Friday, November 30, 2012

Sounds of the season

You know "Mele Kalikimaka," right? Hawaii's way to say Merry Christmas to you? I had a brilliant idea for a playlist of perky tropical songs centered around that one. So I made my playlist, only to discover that I didn't actually own any versions of "Mele Kalikimaka," not one. Drat!


When I put on Bing Crosby's "Silver Bells":

"Mommy, is that Santa Claus singing?!" Meg

A girl of many hats

Meg, like many small girls before her, has a way with hats. Some of them are actually hats, some are other useful household objects pressed into service, and all of them get a name. For instance, we have a "pumpkin hat" and "mouse hat," which anyone could have.

We also have the "worry hat," a red plastic mixing bowl, the "problem hat," a green polar fleece hat with matching gloves, and finally the "school bus hat," which is a blue measuring scoop from a tub of oxy-clean. Elsa Schiaparelli would be proud.

You should definitely come play dress-up with us.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Why I haven't been blogging

Thanksgiving is over and we're ready for Christmas decorations! I started trying to decorate Sunday night, but there was too much chaos. So I started organizing.

I organized closets Sunday night. The pile of give-aways took up residence by the front door and started spilling all throughout the living room.

Monday I tidied all afternoon, to no apparent effect. My room is actually much cleaner, but you couldn't really tell, which was depressing.

Tuesday I cleaned all afternoon and evening, also to not much effect. I cleaned Meg's room, scrubbed the bathroom (and lit a candle!), did laundry, and around eleven p.m. got the kitchen mostly clean, except for some residual dishes for the next round in the washer. It was pretty good, except Jonathan was under the weather and no matter where I went, someone was sure to come behind me and make messes. Herds of plastic animals sprouted up on chairs, magically. But I was making headway. Barely.

So this was the score as of Tuesday night: I'd cleaned my room, Meg's room, the bathroom, and the kitchen. That left the hall and the living room. In a five-room apartment, you'd THINK with four of the rooms clean, it would seem clean overall. But no. The house was still winning, just on the strength of that one living room alone, and furthermore it was trying to intimidate me. Bad house. Meanwhile, every day Meg anxiously asked if we could decorate, and every day I had to tell her no, we had to clean more. So I felt like a boring mother, as well as a losing housekeeper. Grr.

But. Today was the day. We finally got rid of that pile-o-junk and vacuumed the living room. Woohoo!  Meg was quite helpful about putting toys back in her room, and even threw away all the acorns that were getting stomped into the rug, which you can now see again and walk on barefoot. Life is good. Mommy, can we decorate?

Oh happy day, we got out the Christmas tree! This is the smallish one, about six feet tall but slimmer than average, that we got the first year we were married, and it's started to shed branches a little bit. I'll be sad when it goes, because it's just right for our smallish house. But, er, in the heat of battle I'd been putting off the question of where to set up this smallish tree. I can't for the life of me remember what we did with it last year, and in any case it probably wouldn't fit there again because now we have a computer and filing cabinets. I discussed it with Emily, and came to the decision that with two computers in the living room, we don't really need the TV in there. So I reorganized the house again, dismantled the TV shelf and put its contents on other shelves, where they don't fit, put the TV in my room where I'd never intended to have a TV, squeezed the empty shelf awkwardly into Meg's room where she promptly started lining up plastic animals, and set up the tree in the living room, all green and cheerful and shedding slightly.

But we're decorating. And we had a friend over this evening, who stomped us soundly at Scrabble. So there.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Red skirt

I did some sewing again last week. This jazzy little piece is part of my never-ending quest to come up with a skirt pattern or method that will really, truly, actually, reliably fit me properly. I do like this skirt, but I'm not sure it's the Ultimate Pattern I wanted.

I got the materials at Joann's. The red lace came from their special occasion line and the beige underlining was a lightweight crinkle poly blend of some kind. The color was "Camel." I also got the zipper there.

I cut the front essentially like a rectangle with the sides tapered in for the waist. The back pieces were like the front, except with extra seam allowance in the middle back to put in the zipper. I inserted the zipper into just the underlining and hand-tacked the lace down around it, but I'm not quite satisfied, so I may rip that part out and redo it. I hemstitched the lining. The side seams of the lace layer are French seams, which I'd been itching to try out and really like. Then I finished the waist with a narrow strip of the beige, and that was that.

This skirt was an inspiration from a magazine. The model was wearing a lace skirt with a great big chunky sweater like the one I got in Scotland, and I thought, "That looks warm for church! I could do that!" I plan to wear it with tights and boots. It's also pretty awesome with a denim jacket instead of the sweater.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

To shop or not to shop?

I think - I think - that I may have arranged not to have forgotten anything this trip, so that we don't absolutely have to go to Target on Black Friday. This has not historically been the case. There was that one year when I was expecting, we left the suitcase in Richmond, our pet mouse died on the way up and we had to bury it in the yard, and someone backed into our car. We had to go out and buy clothes that Friday. I think we avoided that this time.

Just as well, since the stores are advertising hysterically. I like shopping, but I'm just ornery enough to want it to be my idea.

