Pardcast 2009

Over the weekend we got to go to a taping of my favorite podcast. I’ve linked to them once or twice, but seriously, if you like really really ridiculously funny stuff and aren’t afraid of the stray f-word, it’s the best bargain going.

The Three Chairs

Jimmy Pardo is the main voice behind the show, and he was a big fan of the old-fashioned telethons of his youth, especially once the bow ties came undone and the hosts were drunk and sweaty and desperate, so they decided to do a telethon of their own. The show started Friday night at 9pm and went through until Saturday morning at 6am, raising over $12,000 for SmileTrain, a charity that fixes cleft palettes for children in developing countries.

Jon Hamm

Guest stars and comedians dropped by all night long. It was just an embarrassment of riches for the comedy nerd. John Hamm, the dreamboat from Mad Men, Oscar Nunez from the Office, Chris Hardwick, host of WebSoup and one of the most easily funny people ever, Scott Aukerman, Paul Gilmartin, Rachael Quaintance, Janet Varney, Jordan Morris…just a huge list of people that crack me up.

Jimmy and Jon Hamm

Including my very favorite comedian ever, Maria Bamford. Lately seen on those funny Target Christmas commercials. She was the last guest, and by then I was seriously flagging. I went into the hallway to get some blood flowing into my feet again and was there when she came in to prepare for her set. I couldn’t contain myself and I geeked out. I went up to her and told her she was my very favorite and I was so glad she was there and I touched her shoulder as I said it because I’m one of those touchy talkers. She gave me a big smile and a thanks and said she was glad to be there and then got out of there as quickly as she could. I don’t know if it was being touched by this stranger lady or that I was trying to talk to her when she was about to go on stage, but either way, I’m not sure I made a great impression.

Maria Bamford

I really get uncomfortable being a fan-girl, but this show and these guys totally bring it out in me. I started listening to them back when Atticus was in the hospital, and this show is probably the only thing that allowed me to get through that hour drive leaving my baby behind every night. We’d get to the car, usually crying in some way, and Bear would just say, “Put on your funny podcast and relax. We’ll be home soon.” So I’d put in my earbuds and check out while all these hilarious people took my mind off things.

I feel so much warmth for these guys for helping me out during such awfulness, that I broke my no fan-girl rule and made Jimmy a present.

Present for Jimmy

The saying is from Jimmy’s act, and it seemed the perfect thing to embroider on a hanky. Either the guys are really great actors, or it went over really well, so I’m going to make up some more in the next few days and put them up in the etsy shop. With the funds going to SmileTrain.

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2009 Year of Pleasure #46

Meet Pearl.

Meet Pearl

Isn’t she a beauty?

I had a great little cobalt blue kitchenaid for about eight years, and it finally gave up the ghost a bunch of months ago after one too many batches of bread dough. It served faithfully like a good little soldier. She is missed.

We went a couple months without a mixer, because who has $300 just lying around for mixer emergencies, and finally we just said That’s It! We Need A Mixer!

Bear and I made each other a promise. If we stopped eating out and buying processed foods, then we could get the mixer now and then it would pay for itself by the end of the year. For the first month we were absolutely religious. I made homemade crackers, Bear brownbagged it for lunch everyday, and then the whole family got sick and picking something up on the way home was all any of us could manage.

But we still look for excuses to use Ol’ Pearl. She runs like a dream.

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Sweet and Savory Cranberry Sauce

This is a love note to my friend Crysta

Homemade Cranberry Sauce

Last year I canceled all our usual Thanksgiving plans when I heard that my friend Crysta and her family were going to be in my general vicinity, and I jumped on the chance to claim her undivided attention and cook an enormous meal all by myself.

Every year I get the itch to add something new to the tradition, and last year I just *had* to make my own cranberry sauce. I don’t know why homemade cranberry sauce has this reputation as the pinnacle of do it yourself extravagance because it couldn’t be any easier. It’s literally not much more than boiled cranberries.

