Monday, February 29, 2016

February sewing: sturdy fabric basket

I thought I'd make something practical for my February sewing project. Starting with my problem, which is over-abundance of kid books next to my bed:


I think you can imagine how this happens, especially if you have or know young kids.

I was looking around Pinterest for a free, easy sewing pattern for a fabric basket that might help tidy this mess up, and found this Lillyella Sturdy Fabric Basket which looked like exactly what I needed.


I used this Remix Crosses Black fabric by Robert Kaufman Remix and this Wild & Free "Fletching Chant".

The pattern was sooooo easy, and soooo cute, and I'm really happy with how it turned out.



But, if you follow me on Instagram, you know that this bedside scene is an utter and complete lie. Truth is, it usually looks more like this:


I'm not sure why my bedside table has become Grand Central Station, but it has become a depot for all variety of train and car. So, I whipped up another basket for bedside vehicle storage.



For this second basket I used a Black & White Cats fabric from Cotton & Steel, which I loooove, but seems to be out of stock. I refer to it as my Izzy fabric.


I approve.
I'm positive that I'll be making more of this cute little baskets now. Watch out, everyone is getting one as a gift.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

February Reads

February hasn't been quite the success of January, in terms of finished books. Yes, I know February isn't over, but I don't expect to finish another book this month, so here we go.

First up, My Brilliant Friend: Neapolitan Novels, Book One by Elena Ferrante


Do you have Ferrante Fever? Have you heard of it? These books are blowing up everywhere - people are obsessed! I admit, the story of this anonymous author is somewhat intriguing, so I jumped on board too.

The first 3/4 of the book, I was all what are people so obsessed with? And this is a trilogy that I will not finish. But by the end, I was hooked too. I wouldn't say I have the fever, but I'll definitely continue on with the other books in the Neapolitan Novels trilogy.

Next I read Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg by Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik.

I admit that before this book, I really didn't know much about RBG, or even (truthfully) the Supreme Court, but with the recent death of Justice Antonin Scalia, I wanted to learn more. This book is actually a nice little primer on RBG going back to her school days, and yes, it will make you a fan too. I've started thinking about WWRBGD (What Would Ruth Bader Ginsburg Do). There are skippable parts, write-ups of RBG's legal notes, for example (unless you like that kind of thing - I don't).
 
Finally, I've just finished Alison Kinney's Hood. (full disclosure, I work for the company that publishes this book & series).



 
Where to start with this book, which part of the excellent (I might be biased) Object Lessons series... This is such powerful and provocative book, which considers the cultural history & legacy of the hood - as worn by executioners and executed, protesters and police, and, well,  everybody. As you might have guessed, Hood culminates in the hoodie as worn by Trayvon Martin on the evening he was murdered and the controversies of the hoodie, or rather who is perceived to be wearing it. All in all an excellent book - so good that I actually stood in my subway station to finish the last couple pages, knowing I couldn't wait to get home!

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

On Decluttering

It's very fashionable right now to de-clutter and to embrace minimalism. Books like Marie Kondo's The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing have been on best-seller lists for more than a year (though I haven't read it!). And earlier this year, I vowed to de-clutter too.

I know myself to be a collector (hoarder H. might claim), and as I go through my closets and drawers, I'm asking myself - why am I keeping this? What does this mean to me? Sometimes I keep things because, simply, someone gave it to me and I feel like it's some kind of betrayal to get rid of it. Sometimes it's because it brings back a memory - so I'm asking myself 'do I need this item to access that memory?'. More often than not, I don't.

Random Biggie applique.

In recent weeks, I've been pulling clothes out of my closet and drawers. Those, mostly, have gone to Goodwill.

I'll tell you a brief story about why I donate to Goodwill - it's not that good a story, but hey. The Salvation Army is much closer, and in fact there isn't a Goodwill store convenient to me at all. I used to take things to the Salvation Army, but last time I went, I asked where the donation bin was (it had moved), and I overheard a woman who worked there say to her colleague "I get so aggravated that they walk in right past the bin and ask where it is...", obviously referring to me and my question. My question that related to making a donation to them. I was so in shock at how rude this was, that I left and have never stepped foot in any Salvation Army, to buy or donate. I wrote to them too, to complain, and they never responded. So! Goodwill gets my donations exclusively, and my money.

Anyway, long story there. Still bitter, obviously.

Last weekend I donated two blue Ikea bags (you know the ones...) of clothes, bags, some shoes, a curling iron (even though I have curly hair...)

Then I went through my drawers of stuff. Everyone has a junk drawer - I have about 6. I've organized all my files of household instructions (by kitchen electronics, computer stuff, baby stuff...). I threw out tons of useless stuff, however I am still holding on to a collection of vintage cell phones - circa 2003-2014. Not sure what to do with them - donate? Toss? Does anyone want a Motorola Razr?

Finally, I have been selling junk on eBay. In my mind, this should be fun, but it's hard. I've made about $100, and I still have some active listings that aren't moving (stop watching, start buying you people!).

