May 30, 2008


Hi everyone.

I am going to take a hiatus from the blog for a little while. Maybe a couple of weeks. I might update if the mood strikes, but right now there are too many crappy things going on, and I'm not really feeling it.

See you all hopefully soon.

May 27, 2008

Weekend Fun

Avi came to visit us over the weekend - to which we all let out a collective Yay! There was some sanity-saving rounds of Settlers of Catan for us (which is a near-perfect board game, if you are in the market for such a thing), and some tooling around Philly for the small one.

Bubbles in the park proved a big hit with Avi and Misha who instantly invented some kind of curling-like game of trying to keep the bubbles afloat. Did I mention they've been best friends since they were 6? Sometimes you can still see the six-year-olds within.

Then we climbed up and down the many steps of the Washington Monument in the Eakins Oval near the Art Museum. Lara has now developed the habit of saying to herself "Good zob!" every time she does anything. Step up, "Good zob!" Small jump, "Good zob!" A tiny step, "Good zob!" Hmm... Maybe we over-praise her.

We also went to check out the beautiful and usually totally empty Horticulture Center garden near the Japanese House. Uh... I mean, some other place that I didn't just name. Everyone stay away from our secret deserted spot.

May 25, 2008

Lara and Juliet

We had a wonderful visit from Flora and Juliet last week. Would that they lived closer!

I find it hilarious how different Jules and Lara are from one another. They are pretty much diametric opposites in every way - build, demeanor, carriage, attitude, personality - but there is definitely love there. Lara gave Jules a hug when they first came over and I even got her to give Juliet a half-hearted "there, there" pat after a fall. Both are in that chew-the-scenery stage of dramatic "Mother, I am most grievously injured!" emoting for every small bump and scrape, and I think Lara's reluctance to offer solace was part knowing that the actual hurt was pretty small, and part jealousy at a particularly command performance.

Flora always tells funny stories about Juliet's reaction to their visits. This time around, she wrote that on the train back to New York she asked,
"Did you have fun at Lara's?" And Juliet said, "Yeah. And Misha's." And when I said, "That's right, of course, Misha lives there too," she said, "Yeah. He's pretty funny. [pause] He's a man." This was all in a kind of dreamy, far-away tone. I asked her who else is a man and she told me that Daddy is, that I am not, and that she is.

May 23, 2008

A Dose of Cuteness

Perfect weather for climbing the rocks near the river.

It was so soothing to have this good day today, one of the best in a while. This blog is as much as anything an escape for me, and I do not tend to put anything but our joys here, but I feel like I have to at least say that we have had a very difficult time of it recently. Thank you everyone who has written to say hello or to comment on my projects. It means a lot to have this distraction.

May 22, 2008

Contact Paper Collage

I always want to do collage with Lara, but I'm pretty leery of the glue situation... She might be ready, but I certainly am not. So I decided to try out this idea - and I think it's a hit.

We collected leaves, bark, and flowers outside, found some good pictures in a few magazines, and then I also cut up some paper and fabric pieces into shapes. I sorted them all in a muffin tin for easy access:

Contact Paper Collage (pieces)

Then I took a piece of clear contact paper (pretty easy to find at drug stores and such), and taped it sticky-side up to her art table. After the collage was done, I just folded the contact paper over to seal the art forever!

Contact Paper Collage (on display)

We tried it a couple of times, and each time it was a hit for a couple of minutes at least - and Lara also really liked just sticking and unsticking her hand on the contact paper and the zippy sound that made.

May 19, 2008

Lovely Portraits

Claudia's daughter and son:

Oils - Claudia's son

Oils - Claudia's daughter

I love how these came out, and how they will look hanging together next to each other. I tried to keep the yellow background cool and to also warm up the blue so that there would be contrast, but not conflict between them.

May 18, 2008

Egg Carton Boats

Egg Carton Boats 1

A few days ago Lara and I painted some flags to make egg carton boats, which we sailed in the fountain this morning. I drew a few boats with flags, and she basically painted everywhere but there on that piece of paper. Today, we cut out rectangular flags and glued them onto toothpicks. Then I poked the toothpicks through some cut-down styrofoam egg carton pieces. Et voila - boats!