I thought that red onions would be a great paring for the cranberries, so I started throwing things together, and I got a little, shall we say, carried away. Poor Crysta took a bite and actually managed to say, “Um, this is great. Maybe the onion taste is a little….prominent?” without spitting anything into her napkin. We threw that batch out and started over, and the second try was far more successful.

I finally got around to writing out what I did, so in time for her Thanksgiving and yours, here’s my great second times the charm cranberry recipe.

Tresa’s Sweet and Savory Cranberry Sauce

1/4 C red onion, diced
2 Tbs butter
2 C water
1 12 oz bag fresh cranberries
2 C sugar
1/3 C apple juice
1 C brown sugar
4 Tbs red wine vinegar
zest from one orange
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp ginger

Dice the red onion and sweat in the butter. Don’t let the onion brown, keep the heat down until the onion gets all lovely and translucent. When the onions are soft, add the rest of the ingredients and let simmer. After a little while the cranberries will pop open. Give it a few stirs, mash some of those cranberries up against the side of the pan, and continue to let simmer and reduce. You can let this go as long as you want for the desired thickness, but I call it good enough once it thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon well. Pour into a jar and stick in the fridge until it cools.

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The “Fits Any Body Especially Yours” Apron

Apron side 1

Sewing is crazy hard for the full figured woman. Most patterns get sized as if a larger woman was larger in the exact same way that smaller women are smaller. So there’s not much accounting for curves, or shape, let alone differences in curve or shape. The poor pattern designers can only do so much to account for how different we’re all shaped, but if you’re someone like me, who is a fuller figured woman in exactly one part of my body, then it’s a nightmare to try to follow sewing patterns. If a pattern fits my ridiculously large rack, then it is a sack on the rest of me. If it fits me in the butt, it binds my poor boobs until they look in danger of popping.

A couple of months ago I spent a day with my friend Jan who designs sewing patterns and is most known for her aprons. I love aprons in theory, but every one I’ve made has just bugged me. They pull at my neck, they ride up and don’t sit right on my waist, I end up tugging on them so much I’ve ripped more than one. But I really do love the look and functionality of them, so I always go back and make another one, hoping that will be the one that fits comfortably enough to wear all day as I flit about the house cooking and cleaning and humming to myself, probably while I wear pearls and high heels. In my imagination anyway. These days it would be more likely to be a snot guard. But still. Totally worth it.

After a day with Jan I left so inspired. She is just such a generous friend, and I left her house with every pattern she’s ever designed and enough fabric to double my stash. She motivated me to not only give aprons another try (take a look at this one! That’s next on my “to make” list.) but to really unleash my creativity and try some designing of my own.

I wanted to come up with the worlds most basic apron. Something that someone who had never sat down at a sewing machine could make, but something that was totally customizable so it could fit, without a whole lot of math or measurements, the curviest of the curvies and the slenderest of the slenders. I was actually thinking of Enrichment Nights at church, where we often do a craft project but it has to be something that any age or skill level would be interested in. I think this fits the bill.

Plus it’s reversible, so you have even more opportunities to use all those fabulous coordinating fabrics out there.

You’ll need:
2 fabrics for the skirt – 1/2 yd each for most, otherwise just buy what fabric you’ll need to wrap around your waist
2 fabrics for the bodice – a fat quarter will be enough for most, otherwise, just buy what you need to cover your torso
Contrasting fabric – 1/2 yard
2 cute buttons

Apron tutorial step 1
1. Cut your bodice fabrics to the size that will cover you. I cut mine to be 16″ x 14″, and then I cut a piece of the contrasting fabric to 14″ x 3″ and sewed those together. I wanted another way to get more fabric options in there, but I also wanted to create a visual waistline since a one piece garment over large breasts just makes the whole of you look big.

Apron tutorial step 2
2. Cut your skirt fabrics to the size that will fit you. For mine I just took the half yard and cut off the selvages. It worked perfectly for my height and waist size.

