Thursday, April 26, 2007

Poopee Pot

Tonight I bring you a post with no photos, only text.
Why? Because I have to admit that I am overwhelmed with sweating the small stuff this week.

We returned from a lovely (albeit cold and rainy) trip to Fresno on Monday evening. I spent Tuesday and Wednesday doing my usual routine with Harlan involving making the rounds at the neighborhood playgrounds, meeting up with friends, and sitting on the floor of my living room while the gorilla from that 70's Samsonite luggage commercial shrieks and throws objects as large as his entire body at me if I pick up the phone or walk towards the computer. When he napped, I crashed hard. Nothing was sewn, stitched, knitted, or baked. No crumbs were removed from highchair trays or kitchen counters, no shriveled up grapes were pulled out from under the sofa. Mail was not sorted and phone calls were not returned. I napped on the couch and watched an episode of Desperate Housewives, and I don't mention this to be ironic or in any way poetic, it's just what happened. I took the advice of Richard Dreyfus' character in one of my favorite movies What About Bob, "Give yourself permission to take a vacation from your problems." I turned on the Tivo and ate some See's candy and did not feel guilty or unproductive. I did yoga and washed my hair, and trudged through the crumbs on the floor nestled among baby gorilla's wreckage while he slept.

Then today all hell broke loose, the small stuff happened and I sweated it big time. First of all, the cloth diapers that I carefully researched and selected arrived. The unbleached prefolds required being laundered prior to use. Three times for maximum absorbency. No problem. I loaded up 42 of the 100 I ordered and took them along with Harlan to the laundromat. I washed and dried them twice and brought them home, only to discover that they are so enormous that even if I wore them I could barely fit a pair of maternity pants over them. WTF? I ordered the toddler size based on the weight chart provided on the website. No way is a 30 pound baby going to wear these suckers. I berated myself for having wasted $100 on something I can only resell for half that price, and thought that this was the worst part of my day when the mail arrived, and in it was a big old letter from my crazy landlord.

Was it a new lease? Nope. It's a letter stating that we have been throwing out our trash in ripped up bags that he has to clean up, and that he is charging us $50 for the service. If anyone reading this blog happens to recall, my landlord rarely puts our trash out for the sanitation service to collect. At one point I went out and bought giant lawn and leaf bags and collected all the rat-eaten trash myself and put it out on the curb. I sent him a letter complaining about it and charging him for the trash bags, and his response was to call me and curse me out and threaten to throw me out. It gets better though! Enclosed with the letter are color photos of the garbage cans filled with bags of garbage that have clearly been eaten by rats. The bags appear to be shredded with a cheese grater, they are mere pieces of plastic entwined with trash swimming in a can that has clearly been ignored for at least a month. At the bottom of the letter the landlord demands that I cease putting out my garbage in this condition, or else he will "take further action". While this is clearly hilarious and insane, it just pushed me over the edge a bit and I turned and looked at my four foot pile of newly laundered, useless, $100 Chinese pre-fold diapers and wondered how I ever gave up cigarettes. Calgon take me away!

But fear not dear readers, I won't leave you on such a bleak note. My husband Joe has a co-worker at the school he teaches at who goes to grad school at night at City College, which has a very diverse and international student body. When the professor read the attendance for the first time she prefaced one of the names with, "I'm sure I'm mispronouncing this, but, Poopee Pot?" An Indonesian student replied, "Yes, I am Poopee Pot, that is correct". The class tried to stifle their laughter and the professor asked Poopee if he had a knick name that he preferred (Poop? Pee? Pot?) "Yes, my friends call me Pizza Man." I do have a very scatalogical sense of humor so I apologize if you're not with me here, but Poopee Pot has become the answer to about 50% of the questions around here ever since Joe brought that story home (i.e. "What should we eat for dinner?" "Who is hosting the democratic debate tonight?" Answer: Poopee Pot?) This is how I overcome sweating the small stuff. Poop jokes always do it for me.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Button swap and new bird in town

We just flew in from Fresno CA this afternoon and I have a busy week ahead but felt the need for a little checking in. Above is another bird made from a Tiffany felt and some red wool felt and red floss. One of my two most favorite color combos is this blue and dark red so I had to do it. I gave the little guy a kerchief and some wire feet to boot.

In the mail last week I received some great stuff from Charlotte in France through the Shim & Son's button swap pt. deux. Charlotte sent me amazing buttons that are totally me along with a hand crocheted album with felt pages, some wooden beads and beautiful bookmarks she made from photos that she took (she's a professional photographer). I scored!