One of the oddest things since I started this mass de-cluttering, is that I actually do feel lighter. I have never believe that stuff they say about your things affecting how you feel, but I do - I feel better knowing that the corners of my closet aren't piling up with dusty old shoes and that my junk drawers are organized. It makes me feel rested, and also, strangely, in control.

I still have a lot of stuff. I'm pretty sure I can/should sell a few more things off the 'Bay, and that I could make a few more donations (do I need 12 black tank tops...?) And I haven't even tackled the de-cluttering of my books - something I become more open to every time I think about packing those dusty bad boys up and moving them out of the apartment.

So, a work in progress, truly, but progress nonetheless.

Monday, February 15, 2016

bdays and vdays

I've mentioned before - probably every year, that I (smugly) don't celebrate Valentine's Day, because it's too close to my birthday. But I couldn't help but buy these adorable llama Valentines for L's class from the Paper Source.


Something you may not know - but should: I like llamas and alpacas.


Anyway, I couldn't resist this llama Valentine kit, even if L. could not care less.




Which I dutifully decorated and stuffed for all L's teachers and classmates, and all my friends (some are still in the mail!).

Friday we celebrated my birthday, and H. put on quite a show.



And Superman himself helped me blow out my many, many candles.


Today (a holiday here - an added birthday bonus) we dropped off some things for custom framing, thanks to my parents' generous birthday gift! I love custom framing, and can't wait to get my pictures back!

Friday, February 12, 2016

I'm 37, please don't make me go to Brooklyn

The title of this post comes from Liz Lemon.

Today is my birthday, I'm 37, but of course I go to Brooklyn every day (for now).

That's me

I've been toiling on a new project, that I will tell you about next week. I'm kind of excited, maybe because it's new. For now, I have simple birthday plans: friends coming for dinner, H. cooking. He won't reveal what the cake situation is though. And, it's a long weekend. A long birthday weekend! Could I be luckier? Well, yes, maybe if I was turning 25 and not 37.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

The Saddest Songs, Vol. 1

With my new phone I'm updating my playlists because now I have room! And I've filled it up with lots and lots of Diana Ross & The Supremes, of course. I was reminded of university, when I wanted to make a mix tape of the World's Saddest Songs - because one of thee saddest songs ever is I'm Living in Shame.

So, here is Volume 1 of The World's Saddest Songs: I'm Living in Shame by Diana Ross The Supremes.


If you can't listen, here's the story: a girl grows up being ashamed of her mother and their poverty, but her mother works so hard to give her a good life. The girl grows up, marries, lies about her mother, has a baby. Then, her mom dies while making jam, never having known her grandchild. Are you crying?

I also wanted to make a mix of stalker songs - that's for another post, I guess.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Phone cases!

About 18 months into having my iPhone 5, the stupid thing started having problems. Last winter, amid the "polar vortex", it would shut down if it got too cold. Then, it would shut down at about 30% battery. Slowly, it got worse and worse... shutting down if the battery was less than 50%, or if I took too many (too many = 2) photos, or if I used the map too much. I can hardly hear anything on it if I take a call on it. Then, this past weekend, it shut down with about 90% battery. That was it.

My contract with my phone provider actually ended in September, and I've been eligible for an upgrade since then. But I've waffled, because I've had such a bad experience with this iPhone, I wasn't sure I wanted another one.

On Sunday I reluctantly went into the store and signed a new contract with my phone provider, and got a new iPhone 6s. They assured me its battery was better than the 5, and I hope they're right. I chose the "rose gold" option - or pink, as I call it.

Now comes the fun part: choosing an iPhone case (so I will never see the pink, I guess). When it comes to phone cases, I'm a one and done gal. I buy one when I get the phone, and I never change it: so it's a 2 year commitment.

Anyway, I've been browsing Society6 for *the* case, and am currently admiring these ones:

Cats


On the left: A Lot of Cats by Kitten Rain
On the right: Furr Division Cats by Tobe Fonseca

Twin Peaks

 
On the left: Welcome to Twin Peaks by Justin Cybulski
On the right: Diane, Dale Cooper's Tape Recorder by Welcome to Twin Peaks

Llamas/Alpacas


On the left: Llamas by Sophie Corrigan
On the right: The Alpacas II by Littleoddforest

Floral


On the left:  Midnight Florals by Creative Index
On the right: Floral by A. Vogler

Birds


On the left: Five Birds tori no iro by Birdnimal

On the right: Birds by Claire Stamper

Abstract


On the left: Atym by Spires
On the right: Tangled by Anita Ivancenko

What do you think? Are you a one-case person, or do you like to change it up?

Monday, February 8, 2016

A visit to Washington, DC and Old Town Alexandria

Last week we traveled down to Washington, DC for a few days. I had a work thing, so H. and L. did some sight-seeing.


Once I was done work, I had an afternoon and a morning for some sightseeing myself. We went to the National Museum of the American Indian. I can't tell you at all if this is a great museum, though I suspect it is. However, L. was sucked into the imagiNATIONS Activity Center, and that's all we did. But that was fine. And he chose a Stress Llama as a souvenir - child after my own llama-loving heart.