Apron tutorial step 3
3. Fold your skirt fabric in half along the waistline and pinch to mark the center. Do the same for your bodice fabric. Unfold and match the center marks of both pieces, right sides together, and sew. Do the same thing for the second skirt and bodice pieces.

Apron tutorial step 4
4. Out of your contrast fabric cut two ties for the waist and one for the neck. For the waist ties I cut selvage to selvage, 4 1/2″ wide. I did the same thing for the neck tie, 5 inches wide. If you’re on the smaller end of the scale, your neck tie will end up being way shorter, but this was easy to cut and gives you plenty of room to get the fit right.

For each of these pieces, fold right sides together and sew into a tube. Turn the tube right side out. Iron each tube flat with the seam in the middle of one side. Set the neck piece aside for now. On one side of the waist pieces, turn the ends inside about a 1/2″ and iron down. Sew a top-stitch down each side of each waist tie.

Apron tutorial step 5
5. Line up the unfinished edge of a waist tie with the edge of one of the skirt pieces and sew in place. Repeat for the other side, making sure that the waist ties line up with each other.

Apron tutorial step 6
6. Now you can give your apron a quick try on and see if everything lines up just where you want it. You’ll need about 1/2″ on each side to sew the two apron pieces together, so make sure you account for that in your fitting. I ended up cutting my bodice piece way down and making the waistband smaller (which is the measurement I listed). Make sure you make any changes to both sides of the apron.

Pin both apron pieces together and sew nearly all the way around, leaving a couple inches open for turning. Cut a snip into the seam allowance at the corners where the bodice meets the skirt. It will look way nicer when turned.

Turn the apron right side out and give it a really thorough pressing. Then follow with a top-stitch all the way around as close to the edge as you can steer.

Apron tutorial step 7
7. Now lets address the neck tie. Give yourself another fitting and decide exactly how long you need your neck piece to be. It should extend onto the apron enough to fit the button you’re going to use, and still be long enough to not pull on your neck. Cut it to size and finish just like we did the waist ties. Iron the ends under, sew two lines of top-stitching, then sew your buttons in place.

Mark and sew your buttonholes on the top of the apron. Then button onto the apron, reversing when you feel like it.

Apron side 2
I’m trying my best Smize.

I’m so pleased with this. It’s so easy I made it in a nap time, and so comfortable I still haven’t taken it off. I think I may just make it through cooking for Thanksgiving this year without being covered in flour and gravy splatter, and still not have a sore neck and ripped hanks of fabric at the end of it.

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New Kitchen Washcloths

Stack of Washcloths

Bear had a great Aunt who made us a couple of handmade washcloths as a wedding present, and I have to confess, back then I could not understand why you’d go to that much trouble for a washcloth when paper towels are so cheap. Ten years later, I always smile to myself when I pull that washcloth out to wash the dishes with. Oh younger me, how silly you were to not appreciate the indestructible glories of a handknit.

Those first washcloths have finally given up the ghost, so I thought it was time for a whole new batch of them. They are hands down the very very best things to use to wash dishes or wipe counters. The yarn makes all these lovely ridges that are great scrubbers, they are tougher than any sponge out there, they’ll never scratch anything delicate, and they just get tossed in the wash so no nasty little germ factories like what normally sits by the sink, and no dead trees. For relatively little effort you get a healthier family, healthier home, and healthier planet. Win, win, win.

Basketweave washcloth
I’ve made tons and tons of the fantastic washcloths from the gals at Mason-Dixon and they are really great, but I absolutely detest weaving in ends, and that one requires a lot of it. But it has that great texture, and I really wanted to keep that.

I also really prefer the process of crochet to the process of knitting. It’s easier on my hands, it goes faster, it’s more mindless for me, but crochet creates this big bulky fabric, and knitting can create this lovely smooth fabric, so I usually go for the knitting. This was a perfect project for crochet – bulky only works in it’s favor – and I could seriously crank out the yardage in a hurry that way. I found this basketweave stitch and knew it was perfection.

