May 31, 2013

in defense of dinner

I cook dinner for my family probably five nights a week.  I don't talk about this much on the blog because I didn't think I had anything new or unique to say about it; I just cook dinner.  I am interested in recipes and organics and whole foods, and I spend a fair amount of time on the weekends meal planning and grocery shopping.  Lately, I have been devoting Sunday afternoons to babysitting a big pot of stew or soup.  I guess it's no surprise that I downloaded Michael Pollan's new book Cooked on the day it was released, especially considering the impact The Omnivore's Dilemma had on how I feed my family.  It took me a little while to get started on it, and I am still slowly working my way through it, but Pollan's thoughts on home-cooking have left me feeling like a rebel.

" there are more and more people, men and women both, who view home cooking--and even raising and killing chickens!--as a means of liberation from the influence, on our lives and culture, of corporations like KFC.  Which raises an interesting question: As a political matter, is home cooking today a reactionary or progressive way to spend one's time?"  --Michael Pollan in Cooked

Liberating?  Progressive?

Cooking and sewing go hand-in-hand for me.  They are both activities that I really enjoy, mainly because they are solitary and they are productive.  I am quite the introvert, which is a little odd considering my job, but because I spend so much of my day acting as an extrovert, I crave alone time.  I joke sometimes about how badly I want time just to stare at a wall, but that's not really it; I want to retreat into an activity that I can do with my hands and my thoughts.  Bonus points if I can hold up a finished product at the end to combat the mom guilt.

"It is true that this cooking was purely elective.  But nowadays, what cooking isn't?  With fast- and convenience food so cheap and ubiquitous, cooking is hardly ever obligatory anymore, even among the poor.  We all get to decide whether to cook, and increasingly, we decide not to.  Why?  Some people will tell you they find it boring or daunting.  But the most common reason people offer is, they don't have the time."

To be honest, I have often viewed cooking as an indulgence or an escape from the pressures of the day, even if I do it with a toddler clinging to my leg.  It's creative in a sense, and it allows me to work with my hands and actually make something (as opposed to the intangible services and products I provide in my job).  And because I viewed cooking as an indulgence, there has been a certain amount of guilt associated with it.  Why do I spend thirty minutes to an hour every evening preparing dinner when I could pop a frozen something into the oven and go play with my kids?  In a home with two working parents and two children under four, time is a valuable commodity, so why am I spending it cooking from scratch?

"Time is the missing ingredient in our recipes--and in our lives."

I think the answer is that cooking, like sewing, isn't liberating or progressive; it's what moms do, based on my experience.  It's what I saw my mom do, and I'm sure what she grew up seeing her mom do, and (since I have my great-grandmother's sewing machine) what she saw her mom do.  It's a tradition not to be lost.  And it's good for everyone involved, physically, politically, spiritually. 

"A hundred years ago, chicken for dinner meant going out and catching, killing, plucking, and gutting a chicken.  Do you know anybody who still does that?  It would be considered crazy!  Well, that's exactly how cooking will seem to your grandchildren.  Like sewing, or darning socks--something people used to do when they had no other choice."  --food industry market researcher Harry Balzer, as quoted in Cooked

May 27, 2013

scirocco dress

(Happy Memorial Day, and special thanks to my baby brother for his service to our country.)

Back in April, I finished the most adorable sundress for Cara.  Unfortunately, spring skipped us, and she didn't really get to wear it immediately.  I should probably call this dress "The Delayed Gratification Dress," but instead, I think I'll just stick to the pattern title. :-)

The Scirocco dress is from Figgy's Patterns, and I scooped this one up, along with probably 10 or 12 more, in an e-pattern bundle sale.  This is the perfect summer dress, cool and bouncy and adorable.

