I LOVE your dre- I mean, uh, isn't this weather nice?!

I can't get this recent column by Lisa Bloom out of my head.

In the piece, Ms. Bloom asks us to question our habit (It is my habit. Is it yours, too? I fear it's our collective, societal habit.) of always complimenting little girls on what they're wearing or how they look when greeting them.

Before reading this article, I never questioned this behavior, in myself or others. I mean, I don't tell our neighbor's 6 year old she looks like a beautiful shiny princess! or tell the 9 year old down the street she looks so slim in those new pants! But I often remark on how colorful their shoes are or how fancy their dress is or how much I like their pigtails. Because I do! I love those things!

And I like to give and receive compliments as much as the next woman. Compliments are one of the biggest social cues we females use to grease the wheels of social interaction. To tell someone I like you! or I'm friendly! we resort to complimenting their clothing, shoes, physique.

Since reading this article I am shocked to notice just how hard it is for me to say something, ANYTHING else to a girl when first greeting her.

I love your dress! comes rolling off my tongue before I can stop it.

Of course, there's nothing wrong with complimenting a girl on her dress, especially if she's particularly excited about it. But when we always focus our attention on how girls look, I have to believe it feeds into a deep cultural pressure to value looks above all. And if this is the prevailing message everyone, EVEN US FEMINISTS, are sending to the little girls in our world, isn't that sad? And harmful?

I'm going to work on finding other ways to greet the little girls in my world. Will you do the same or do you think this is a load of hooey?


Happy Anniversary, complete with maggots

Yesterday morning, 7:12 am. I rolled the trash cans down the driveway and left them at the curb. As I turned away, a motion caught my eye. Specifically a tidal wave of white wriggly maggots that foamed out from under the slightly ajar trash can lid.

Now. I am not a huge EEK-BUG! kind of person but I do have my limits. Yesterday I discovered maggots are significantly past my limit.

You see, my husband has been known to put things into the trash can without putting them in a plastic trash bag first. I have reminded him that this can leave the trash cans themselves quite dirty and stinky and I do not have any wish to clean them out by hand, if you get my drift. He wants to reduce how much we use plastic, a goal to which I also aspire.

However. When he put sub-par Indian take-out in the trash last week, the tops of some of the containers came open, the trash can lid was left ajar and flies found it and made their little babies and MAGGOTS OMG GAG RETCH BLEH.

I have to say I surprised myself. I wasn't angry at him. I understood his point of view, his choices, even though different from mine, were valid.

I told him about the maggots and we both screwed up our faces in matching horror. Gross, he said. Sorry.

Today, we have been married exactly nine years.

I am so proud of who we were nine years ago, young and brave and hopeful, and who we are now, older and wizened but still hopeful.

I was trying this morning to remember our wedding vows, we wrote them ourselves on a hike in the Berkeley Hills above his house. I knew I had them somewhere and finally found a copy, stuffed into our wedding album.

They were about listening, comforting, encouraging. About "supporting you as an individual and embracing you as a partner." But no where did they mention maggots.

Perhaps we need to add that one in.

Happy Anniversary CG.


Where I'm From

I am from Duct Tape, from Johnny Walker and Johann Sebastian Bach.
I am from a once-condemned Victorian, the bedroom where mushrooms grew out of the floor now covered with rose colored carpet, singed black in spots by a dropped curling iron.
I am from dogwoods, poison ivy, and blueberries outside the back door.
I am from the traveling salesmen and the conscientious objectors, from Lorna and Janet, from Marshalls and Riggs.
I am from hot-tempered dancers and quirky book collectors.
From Ugga Muggo and I'll give you something to cry about.
I am from a funky round building that looked nothing like an actual church, but everything like the only church I've ever loved.
I'm from the garden state, with the big hair pictures and defensiveness to prove it, from raw milk and Silver Queen corn and David Eyre's Pancake.
From the girl with the silver pin piercing her plaid skirt in history class, the boy who knocked himself out on the hood of a car on the day of their first date, the woman who beat little children at cards because they should learn now how to win - and lose.
I am from the damp woods of Lake Dunmore and the crystal cabinets of Princeton, from the most loving of laps, the only kind of luxury I ever needed.