I'll have to tell you later about my Kinokunia adventures, but I have a few orders to place this week for Bun Bun Babythreads.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Tales of cloth and thread

Here are the first pair of spring overalls I made for Harlan from brown cotton and some Superbuzzy fabrics. They took a lot longer to make than I estimated and since I'm a beginner seamstress they don't look perfect. When I thought I had completed them and tried them on Harlan they were way too short in the torso so I had to make some additions to the straps at the top. One can't exactly try a pinned muslin practice outfit on a squirmy toddler. Now when I make the next pair I'll elongate the torso so they'll fit a bit better. I do love them though.

Last Saturday we went to the flea market in Chelsea and met up with old friends from Austin Karen and Mike. They live in PA now and buy antiques from auctions to resell full time. They are at the flea market here quite often and they always have to most original items I ever see there. I got some great vintage fabrics and buttons from them:

This one is an old feed sack. It looks like it could Liberty Print, don't you think?

Kitties and hearts:

Two repro fabrics Karen had, and some great bakelite buttons:

They also had some old wooden cheese boxes which I have been scouting ebay for lately. I want to make some dioramas with them. For now they are housing our Homeys and Trailer Trash figurines as well as some Kid Robot toys and an old wind up chicken:

I've also been spending my "free time" over the past week researching cloth diapers as I'm planning to switch over from disposables. During the research process I also discovered that I can get rid of the wipes and keep thin terry Target washcloths in the wipes warmer along with a witch hazel and water solution. For pee pee situations I will just use a spray bottle and dry cloths. Ever since the landlord began letting our garbage pile up in front of our building I have been on a campaign to minimize how much I create. I began saving compost and bringing it to the farmer's market each Saturday. Now with no more diapers there should be considerably less output coming from our apartment. Did I mention that he moved back into the ground floor? He still lets the garbage build up although he puts it out more often than when he was not living here. I've had a couple of run-ins with him since the incident and ignored him, although last week I saw him on the street and just said hello out of instinct. As Joe predicted when the incident occurred, he is acting like nothing happened.

Here's a question for you readers, does living "off the grid" mean no internet, or does it just mean supplying your own water, electric, and fuel etc? To be truley O.T.G. do you have to fully support yourself or can you have a job and pay taxes, have a retirement fund, and invest in the market as long as you supply your own power and water?
Just wondering as I like to fantasize about going O.T.G. but I gots to have my internets and Tivo.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Food Ups and Downs

I've been having a major hankering for rice pudding lately. There's a shop on east Spring St. in Manhattan that only sells rice pudding in many different flavors. I've only ever gotten the chocolate hazelnut because it's so good, but I would like to try some of the other flavors eventually too. Their pudding is perfect; rich and velveteen. Needless to say I have never tried to make rice pudding, and the other night there was a bevy of rice left after we had a stir fry for dinner so I attempted my hand at it. I looked in the Joy of Cooking and saw a baked pudding recipe that seemed pretty simple, so I just went with it. I added my own zip and doodahs by throwing in some golden raisins, pistachios, and cinnamon. The result was not exactly what I expected, it wasn't creamy and custardy like a bowl of Kozy Shack. Instead it was quite rice heavy and savory and reminded me more of a noodle koogle with rice instead of noodles. The best part turned out to be my zip and doodahs, which really gave it a nice flavor. Live and learn.

On Monday we went to dinner over at my father's in lower Manhattan and right before we got there we decided we were in need of some hot chocolate (it was a cold windy week you know). There is a chocolate shop a couple of blocks from my father's that has gotten great reviews and I'm shocked to say that I have not yet tried it. I love their packaging most of all:

We walked into Mariebelle and I immediately wanted to move in. The whole place was decorated like some 18th century French chocolate shop and the glorious packaging and stacks of chocolate and caramels were practically giving me a panic attack. I love brown and robin's egg blue together, more than perhaps any other color combo and of course I love chocolate, so there you have it. For a fleeting moment I considered making Mariebelle my new favorite chocolate source (sorry See's, please forgive my temporary insanity). This moment was super fleeting though. Major fleeting. Into the back room we went, tables and chairs were packed with wealthy Italian tourists eating dessert and drinking hot chocolate. They were seriously all polished from head to toe with buttery leather outfits and glistening hair. One table had even gone into the front of the shop to look at chocolates and left their LV wallet on the table alongside a very sexy looking flat digital camera that had a brown leather front. I was eying it to see what brand it was but had to quickly look away so it didn't seem like I was wanting to steal it (OK maybe I'm a bit paranoid, but that's what I was thinking at the time). We walked up to the counter which had a glass case of bricks of chocolate covered nuts and rice krispies ($30 a pound). Joe asked for a small hot chocolate to go, and, $5 plus tax later, here is what he got:

I had to save the empty hot chocolate cup and place it next to a regular sized coffee mug so that you could see just how small it was. It's seriously the size that you get when you are handed free samples of something. We got maybe two shots of hot chocolate. MAYBE two shots, for $5 plus tax. Yes, it was good, but so is the hot chocolate at City Bakery (my personal favorite) and Jacques Torres (my second favorite) and both of those places give you an actual coffee cup filled with hot chocolate AND a homemade marshmellow for much less than $5 plus tax. Did I mention the tax?