There is some sewing magic in this pattern.  The little twist in the back and the skirt flounces make this dress look so impressive when it's finished, especially since the directions for finishing up the lined bodice at the shoulder are a little confusing.  I kept saying to myself, "this is never going to work, this is never going to work," and then POOF!  Sewing magic.  My only regret is not matching the plaids.  I thought that it would be almost impossible given the number of pattern pieces, but I think I could have done it had I paid a little more attention.  Oh well.  This one is still pretty stinking cute, and Cara really likes it.  She thinks the flounces are perfect for a little twirly dancing, and she might just be right.

May 21, 2013


Blogging is such a strange thing.  I frequently ask myself lately why I continue to share these bits and pieces in such a public forum.  I have a pretty limited audience here, so there's not really any pressure to deliver, and to be perfectly honest, I don't have a lot of free time to spend here.  When I find myself with a few spare minutes, I can usually fill them up pretty easily with something that needs to be cooked or folded or put away, with little people who want more kisses or candy, with sewing projects, with a few more episodes of Sons of Anarchy (oh my goodness, we are almost done with season 5!).  What is it about blogging that keeps me (and the thousands of other people who maintain blogs) coming back?

I think it is human nature to want to document this experience of life.  Before there was the internet, there were letters and memoirs and journals and diaries.  We have always done this; technology has just given us a new way to capture this moment and the next.  I started keeping a diary in 4th grade, and I guarded it fiercely under lock and key.  I'm sure there are boxes of my old journals and notebooks in my mom's attic, and dear Lord, I hope she never decides to go looking for the self-centered musings of that 16-year-old girl. I doubt I will ever want to share those with anyone.  I think writing is a way of processing for me, as if capturing my thoughts helps them become real and organized and objective.  I have often used this blog as a way to process my experience, especially when I was a new mom.  I guess in the grand scheme of things, I am still a new-ish mom, but it doesn't feel so scary and unknown anymore.

For some reason, I feel a little more closed off and hesitant to share those personal stories lately.  It's not that Colin is any less adorable than Cara was at 14 months or that I love him any less.  Cara's uniquely three-and-a-half-year-old perception of the world astounds me and makes me laugh on an almost daily basis, but I feel sort of stuck when I think about writing up their experiences.  I am still getting to know their developing personalities and preferences, and right now, I don't feel right boxing them in with a blog post.  I miss the experience of writing those posts and rereading them months later.  I can relive Cara's toddler-hood and Colin's baby-hood to a certain extent, and I hope that they will enjoy doing the same when they are a bit older.  Maybe being here less frequently over the past several months has made me a little timid.

But there's something else.  I have become a lot more conscious of my internet and social media consumption recently, not because I think I overdo it, but because I see how controlled my high school students are by it.  I'm not that far removed from this generation of teenagers, but they are dealing with a significantly different world than the one I grew up in.  There are some who are literally unable to go for an entire 90 minute class without checking their phones for whatever social media is lighting up their screens with alerts.  I know this is the new way of passing notes, and I can't act like I didn't do my fair share of that in high school, but there is a problem when a student asks me to hold on because he's got to "catch this tweet" before he can show me the thesis statement he was supposed to be working on.  I never want to allow any social media to come before or in place of real life.  I think observing the way my students use technology and the internet has made me want to back away a bit.

However, I'm not going anywhere.  The internet, social media, blogs, none of these are going anywhere either.  This beast is not one to be ignored, and there is so much good to be found here and there.  I hope that a little extra time and little less stress during the summer may loosen up my writing voice.  I love documenting my sewing projects and posting pictures, but I miss working through an experience through writing.  All things in moderation though, right?

May 20, 2013

love song for a cambie

I completely understand the big fuss about Sewaholic's Cambie dress.  This dress is perfection.  Twirly skirt? Check.  Sweetheart neckline? Check.  POCKETS?? Double check (you know, because there are two of those).  Super adorable dress that fits straight out of the envelope?  Check.