Inspired by Playgroups are No Place For Children who got the template here. If you feel inspired to do your own, put the link in my comments!


Books 2011, part one

As we are at the half way mark (Happy Solstice!) of the year, I decided I would do the first part of my annual book review. Hopefully I'll remember some of them better than if I waited until the end of the year and maybe you'll find your summer reading. As always, I don't allow myself to peruse them again, I have to write my little review here without consulting the book. Given my Swiss cheese brain, this can be challenging.

1. Unbroken by Lauren Hillenbrand. I loved "Seabiscuit" and have been drawn to non-fiction survivor stories for as long as I can remember, so I assumed I would LOVE this book. I did enjoy it and reveled in the happy ending. But the middle. Oh the long, terrifying middle. It just hurt my heart. There were whole chapters I had to read in furtive glances, and only during they day, lest the horrific images (made all the more horrific by the fact that they were true) invade my dreams. What that poor man - and many, many others - endured was unfathomable. His story is triumphant and Ms. Hillenbrand's writing, graceful. But still, I wince just thinking about it.

2. Helen of Pasadena by Lian Dolan. This novel was sent to me by a friend who still lives in Pasadena, where we moved from two years ago. It's a sweet tale of a middle-aged woman finding love and finding herself after her husband dies. Light and sweet.

3. Love and Anger: the Parental Dilemma by Nancy Samalin. Oh hai. I should probably go reread this book. All I remember is that it was helpful to hear how many parents struggle with their tempers. It didn't miraculously erase my temper but it made me face it and own it. Yes, more work to be done here.

4. Understanding Girls with ADHD by Patricia Quinn. I read this. It helped. It's still by my bedside.

5. The Invisible Wall by Harry Bernstein. This book stunned me, I must say. The true story of the author's childhood growing up in WWII England on a street divided down the middle with Jews on one side and Christians on the other. When his sister falls in love with a Christian boy from the other side of the street, the story really takes off. The author wrote this book when he was in his 90s, and he continued to publish memoirs until his very recent death. What an inspiration!

6. The Stay At Home Survival Guide by Melissa Stanton. If I remember correctly, it was Ask Moxie's review of this book that made me put it on my library list. I liked it, though couldn't fully relate to the author (who, like many of the SAHMs she interviewed, was formerly a high powered career woman, ie. NOT ME). I think the most useful information I got from it was to not be passive about finances. CG and I have a pretty traditional breakdown in our marriage and he does all of the banking and bill paying, but after reading this book we meet regularly (okay, SEMI-regularly) to discuss where our finances are, what's coming up, what we need to change.

7. Half a Life by Darin Strauss. Oh, I gulped this book down. It's a spare memoir written at the point in the author's life when he can factually say "Half my life ago, I killed a girl." After his car struck and killed a girl on a bike, it was ruled an accident and his life was forever altered. It is a swirling commentary on the self-centeredness of youth, the vicissitudes of fate, the ever present guilt and impossible need for redemption that follows a horrible mistake that cannot be undone. I found it moving and thought-provoking and gave a copy to several friends. If memoirs are your thing, go forth and read.

8. The Beach Street Knitting Society and Yarn Club by Gil McNeil. Okay, I barely remember this book. I read it on vacation in Jamaica, which was weird because it was about a beach town but a foggy English one. I liked it, I think. Aaaand I can't remember it! There was knitting in it! I'm pretty sure about that!

