No Knead recipe I saw on Tastespotting. The bread was great, and tonight it made awesome sandwiches with chicken breast, fennel, muenster and spinach. Of course, also with some yummy mustard. Delish!

Friday, February 15, 2008

Air Your Grievance Properly!

After seeing this post over on How About Orange's blog, I had to rush out and try it! I sent a Statement of Romantic Intent to my hubby! It was so fun. I know he'll want to use the one for Airing of Grievance. So many great ways to waste time on the Bureau of Communication site. In fact, I'm trying to figure out a way to work that into my position here at work as a Communications Consultant. Hmmm, the possibilities!

In other literary news, check out Language Lessons, a new blog created by a friend of mine who is learning French. The idea is to write a haiku, translate it into a foreign language (I've been using Spanish), and then translate it back into English and see what comes of it. If you want to participate, you can send her your haiku by email and she'll post it.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Fashion Victim Seeks Muse

There was a brief moment in time when I thought I was particularly fashionable, and I think that my hormone-induced hallucination ended sometime around my senior year in high school. Of course, perception is everything. I, most likely, was not all that fashionable at that time, either. Now, I have arrived at what I think might be the low point of my coolness or classiness: the point when you are so un-concerned with your looks that fashion becomes a burden and a seemingly annoying expense.

When I was very little, somewhere between seven and nine years old, I remember an emerging sense that what I wore mattered. In fact, I can pinpoint an exact moment when color and style occurred to me as something to consider when getting dressed. It happened at our family cabin, when my friend Jill and I were getting dressed in the morning. I was putting my hair in a ponytail, and I think I asked her opinion on how it looked. Her comment was that my hair band did not match my outfit. Match my outfit? Wha? Huh? That thought had truly never crossed my young mind. I think I was forever changed. Never again would I just slap on a hair pony without thinking.

At that time of my life, my sister was a teenager. Strangely, although I know she had typical teen-fashion freak-outs (her shiny red Wisconsin jacket, her white laceless Keds sneakers, her Molly Ringwald sweaters), it didn’t affect me. I remember more clearly what my mom wore (things that didn’t match, no makeup, anything handed down from anywhere, often things that had way passed their prime). And it’s likely my mom’s sensibilities about fashion have informed my own. I think that what I wear should be comfortable. Ironing is a pain. Makeup is expensive and takes too much time to put on. Heels are painful to wear. Not to say that my mother looked bad, she just didn’t really give a damn. I have to respect her for that.

Into my own teen years, I had very clear ideas about fashion. Early on, I remember my friend Sonya creating a "How We Look Book" and we dreamed about being fashion designers. I have vivid memories of getting dressed in my powder-blue pre-teen bedroom, which I was slowly converting to my "goth den" complete with subway-sized Robert Smith poster. I would open my copy of Sassy magazine on the bed and carefully pull items out of my closet to emulate what I saw on the page.

There was the era when I had my hair in corn rows. There were years of baggy "raver" pants. I cut my hair like Winona Ryder and dyed it a stream of colors. Sonya dyed hers with Kool-Aid. I shaved my hair except for a tail. I wore fishnets. I had cut off overalls just like a farmer. We all wore flight jackets. We all wore those Chinese slipper Mary Jane shoes, and Doc Martens. They were fun times. I loved thinking about fashion, fooling around with it, and sometimes being noticed for it, in good and bad ways.

Right now, I find it frustrating to go shopping. For the most part, I get dressed and go to work. Business casual. What does that mean, anyway? Jeans are out. Sweatshirts are out. I’m pretty sure pajamas are out. So what’s a girl to wear? Especially during these long winter months when sometimes it’s below zero when I walk to the bus, or there’s a half foot of snow to be tromped through?

I often wish that I could type in my measurements to a computer program, and add a few things about styles and colors I like, and a wardrobe would arrive at my house. There would be nice, black pants that don’t need to be dry-cleaned. I wouldn’t have to have them hemmed up. Maybe a few sweaters, not too hot, not too itchy, not to turtlenecky. Shoes…what kind of shoes would arrive? I love my Dansko's, my Birkenstock boots, but when I see the other "fashionable" adults walking around downtown where I work, they all have these cute pointy heels. Nothing would ever need ironing, and my husband couldn’t possibly shrink any of it by putting it through the dryer on high. The stuff would last forever, never fade, wrinkle, shrink, rip or stain. Does anyone know if such a service exists? Please tell me it does, and it only costs $10.

