Meet our newest friends, Monsieur Tofu and Mister Bacon, who came home with us from our little excursion yesterday. They were unboxed and formally introduced to the children today. I know, soy has a bit of a maligned reputation these days, what with hormonal effects looming and locavores crying foul and all. But what can I say? We love ourselves some tofu here. And bacon.
make me happy
OK. We're a week+ into the new year. And we're still not ones to participate in the annual making and breaking of resolutions, or the subsequent failure-induced chocolate binge. My over-consumption of chocolate, for the record, requires no anomalies in self-esteem. But I did quietly inaugurate a little photographic project with the advent of the new year that may have left you wondering if I'd abandoned my usual verbosity for a bit of a different format. That last doozy of a post should have settled that point. Still, I'd like to offer up a brief-ish explanation of my intentions here.
One. I like this blog. Maintaining my presence here makes me happy. When I'm gone for extended periods, I start feeling like the absentee parent neglecting her once-lavished child. I gotta do something that will keep me thinking about Lovelihood, even when, as these days, I'm doing a lot less making. So even if the daily posts are a bit off-topic and stray a tad from the long-winded gasbag format I'd built my presence around, I think they'll round out this space nicely.
Two. We have that newish fancy camera that's been languishing from disuse. It gets some play during freakish weather events, but that's pretty much it. And we frequently comment, in the car on the way to appropriately photographable events, that we should have remembered to bring the camera. That stops here. Not every shot has to be good or in focus or, God forbid in this sunlight-poor region of ours, properly lit. But shots will be taken Every. Damned. Day. I will remember to take the camera out with us. I will play with new lenses and shots. And I will annotate them with clever little observations.
Another thing about these dailies… Because they actually originate from my Flickr account and get sucked into Lovelihood via Interweb magic, you can't really access the post and comment like the regular ones. I may have my tech department change that at some point. For now, it works for me. If you feel inexplicably compelled to comment on a photo post, you can do so by finding the original at Flickr.
That is all.
Quite literally, actually. The Boy is at that sometimes aggravatingly curious stage in which it is not enough to merely know the words for things… He's now demands the meaning, the greater significance, the syntactical nuance of the inhabitants of his world. Also, he picks at every little thing we say. We attempt a demeanor of patience, and encourage his new role as inquisitor, and explain that "Let's roll, family" is not a literal request to tumble into the car, that "cool" has seemingly infinite usages, that the zombies aren't being mean, exactly, when they eat your brains — it's just who they are (zombies come up in conversation a lot around here).
But the other day The Boy, mulling over a Life is Good t-shirt, inquired as to the full explanation of that word. And I was no more prepared to offer even the broadest definition of "life" than to explain what the hell irony is, or where babies come from, or whether or not I've ever inhaled. But those, I actually have answers for. The truth is a pretty convenient thing. Mostly because I already know it. There's no need to formulate an answer if one already exists in a truth-cloud, ready for me to pluck at a 4-year-old's behest. All that's left is to craftfully supply it in a way that doesn't do lasting harm.
But, seriously, Life? I still don't know how to answer that one, either to a pre-schooler, or to an anonymous crowd of blog-readers. And in light of my prolonged absence from this space, the length of which can no longer be explained away with a We're-still-settling-in copout, I'll just offer up some scrappy bits of our life around here since we picked up and left Texas nearly two months ago. Life-filling may not be so insightful as life-relevance, but it's what I know how to explain. Deal.
So, it may not have shown up on your radar, but National S'mores Day was a couple weeks ago. And we didn't actually have much chance to revel in it, either. Because I was working. That's right. Part-time employment has been procured, putting me at a computer screen two or three days a week for pay. At my preferred venue for employment, a newspaper . And while, after taxes and child-care, my net pay actually comes in at a net loss, it's nice to actually be working in my industry again. And with Mr. New Media having landed a job of his own in his industry, things are working themselves into a nice rhythm around here. But coming off of a 12+ hour workday, I decided that we needed to make up our own s'mores to belatedly celebrate that most holy of holidays. So graham crackers were rolled out and docked and tossed into the oven, marshmallow makings set to warp speed in the mixer then poured into a pan to set, an appropriate dairy-less chocolate bar retrieved from the semi-corporate hippie grocer across the street from our neighborhood playground.