9. Dispatches from a Not-So-Perfect Life by Faulkner Fox . A mommy memoir of extraordinary depth, insight, and ambivalence. The author ruminates on a long-held fantasy: a seaside home, herself seated at a desk, writing, her husband cooking in the kitchen, their child playing nearby. Could this be possible? Why not, especially if she marries a fellow feminist? She struggles mightily to find something approaching this fantasy and, though I often grimaced at her palpable resentment and dare-I-say-it RAGE, I found her a deeply compelling companion in my own motherhood journey.

10. Half Baked by Alexa Stevenson. Do you read Flotsam? Of course you do. Because you value good writing. Because you enjoy peering into a mind that is sharp and sweet and wise. That is why you should also read this book about the pregnancy and dramatic birth of her daughter, Simone. I knew how it all turned out and yet I held my breath, read slowly and enjoyed every word.

11. People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks. This was a book club book, chosen because we all enjoyed Brooks' previous novel "The Year of Wonders", about a small town ravaged by the plague. In "People of the Book", Brooks weaves a tale around all the people who had a part in saving a precious Jewish text, the Sarajevo Haggadah. Each chapter feels like a novel in and of itself and after finishing, I wanted to immediately reread it to put the pieces back together with all the new information. There's something here for everyone: romance, intrigue, history, and, above all, lyrical writing.

12. Poser, my life in twenty-three yoga poses by Claire Dederer. A memoir of a new mother who studies yoga and sees it with a slightly cynical, skeptical eye but still embraces it, in all it's confusing glory? YES PLEASE. I loved this book. I loved that she doesn't take herself, or yoga, too seriously. I loved her easy, smooth writing style. I loved her meditations on parenting and yoga and generational change.

13. To Hell with All That: Loving and Loathing our Inner Housewife by Caitlin Flanagan. I remember when this book first came out, it caused quite a stir. I read reviews of it, exclamatory, volatile reviews, and wondered just what could be so upsetting? Well. Now I know. This book had me cheering at parts and raving at others. I found it well written but maddening in content at times. She is an "anti-feminist" for starters, which makes me so crazy, DO NOT GET ME STARTED ON THIS. She is well-to-do with plenty of household help and quite opinionated about the role of mothers today - one could safely say this is a dangerous combination. If you can get past all that (and, trust me, it was hard for me to do so), she has some fascinating sections on the history of housewifery, the deep conflicts in hiring her family's nanny, and the careful parsing of her mother's role vs. her own. Would be a good book club book for those not too scared to argue with their friends about these touchy subjects.

14. Left Neglected by Lisa Genova. I so loved Genova's first novel "Still Alice" and was hoping this would be as wonderful. Um, not quite. The story of a type-a woman who, following a car accident, suffers from a condition called "left neglect" (Get the title? har har), it didn't stir me nearly as much as "Still Alice". I found the premise a little cliche (A type-a career woman takes a hard look at her life and decides to to make some changes after an accident. Yeah. Been there, done that.). But I finished it and will read whatever she writes next.

15. Cinderella Ate My Daughter by Peggy Orenstein. As I've already written about this book, if you have daughters or care about little girls or are interested in the cultural pressures on women, READ THIS BOOK NOW.

16. Swamplandia! by Karen Russell. I wanted to love this. It got such great reviews. I just.... didn't. Long and swampy and I'm embarrassed to say I barely finished it.

17. Room by Emma Donaghue. Oh this book haunts me still. I don't want to give anything away, because even though I was tremendously moved by this story, I knew a lot about it before reading it and I'm sure it's even more wondrous if you don't know anything about the plot going in. Just read it.

18. Without a Map by Meredith Hall. I picked this up from the library after reading that Catherine Newman liked it. Yes, I'm swayed by such things. And with good reason. This memoir surprised me. It goes places I didn't expect in it's exploration of the author's experience as a teenager giving her baby up for adoption and the years that follow. Two thumbs up.

19. Truth and Beauty by Ann Patchett. This story of the friendship between authors Ann Patchett and Lucy Grealy gives insight into what it's like to be an up-and-coming author and what it means to be a friend. I was really enjoyed this book and took to my bed early just to read it.