I guess what I’m saying is that I just lost the magic somewhere along the way. I lost the time and energy to care. Money, too, has become different to me, now that there are home repairs and craft supplies, gifts, and baby stuff to pay for. Call me stingy, and you’d probably be right. But more often I feel like I’m blowing wads of cash on stuff. Is there a way I can stack myself up against other women, to see how I’m doing with my fashion budget?

So I guess this is my call to the world and myself. Help. Me. How can I get back on track? What are the recovering fashion slob steps? Are there ways to merge a work wardrobe with a casual, sittin’ around with a six-month-old wardrobe? How is it done? How is it paid for? What does it look like?

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Man Pants

Yesterday was Baby Pumpkin's six month checkup at the doctor. He got weighed in the little "tub scale"(wherein pee pee was made in abundance) and measured and poked. As we suspected he's perfectly healthy minus a little excema; he's long and tall like his daddy (27th percentile for weight, but 68th for height).

Before his appointment, I worked from home. I had a conference call that I needed to listen to (not really participate in), and so I went upstairs and took the call while sewing him these cute little pants. Whereas at work when I listen to these things I'm "multitaskting" by reading email, sewing and listening proved to be much more productive. It was almost like having the radio on. I totally tuned in to both things. Awesome! I should work from home all the time!

I did use a pattern to make these, but if I make pants again I'm going it alone. The knee pad placement is obviously too high up (which you can't see from this picture), and the length was all wrong. I also feel like (my fault, not the patterns') these look a little girly. I think it's the trim I picked. Anyway, it's good enough. And a matching jacket is on the way. Likey?

Friday, February 08, 2008

A Life Without Chocolate Is Not One Worth Living

There are few things I find more delicious than good quality chocolate. It's great after dinner with a cup of Joe (or latte, or cappuccino), I love it as a cake, I love it in brownie form, pretty much any way you slice it, I like it. I'm not as much of a chocaholic as my husband; it's because of him that I almost exclusively bake chocolate treats. One thing I have yet to find is a great chocolate cookbook. Any suggestions?

For Christmas, my sister enrolled me in a "Make and Take" truffles class at Cooks of Crocus Hill. I've always wanted to take a class there, but I'm also a tightwad, so shelling out $60 (or more) for one night of "entertainment" seemed a bit spendy to me. But, I got my chance to check it out last night.

Let me start by saying that I completely screwed up by not paying attention when I wrote down the class start time in my planner, and then by getting lost on the way to the class. Long story short I was 40 minutes late and missed most of the demonstration. Nevertheless, I caught the demo on how to make caramel, and that was informative. Also, I got a tip out of my fellow classmates that I also must have missed: when you melt chocolate in a double boiler, first let the water boil, then put your bowl with the chocolate on top of the pan, and then TURN OFF THE HEAT! Otherwise, you risk burning the chocolate. Not good. OH! And, the reason why you don't "ever" melt chocolate chips for uses in things like truffles is that they are specially formulated to not melt, for things like chocolate chip cookies where they need to be semi-intact when baked. Who knew? I thought that rule only applied to food snobs, not average pumpkins like me.

Our instructor was Robin Asbell, former head chef in the deli at one of our local co-ops. After we watched her demos, we broke into groups and tackled some of her recipes. I was on the "Peanut Butter White Chocolate Truffles" team. I felt a little weird at first, since I was the only person there without a "buddy" of some sort, but I just embraced my nerdiness and broke out my camera. Nothing says "outsider" like a single girl at cooking class shoving a camera in everyone's truffles.

After the class was over, and all the truffles were nestled into the fridge to cool, Robin talked to the group about the wonderful local resources for chocolate, and some of really yummy and unique things being done with it, like bacon chocolate bars by Voges Chocolate out of Chicago. I've had the pleasure of eating their Red Fire Bar and I can definitely attest that it is some fantastic stuff — super spicy, so dark, delicious! Locally, she gave shout outs to BT McElrath, Legacy Chocolates, Chocolate Celeste, and also a local candy making supply store called Sweet Celebrations. Now, my real homework of visiting all these places begins!

