Monthly Archives: November 2010

Black Friday skirt


I am not a big fan of shopping on the Friday after Thanksgiving.  When I was a kid we always spent the day out in the country at a farm belonging to family friends.  When my husband and I were first dating, we enjoyed the “cheap date” quality of milling with the shopping throngs and having lunch out, but now most years I’m happy to leave that scene alone.  All my Christmas gifts are Internet-order or handmade (sorry Toys R Us, but your cheap, bad-quality, made-in-China, creativity-sucking, ugly plastic crap just doesn’t do it for me, at any price or any time of day), and I have enjoyed spending this peaceful chilly Friday cozily alternating snuggling my ailing baby with working at my sewing machine. 

I bought some nice black jersey to make a skirt several weeks ago, but with all the real estate hoo-ha I hadn’t had time to put it together.  It was a bit hard to cut this project out with much of our square footage being sucked up in towers of packed boxes, but I’m glad I got it done so I can wear it over the holidays.  I based the skirt on Simplicity 2758, which is a pattern I’ve made (and blogged about) a number of times.  I like the cut of this skirt, and when I make it in stretchy knit I get to skip the zipper, making it that much easier to sew and leaving time for embellishment.  I serged the bottom of the ruffle to look a bit raw, and the overhanging lip of the main skirt panel is serged in the same way, which is inspired by the look of store-bought clothes I’ve admired lately.  In ten years we’ll wonder why we wore clothes that looked like they weren’t finished.

We woke to a dusting of snow here in Kentucky this morning.  I called Dorothy over to the window and she was utterly thrilled.  She had her snowsuit in her hand and was ready to go out and play in less than an inch of snow before I’d even poured my coffee.  Rob had to meet with a client so he couldn’t take her, and there was no way I was dragging my sick baby out into the cold, but I also hated to deflate Dorothy’s enthusiasm.  She was willing to wait until her father got back, but we knew the snow wouldn’t last that long, so I came up with an alternative solution.  I took a plastic container out onto the deck and scraped the snow off the railings and into the dish.  Then I gave my little housebound snowbird an assortment of measuring cups and kitchen utensils and she had a blast scooping, measuring and dishing the snow.  She crammed the snow tightly into an empty salt shaker and felt clever, like I’d never get it out, and my salt shaker would be inconveniently jammed with snow forever, right here in the warm house.  “How will you get the snow out, Mommy?  Will you have to use pliers or some scissors?”  Only time will tell, Dorothy…

Don’t feed the wildlife


We have a house!  Hooray!  To our great surprise and delight, the owner of the Good Memories house (see below) accepted our offer outright.  Now we’re feeling a little foolish that we didn’t just give that a try a week ago and save ourselves the anxiety.  We have the housing inspection and tests yet to get through, but we’re hoping for the best.  I’m so excited about this new house and I think it’s going to be a great fit for our family.  There is such a terrific crafty space with a cozy wood-burning stove in the basement!  There is also all the crazy wallpaper, outdated fixtures, and appliances that might be as old as me, but we’ll deal with those in time.  It’ll be like the camper project but on a large scale.  This house it the one I had in mind months ago when I bought all the yellow florals to make Dorothy a quilt.  The wallpaper will stay up in her new room at her insistence, and I’ll finally give those sheets a second life once my sewing space is unpacked at our new address.

The kitchen in this house is so bad right now, with a wallpaper wharf scene, outdated cabinetry, and brown appliances, but I can already picture the makeover in my mind.  The whole house has a real World War II vibe (it was built in ’41) and I’m going to accessorize the kitchen with a vintage Kentucky tourism theme in mind.  I have already picked up a few charmingly hokey vintage plates that were sold at Kentucky tourist destinations decades ago (eBay and local thrift shops) and these sweet salt and pepper shakers.  And out of respect for the home’s time period Rob and I have vowed to drink more martinis and listen to more Frank Sinatra.

This scene was from my kitchen this morning.  Worth scooted over to Dorothy’s chair and was gruntingly begging her for food.  Dorothy asked if she could feed him, and my first reaction was, “if you feed him, he’ll never leave you alone.”  But then it occurred to me that he’s a baby not a dog, so I said she could.  So she fed him bits of cereal from her cup, and well, now he’ll probably never leave her alone.