I cut this dress in a size 6 with no alterations to anything at all.  However, I can't wear it to Thanksgiving dinner unless I want to either seriously limit my food intake or bust a zipper.  But on a normal day?  No issues.  The straps are attached to the bodice last, which makes fitting the bodice quite easy.  I had no issues with gaping or extra space at the chest, but I should point out here that Sewaholic patterns are designed with pear shapes in mind (read: I have a very small chest).

I used a basic cotton lawn with a polyester lining.  I am slowly learning my lesson about lining fabric.  I used a Bemberg rayon to line my Hazel dress, and even though this poly feels pretty much the same to the touch, it doesn't breath the same way.  Not a huge deal in a dress like this, but I think I might spring for the Bemberg from now on.  And if you squint at the picture above, you can just barely make out my stitches at the hem.  I used a decorative stitch that looks like a vine with leaves to match my fabric.  Because I am a nerd.  But I don't care because I now have a new favorite dress.  I feel like I say that every time I make a new one, but I really mean it this time. ;-)

May 14, 2013

the "share it to win it" dress

Have you seen those "share it to win" photos on Facebook?  The ones in my newsfeed are usually smocked bishop dresses or chevron dresses.  I have every intention of learning to smock (it's one of my goals for the summer, actually), but the chevron dresses are usually pretty simple, maybe a peasant dress or basic sundress style.  I always think they are adorable, so I decided to make my own "share it to win it" inspired dress.

This is yet another incarnation of the Oliver and S Bubble dress pattern, one of my absolute favorites.  I think I could put this dress together in my sleep at this point.  

Can you find the back seam?  Me neither!!  Those zig-zags matched up by happy accident though, not by any particular skill on my part.  Too bad we didn't have another happy matching accident on the side seams.  Also, it seems I like really like to use blue buttons lately.

Cara really liked this dress--once she accessorized with her Cinderella coach and Tinker Bell necklace, she said she felt like a princess, and really, that's all I need to hear.

May 12, 2013

happy mother's day

I tend to be less than enthusiastic about Hallmark-engineered holidays.  It's not that I dislike celebrations or presents, but it feels a little forced.  Expectations are built up by greeting cards and retail, only adding to the disappointment when things are not perfect.  Why am I changing this poopy diaper?  Why am I awake at 6 am on a Sunday?  I thought I was getting a break from all those mothering duties today?  

The truth is that there is no break, and I don't particularly want a designated day to celebrate my motherhood.  I don't like my attitude when I think of Mother's Day from that perspective.  What I need is to spend Mother's Day thankful for the ones who made me a mother.  Of course, that means many, many thanks to my very own mama.  I am so thankful for the love and sacrifices my mama so freely doled out during my childhood, but I am particularly thankful for her role in my life now.  Whenever I need support or advice, she is always there.  Happy Mother's Day, Mom!  I'm so grateful for your love and encouragement in my journey as a mom.

I am so grateful for my husband, who forgives me over and over when I am grumpy, stressed, and overwhelmed.  I hate to think about the type of mother I would be if I didn't have him as my partner and leader.  His roles as husband and father in our family are absolutely essential.  So, on this Mother's Day, I want to offer a sincere and heartfelt thank you to PJ, my most favorite husband ever, because he supports, encourages, humors, and protects me like no one else around here could. :-)

I mean, look at that handsome face.  I couldn't do it without this guy.

And to my sweet babies, thank you so much for the joy you bring to my life.  I admire how you both wake up excited to take on the day, how you find the fun everywhere you go, how you offer hugs and kisses and snuggles when they are most needed.  You are teaching me about patience, generosity, selflessness, and unconditional love, and I am so very grateful for the role the two of you play in life.  Happy Mother's Day, Cara and Colin!

I am so thankful for those little smiles!

From now on, I think I will use Mother's Day as a day to celebrate and pamper the ones who allow me the privilege of mothering them.  They are the ones who deserve the flowers and the presents and the special meals because they love me through the bad days and celebrate with me on the good ones.  Thanks, guys.

They are the best.
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