We do not, as of yet, have the implements necessary for the roasting of marshmallows for the traditional ooey-gooey s'mores. One day, maybe I'll splurge on one of those culinary flash-bangs to micro-produce a perfectly scorched s'more to order. But I suspect that would take much of the fun out of the whole thing, particularly after The Boy has an epic meltdown at our refusal to let him handle the torch. Such are battles for another day. On this one, we simply settled in with mellowly sun-warmed stacks of sugar and pastry and enjoyed them with a discussion of how much we hope to never leave our new home. The boy takes his with a deconstructionist's careful methodology, eating first the marshmallow (he takes a bite, then pulls the marshmallow back to examine the moist marshmallowy insides), then munching at the graham cracker, then taking the teensiest of nibbles at the chocolate before handing it over to someone who actually enjoys such things. I just gobble mine up, taking care to ensure each bite contains each of the three s'more-ful components, but gobbling it up all the same. And then I contemplate the fairness of sneaking another after the kids are sent to bed.
Ok, so I was going offer up some other vignettes of life as it's been the past couple months, because there's been plenty of doing and making and, yes, settling-in happening around here, and even some photographs shot here and there to document it. But I'm issuing an executive order to pace myself. S'mores are enough for now. Life-meaning can wait another day.
So. We're deep in some throes here. Death throes? Throes of passion? A period of extreme turmoil and stress? Yes, yes and yes. Ok. So maybe not so much with the death part. But housing plans have been imperilled, employment proven to be a fickle partner, humidity and heat smothering any headway I'd made on my regimen of running and complaining that it's too hot to run. Yes, there's been running, slow and not so steady, likely quite painful to witness. And, let me tell you, I make much better time when I'm mentally arranging my new home than when I'm stressing about salvaging the whole operation.
But there are still those boxes huddled in the back corner of the kitchen waiting to be transferred to the shipping container that has taken over our sideyard. And there are dozens (hundreds?) more that will be packed before the end of the month. Because, regardless of whether we have a solid destination, we've resolved to leave this state before the end of this calendar half-year. "Foolhardy" comes to mind. "Desperate to leave this state" is also a pretty good descriptor.
Here's where this gets a bit personal, where I venture into TMI-land. Just skip the next paragraph if you don't want to hear it. I won't mind…
Before there was The Boy, there was a miscarriage. And those were truly dark days. Further darkened by the fact that I'd already mentally checked out of my job, shoved off from all those sales reps and advertisers with their grating requests for something "better." The idea that I'd now be working with all this indefinitely, without the family I'd been brewing in my belly, was enough to set me weeping at my desk in the early morning hours before my coworkers reported in. This, despite the fact that I'd previously worked happily in the same situation for years. This is what expectation does to you.
Reflecting back on those times during these, I've settled on two things: 1) we've weathered much worse, and 2) it's more Pollyanna than I'm comfortable expressing regularly, but weathering any storm is fairly manageable from the warm comfort of our family home, wherever that may be. You always hear it, and it's absolutely true. These are my people, as a friend phrased it, and they have a way of making me feel pretty ok. But I'm just guessing that I'll feel even more ok once we're back in Seattle.
So spirits around here are actually pretty high. And, after a day of cursing our misfortune, I took The Boy aside and declared that we'd be making a batch of graham crackers. But first, we needed to darken a small amount of light brown sugar, because going out to purchase a big bag of dark brown sugar on the eve of our out-of-state-relocation… that would be a reckless move. And somehow I'd gone this far not knowing that brown sugar is nothing but your regular granulated sugar laced with molasses. Who knew? Luckily, there was that near-full bottle in the back of the cupboard, purchased last winter at the grocery store down the street, where the woman who checked us out drawled at us, "Brer Rabbit, hmmm? That's what my Pappy used to get." Now that's as close to a perfect Southern vignette as there ever was.
So, dark brown sugar and rice flour and some dairy-alternatives were battered and baked and snapped into somewhat neat little graham cracker squares. There's some room for improvements that will work themselves out in later batches. But for now, it was just nice to settle back into the occupation of making things. And doubly nice to share it with that dear Boy, who is just old enough to recognize and participate in the general foul mood of that previous day.