So, loyal readers: what are your plans? Are the sales worth it to you? Have you already got ideas for Christmas presents, or do you shop for inspiration?

I'm thankful

Jonathan and Meg and I came up to spend the holiday with his family. Thanksgiving came off really well here - everyone was thankful, the food was amazing, Meg put together puzzles all day long, and I made the pies. We actually had sweet potatoes three ways (!?). There was a pan of mashed sweet potatoes, half with marshmallow topping, half with Ree Drummond's crumble topping, and then we used this recipe from Guy Fieri for sweet potatoes and apples with a whiskey-pecan sauce. It gave it this great woody kick. Definitely a keeper.

It's always interesting to see how other families do Thanksgiving. I knew that his family put sausage in their stuffing and liked their green beans crisp, but come to find out I take them aback by putting that little letter "s" on the end of "pie," as in, "I'll bring the pies." I thought two or three pies was standard. They're pretty much happy as long as there's pumpkin. Who knew? I did make a pumpkin pie, which turned out very nice indeed, but my usual mad apple-pie skills kind of deserted me today. It came out slightly burned on top and really liquid underneath, with a soggy crust. Oh well. The cinnamon apples in the middle were good.

However. We did have some slight excitement with the nutmeg. Jonathan's mom had a brand-new jar of it, so it was still very bright and fragrant, and I successfully peeled the top off. I thought the danger was passed and was about to grab a measuring spoon when it made a break for it. WHOOSH! FREEDOM! The jar leaped out of my hand and sprayed nutmeg grounds all over everything, counter to ballet flats. (She only thought she'd bought a six-year supply.) Nutmeg was my signature scent for the day.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

We're still house-hunting

The five stages of house-hunting in Loudoun County:

1. Denial. It can't cost that much.

2. Suspicion. If it's in our price range, what's wrong with it?

3. Adoration. It has brand-new appliances and cabinets? I'll take it!

4. Bargaining. So what if it was literally built on the property line and has no basement or yard? We can, um, have parties in the common area. Yeah.

5. Resignation. We'll keep looking.

Pesky spoons

This is how Meg uses a spoon.

She eyes her fried rice and decides a pea would be acceptable. She picks one up with her fingers, sets it on the spoon on her tray, and then picks up the spoon and eats the pea.

Time for another pea. Since the spoon is in her hand, she uses it to scoop out another pea. But wait! Some grains of rice got onto the spoon too! She picks off the grains of rice, pokes the pea a couple times, and then eats it.

She puts the spoon down and starts eating peas with her fingers. I blow her a kiss. She grins and blows a kiss back. "Can we watch Monsters Inc?"

Monday, November 19, 2012

First time resurrected since graduation

I knew, theoretically, that this day might come.

You get a sewing maching - you start to use it - you start thinking, I could make that. You buy fabric.

And then you start drawing triangles and doing trigonometry before you cut.

Yes... I made Jonathan go find my scientific calculator so I could do square roots, and everything. a squared plus b squared equals c squared. And thus it goes. Using that equation was deep in my memory and so even though I kind of forgot, I really remembered. I know because when I checked my work, it came out true. That's good. My math teachers should be so proud!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

It grabbed me

Yesterday I was sorting books and came across one I used to read often. I kind of accidentally cracked it open. I read it while I put on a movie, made soup, fed Meg, and ate the soup myself. In fact I read it pretty much all the way through to the last page, which led me to believe maybe I shouldn't get rid of that one.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Paper be gone

Closely related, no doubt, to my "I MUST GET READY FOR CHRISTMAS" urge has been my "THERE IS TOO MUCH PAPER IN HERE" urge. Also I think I'm reacting to an apartment I visited the other day, which had - I kid you not - piles of political mailings from the nineties. The horror. For so many reasons. In response, I went home and did a massive filing-and-tossing push.

So everything got filed, but that wasn't enough! There was still excessive paper! We culled our bookshelves and chose some to sell, so they'll be out of our way soon. Books just multiply around here... not sure how that happens. I came to the conclusion that I prefer giving shelf space to Percy Jackson to volumes of mid-century plays. Sorry, lit degree.

The last culprit to die was my magazine hoard. I actually don't have that many back issues, because I don't subscribe to that many and I cleaned them all out a year ago, but they were starting to pile up. So I've been going through them and cutting out the recipes and inspiration pieces I want to keep, and then putting my recipe binders into order. In the process, I discovered one of my recipe binders had never been organized either, so I punched holes in everything and found them a good home.

It feels good to get organized.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Line up those ducks

I went to the washer-dryer closet to do some laundry, only to find Meg peacefully lining up her rubber ducks in front of the door. So I asked her if she'd mind opening it for me. She considered this.

"No. Can't."

How do you argue with a girl getting her ducks in order? I laughed.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

When we were very young

Meg is working through the concept of people having various names for various relationships and at the same time figuring out time and how things can happen when she's older. I love watching this. Sometimes things get a little conflated.

"You get to call him Love but I get to call him Daddy. I don't get to call him Jonathan because I'm not four yet; I'm only two. When I'm four I can call him Jonathan."