The caterpillar


A few weeks ago I was trying to figure out something nice to do with a particularly cute caterpillar drawing of Dorothy’s and this is what I ended up with.  It’s a custom t-shirt from Cafe Press that we will give to Dorothy’s cousin for Christmas.  I hope it isn’t too redundant with the joint venture Dorothy and I made for the same cousin last winter, but since that gift was appreciated, this gift in the same vein probably will be too.  Dorothy really enjoys feeling like she contributed to the making of any gift, and the benefit of a professionally done t-shirt is that it should wash nicely, unlike (unfortunately) the print-at-home transfers, which require fussy care to stay nice.  I removed the white space from the caterpillar image using Photoshop, then saved the file as a PNG with a transparent background to make the design.

I took advantage of the warm weather this morning and did some more camper painting.  I still have not had the chance to finish what I started with the handkerchief paisleys, but this morning I made solid progress on the opposite side.  I purchased new, good quality brushes and they make all the difference in the world.  Maybe I should have thought of that before, but the difference was really amazing.  It was like I was trying to chop vegetables with a kiddie knife before!  This time the paint went on much better and the lines look more smooth.  It was faster going, too, so if I get another golden moment while both children are asleep or occupied and the weather is right I will get back out there.  Otherwise, the camper may have to stay incompletely decorated until the spring.

As for our housing situation, who knows.  We’re working on a response to a set of nit-picky repair requests from our buyer.  We made a fair offer on the Good Memories house, but have no particular confidence that the owner is ready for the kind of reality check that would mean taking our reasonable offer.  I’m sure something will work out (Renata clutches at optimism), but at this point we’re certainly curious about just how that will look.



The boxes, oh the boxes!  We had to clear out much of the basement for yesterday’s home inspection.  The buyer’s agent at least sent us a warm message of appreciation after the fact, which helped us feel better about all the work.  (Full disclosure:  by “we” I mean my husband and my mother.  I think I mostly ran around like a crazy chicken picking up and dropping off children, nursing a baby, and looking at houses while they cleaned out the basement.)  The main level of our home now looks like the basement threw up all over it.  The inspection reportedly went fine; if they decide to request minor repairs we expect to hear about it Monday.

Meanwhile, we have not yet found a home to move into, and time is ticking towards a closing date.  Ouch!  The house that was not for sale did not work out.  We’re developing a plan (subject to change after I see a few more houses) that I think will involve a fair offer on the Good Memories house with the caveat that we are not willing to waste time negotiating on our fair offer, and that it will continue to sit lonely and empty while we pursue other options if they do not take it.  Our other options are to choose one of the good and decent houses that we would not want to live in for more than, say, five years.  Another five year house is fine in some ways–it leaves us open to pick a house we feel will make us more comfortable than our current cramped quarters without having to make a longer-term commitment, but it also raises issues of resale value and move-in readiness.  We don’t mind putting effort into a house we’d stay in indefinitely but don’t want to sink much investment (time or money) into another five year house.  We’ll see…

The waiting is the hardest part


Housing inspection tomorrow; the buyer needs everything moved away from the walls in the basement.  That’s rough, because our basement is crammed full of stuff.  Crafty supplies can unfortunately take up a lot of room, and we’ve been hanging on to miscellaneous stuff that we intend to put in our next (bigger) house, and it’s all been stashed in the basement.  In the midst of all the basement chaos I am intent on acquiring and wrapping Christmas gifts.  While it seems like one of the less pressing things we’ve got going right now, it is near the top of my mind.  Santa must be able to find us, wherever we are!  I typically do my shopping gradually, and I’d ordered a number of things just in the last week or so since it started looking like we’d be moving, so now most of our Christmas things are simply and hastily wrapped and sent off to Nana’s to hide in a closet until we need them.  Having at least one thing under control makes me feel a little better.

Dorothy and I also made spice cake (we skipped the pecans) from this month’s Cooking Light to celebrate selling the house.  I guess I overcooked the maple part of the icing a bit because it hardened too quickly and is more like fudge, but it still tastes good. It was nice to take the time for a mother/daughter project in the midst of all this housing hustle.

And speaking of the housing hustle, we still don’t know where we’re going.  I’m starting to, ahem, sort of lose my s#!$ about it, and I’m tired of waiting to know where my family is going to be sleeping next month.  The short version of the story is that we made a verbal offer on a house that is not for sale.  It is none of the ones I described in my last post.  As you might imagine, there is slightly more to the story than that, but I don’t feel like detailing in the blog.  I don’t want to live in the knives and lizards house (besides, did I mention the kitchen there?  Bleah!), the good memories house is overpriced, and the dilapidated charmer is really just too dilapidated.  We’ve been waiting since Monday afternoon to hear back, and at this point I’m jumping every time the phone rings.  I need to go back and read my own post about not wishing my life away!  But housing is a basic need, and even though I realize and am thankful that we are not actually faced with homelessness, with every box I pack in the basement I get more anxious about not knowing where these will be unpacked.  Please send me good housing vibes!

