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January 2007
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i have found it


Picture not taken by me and is stolen from Craftopia, a blog of much sewing awesomeness. As proof: check out her pink lemonade.

This quilt might be the solution to my fabric problem, which is that I love fabric but do not like sewing. I could cut-and-sew some squares, yes? How hard could it be?

I might not want the answer to that. Let me have my delusions.

Other pictures and project specs are here.

note to self

I know that I haven't been talking much about the Diva's Celiac disease as of late. This is a good turn of events. I seem too only talk about things that are causing some kind of emotional upheaval. Managing her, as matthew puts it, "self-hating small intestine," is something we do out of routine anymore. Given how quickly she's been growing and how generally healthy she's become, we are doing well.

Still, things sneak up on us. I've gotten blase about reading labels on foods that shouldn't contain gluten in the first place. Like in chicken broth. Or tomato soup. Or butterscotch chips. In every case, the discovery came as I was throwing the package out after putting the contents in something I was about to feed to her. In the case of the butterscotch chips, I also had to throw out a batch of frozen mini-cheesecakes* I'd tossed them in.

Yes, I know, my vigilance should be constant. Yes, yes, I could get around all of this by making every last thing from scratch. But, really, who has time to do this? While we don't eat that many packaged foods, we do eat some. Labeling laws have greatly improved, though, which makes it pretty dang easy to find the gluten --- if you can remember to check in the first place.

With the chicken broth (College Inn has gluten) and the soup (Campbell's does too), it was easy enough to find another brand. Not so much on the butterscotch chips but it's also not that big of an issue. The Diva's diet mostly consists of food in their natural states. Partly, this is because of the Celiac but, mostly, this is because she's a preschooler. Complicated food will be shunned, regardless of whether or not its gluten free.

*the mini-cheesecakes are one of her favorite treats and the thing we bring in when a kid in her class has a birthday. Essentially, the mini-cheesecakes, which I make in a muffin tin, are cream cheese, eggs, sugar and vanilla. If we're feeling kicky, we fling on some colored sugars or chocolate chips. I keep a bag of the 'cakes in the freezer, where they will happily sit until some kind of event calls for one. The Diva like them more than she ever liked cake, frankly.

shameless self-promotion, number 264 in a series

One of the colleges at which I teach is on break this week. This is exactly what I needed. In fact, did some writing this morning and chilled out during the afternoon by catching up on long neglected Netflix flicks and watching the snow.

Or rather I thought I was chilling out -- but I just finished watching Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, which was probably not the best choice, granted, and am now filled with a white-hot rage. What the heck is wrong with people?

So while I toddle off and mutter obscenities to myself, a much more pleasant link for your reading pleasure: my latest column for Austinmama. This one is about princesses and love.

in my next life, i'd like to be a critical darling

QOTD: It's all going to be okay in the end.  If it's not okay, then it's not the end.

-- the Yarn Harlot, who was herself quoting some unknown sage.

On a grander scale, everything is awesome. We are all well.

On a sometimes-life-is-a-pain-in-the-arse scale, the past couple of days have been professionally irritating and, at times, have made me truly believe that I should just give up the writing and become a welder.

Yesterday was the capper, the thing that made me throw up my hands and say "I give up." See -- I've been pitching my little heart out over the past few weeks. There have been a couple of bright spots, certainly, and I am grateful for them. But there have been a lot (a lot) of "thanks but no thanks" responses. Which is fine. I know how this works.

Yesterday, however, a "no" got under my skin. Not only was it a "no," it was also a "aren't you a cute little girl with your cute little ideas that you think big, sophisticated men and women like our readers would care about, you silly little girl." I don't mind at all being told "no." What I don't like is being condescended to.

And then I thought that maybe this un-named editor is right. And I'd like to say that I had some little epiphany where I said to myself, "Fuck him." I have not. I'm just bitter and crabby. I'm tired of having the things that I find important being poo-pooed. I'm tired of fighting to have my voice heard. I don't think that what I have to say is unimportant, I am weary of having to shout. When crap like Rhonda Byrne's "The Secret," which is such a swindle I can't even bring myself to link to it, is breaking all kinds of sales records there is something wrong with the publishing universe. It all just makes me want to bite someone. Or, at the very least, crawl under the covers and sob.

Of course I'm jealous. Not just about her sales numbers -- although those would be swell -- but about the fact that hers is the voice that is deemed worth listening to.


It'll pass. It always does. Better doors will open. Lather, rinse, repeat.

But still. Still! I want to be able to push the universe to give me what I want. Now, dammit.

As I so frequently do when trying to keep myself from complete despair, I turn to Jon Stewart, whose speech to the College of William and Mary is full of nuggets of wisdom. Like this one:

So how do you know what is the right path to choose to get the result that you desire? And the honest answer is this. You won’t. And accepting that greatly eases the anxiety of your life experience.

It's like my own personal I Ching.

Also holding off despair is Bill Bryson's The Palace Under the Alps. I hadn't even heard about this Bryson book until a week ago, when Anna of 1001 Days' (aka the Stitch Bitch) mention it . Because working for a large college has its perks, I was able to get my hands on it quickly through an interlibrary loan. Palace full of Bryson-y goodness. The only downside is that I now want to go to all of these places.

Plus, emailed to let me know that a copy of Iain Banks' latest, The Steep Approach to Garbadale, is on its way to me. (Another bonus: this interview, which I stole from Jessa.) Let it be known that Banks' book are the only ones I will order from the UK sight unseen. I *heart* Iain Banks.