Now, before I get back to the occupation of packing, I'll mention that, while postings here will be sporadic for a while as we pack and move and unpack and settle into (we hope) some sort of permanence, I'll be using that Twitter thing to bring you such nuggets as "Still haven't found the box containing the yarn I need to work on that blanket," and "Found this kick-ass recipe for homemade deodorant." These are two actual sentiments I anticipate thumbing into my phone while the computer is buried under a mound of packing paper somewhere. While I was at the whole Twitter thing I went ahead and got myself one of those Facebook pages to do pretty much (ok, exactly) the same thing. It's all one big self-contaminating communications mess, probably poor use of each of the tools, but whatev. I'll leave it to Mr. New Media to fume over my ineffectual use of social media. It is, after all, his job.
I mentioned before that last year's egg decorating was a disaster of fantastical proportions. And by that, I mean it was very, very, VERY messy. Glue everywhere, dripping off the wooden eggs so profusely that the little bits and bobbles designated to adorn the them verily flowed right off. We were left with moist, immodestly-dressed ovate masses, glitter and beads flaking off every time The Boy breathed upon them to examine their unending states of wetness.
All I wanted this year was a better rate of return. I designed this year's activities to be messy enough to engage a near-four-year-old, but not so unconfined as to make me want to cry. In that regard, the decorating, spread over the half-week that The Boy abstains from school, was a grand success. And really, it was a success all around. After all, it resulted in my new favorite object around the house.
There's something so ridiculous about this egg, it's really difficult not to love. We blanketed an egg with adhesive dots, packed on the fuzzies, and Boy and I were just giddy with pride. So proud that we nearly tripped each other up, eager to show our day's work to Mr. New Media when he arrived home from work that evening. Now, that's a good egg.
The painted eggs were actually the first ones done that morning, basically a warm-up exercise and homage to your traditional PAAS-dyed egg. Nothing too exciting there, but I don't look at them, heart-broken at another crafty fail, either.
Easter day, kids fresh from their afternoon nap, we set to work on the two remaining eggs. We harvested up a little pailful of grass and flowers and friendly-looking weeds for the project. And after a liberal application of Mod Podge we hand-applied the bits of flora and fauna (there were some little bugs swept up with our loot that didn't survive the gluing process). And there it is, another egg success. We might have tried for a little more coverage, but I think it works. I don't know of anything more spring-like than a wooden egg shellacked with grass.
Ah yes, the near-miss. The last egg, slapdashed in the moments right after Mr. New Media announced dinner's readiness, is a bit of an Easter disaster, something that might make dear Martha cringe. But this picture gives me the giggles every time I pull it up. And so, of course, I'm constantly pulling it up. So, really, on that basis alone, I'm going to tally this one in the Wildly Successful column.
Here's an embarrassing fact about Mr. New Media: In his dream home he will have carved out a sizable nook just for pillows. A pit, if you will. This space would be floofy and cushy and, I imagine, I Dream of Jeannie-like. He imagines possibly falling back into it, perhaps from a second floor landing. Maybe he lazes in it, sipping red wine. Maybe he browses the internet, enveloped in velvets and damasks and silk brocades. Maybe he takes in a football game on his appropriately man-sized flatscreen. I don't know. I do not share this dream. But nothing gratifies quite as instantly as a simple pillow project. And really, when your completed product is as soft and yielding as something to populate a pit of pillows, there's also very little that's as forgiving.
For a good stretch there I followed the self-instigated tradition of crafting up a pillow as part of every gifting event for Mr. New Media. Birthdays, anniversaries, father's day, etc. Most were sewn, some with a simple envelope closure, others outfitted with zippers. At least one was knitted in an atrocious display of color theory. Some required new fabric, chosen off bolts or salvaged from the remnant bin, or worked from a napkin picked up on clearance. There's the one cut from a favorite t-shirt and fringed in bobbly orange. There's the one that sits as homage to Mondrian. One was made from velvety scraps left over from our re-creation of a favorite book. Two are giant felt carrots. One is just plain giant.
We have yet to find that dream home, the one with the pillow-lounging corner. Hell, we're not even in our dream-state. Home ownership and serious commitment to decorating will have to wait. Right now, it's really just a pillow hole, spilling out of the tent my mom made The Boy for his second birthday. Still, I'm about to stitch the first seems of a dress, a huge, daunting project, and am in serious need of some quick-return craftyness to build up my energy and self-steem.