The choices


So we saw one more house today and will see two tomorrow.  For your amusement (and as an exercise in working out my own feelings about them) I’ll describe our strongest options.

The Bad Karma House
The bad karma house is practically right around the corner from our current home.  It’s a very attractive home on a pretty street.  I like the way there is a good play space for the kids right next to a good sewing space for me.  It’s a totally respectable and nicely maintained home that is probably the “smartest” purchase on our list.  Your mother would approve.  But why the bad karma?  I don’t know if you’d call it karma or “vibes” or what, but even though I’m not a superstitious person I still feel like I need to have a positive feeling about the home I buy.  If I am going to lay my head down in it every night, I want to feel some positive association with the space itself.  When we walked up to this home and Rob was inspecting the exterior he found (this is no joke) a butcher knife in the immaculately well-kept front bushes.  A butcher knife in the landscaping.  Was it left over from Halloween?  Was it being used as a hedge-trimming tool?  I have no idea.  Strange, but we went inside anyway, toured the upstairs and the main floor, noted the acceptable floorplan, etc., then headed down to the basement where there was a small neighborhood lizard writhing miserably in the middle of the floor.  In our very path through the basement, there was a lizard dying.  I think it actually died while we were down there.  So on a tour of this otherwise totally respectable home we a) found a butcher knife in the hedges and b) witnessed the death of a small reptile.  I don’t need to be a voodoo practitioner to feel like maybe that is just not the house for us, right?  Plus, in such a respectable home, could I ever feel comfortable rocking out to classic outlaw country with my family while we cooked and I drank gin?  It just didn’t have any grit to it at all.

The “Good Memories” House
This is a house we’ve had our eye on since we put our own on the market.  A young couple built it in 1940, raised their family in it, and lived in it until their own deaths, the most recent of which was five years ago.  It was well-maintained and has a sunny, cheerful feeling.  It’s also got the worst 1970s wallpaper you’ve ever seen.  In every single room.  Crazy floral patterns in every room, all in shades of yellow and gold except the kitchen where there is (drum roll please) a wallpaper mural of a wharf scene.  Still, you know me, I like vintage things and I really love the floorplan of this house.  I can totally picture the happy hum of home life my family would have under this roof.  I also love the idea of taking up the banner of life in a house that grew old with one loving family.  So the problem (besides the damage to my fingernails that a full year of peeling off wallpaper would cause) is that the daughter who grew up in this home and now owns it is completely delusional about what the home is “worth.”  She loved it, she grew up in it, she watched her parents take good care of it, and now she’s asking a completely nutty amount of money for it.  So it has sat empty, lonely, cold and unkempt for three years while no one buys it.  Someone has cut the grass but not much else.  A shutter has come loose, and who knows what has happened to the pipes.  I guess we could make a low offer on the house, one that is more in keeping with what the actual real estate market says the home is worth, but we don’t have much confidence she’d take it.  Then we’d have wasted precious time making an offer that has almost no hope of being accepted.  That would leave us in an even bigger hurry to find a house and kind of sad, too, because when you actually make an offer you can’t help but to get a little emotionally involved.

Dilapidated Charm
Last but never least, there is a very beautiful home on a very lovely street.  We toured it at an open house last winter.  We were amazed at how pretty it could be, and our jaws dropped at the amount of work it needed.  The kitchen is horrifying, the basement leaks, the roof looks shoddy, the home needs new windows.  “What a labor of love,” we thought, “for someone who doesn’t mind living though all that work.”  “What a beautiful and charming home for someone who can give it the love it needs.”  And we walked back out.  But the house is on the route of our daily family walk, so each day for approximately eight months we’ve walked by it.  “That house needs someone to love it,” we’d say.  Then, gradually, a funny thing happened.  We hardly wanted to say it out loud, but it became increasingly clear that maybe we were falling in love with it, just a little bit.  “We could rent the upstairs apartment,” one of us would suggest, “to help with the cost of the renovations.”  Or “I guess buying a house that needs a lot of work would mean that the people doing the work would get to choose how it turns out, which is much nicer than buying a nice house that is imprinted with someone else’s taste.”  And slowly we realized we were trying to talk ourselves into it, that we did love the house, and that it was at the top of our list of places to move.  Then, a few months ago, the real estate sign disappeared from the yard.  We were shocked and sad, like the house cheated on us somehow.  We asked around; it appeared the house had found a buyer.  “At least someone will give it the love it needs,” we said, and told ourselves it was for the best.  Every day we took our walk, and every day we watched for there to be lights on in the house, or some sign that work had begun, but nothing happened.  Then, two weeks ago, right about the time we were deciding to take our home off the market the for sale sign went back up.  I swear I’m not superstitious, but just as much as knives and lizards make me feel uncomfortable with the respectable little stone house around the corner, there was a funny flow to the set of events that brought us from “should we take ours off?” to “oh look!  The sign is back up in the yard of that beautiful fixer-upper,” to “OMG!  We’ve finally got an offer!”