Finally, if you can't at least smirk at this, then you are dead inside -- Typography meets Pulp Fiction. (from BoingBoing)


Last night, the Boy once again reminded us that it is a damn good thing that he is cute. There was little sleep to be had in the house, because whenever we would drift off, he would wake up again and start making his angry caveman guttural cry, which is the sort of noise that is impossible to ignore simply because it is so freaking annoying.

And given the above, I swigged down far too much coffee this morning. I was nice and perky for my class -- but am now shaky and queasy and groggy. Coincidentally, these are also my least favorite dwarves.

So, while I go have a nice piece of toast or something, two links of a crafty nature: new fabric from Amy Butler, whose designs really, really, really make me wish that I enjoyed sewing, and an opportunity to create Good Yarn Karma.

she knows my pain

I know -- two posts in one day. This one, however, is mostly for the Italians that I'm related to. Anyone can read it, of course, but the Italians will immediately understand.

Kim Severson's story in today's New York Times about tracking down her mother's sauce recipe is one of the stories of my cooking life. I have been trying for years -- and have used a lot of the same techniques that Severson used -- to duplicate Grandmother F's sauce. There has been no joy. So little joy, in fact, that I have just given up.

(And, yes, I do know that Mama Lane's sauce was even better than my G'mother's but I was too young to really have any memory of it.)

But Severson gives me hope, so much hope that I now have new plans for this coming weekend. And these plans involve pork bones and crushed tomatoes.

muppet thumbs

Having almost sliced off the tip of my thumb with a mandolin (the cooking kind, not the stringed kind) a couple of years ago, I found this podcast (I can't seem to link to it but it's Jan. 4, 2007) from Penn Radio absolutely hysterical. In fact, I find most of Penn Radio hysterical -- but this one had some personal resonance. And it should be required listening for anyone who works around power tools.

I'm looking at you Featureless Saint...

Regardless, I am now 80 percent convinced that I have got to make seeing Penn and Teller live in Vegas is a moral imperative. Wonder if there are any yarn shops in Vegas...?

like peepee teepees, only more expensive

The other day I got a large (and completely) unsolicited envelope in the mail from a company called Infoture, Inc. Infoture has developed a hot new product that will make your baby above average in every way.

I'll let them sum up how this will happen. From the flier:

"The groundbreaking research of Dr. Betty Hart and Dr. Todd Risely proved that the single most powerful action you can take -- more than using flashcards or electronic learning toys -- is to talk with and to your child. And the number of words your child hears is a vital factor in determining future educational, emotional and social success."

Makes sense, right? Talking to your kids is good. Never mind that Hart wand Risely's study focused on inner city kids who came from homes where their parents were barely around, much less talking to them, so any communication with an adult lead to vast leaps in cognitive ability. We can still all agree that talking to your kids is good.

Problem is -- no one can make any money from parents simply sitting down and talking to their kids. Enter the Infoture folk.  Their innovation? The LENA Learning system because "every word counts."*

The LENA system, for a mere $99 a month (or $1188 in one lump) will provide you with a cigarette-sized recorder that you slip into a pocket of your baby's clothes (and, for $32-$36 more, you can buy some of the special LENA clothes with special LENA pockets). Also included is  speech recognition software and the online database with which to analyze it. In short, "LENA counts and analyzes the number of words you and your child speak to each other. So you know with confidence that your child's development is in the target zone -- and you can relax and enjoy your baby even more."

Yes, because it is clearly not enough to simply relax and enjoy your baby without buying more stuff to lull you into a false sense of security...

The LENA people also provide a chart. If your kid hears 8624 words per day, it'll have an IQ of 79; 17, 514 equals an IQ of 107. If you're shooting high -- 30, 142 gets you an IQ of 117. Which, incidentally, won't even get you into MENSA or most gifted and talented secondary school programs.

Frankly, the mind reels. I'm still not sure that this isn't some kind of elaborate sham, a mockumentary, if you will, of all of the parenting gizmos that promote the obvious. The language is almost too perfect. Like the pitch letter's PS: "This is the optimal time to help your child meet his or her full potential." And I can also get a 10 percent discount if I call right now.

Most of me hopes that it's a Penn-and-Teller-esque "Bullshit" scenario, where hidden cameras will show how well-meaning parents can be suckered into almost anything. I strongly suspect that it isn't, however and that Infoture will make a nice chunk of money preying on parents' worst fears abotu not doing enough to help their children.

*It appears that to access these sites, you need an offer code. I'm not sure I get the reasoning behind a company who is selling a product restricting access to promotional information about that product. If I'm selling, say, Hondas, I don't hide all of my pitch material behind a code that is available to people who already have received a flier about Hondas, right? Or am I missing something here?

cabin fever: the aftermath

After five days of being semi-snowbound, we are back to the old routine. Thank every merciful deity you can think of.

On the Mooch toss -- yes, we are all aware that it is wrong on a number of different levels. We would never, ever consider tossing Trout (our other cat, not an actual fish) into the snow. Even just considering makes me all squoozy inside because it would be too much like flinging a baby into a drift, then pointing and laughing. But Mooch is a different case. You might just have to trust me on this one -- or move in for a week or two. And if you do want to move in, please be prepared to clean and babysit.

Apropos of little, this link to a Guardian photo story about writer's rooms. Is it telling that the first thing I noticed was the lack of kid-related crap on each of these writer's desks? Where are the naked Barbies? Where are the half-drunk sippies? Where are the stuffing-oozing Beanie Babies? How do you get anything done when you don't have to keep an eye out for Dina, the rubber dinosaur who frequently winds up by my right elbow? How do you print anything when you don't have to spend 20 minutes tracking down the paper tray that one of your angels has thoughtfully hidden? It's a crazy world for these writers. Crazy.