20. Bossypants by Tina Fey. Perfection. Take it to the beach/on the plane/to the pool. Light and funny, of course.

21. This is Not the Story You Think It Is..... by Laura Munson. I read this book because I remembered fondly Ms. Munson's Modern Love column about the same topic- how she reacted to her husband's sudden pronouncement that he didn't love her anymore and wanted out of their marriage by saying "I don't buy it" and proceeding to love him and wait it out. When I imagine this scenario in my own life, I think I would cry and beat my breast and ululate and generally fall apart. So I was fascinated by the concept that there could be such a different reaction and that it might work. It did work, he came around, they stayed together. Amazing. Unfortunately I didn't love her narrative voice. Oh well. Still interesting to ponder and discuss.

22. Long Drive Home by Will Allison. I picked this one up at the library on a lark. I liked it, and I think it would be a good book group book. It's short and clear cut: a man is driving his daughter home from school when he gets a little carried away with his own road rage, including one split second decision that results in a boy's death. The ensuing story of how it unravels his life isn't surprising, really, but I was surprised by how much I cared about the characters, and how real and true they felt to me.

23. The Girls From Ames by Jeffrey Zaslow. Given a friend's warning, I was expecting to dislike this, and I did. I should have LOVED this book. I love non-fiction! About women's lives! Friendship! But these women! Alternatively bored and ANNOYED THE PISS OUT OF ME!

24. The Tiger's Wife by Tea Obrect. The reviews of this novel couldn't be more glowing. The writing is beautiful, the plot unfolds like a fairy tale, complete with a deaf-mute tiger lover, a "deathless man", war torn Yugoslavia and the whole thing PUT ME TO SLEEP. Seriously. I usually stay up way too late reading and every single time I picked up this book, I was out within two pages. WTH? I did finish it but it took me forEVER. Perhaps my days of reading "literary fiction" are over?

25. The Pull of the Moon by Elisabeth Berg. I love Elisabeth Berg but hadn't ever read this particular novel. When Linda quoted from it a few weeks back, I put it on my library list. What a little gem! This story of a woman who, at 50, leaves her husband and her life behind to take a road trip left me cheering. Enjoy!

Phew! That took me longer than I thought it would.

Now, go forth and comment with your favorite recent read!

Happy Reading!


The Day after Father's Day

I was planning on calling my dad all morning, but was so focused on the girls and CG, that I figured I'd wait till later. I spent the entirety of naptime cleaning up from our breakfast and getting ready for the afternoon and then all of a sudden it was 3:30 and so it was that my dad called me on Father's day.

It was snack time for the girls and they were loud but his voice was lighter than it has been in a long time and seemed to float above their noise. He had finally gotten back to the carving studio and, though the radiation has rendered his hands unsafe for the bigger power tools, he dug out his hand tools and was able to carve, just a little. I smiled at the unmistakable joy in his voice. And then my brother beeped in and we both had to go and we said, loudly over the din, LOVE YOU.

Before I hung up, I told him I would call him back later that night and felt so grateful to be able to say that, so nonchalant like that.

I forgot to call him back until it was too late to call.


CG and I went out to dinner, feeling just a tad guilty about arranging a date night on Father's Day, knowing that very soon, all he'll want on this day is MORE time with his kids.

But we sat at a window seat two top in our favorite restaurant in town, holding hands and talking about the summer and his work and all the places we want to travel someday, anything but the fact that he doesn't get to call his dad on Father's Day or any more days ever again.

Then the bartender stepped outside the front door to greet a little boy and a young woman. He dropped down low to scoop the boy up in his arms and the boy yelped and grinned and kissed his daddy on the cheek. We smiled and squeezed each other's hand and were fine, really, until it was time for the boy and his mom to leave. The boy clung to his daddy and cried NO, wanting to stay with him, just a minute more. His mom, eyes full of apologies, pulled him away and down the street as quickly as she could.