So the knives and lizards house would be a smart buy, the dilapidated charmer would be stupid.  Who buys a house they know will be a money pit?  Shouldn’t transactions like real estate be made with the head more than the heart?  So we’ll take our final looks at our options tomorrow and then figure something out.  A home inspection might shed light on our charmer, and maybe a serious offer would sway our Happy Memories owner more than we think.  It might be a nice middle ground?  In the meantime, I’m off to pour myself another margarita.

House house house house house house


The house that is soon to be someone else’s!  She offered.  We counter-offered.  She accepted.  OMG!  There will be an inspection late this week, but I feel pretty confident it should go well since we know of no problems with our little home.  (Other than the size of it, if you are a family of four, which she’s not.)  She’s on board with a pre-Christmas move, but there is now the not-so-small detail of finding a home for us to move into.  We looked at a half dozen places today and I’m afraid they were underwhelming.  The boring cape cod, the house with the terrific sewing space but closet-like kitchen, the home that is lovely but in a bad location.  Hmm.  We have a few more to see yet, so we’re hopeful.  This isn’t really the best time to be looking for a new place, calendar-wise, but I’m sure something will turn up.  In the meantime I’m having a bit of trouble sleeping.  I can’t even mentally plot out furniture layouts or curtain plans since I have no idea where we’re moving!

We pass the time

I really don’t like it when people say “this too shall pass.”  By which I guess I mean people who aren’t really going through horrifying circumstances–I guess if someone living in squalid conditions in a refugee camp said it, or someone suffering from cholera in Haiti, then I’d be on board.  But in general, the people I hear say this are American parents with relatively comfortable lives who are simply wishing their lives away.  I prefer to not wish my life away.  Life is already short (and we never know exactly how short it is, so it’s probably best to assume it’s shorter rather than longer), and I want to live it fully, not to pass the time wishing it were tomorrow.  So I’m trying to remember this while we wait for our housing situation to be resolved.  Today is just as much one of the precious days of my childrens’ lives in my care as yesterday was, and it counts against my total just as much as any day next year, no matter what my address is.
In light of that, here is my beautiful daughter, a person I treasure, being beautiful.  She is reciting a book from memory (“reading” it) to her doll, who is (over)dressed just like Dorothy.  And while my daughter is being her beautiful self, and my son is learning to crawl, talk and wave bye-bye, we are also having housing “adventures.”  The potential buyer made an offer.  We are countering, but our counter is not far off of her offer, so it seems likely that a sale will work out.  We have some non-monetary terms to agree on such as a closing date, etc, and there will be an inspection, but things seem to be moving in the right direction.  Wow!  So my husband and I will spend the weekend interviewing new homes for us, which is very exciting.  Where is the kitchen in which Dorothy and I will be baking bread in just a couple short months?  I’m curious, but I’m going to take a deep breath and remember to fully enjoy our last loaves here.

Carbs and a calendar


For various reasons that I cannot blog about yet, we have decided to take our house off the market next week. I don’t mean to be secretive (can one be secretive and have a blog?), but there is a Major Life Change coming to my family that simply cannot yet be discussed in public, but it effects our plans to move.  (It is, for the record, absolutely NOT a new baby.  So please don’t start rumors!)  After much pondering, heart-searching, bookkeeping, and discussion, we concluded that the house should either be sold or off the market by November 15, almost 11 months after the for-sale sign first went into our frozen yard last winter.  So I’ve been making plans for how to live in our current home better.  I’ve poured over the IKEA catalog, Craig’s List, fabric swatches and organization web sites.  I’ve plotted out which furniture we will keep, which will go, what needs to be moved around in order to make this little house work more efficiently for our family.  We also agreed to have a last-ditch open house, so we at least felt like we fought the real estate fight to the bitter end.  And I’m afraid it was bitter–I had already buried the idea of moving, and I did not want to clean and vacate the house on Sunday.  I left our spotlessly clean house with a very grumpy attitude.  Then a very surprising thing happened.  Our Realtor called and said she expected an offer from someone who came to the open house.  What? 