After feeling ripped off by the world, karmic justice soon made its way back to me. First, in the form of mail. I received a very unexpected gift in an ass-kicking package from Frizz:

I love her drawings and rubber stamps so much and now I have one of my very own. Her illustrations and paintings are really unique and I hope she can soon earn a real living from them.

The next piece of karmic justice that came my way (and this was a major coup) happened as a result of the best night of the week: recycling night, or as I like to call it, cheapskate's shopping night. Before the sun goes down each week on this day, I carefully take note of everything neatly piled up behind my neighbor's fences, as it all sits in wait to be placed at the edge of the curb after dark. There is always a Swiffer or two (one was mine as soon as I realized that I couldn't replace their stink-ass chemical laden spray with something non-toxic), a lot of Fresh Direct boxes, and piles of New York Times. But this time there was something a little extra special, just for me:

That's right, a huge-ass pile of Cook's Illustrated, including the very first issue! This is my favorite cooking magazine, and I have coveted them for several years now, although I have not subscribed due to budgetary constraints. For those of you unfamiliar with Cook's, the editors take a few basic well loved recipes and cook them with every conceivable (reasonable) method possible, in their official test kitchen. They then publish the results. One issue might have roast chicken, lemon mereingue pie, scrambled eggs, and tuna salad. Alongside these basics there are reviews of items like butter and toasters. It's really been a great addition to my own repetoire of kitchen skills. Aside from the folks at Cook's and Martha I can honestly thank Ina Garten for teaching me how to cook. During my thirteenth summer I got my first job doing food prep in her store Barefoot Contessa which at the time was in Westhampton NY. Some of you may wonder how a thirteen year old got such a job, but the explanation actually speaks volumes about the labor market in the Hamptons. Locals who live there all year need work that is not seasonal, and stores like the Barefoot Contessa were seasonal. They opened at the beginning of the summer season, and ended when the city folk cleared out. Winters out there were like a ghost town. Almost all of Main St. was shut down except for the movie theater and the drug store and post office and maybe one or two restaurants. Local kids worked the summer shops and restaurants during the high season and the pay was pretty good. There were a handful of kids like myself who didn't live there all year but who also weren't the typical summer kids who also got the jobs in town. The fact that we may not have been able to get working papers was never questioned. I didn't even know about working papers until I was well over twenty one. What I remember working for Ina has very little to do with Ina actually. She was in and out of the shop but mostly it her super hot (and super gay) sidekick who showed us the ropes. He showed us how to quickly chop veggies, make guacamole, and prepare lemon squares, cookie dough, roast chickens and other delicious treats, then we'd go out back and smoke cigarettes and admire his little MG, or maybe it was Fiat, I can't remember which. My friend Patty who was the townee to work there used to whisper with me constantly about which women who came into the store we thought he might be dating. I'm not sure why we didn't realize he was gay, but it hit me last year while watching a Barefoot Contessa rerun on the food network. He showed up on an episode and I seriously blushed at the memory of Patty and I sitting out back smoking her mother's Kools while gushing over this much older, much gayer man. Ah the innocence of youth. I am seriously veering off of the subject, but the point is, that I learned how to cook at the Barefoot Contessa over the summers of my teen years and I still love their cookbooks very much in addition to my Cook's Illustrated magazines. Between the two I'm good to go. I have no idea how I strayed over to the Joy of Cooking for a rice pudding recipe, but the result was not good.

I'm also just realizing that I need to post a long overdue piece on local bakeries. O.K. I promise to do it soon.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Blousing around

I made this blouse last week and I like how it came out despite its flowey, slightly maternity-esque shape. It was easy to make and for that I love it. I think for the next blouse I may give the old Simplicity 4589 a try that I have seen some other crafty bloggers make. It's also a bit boxy, but then if I want anything form fitting I have a closet full of such blouses that are just sitting there, waiting for me to stuff myself into them and return to work.

My Superbuzzy fairy tale fabrics arrived over the weekend.