I used Lily Sugar ‘n Cream cotton. Out of 3 balls I got two washcloths. Here’s my quick pattern:

Chain 29

DC in third chain from hook and 26 times more to complete the row. Ch 2, turn.

Now starts the Basketweave pattern:

Row 1: Back Post Double Crochet (BPDC) (see below) 3 times (the 2 chains from the last row make your first stitch) [Front Post Double Crochet (FPDC) (see below) 4 times, BPDC 4 times]* repeat * twice more, Ch 2, turn.

OK, all that sounds terribly confusing, but really you’re just making seven blocks of four stitches, alternating the Front Post and Back Post stitches.

Row 2: FPDC 3 times, [BPDC 4 times, FPDC 4 times]* repeat * twice more, Ch 2, turn.

Row 3: Repeat row 2. I think you’ll see here that you just FP the FP’s and BP’s the BP’s until it’s time to make a new square.

Those three rows create the square. To make the square that alternates it, you just have to flip the FP’s and BP’s. So the next square would go like this:

Row 1: FPDC 3 times, [BPDC 4 times, FPDC 4 times]* repeat * twice more, Ch 2, turn.

Row 2: BPDC 3 times, [FPDC 4 times, BPDC 4 times]* repeat * twice more, Ch 2, turn.

Row 3: FPDC 3 times, [BPDC 4 times, FPDC 4 times]* repeat * twice more, Ch 2, turn.

Then you’d have your second row of squares, so you’d go back to that first way for the third set of squares.

I hope that makes sense. If it doesn’t just reading through it, then try it as you crochet. It’s really simple, I think it will just pop out at you as you work it.

OK, now there’s those special stitches:
These work just like a double crochet stitch, but instead of going through the loop, you go around the post made by the previous row. Which direction you go around the post, makes the stitch either push forward, or pull backwards.

Back Post Double Crochet:
Yarn over, and insert the hook from the back

Back Post Double Crochet Step 1

Go around the post and push the needle back towards the back. Yarn over and pull it all through.

Back Post Double Crochet Step 2

Then treat it like a regular double crochet. Yarn over, pull through two loops. Yarn over again, pull through two loops, leaving one loop on the hook.

Front Post Double Crochet:
This works exactly the same way, except you come at the post from the front, around the post from the back, and then through to the front.
Front Post Double Crochet

If you know how to crochet, you can totally do this. Just read as you’re working instead of trying to make sense of it all. It really doesn’t make sense unless you’ve got the crochet right in front of you.

I meant to do this project in the Spring. It just seems like a Spring kind of project, new washcloths, perfect to have ready for all that Spring Cleaning, but when Spring was here I was busy working on Halloween projects. I got all turned around trying to work ahead for magazines, and I really didn’t enjoy that. I’ve never realized before how much the season affects what I’m inspired to do.

This timing worked out OK too though, because after all that Halloween madness, I needed a seriously mellow palate cleanser, and this was just right to work on during this never ending sickness.

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Embarrassing mommy moment #1

I mentioned the other day that we had a traumatic doctor’s visit? OK. Here we go.

Atti is a bit of a mouth breather. More like, a total mouth breather. It’s a really really common preemie thing for their adenoids to develop faster than the rest of their nasal passages, which can lead to some blockage. They typically grow out of it, but if the blockage is extreme, than they’ll operate.

He’s not in any discomfort, but I think it is impacting his development. He struggles to eat, coordinating all the chew, swallow, breath, through one option is difficult, and I think it’s affecting his speech too. He talks like crazy (must post video of that soon), but it’s really difficult for him to say things that require him to close his lips – like an m or p sound. He still doesn’t say Mama. He calls me something that sounds more like BalBal. But I’ll take it.