Egg Carton Boats 2

We tested their sea-worthiness at length, and I realized too late that I had forgotten to attach some kind of balast to them. I'm guessing a penny taped onto the bottom would have worked well.

I put a few pebbles into the first one we launched and that was the lone survivor.

Egg Carton Boats 3

Well, there's still eight more egg cups left in that carton!

May 15, 2008

Nature Painted

I've been reading this book, and this blog, and this website, and I think it's time to do more art projects with Lara. Creativity is such an important thing in my life, and something I would so much like to pass along to her... she is a little resistant though, what with being 2 and everything. I am also somewhat resistant to myself, what with being panicked at the infinite possibilities of messiness. And obviously the only thing I can actually transmit is the idea that creativity is a value - not the ability to create itself. Hard to distinguish, but crucial. Nevertheless, yesterday we collected some outside objects and then painted them:

Painted Pinecones

Some pinecones, a stick, and a spiky seed pod that my limited botanical skills cannot identify. Lara wasn't so much into the actual painting process, but she was totally thrilled to give a pinecone to Misha as a present when he came home at night, and to put another one up on her art shelf. We'll try again soon.

May 14, 2008

Fun with Michael

"Wead it, wead the book daddy. Wead 'Tail of a zong', wead 'Guff goin by' pweeze.'" Lara refers to books by her favorite lines from them (this is Dr. Seuss's "Oh the Thinks You Can Think").

My dad is visiting for a few days. Lara hadn't seen him since last summer, but when he walked in and I asked her "Do you know who that is?", she said, "Michael" in a tone that implied "Duh, Mom." We've been going with first names for all the various grandparents since otherwise it is entirely too confusing.

My dad pretty much just follows her around video camera in hand. She doesn't even ask to play with it... I think she thinks that's just how his arm is.

"Wanna go on the fing pweeze! Mommy fing me! Michael fing me pweeze!"

May 12, 2008

More Mother's Day

Family doodle embroidery pillow

Another family doodle embroidery pillow for my mom-in-law, Nancy. We love you! Happy Mother's Day - you're the best ever.

Family doodle embroidery (detail)

May 10, 2008

New Portrait

Mindy's husband and daughter:

Mindy's husband and daughter

A moment at the beach captured forever.

May 9, 2008

Apartment Overhaul, part III

Ah, we've come to the final round of our apartment chronicles. I made Lara an art desk:

Art Table 2

From IKEA: Vika Amon table top, Vika Oleby table legs, Index curtain rod hangers, Mala drawing paper roll, brushes, paints. From the hardware store: wooden dowel, cut down to size with a handsaw.

Art Table 3

Turns out what you need to get a kid interested in art is to actually have a place to make said art. Shocking.

Art Table 1

May 8, 2008

Riding Around

We took Lara out on her tricycle a few days ago. She loves it, but as yet just a passenger. When you push this trike along the pavement, the pedals sometimes engage by themselves, and every time that happens we get so thrilled thinking that Lara is doing the pedaling... but, not so much. She doesn't really separate pushing her feet from pushing with the whole side of her body, so most of her attempts to pedal result in a sharp turn to the left. Look how serious she is though - she pretty much looked this concentrated the whole time we were out.

She's become quite the stuntman in general recently. The other day she climbed out of her crib in a particularly vociferous effort to avoid napping. We had the quintessential low crash and then sobbing. No injuries, thank goodness, and so far no repeat escape attempt. We are both totally shocked that she did it in the first place! After all, this is a child who's still pretty wary of the bouncy bridge on the jungle gym.

A few funny new Lara-isms: she has started to imitate her friend Marcus and say, "Oh, man! Come on!" when something is awry. Also, recently, when you ask her a question, she says, "um..." and pauses before answering. "What did you do in school today?" "Um... I go on the fings [swings]. I go faster faster higher!"

Here is Lara practicing being gentle with the flowers. "Just one fi'ger! Just one fi'ger! Like the shark museum." (At the aquarium, you can touch jellyfish and other creepy things but only with one finger. Those poor animals. One finger from a thousand kids still makes for a lot of poking.)