I bought enough to make Harlan a bunch of shortalls for the summer but I love it all so much I am not sure what to do with it. It's almost too great to use. When I received the e-mail from Superbuzzy that new fabrics were in I checked them all out, made some bookmarks of the ones I wanted, and then went to sleep to avoid my usual urge to immediately buy everything I like the looks of. In the morning when I went back to open the bookmarks pretty much everything I wanted was gone. Who knew that online fabric shopping would become as competitive a sport as sample sale shopping? When did the day arrive that we turned into Betty and Wilma at one of those sales where the cave women dive into a pile beneath a SALE sign with limbs flailing and items flying overhead?

Also in the mail was this photo album from Shutterfly:

Last year when Harlan turned one I made him this album for his birthday. I put all the best photos from his first year in it along with a kind of letter to him that narrates what happened over the course of the year. It took me this long to edit and re-edit the damn thing and I finally gave in and ordered it last week. I love how it turned out although there are some typos that I did not catch when I edited it. I suppose that will add to the personalized charm.

During a bit of recent cleaning out of things I came across the perfect frame for the embroidery I made Joe for valentine's day:

Happy Easter and Passover everyone.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

It's what's for dinner

What's wrong with this picture? It's the pasta. Joe's good friend lives in Italy and brought us this pasta as a Christmas gift last year. It has sat in the back of the cabinet ever since. When we opened the wrapping paper I didn't even laugh. I almost threw it out, but the thing is, it's perfectly good pasta and it's even from Italy. So tonight I swallowed my pride and boiled it up to add to our standard kale based pesto with peas and red peppers. This is the only way I can get Harlan to ingest vegetables (make it into pesto and sneak it in amidst the pesto and pasta and plenty of cheese). I have to admit, it was SFG.

If you want to read about a life even more exciting than mine (what? More exciting than making dirty pasta for a family dinner?) You should all go immediately over to my good pal Elliette Devine's blog. Her most recent post is about having to go with co-workers to a strip joint in the Bronx. I can't believe Fifty Cent wasn't there honestly. She also has hands down the best childhood photos posted including this one which I will borrow as a means to entice you over to her blog:

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Happy Mushroom Applique

I made this happy mushroom applique shirt over the last couple of days. When I cut out the mushroom fabric I did not allow enough seam allowance to iron the edges down properly and ended up with some trouble. Trouble continued as I attempted to use the zig zag stitch on my Ye Olde Sewing Machine. The zig zag just never works. Probably the issue is the tension, and, as suggested by Angelina after my last post, I should get it checked out. However, I think it just is what it is. What it is is a Singer that my mother bought me at Woolworth's back when there was a Woolworth's on 8th St. in the Village. If you remember when this was, then you know how long ago this machine was purchased. Add to the age of the machine the fact that I bought it at Woolworth's, and that may explain why the zig zag never quite works out. Within two seconds of using the zig zag on the large mushroom, the machine had sucked the T-shirt into the slot under the needle and built a mound of thread to render it nearly impossible to remove the shirt from the machine.

After resolving never to use the zig zag again I straight stitched the mushroom heads on to the shirt and then embroidered around the edges to camoflauge where their seams were not deep enough to cover the raw edges. Clearly I need to perfect this design before I can sell it anywhere, but it still came out cute enough for Harlan to wear. In the photo of him he is saying hi on his imaginary cell phone.

Last night Joe and I went out for our date night (the second of 2007 despite to resolution to make it a monthly occurence). Luckily our friend and neighbor Salina babysat for us. In exchange I will sit for them one night whey they want to go out for dinner or to a movie. I have been pretty good about finding free babysitters so far. I have yet to pay for any. If I had to pay $10 an hour plus car fare home for someone to watch Harlan for an evening then it's already a night we can't afford. Anyhow, across from my house and right next to Salina's house is a stoop that is perpetually littered with stoop sitters. They are often drunk and yelling at one another, both from next to each other on the stoop and from stoop to window up above. Salina and I love to recreate their world every chance we get. For instance, if I am walking down the street and she sees me out her window, she will throw open her window and holler at me in part Spanish- part faux-drunken jibberish. I will yell back the same way.

Last week I was walking up the block around the corner and saw Salina ahead of me pushing Mattie in the stroller. I sped up, leaning on my own stroller and began to call out to her, "Hey! Mira Puta! Muy sexy! Muy sexy!" Then I continued with some loud tooth sucking noises that some of you may be familiar with if you have ever been a woman walking down a street in a city. Here's the punchline, when she turned around, it wasn't Salina at all. The woman held her hand to her chest and looked at me as if to say, "who me?" And I began to immediately apologize, explaining that her hair looked just like my friend's, and her stroller is the same one my friend has. She turned around and kept walking before listening to even one word. I have to say I wasn't quite as embarrassed as I should have been because I was pushing a baby in a stroller which somehow legitimizes my offensive behavior. Doesn't it?