So, pillows. In starting the dress project, I had cut out pieces to construct a muslin, a most unthinkable act. My bright idea was to use the scraplets from to piece them together in a jagged, strippy fashion to make a pillow front, and then back it with flannel left over from the throw I made at Christmas. Easy enough, but the resulting panel evoked mummies and wrapped bandages. And, as Mr. New Media pointed out, we're a family prone to laying down stains wherever we sit, with sticky chocolate and ripe-strawberry remains grinding into everything. The fine art of napkin usage, despite constant gentle reminders, has not quite stuck with the three-year-old. And the muslin panel, as it was, was just too blank a canvas. A little embellishment was in order, so a second unthinkable act was initiated. I did some appliqué work. In the shape of Texas. Which really accounts for a third unthinkable act. But as they say… When in Rome, adorn your home goods with the likeness of your nation-state. I set a zipper in and called it good.
I've been in a state of mind the past few weeks where I've been very down on this state. There are, of course, many stereotypes about Texans. You know, the whole gun-totin', hickish, loud-mouthedly conservative bit. Lately, it feels like certain citizens of this state have gone out of their way to validate these stereotypes. But there was something rather therapeutic about making this pillow. Maybe it was all the pinning and needling the shape took, like a Texas voodoo doll exorcising its likeness' demons. Maybe it's just that it's fun and cuddly.
In the background, there, is the first piece we took in to commemorate our then-new Texas-ness. Our own deer bust in cardboard and decorative paper. I tasked Mr. New Media with this project once we were settled in this house. He predictably objected to the paper I had picked out. Too girly, of course. But what could be a better antithesis to your archetypical taxidermized trophy than patterns you might decorate a girl's baby shower with? Another Texas corner funned and cuddlied up.
Three years ago, while trimming the nails of a very uncooperative baby boy, I handed him the nearest shiny object in an attempt to acquiesce him into acceptance of the clippers. This camera, whose commercials claimed it to be the "official camera of the internet," eliciting a snortle every time I heard it, was swiftly clunked to the ground. It's lens, bent at an unholy angle and refusing to retract, was waiting apologetically for Mr. New Media to judge when he got out of the shower. It was deemed unfixable. So we replaced it. With the one we currently use. The one The Girlie now manhandles.
Babies, I suppose, are all alike in this regard — they have no respect for personal electronics. The Girlie, like The Boy who blazed the trail before her, has a bad habit of sweeping the camera to the floor. One swift movement of a roly-poly arm, and a pocket-sized camera can be sent clear across the room. One could see how I could be to blame. Mr. New Media has suggested that I've been purposefully careless with the camera to necessitate the purchase of a new, much more expensive one. To which I just shrug sheepishly.
After the last big tumble, this old thing's developed some focusing and lighting issues that can't be rectified. And when telescoping open, it issues a Clickety Clackety that, while not altogether displeasing, isn't really a healthy camera kind of noise. And three years in digital goods time pretty much constitutes an eternity. So we're in serious camera-shopping mode around here. And yes, we're looking at DSLRs this time. Mr. New Media's got his eye on some specific cameras whose specs elude me. I really don't know a damn about cameras so I'm leaving it to him to decide. Just direct me to the macro button, thank you very much. These fancier cameras have macro buttons, right? Jeez, it better come with a printed manual. I'm looking forward to some good ol' documentation-reading already.
In the meantime, I'm still using Clickety Clackety, because there are shots to be taken, moments to be digitized. And while I can never quite get the shot I want anymore, what with entire quadrants of blur taking over the frame, there is a bit of a lomographic quality, an analog-ness, that makes it downright charming, if quasi-artistic. Thank god for blurry photo flickr pools.
I know I'm not the world's greatest photographer. But I try. And I think I've pulled off some pretty good shots with our little point and shooter. Even Mr. New Media, who had harbored aspirations to photojournalism before being drawn to the dark arts of the eponymous New Media, concedes that I take the better photos these days. But having a camera with obvious defects takes a good deal of the pressure off. It's ok if my photos aren't in focus. Or evenly lit. Or look like they were shot in this decade. They're flawed. To which I just shrug sheepishly.