CG met the bartender's eyes as he walked back in.

"That's tough, man" my husband said, feeling it in every way.


My husband stepped into our garage yesterday and up to his workbench, which he hadn't touched in months, moving the tools to their rightful places, cataloging the household things he can change and fix and help. Like my dad did when I was little. Like his dad did for his family.

He could not call his father yesterday, but I like to think that, in the garage, he talks to him, if not in words then in hammers and wrenches and saws.


The great chocolate experiment

In the last few years, it's become clear to me that I have an addiction to chocolate.

I came a little late in life to the chocolate party, in fact, I didn't like it much until I was in my late twenties. Now I need chocolate some days more than others but every. single. day. I require at least a little Vitamin C (as we call it in our house.)

I know better than to think of this as something I must change completely. I firmly believe that chocolate, in moderation, is fine. A health food even!

But I also hate feeling like I have to have chocolate to get through a day. I don't want to have to break off a chunk of anything every three hours to survive. I want to believe I'm stronger than that.

I know that our housebound existence is in large part the issue here. Most weeks I spend a good portion of my day at home and I eat every single meal here. This means that the pantry, with its delicious chocolate, is right there CALLING MY NAME.

About a month ago, when we ran out of chocolate and I was at the grocery store feeling annoyed that I now require three chocolate bars to get through the week (it used to be ONE), I decided to not buy any, quit cold turkey, just to see what would happen.

(Stupid, I know.)

By the end of the first day, I was twitchy, prowling the pantry for the last handful of chocolate chips. On the second day, I resorted to unsweetened baking chocolate. Day three, I was eying the cocoa when I found one piece of Z's leftover Halloween candy, crumbled in the corner of the pantry. As I licked my finger to pick up the crumbs from the shelf, I felt as close as I've ever been to reenacting a scene from "Requiem for a Dream".

(Have you seen that movie? If not, don't. My nightmares are still fed by it.)

On day four, I went to the store and bought a damn chocolate bar.

The next week, my plan was simply to reduce my consumption. So I bought two bars of a flavor that aren't my favorite, hoping this would diminish their allure.

It didn't.

The following week, I tried answering the craving with something else: drinking a glass of water or eating a handful of nuts before having any chocolate. I cannot tell you how annoying it is to want chocolate but to eat nuts instead. I don't want NUTS, I WANT CHOCOLATE, my taste buds and brain chemistry raged at me.

My current plan is sort of working. I buy smaller bars, for one. (These are my current favorite!) I also try to drink enough water and eat protein at each meal. When I feel a craving for chocolate, I check in with myself, see if I'm feeling stressed (the answer is usually YES) and if there's something else I can do to handle it, like deep breathing, a little yoga, or a mama time out.

But mostly I try to eat chocolate with gratitude and moderation. In the morning, I break one half of a chocolate bar into smaller pieces and remind myself that it's okay to have some when I want, but those pieces should last the day.

They usually do. Every once in a while, I don't even eat my "allotment".

This current state feels okay, good even. This love of chocolate feels like my need to exercise. Or my current reliance on Pr0zac. I like chocolate, it makes me feel good, it gives me a boost when I need it, it helps tip the scales of each day toward happiness.

At the moment, I feel like I've found a reasonable place somewhere between fighting it and overindulging.

What about you? Do you indulge in chocolate? Fight it? Smoke heavy drugs instead?


The promise of summer

Z has been begging us to let her set up a lemonade stand since winter. No sooner had we explained that people don't tend to stop and buy ice cold lemonade when there's two feet of snow on the ground, than we had to put the kibosh on her new plan: going door to door selling hot chocolate in February.

"We'll do a lemonade stand this summer, Z," I solemnly vowed.

"You promise?" she said, unconvinced.

"I promise."