As we left that museum, L. fell asleep, which gave us the good fortune of having almost 2 hours in the National Gallery of Art!


My favorites were the early American paintings, but also the Whistlers and the Sargents, of course. We also saw the current exhibition, Powers and Pathos: Bronze Sculpture of the Hellenistic World, which was excellent too.

Had L. been awake, none of this would have happened. Or; none of it would have happened easily. Lucky timing.

Aside from all the, you know - art, the National Gallery itself is a beautiful building, and I took all opportunities to snap some creepster shots through the galleries.





Then, on Saturday we went to see Old Town Alexandria, where we were given a fantastic itinerary by Alex from Old Town Home, who also met us for some hot drinks after our tour! After we left, H. said to me "he's like a totally normal person." I'm not sure what he was expecting... but it was nice to meet you, Alex!


Old Town Alexandria is just as beautiful and charming as it looks on Old Town Home, and if I hadn't had a grumpy toddler or a train to catch, I could have easily dropped several dollars in any of the shops along King Street. Another time...


It was also super easy to get to without a car. We took the DC Metro (which is easy with a stroller!), and then the free trolley from the station.




Washington, DC is such a nice place to visit, even if it's for work. It's easy to get around, and because the museums are (almost) all free, I don't feel bad if I can only see part of the collection in one visit. I was also surprised at how the museums even have activities for little kids - the imagiNATIONS Activity Center mentioned above, but the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum even has story time for little kids (L. learned all about the sun!).

Also, they have Nando's in DC, so we ate there twice, and L. loved it too.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Traveling on Amtrak with a Kid (How to Pre-board)

Warning: this post contains advice for parents. I am not a MOMMY BLOGGER, but I do want to share my experience, while also not try to portray myself as some kind of parenting expert just because I've been at it for 2.5 years. That said, I was looking for info when preparing for our recent trip, and found it a bit hard. So, if kids bore you (and I understand, I really, really do) - feel free to skip on to the next post in your reader. If you're interested in traveling with a babe or tot in arms, read on. 

Earlier this week we traveled down to Washington, DC. I'll post more, with some pics, later, but I wanted to share some advice.  It's a fact that the most popular most I have ever written was on traveling to Iceland with a baby. I guess it hit the magic SEO mixture to help parents like me Googling for specific travel advice for kids. If that worked, this should too: how to get pre-boarding on Amtrak trains with babies, toddlers and/or kids.

Have you ever wondered if Amtrak offers pre-boarding or priority boarding on their trains, like an airplane? They answer is: yes, they do - for a bribe (or tip). Just use their Red Cap Service. It's free, though you do have to tip. And you need to ask about 15-30 minutes before your train's scheduled departure. They will carry your bags onto the train, before anyone else boards.

This is especially useful at New York Penn Station, which is an absolute sh*tshow, but you can do it at any station that offers Red Cap Service. Stress-free. You can even sit in their designated seating area while you wait to board before the masses.

What to tip a Red Cap? I'm not sure. I usually give $2-$3 per bag, but there was an Australian tourist on our train the other day who gave $25 (I'm pretty sure she was just super confused).


Tuesday, February 2, 2016

What to read next (my January reads)

One of my goals this year is through 35 books. I think that before I had a kid, that number probably seemed... not lofty. Anyway, I don't need to explain more.

If every month is as successful as January, I'll beat my goal way early - because somehow I managed to read five books in January! And, like, proper-sized ones, too.

1. Fifteen Dogs by Andre Alexis


While I liked this book, it certainly was weird, and heavy. The premise is that the gods grant fifteen dogs human intelligence in a bet, and from there we follow the lives and deaths of those dogs, and how they live with this new intelligence. Funny at times, devastating at others - this is a good one if you enjoy pondering your existence... or like talking dogs.

2. The Heart Goes Last: A Novel by Margaret Atwood


If you know me, you know that I love Margaret Atwood. Alias Grace is one of my favorite novels, ever. I thought I'd die of impatience waiting for the MaddAddam trilogy to complete. But, I didn't love this one. There are some pretty major plot holes, and I didn't really connect with any of the characters.

3. Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates


This is an excellent book. Thought provoking and challenging, and so beautifully put. It brought me to tears more than once. Everyone should read this book.

4. Undermajordomo Minor: A Novel


I looooooved Patrick DeWitt's previous book The Sisters Brothers. It remains one of the best books that I've read in the past few years. And, I liked this book a lot too, though a lot of the reviewers didn't. It is weird. Very weird. But I really enjoy DeWitt's unusual style, particularly the dialogue.

5. Trans: A Memoir by Juliet Jacques


This a good book to read if you're interested or curious about the struggles faced by trans people, the struggle to find identity, to navigate relationships, public perception, the harassment and abuse, coming out to loved ones, your employer, yourself, and to find your place in the world.

Right, so there were my January reads. Yes, this post is filled with affiliate links, because - why not?
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