My cute family.

May 7, 2008

May 6, 2008

Apartment Overhaul, part II

Desk Chair Reupholstery

Ta-da! My office chair has officially been beautified. I totally love it. The whole process of reupholstering took about two hours, and was pretty straightforward. I used a very heavy canvas fabric from the As-Is IKEA bin (it was originally meant to be a curtain), so I think it will stand some level of wear fairly well. To figure out what to do, I just googled "how to reupholster office chair" and checked out some of the many tutorials out there. I did hit my finger with my hammer by accident (for the first time in my life!) and, let me tell you - ouch.

May 4, 2008

Apartment Overhaul, part I

I don't know if you've ever had a moment like this, but I looked around our apartment about a week ago and suddenly hated everything. Just wanted to throw everything out and start all over... which of course will never happen for various economic and ecological reasons. But at least some changes were in order. So:

1. good-bye to the horrid old plastic/aluminum folding chairs we were using as dining chairs (thanks, Freecycle!), and hello to these new lovelies in black from IKEA.

2. Similarly, good-bye to the giant unwieldy pink high chair of doom, and hello this small vintag-y one, also from IKEA.

3. Also, good-bye to this fairly useless and apparently unwelcoming plastic table (I say unwelcoming because Lara never ever wanted to use it for anything!), and hello to a more adult IKEA model which I have since modified in a pretty cool way. More on that in a later post.

At the same time that I ran wild in the IKEA warehouse, I also decided to try to reupholster a few things. I found a bunch of cool fabric in the IKEA As-Is department, and have transformed Lara's outgrown ride-on toy. It was one of those faux-velvet plush snail ones (see picture inset), and when I cut off the fabric, I discovered that it had pretty cool-looking guts:

Ride-on Toy Reupholstery (before)

With some inspiration from this ride-on toy, I made this:

Ride-on Toy Reupholstery (after)

Looks pretty cool if I do say so myself. This was a pretty finicky project, I have to admit - because of the way that the seat and rocking bottom are attached, I basically had to hand-sew the fabric directly onto the thing.

More redoings coming up!

May 2, 2008

Mother's Day #2

My mom just got her present in the mail today, so I can post it!

Pillow for mother's day

A lumbar-support pillow for my mom, complete with an embroidered doodle of our family. Here is a closeup:

Pillow for mother's day (detail)

I made both the pillowcase and the actual pillow. The pillowcase has a simple envelope back for taking off and cleaning, and is made from some brown linen pants, a piece of dark blue fabric left over from my quilt, and Freecycled blue shiny fabric (looks like satin, but clearly polyester) and off-white muslin. I did the embroidery with three-thread embroidery floss (basically, splitting the ones you buy in half) for greater clarity on the small details. There must be a better way to do it than what I did, but I basically sketched a doodle, scanned it into Photoshop, sized it appropriately, printed it out, pinned the printout to the fabric, and embroidered through both the muslin and the paper. Because of all the needle holes, the paper ends up perforated enough to just tear away. I thought of doing it on freezer paper and ironing that onto the muslin, but you can't print on freezer paper, so that would have involved several extra steps on the other end. Hmmm... How do you guys transfer digital images for embroidering?

May 1, 2008

Dinner from the Farm

dinner - marinated salmon, grilled asparagus

Grilled asparagus, marinated baked salmon, tossed salad. All these veggies are from yesterday's farm box - yay for new tomatoes!

The asparagus came out wonderfully - and so simple to make. I just tossed it with some coarse salt, and then grilled it on our George Forman for ten minutes or so, until it was soft to a poke from a wooden spoon. It comes out really wonderful because the salt makes it "sweat" and it dries out a little, and at the same time the sugar in it caramelizes.

The salmon was marinated in my new favorite "stuff from the door of the fridge" marinade that I have so far also used to marinade another batch of asparagus and chicken, each of which has turned out great. The marinade consists of minced garlic, salt, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, mustard, and soy sauce. I actually reused the one left over from the asparagus to marinate this salmon, which sat in the fridge absorbing the sauce for two days. Delish.