All of this was really low on the priority level. It was far more important that we work on making sure he could see, getting his weight up, starting therapy, but now that all that is running more or less smoothly, I felt brave enough to tackle something new. Plus, between my snoring Bear and three snoring cats, a snoring Baby was just one too many things to sleep through.

It took us a while to jump through all the hoops necessary to see the right specialist, and then we had to wait for the appointment to open up, and sure enough, when it was finally time to go to the doctor, Atti had a big fat snotty nose. I called to make sure that it would be OK to bring him, and the person I was talking to only seemed concerned with what Atti would tolerate. So I brought him in, knowing my little guy to be just the sweetest and most cooperative little thing ever.

And he totally was. Until they brought out the camera on a tube that goes down his nose. After a solid week of his mom wiping it raw whenever he got within reach, my poor sweet little lamb turned into a raving beast and it took three of us to hold him down long enough for the doctor to shove the tube down his nose only to be stopped by the torrent of snot trying to make its way out.

The doctor finally gave up and sent us down for an X-ray, and the nurse asked, above Atti’s screaming, if she could give him a sucker. Up until that moment, Atti had never tasted sugar. I described before how I wasn’t really anti-sugar but anti-fighting with my child, and right then it sounded like the perfect possible moment to lift the no sugar ban. Since eating is difficult for Atti, I wasn’t sure what he would do with a sucker on a stick, but he popped that thing in his mouth and went at it like he was built for it.

I carried him to the building next door and waited for our turn at the x-ray, and looked down to discover that I had a bright blue blotch on my white T-shirt, right in the middle of my breast, looking just like a Blue Raspberry nipple.

Finally, we got called into x-ray, and by this time, Atticus was PISSED. He was already sick, he had tubes shoved up his nose, his mom threw away his sucker, and now he had to lay naked on a cold table while a guy who smelled like cigarettes shoved him into the proper positions. When all the x-rays were finally taken, I pick him up and sing him his songs, and finally Atticus decides that I’m going to stop letting people abuse him so he calms down and nuzzles into me. The x-ray tech comes out to tell us we’re free to leave and puts his hand out for Atti to give him a High 5.

Atti gave him a High 5 all right. And then he grabbed the radiologists hand and bit him.

dimple
He may look sweet an innocent, but don’t be fooled!

I’m standing there with my child on my hip, covered in his snot and blue raspberry drool where a nipple would be, while the radiologist lectures my under 2 year old about biting. I wanted to fold my arms together and blink really hard like I Dream of Jeannie so the whole thing would go away.

Instead I mumbled apologies, sprinted away as fast as I could and just thought, if nothing else, this will make great blog fodder.

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2009 Year of Pleasure #45

Crochet

I guess I just need to get used to it. We’re in those toddler years where some days I have my little buddy and some days I have a tiny adorable petri dish. First a month long cough, then a cold, and now apparently the flu. And he is generous enough to share it with me every time. So I have tucked myself into the couch with a blanket and the heating pad, the remote control is in reach and I have a big ol Coke to drink, and I’m crocheting to distract myself from the aching body.

It’s not fun to be sick, but it seems to be the only way I can make myself just stop and chill out for a while.

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5 years

As of today I’ve been pecking away in this space for five years. It feels like it couldn’t only be five years. I’ve lived lifetimes since then!

2004

I started this blog just after we left New Hampshire and moved to California. I hadn’t found a home in our new location, I was so very sick, and I felt this need to communicate with someone. I’ve also always felt ….haunted, maybe?…. by the need to write, but so terrified by how much I wanted to be good at it that I barely wrote anything at all. I found myself at this moment in my life where everything I was doing wrapped up, and I was left with this wide open future and no idea what I wanted to do with myself, or was even capable of doing. I didn’t have kids, I didn’t have much of a career, and the broadness of my open life was almost claustrophobic.