We’re trying not to get our hopes up, since the last time we thought an offer was pending things didn’t work out so well.  Still, it’s been three days and things seem to be progressing.  The potential buyer has been back, asked questions, reportedly gotten a mortgage pre-approval.  We’ll see.  A written offer is still pending.  I’m trying very hard not to dissolve into an emotional mess, but it’s tough.  Should I carry on with my plans to change our house?  Should I be scouring the real estate websites trying to find a house for us?  Should I quickly finish and wrap all my Christmas shopping in case a sudden move disrupts Santa’s progress?  Eek!  So everything feels up in the air, my stomach is quavering, I jump when the phone rings, and I’m craving (and eating) carbs.  The picture above is the first of two “cream” sodas I drank yesterday (in a glass Dorothy decorated).  Fill a glass with ice, then 3/4 full of plain seltzer, then a dash of vanilla syrup (like the kind coffee shops sell), then top it off with whole milk or cream.  Yum.  Sugar.


And while the real estate mess has been stressful, this totally made my day!  Mama Shell, of Shell Shares Recipes, sent me an amazingly fabulous calendar.  It’s twelve super-cool pages of illustrations of vintage campers and I love it!  My first thought was to put it in the camper, but then I wouldn’t get to see it as often, so it’s going in my own kitchen (wherever that may be?) so I can drool over how cute they all are every day.  Thank you Shell!

Crochet is perfect for fidgety, nervous fingers.  I’ve also found that I have three or four minutes each morning and afternoon to crochet while I’m waiting (parked) in the carpool line for Dorothy.  It doesn’t seem like a lot of time, but it adds up.  I just keep a project ready to pick up in the passenger seat.  I’d purchased this fun shiny coat this fall but wasn’t sure what kind of accessories to wear with something so…shiny.  I decided to go for contrast, so I ordered some really fuzzy alpaca blend yarn.  I like the fuzzy with the shiny, and the scarf and hat are warm and soft.  I didn’t use a pattern, they are both just very simple.  I made the hat big enough that it will (hopefully) just sort of sit down on top of my hair without squashing my curls.  It’s hard for curly girls to wear hats, but this really warm yet lightweight yarn should help.

My house is a mess and the newspaper pissed me off


The stomach virus is gone, but we’re not fully operational around here.  Everyone is still tired and we’ve all just lost a little momentum.  The house is a mess and we have a real estate open house tomorrow–yikes.  The table I photographed happens to be covered with 4-year-old girl ephemera, but my own desk is just as overflowing, with mail, stamps and a stamp pad from an old paper project, a shirt that needs mending, and three different yarn projects in various stages of completion.  Somehow we will get all this cleaned up and the Halloween decorations put away by tomorrow midday.  (So this morning blogging takes the form of procrastination.)

I also just have to comment on this ugly article that met me at the breakfast table this morning.  I don’t understand the so-called “mommy wars” at all.  It seems to me that some people take others’ strong commitments to a parenting philosophy personally, and feel indicted if they don’t share one, whereas the focus of most parenting philosophies is actually on children, not other mommies.  If a mother doesn’t like a particular philosophy, perhaps she should just avoid using it, instead of suggesting that its existence is undermining decades of progress in women’s liberation.  Jong seems to miss the point that if a woman disagrees with a philosophy (in this case, attachment parenting), then she is free to ignore it and move on.  It is only if she actually finds it compelling and thinks in her heart that she should be following it (or doing something differently) that it has any sway over her at all.  If she does not find a philosophy compelling, then the fact that other mothers practice it should not even be on her radar–parenting is a very personal quest, not a contest, and mothers do not have to register their commitment to any particular set of values anywhere.

I am grateful for a community that allows me to parent the way I feel is right.  Sometimes that is an accord with one particular parenting book or another, and sometimes it is not.  I know women who largely share my parenting views and work full-time at demanding jobs. I know others who stay home and share none of my philosophies.  I am glad that in this garbled world of feminism, post-feminism, and feminism-yet-to-come that I can stay home and tend my family’s metaphorical fires without feeling like I have something to prove.  I stay home because that is what feels right to me.  I enjoy contributing to my family’s economy in the kitchen, at my sewing machine, and out of my crochet bag.  I hold a masters degree from a prestigious university and if I felt like that piece of paper forced me out of the spot that makes me happy, then that would be enslavement.  To each her own.  I can’t imagine any child would be better off staying home with a mother who felt stranded in the role.  Nor do I think women should work outside the home just because that’s what they thought they would do when they were 22 and made expensive educational choices.  It’s a big world–can’t we make room for all the choices that are as varied and ever-changing as the individuals who make up our current generation of mothers?