When summer reared its sweaty head a few weeks ago, she started begging again in earnest, convincing me to buy some lemonade mix and debating the best size cup for maximum profit. She spent some time making - and, after her sister defaced the first one, remaking- a lemonade stand sign. Finding the perfect spot to set up was the easy part: the gazebo at the end of our cul de sac is shady and quaint. She was ready.

Every few days she asked if this could be the day and I always put her off, for one reason or another. It wasn't hot enough, people don't want lemonade unless it's really hot. We didn't have enough time that afternoon; we need lots of time to make the lemonade, set up, sell, and clean up. Mostly, it all boiled down to this: I didn't feel like it.

I was the Scrooge of lemonade stands.

Last Tuesday was the first really, really hot day of summer. We didn't have anything we had to do or anywhere we had to go.

I took a long blink and a deep breath and told her to get out the lemonade mix.

You should have seen her face. This Scrooge felt more than a little guilty for withholding that kind of joy for so long.

Once we set up, it took two minutes before she was lamenting the lack of real customers (apparently her sister pilfering from the till doesn't count). Luckily, it took only three minutes for the first customer to show up.

The First Sale Victory Dance.

Frankly, I was shocked at how many people stopped. Until I took this picture:

I know I'm biased but really, how could you resist buying lemonade from these two?

The girls smiled and waved at every car that passed by, barely bothered by the gnats swarming around our faces. Very few cars passed by without stopping or at least promising to come back later. The girls hopped up and down every time and Z could barely keep it together, she was so excited by her success.

By the end of it, they were exhausted and elated: They had sold out! Everyone told them how great the lemonade was! Next time we'll sell COOKIES TOO!

"Can we do that again tomorrow, Mama?!" Z asked, batting at her ear.

"Not tomorrow, sweetheart, but sometime soon, sure." I hedged.

"You promise?"

"I promise."

Over dinner that night, Z complained fiercely about her ear, she was sure there was a bug in it, and it was driving her crazy. CG was working late and I couldn't see anything in there, even using two different flashlights, looking from every angle short of standing on my head. Dr. Google recommended flushing it out with water, which I tried to no avail. Since she was seriously carrying on, I piled both girls into the car and headed out to the closest urgent care.

They got us into a room after about a half hour and the doctor quickly confirmed that there was, in fact, a bug in her ear. But it was deep inside her ear canal and to get it out Z would have to lie perfectly still so that he wouldn't damage her eardrum.

Unfortunately, Z is not one to lie still when scared or in pain or BOTH.

"Z, I promise, if you lie still, it will be over super fast."

"Promise it won't hurt?"

"It shouldn't hurt, if you lie still," I said, not looking her in the eye.

An hour and many screams later, he suggested we try the ER, where they would have better, smaller instruments. And possibly someone used to wrestling badgers.

By now, CG had picked up E, thank goodness, as she had taken to flinging herself off of the exam table trailing the paper sheet behind her like a worthless parachute.

As Z and I headed off to the ER, she asked me endless questions about the hospital: had I ever been there- no having babies didn't count- what will they do to her ear, would it hurt, what would it look like, would she have to stay there overnight....

"Promise it won't hurt when they take the bug out?"

"They'll do their best," was all I could say, knowing better than to promise now.

We joined the other sad sacks in the ER waiting room: a feverish baby asleep on her mom's shoulder, a teenager doubled over a barf bin, a dusty man holding gauze on his forehead, a toothless woman shuffling around and smiling at people and walls, all of us waiting for our turn. Waiting for our luck to turn.

"Promise you'll come back with me. Promise there's no shot or surgery. Promise you'll stay with me." she begged, her big eyes staring at the lone retching teenager.

"I promise." I said easily, relieved by my confidence in these promises. I kissed her cheek, right below her wet eyelashes, just above a smattering of brand new freckles. "I promise."

It was finally our turn and the doctor tried three different ways to get the bug out, each time more impossible than the last until she finally emerged from behind the curtain with a long syringe.


"It's not a shot, Z. I promise. It's. NOT. A. SHOT." My face was pleading, my hands squeezing her arms.