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Heard from a time out

"Mom! Do not leave me in here where I am allowed to be. Oh, Mom. I wish you would not do that. It is not nice."

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

It was funny. This year, about a week before Halloween, a little alarm went off in my mind, saying "YOU NEED TO GET READY FOR CHRISTMAS!" I'm not sure why, since it's not time for Christmas until after Thanksgiving. But Christmas shopping is kind of like cleaning house in that you should do it whenever you get the urge because it won't last, so I went shopping today. Would you believe Kohl's has started playing Christmas music? Not every song, just the occasional one, but it's definitely too early for that.

I hope it snows here soon. They were predicting a storm the other day, but it dumped on poor New York and nobody was happy. While it does look all gray and cloudy right now, it's actually about 60 degrees out there, so it's not very promising.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Fortune cookie

Jonathan and I split the last fortune cookie like a wishbone, and he got the fortune on his half. When he opened it up, he read:

":-) You have a deep interest in all that is artistic. :-)"

We pondered this. He handed it over. "You can have it."

I read it on the internet

The candle I had in this candle holder had burned down to the nub and left that nasty pile-o'-wax behind. I didn't feel like scratching at it with a plastic knife, so I consulted Google as to a better way of getting it out.

Opinion seemed split whether heat or cold worked better, but the freezers claimed their method had less residue, so I gave it a shot.

I left the glass part in the freezer for a couple of days, and afterwards, yes, the wax popped out in one piece with just a little poking and whacking. However, the glass wasn't all shiny and bright, so I gave a nod to the heaters and ran it through the dishwasher.

Now it looks great. Thanks, internet.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Skinny jeans

This is not going to morph into a fashion blog, not least because I don't care to post pictures of myself up here, but I need to say something. Skinny jeans are not a good trend. I saw a picture of Princess Kate - excuse me, Catherine Duchess of Cambridge -- in a pair, and they didn't flatter even her. She was fine, of course, but not great. And if she can't wear them, there's not much hope for anyone else.

If you want to go buy skinny jeans because they're all the rage this fall, go for it. I'm contemplating getting a pair to set off my stellar boot collection. But if you must indulge, try to wear a shirt with them that won't make you look fat, and if you show your midriff, you need to go re-think your life choices. Always remember that leggings are not pants, and jeggings... have a bad name.

But don't wear frumpy jeans, either. Bootcuts cut slim through the knees, that's my recommendation.

Turquoise and bright red jeans are awesome, though.

Monday, November 05, 2012

The simple things in life, like great words and watching your mother work

Meg handed me her sippy cup. "Wash my lid off, Mommy."
Me: "Wash it? What happened to it?"
Meg: "It got all butterdy!"
Me: "Butterdy? That is the awesomest word I've heard all day. I'll wash it just for that word."
Meg hoisted her tiny rocking chair and hauled it into the kitchen. "I'll watch!"

Sunday, November 04, 2012

A picture

And now, to cleanse your soul after those harrowing apostrophes, here is a pretty mushroom from my sister's yard.

Cruelty to the common apostrophe

I feel like we need to meditate on this sign a minute. Let's try to figure out what the author was thinking. Clearly, they felt like plurals needed an apostrophe, but so did the verb "begin's." Probably they just apostrophized the final s's of words they liked, and so I'm wondering if they have a grudge against small appliances. I bet large appliances would have come up "appliance's."

I also notice that they left off the comma between "electronic's" and "toy's". Maybe they're really talking about the kind of electronics which are toys, as opposed to the strictly practical electronics, and they're not supposed to be separate items. Alternatively, they might feel the line break is adequate demarcation, but in that case you'd also expect "small" and "appliances" to be different items. This sign isn't really presented as a sentence, though the first two words could be understood as subject and predicate, so I suppose you could argue that the normal rules of commas in a list don't apply. But just for consistency's sake, since the other items in the list have commas, I'm not sure I buy that.

It also kind of interests me that there's no punctuation or connecting word between the date and the list of items. I'm wondering: does layaway only begin for the merchandise categories mentioned? Or are they just really excited about those in particular? Now I'm really curious about the sporting good's that aren't select. Who didn't select them and what did they do to deserve being left out?

...This is why I plan to home educate my daughter.

Happy fall

We got to go to our church fall party this afternoon. There's a particular pleasure in hot cider and firepits going on a really cold day. Meg and I went prepared, in layers of flannel and sweaters and puffer coats, but I think to be really warm we should have added several more layers of long underwear and maybe some chili peppers in our shoes.* About dusk our host lit a bonfire at the other end of the field, and nearly everyone went, "Ooh, shiny!" and drifted over to it. A bonfire is another of those very specific fall pleasures, for humans at least: a field mouse disagreed and scurried off. Meg got a whole bag of candy and Jonathan got to talk about books and computer games. It was a great party.

I went home and took a hot bubble bath until my toes thawed out. We're supposed to get our first freeze tonight. I'm trying to be prepared.

*Not kidding. Old ranchers would seriously do that. Watch out for chemical burns, though - that's why you have to wear rubber gloves to prep hot chilis.