Thanks, sis. Wish you coulda come with!

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

An Answer for That Mess O' Ribbon

I have found that ribbon that is still on its spool is much easier to organize. In fact, on Flickr I found tworabbits' idea very compelling -- just grab a garden stake and some wire and voila! Or, you can really just plop them into an old drawer, like aka creativity. If you want to put a bit more effort into it, Original Youth will show you how to make some that sit on your shelf or table. But what do you do about that big ball of ribbon, all twisted and tangled up (like mine was, crammed into a plastic bag in my sewing kit)? Here are some ideas:

Ribbon Jars (I got mine at Ikea, but the thrift store might have some)
Rolled Up and In a Box
In Little Drawers by Color
In Plastic Containers

I thought two jars would be enough for my ribbon stash, but I grossly underestimated. I'll have to go back for more eventually, but I find Ikea so claustrophobic that it's going to take me a while to work up that energy again. Phew.

My hubby and I built a thread organizer, but since the carpet installers are taking For.Ev.Er to deliver the blasted stuff, I'm not ready to do a show and tell. It's funny, I tried lamely to buy a thread organizer on eBay, but when my one bid got outdone by someone else, I thought, hey -- it's a lot less work just to build the darn thing myself. And that's what I did.

Anyone have any good yarn organization ideas? That's next!

Baby Slippers

Our little guy really needed some slippers, so I whipped up Stardust Shoes' adorable cloth shoe pattern. It's so easy! I made a couple of modifications -- I didn't use interfacing because I didn't think it would matter. For a six-month-old, they don't have to be too sturdy or too warm. I used a soft flannel for the sole and tried using very small seam allowances, which worked very well. You can put this together in about an hour, less if you don't have interruptions while you try to watch The Office. I decided not to sew on a button because our guy already can get his foot in his mouth and, well, I just don't need to worry about him choking! I already worry I'm going to drop him, or he'll roll off the bed, or whatever. So, no buttons. Embroidery would be cute, though. Maybe my next pair.

In other news, it's Heart Health Month, so time to remind yourself to exercise and eat healthy. According to the American Heart Association, cardiovascular diseases and stroke are the #1 causes of death in Minnesota. Nationally, heart diseases, stroke etc. are the #1 killer of women. I remember back in the day going to Jump Rope for Heart at my elementary school and loving it. Do they still do that, or is it all walk-a-thons now? Might I suggest a trampoline-a-thon? Now that sounds really fun.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Monticello Trumpeter Swans

A cygnet landing.

Sheila feeding the birds

The grayish ones are this year's babies -- the cygnets.

When these birds land, all the other birds duck. Really!

Did you see the movie March of the Penguins? Do you remember them talking about the smell of all those thousands of birds, and the sound? I really couldn't grasp what that would be like at the time. I imagined my trips to the zoo. Or the smell of a litter box that hasn't been cleaned. Or the sounds of a flock of geese flying over. That is, until I went to see the Monticello Trumpeter Swans. The minute I stepped out of the car I could hear and smell them. It was overwhelming!

This weekend we went to Monticello, Minnesota to see the Trumpeter Swans that flock there every winter. Resident Sheila Lawrence has been feeding them since the '80s (when there were only a few birds), and so they return to feast, fight, fly, and honk. According to Sheila, the swans have been visiting that part of the Mississippi since the '60s, when a power plant opened, flooding that part of the river with warm water which prevented it from icing over. Nowdays, there are over 1200 swans that visit ever year! It's pretty amazing given that they were thought to be extinct in the early 1900s.

Monticello is only about 40 minutes from us. I'm glad we took the trip. There were about 15 people there also taking pictures and watching. Some of them come every day, many several days a week. One told us that is costs about $150 a day to feed all the birds. She has quite the setup for feeding, too. It's a huge pipeline running from a grain truck in her driveway down to the river. Lots of geese and ducks have of course heard the news and come running, and we even saw some sort of farm duck and a bald eagle! It was really pretty fascinating to watch.

If you go, dress warm and take a telephoto lens for pictures (or video camera or binoculars). You can buy coffee, cider and tea there as a means to fund the bird food.