"You promise?" Her eyes, bloodshot from crying, searched my face.

"I swear to you. I promise. I PROMISE."

The syringe got the bug out, a tiny biting gnat, full of Z's blood. We saved it, curled up in a paper towel and smushed into my purse.

As we drove home, the lights of the freeway a blurry moving picture, she closed her eyes.

"I'm glad the bug is out, Mama."

"Me, too, Boo."

"Can we have a lemonade stand again tomorrow?"

"Not tomorrow, but soon, I promise. And next time, we'll be sure to put on bug spray."


"Watch me, Mommy!"

"Watsh me, Mom-ME!" she says and I do, I always do. I think she asks because she wants to be seen. Or because she needs the information my reaction gives her: Is this okay? Funny? Against the rules?

Sometimes I wonder if her experience doesn't seem real to her unless my eyes see it. I wonder if she feels like she's a part of me- the way that I feel her to be, so much so that I need to remind myself that her body, her mind, her life, is her own.

She looks to me as she would look to a mirror, to check herself, to see herself reflected.

I think this is the most awesome, terrifying power of a primary caregiver: my reaction, more than anything else in her world, teaches her about the nuances of behavior, how the world works, what is expected of her.

Her older sister doesn't ask me to watch her much anymore. Z is slipping into the phase of life where she wants to hide some things from me; walking into other rooms to play, closing her door, answering "nothing" when I ask her what's going on.

Still, I watch both my girls.

One I watch fully, loudly, vigilant for falls and chokables, issuing corrections and reminders, exalting over victories large and small. The other I watch a little more silently every day, around corners and in the dark, trying to step in only when necessary, my worries now consumed with rudeness or social ineptitude or dark information trading hands.

"Watch me Mommy!" they say, until they don't say it anymore.

But still, we watch.


How to make reusable fabric gift bags, or how I sort of turned around a sucky day

Last week, I had a bad day. Nothing spectacular, just your run-of-the-mill, too much laundry, too much whining, not enough chocolate in the house, Bad Day.

That night, CG had to work late and I was faced with a messy house, a DVR full of nothing but kids shows and a book club book that I was really not enjoying.

So I did what any self-respecting person would: I decided to make fabric gift bags.

Back in January, inspired by Soule Mama and full of new year's resolution energy, I bought some holiday fabric on sale imagining I would make fabric gift bags "some time this summer". That way, when the holidays came around, I would be ready with homemade fabric gift bags to wrap presents with and wouldn't stress out by adding extra crafting things to do around the already crazy holiday time.

(Just typing that, I am officially impressed with myself. Being green, planning ahead, taking care of myself, ALL OF IT. GO ME!)

Did you have a crappy day? Want to make some fabric gift bags? It's fun! And you'll feel so on top of it! JOIN ME!

1. Artfully arrange your fabric and ribbon selection and take a picture.

2. Decide the toy clutter in the background muddles the photo. Leave the clutter, take another photo, clutter a little less visible.

3. Set up your only-used-for-sewing iron. Take a photo.

4. Take another photo from a different angle that proves the iron is plugged in! And turned on!

5. Select the fabric, thread and ribbon for Fabric Gift Bag 1.0

6. Plug in, thread and bobbin the sewing machine. Lay out fabric. The instructions say to make a long rectangle. Get scared, as you prefer to be told EXACTLY what to cut.

7. Fold fabric in half, good sides together. Eyeballing it - living la vida LOCA!- cut a very poor semblance of a rectangle, complete with jagged uneven edges. (AH CRAP.)

8. Measure, mark and carefully trim into an actual rectangle.

9. Sew (FINALLY!) a half inch seam on each side.

10. Ignore the suggestion of "French Seams" as they are clearly too fussy for the likes of you. Instead, trim seam edges with pinking shears because it looks pretty (and to keep the fabric from fraying.)