2005

2005 was a trying and yet wonderful time. We were so desperate to have a baby, but by then that wasn’t even the central issue anymore. I was so sick, and we had no health insurance to make that change. I spent my days on pain pills, and if I did one thing in my day – cooked dinner, put the slipcovers on the couches, took a shower – that was a productive day. The posts back then were few and far between, and I think that’s because I was in too much pain to put thoughts together, but also because I was surrounded by some of the greatest friends ever. There were so many people who took such great care of us then.

2006
By 2006, health insurance kicked in and we started trying to get me healthy. That sucked, and I am loathe to think about it too much. It was a really tough time. But this is the year that I really started to discover myself. This was when I did most of the work on my craft book that didn’t go anywhere but was tremendously educational for me. This was when I started to appreciate how essential creation is to my identity and accepted that no vision of my future could be complete without it.

2007
Of course, as soon as I realized what I needed to be happy in my life without children, children became a possibility. Doesn’t it always work that way? Again, looking back my first reaction is always, “Boy, what a hard year.” A move away from beloved friends, miscarriage of a hard won pregnancy, failing to make a place in my new community, a fire threatening our beloved home, but then, also, beauty. Finding healing in the hard work of my hands, getting pregnant with Atti and staying that way, communing with this new little life in me.

2008
2008 was the year everything changed for us. In the very best ways, even though it came at such a cost. Nearly two years later I can’t really even write about that time when Atti was in the hospital, or the fear I’ve had to learn to walk with as we work towards his future. It’s so terrifying and heartbreaking to think back on, but it was just so wonderful to have him, none of it seemed to matter.

2009
I think that is the biggest gift that blogging has given me. I look at the big events of all these years and when you add it all up, I should be in the red. I shouldn’t be joyous when I’m dealing with miscarriages and moves and prolonged chronic illness. The life that I’ve been given is ridiculous and hard and even sometimes ugly in the big picture. But somehow, it doesn’t really feel that way. I have a record of all the little tender mercies, all the oases of beauty that sustain me, all the loving kindnesses of supportive readers, and when you add it all up it so outweighs the big hard things that I am happy. Truly, profoundly, almost unbearably happy.

I can’t thank you guys enough for being here through it all with me.

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Play Group

Atti swinging

We went to our first, honest to goodness, at the park playgroup today. It went better than I was expecting, but not as good as I hoped.

I was really scared to death to go, up late last night stressing and then spending all morning thinking through contingency plans. Trying to come up with ways to keep him involved with the other kids, prepared for whatever terrain we’d come across, able to play with all the equipment, if it weren’t for the fact that the other moms are such wonderful, supportive, positive friends of mine, I probably would have just kept to my house.

Atti and Connor

Atti was a big fan of the swings, but the slide didn’t do anything for him. Of course, he could only go down if he was on my lap, so that takes a little of the thrill away.

I brought his little walker, hoping that he’d try to use it to keep up with his little friends, but instead he just got pissed off. He recognized that the other boys could do things that he couldn’t and it made him MAD. Head banging, full body fit throwing MAD. Which is good. I know him. This little guy is just so durned stubborn that he’ll get mad and then he’ll get to work. As we keep up with the playgroup, I think he will start using that walker more, and it will really aid his development.

But for today, I can’t really describe the pit that opened up in my stomach as I watched my child realize he was different.

Me and my buddy
It’s just my job to teach him that different doesn’t have to be a bad thing.

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2009 Year of Pleasures #44

cookie monster

We’ve been avoiding giving Atti any sugar, not because we’re evil parents who hate childhood, but more because I wanted to put off a fight as long as I could. This poor kid has me forcing so many things that are good for him, if he knew that sugar existed in the world, getting him to eat the few bites of spinach I can cram down his throat would only be that much harder. As long as he was unaware of sugar, it was one less thing I had to say no to.

I finally broke my prohibition the other day during a super traumatic doctor visit (more about that later), so when Bear made homemade Snickerdoodles this weekend, I figured I could be a nice mom and at least feel okay that there was no corn syrup involved.

happy boy

Atti’s a fan.

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