11. Fold over the top edge a little less than 1 inch. (Look at me! I'm actually measuring a true inch!) Fold again another inch and pin.

12. Put fabric in machine, trying to convince yourself that you don't really need to press this seam first. Almost start sewing when you come to your senses. Press the damn thing to be sure your seam will be even and lovely.

13. @#*%($&@#$%! But I pressed it! I DID. WHY IS IT NOT EVEN AND LOVELY?

14. Cry a little. Gnash your teeth. Tell yourself that it's just a fabric gift bag, move on and cut two pieces of ribbon. Cut it long since you have no idea how this will actually work.

15. Turn the bag right side out. Fold one inch at the end of the ribbon and pin to the middle of the top edge of the bag.

16. Oops. Pin the other way. I think. Sew that m-effer and quickly do another one on the other side because YOU'RE IN THE HOME STRETCH GO TEAM WIN. (Editor's note: This last step is WRONG. Consult the real directions for this part.)

17. You're done! YAY! Now go get the nearest thing that might fit in it and wrap that sucker up while singing "Rudolf the Red Fingered Sewer".

18. What. The. Hell.?

19. !*(@%*$#$%*!!

20. Okay, I sewed the ribbons wrong. But this sort of works. Shut it, I'M GOING WITH IT.

21. Beautiful! Fun (mostly)! (Don't look too closely.)

(Yup. Probably a good idea to just read the real instructions here.)


What your mailbox (and lawn art) say to me

Rain or shine, freezing cold or burning hot, I try to take Sweet Dog and E for a walk every day. It doesn't always happen, but maybe five days out of the week we make a loop in our neighborhood specifically chosen for it's relative lack of scary backyard dogs.

I got lost a bunch of times walking in our neighborhood when we first moved here, sometimes choosing streets full of fenced-in dogs who were SURE we were intent on invading their homes to carve out their owners' hearts with E's sippy cup lid. Now that I've got my perfect loop, I stick to it.

The things I noticed first were the mailboxes. Everyone in our neighborhood has one, right beside their driveway, out at the curb.


(Isn't that what they're saying? Or is this is what happens to your brain when you've lived in urban California for too long? It took about three months of me running out to retrieve the mail as soon as it was delivered to realize that even if I left it there for a few hours, or even several days, NOTHING WOULD HAPPEN TO IT. Except maybe your kindly neighbor would take it in for you and bring it you with a plate of home-made cookies.)

Most of the mailboxes in our neighborhood are run-of-the-mill black ones.

A basic mailbox: white post, black mailbox, red flag.
(Weeds around base, optional or, in our case, inevitable.)

Some neighbors change their mailbox sleeves to match each upcoming holiday. You know which neighbor is going through a hard time when you see a snowmen mailbox sleeve in June. (Urban friends: Yes, they make decorator sleeves for mailboxes. I KNOW, crazy, right?)

There are a few favorite mailboxes on my route that always call out to me and now they feel like old friends with whom I can converse.

(Okay, yes, I could use a few more friends here.)

This one reminds me of my grandparents' old airstream trailer, which my toddler brother called a "crailer". Hence E greets this one with: "Hi crailer me-box!"

This one calls out to me: "Feel free to rest your Big Gulp Slushie right here!"

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Mailbox.

Top rack dishwasher safe! Caution: may warp and/or acquire stubborn tomato sauce stains with regular use.

Often, there will be a seemingly endless row of plain black mailboxes and then...

Okay, can we talk about this for a minute? Any Southerners out there care to help me understand this one? This "lawn ornament" is out front of a neighbors' house. In case you can't see it well, because I was too polite/chicken-shit to get close enough to take a proper picture so I had to take it from a moving vehicle, this is an African-American lawn jockey. On the lawn of elderly WHITE neighbors. W. T. H. In what universe is this not offensive?

This is the South: Neighbors put racist statues on their lawn, and then bring you your mail with a plate of homemade cookies.

Blog Designed by: NW Designs