Adventures in sewing, continued

“30 minute skirt” HAHAHAHAHAHA allow me to wipe away tears of laughter. NO. Unless you’re an “amateur” seamstress the way the people on The Great British Baking Show are “amateur” bakers, and then sure, 30 minutes. For me, an actual amateur (as in beginner, not as in “I could be doing this professionally and getting paid for it, I just happen not to be”), it took about three and a half hours in two separate sessions – one in September, and one in March, because in between we moved house and everything unrelated to that was  on hold.

I did take the “30 minute” part of the description with a large grain of salt, because I am so new to sewing, and I’m sure if I made a skirt from this pattern again, it would take a little less time. But between the measuring, cutting, ironing, pinning, and actual sewing (and troubleshooting the sewing machine), I can’t imagine doing one start to finish in less than an hour.

Modeling skirt with black top, leggings, and bootsThe instructions were clear and fairly easy to follow. I used a jersey fabric and a slightly wider elastic than was called for (I had it on hand for another pattern I was planning to make, but made this one instead). The skirt came out well enough – the seams and hem are even, and it more or less fits – but I let the fabric get bunched up in a couple places when I was sewing the elastic into the waistband, creating some unintentional and asymmetrical pleat-like things. However, they don’t affect the fall of the skirt too badly, and whatever top I wear with the skirt is likely to cover it up.

For a first effort, I’m calling it a success. I wore it to work and it’s very comfortable – which is the most important part!


Filed under arts and crafts

More tasty things in the kitchen

Tasty things we made in December

Sweet potato casserole (adapted from The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook)

8 Tbsp butter
5 sweet potatoes
Less than 1/3 cup each of brown sugar, molasses, and maple syrup*
1/2 cup water
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
Pecans for topping (optional)

*The original recipe called for 1 cup of packed brown sugar, and also 5 lbs of potatoes; a few of my potatoes were probably under a pound, but even so, that seemed like a lot of sugar. I replaced some of the sugar with other sweeteners, about 1/4 cup of each – you could definitely cut back even more and this would still be a very sweet dish.

Peel and cut sweet potatoes into chunks. Melt butter in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add sweet potatoes, sugar/molasses/syrup, water, salt, and pepper; bring to a simmer, then reduce heat to medium-low and cover. Cook, stirring often, until the potatoes are tender, 30-45 minutes. Preheat the oven to 450.

Remove the lid and bring the potato mixture to a simmer; gently mash the potatoes into the liquid with a potato masher. Chop the pecans and spread them over the top of the potato mixture, then bake 10 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool just long enough so that you don’t burn your mouth on the first bite.

Olive oil cake with lemon and ginger (adapted from Smitten Kitchen’s Blood Orange Olive Oil Cake)

We made the blood orange olive oil cake, and it was very good, but it will be years before I “supreme” a citrus fruit again. Make the same cake using lemon zest and juice instead of orange, and add about 1/2 cup of chopped crystallized ginger, and it’s an easier and equally delicious cake.

Green casserole a.k.a. secret spinach casserole (adapted from The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook)

Very adapted: I actually used the ATK recipe for fettuccine alfredo sauce, added a cube of last summer’s frozen pesto and a whole bag of spinach (turned into green paste with a little bit of olive oil in the food processor), and used this green sauce mixture to coat cooked (al dente) rigatoni pasta, which I then baked in a 9×13 casserole dish at 350 for about 20 minutes. Grate some extra cheese over the top if you like (and who doesn’t like?).

Oatmeal walnut raisin cranberry cookies (from Baking With Less Sugar by Joanne Chang)

These are good if you think of them as breakfast cookies instead of dessert cookies.

A note on crystallized ginger and raisins, vis a vis toddlers: our kid is wild about these. I just heard you’re not supposed to give raisins to kids under three because they are a choking hazard, but they are very small raisins, and she’s been fine so far. And she brushes her (many, many, I think about 80 now?) teeth. As for the ginger…neither her dad nor I can handle eating a whole piece of ginger, but apparently she has a much higher spice/heat tolerance than we do!

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Filed under food, recipes

Written on stone

A small stone sitting on a wall. On the stone is written "Be kind. Everyone matters."

“Be kind. Everyone matters.”

Noticed this little stone resting on top of a wall on my walk back from the playground last week.


Filed under arts and crafts, politics

The Book of Dust

Compass in hand, pointing north

Earlier this month – the week of my birthday, in fact – I learned that Philip Pullman is writing a new trilogy, The Book of Dust. The first of the three books will be published on October 19 – my Lyra’s birthday. Naturally I am over-the-moon excited about this.

A few friends and fellow librarians asked if I was going to write to the author (or his publicist), and I thought sure, why not, and then I remembered he was on Twitter. And then this happened:

Twitter screenshot of Philip Pullman's announcement of The Book of Dust and our exchange that followed

“Give my pre-emptive birthday greetings to Lyra!” This is definitely going in the scrapbook.

(Also, I cannot believe it didn’t occur to me to look up who else shared her birthday until she was already over a year old.)


Filed under baby, books

What we’ve read so far, 16 months

This post is long overdue! We have been reading, of course, I just haven’t documented it here (the last post was around 13 months). Now, if we ask if she wants to read a book, she’ll choose one, bring it over, turn around, and plop herself onto one of our laps, ready for storytime. It is the best.

I was very excited for Chris Haughton’s new book, Goodnight Everyone, but while I liked it very much, Lyra wasn’t nearly as interested as she was in his three previous books (Oh No, George!, Little Owl Lost, and Shh! We Have A Plan). It’s only in hardcover now, so perhaps when/if if comes out as a board book, she’ll like it more.

Cover image of Jamberry by Bruce DegenJamberry must be read at top speed; we pause only on one particular page so she can point to the bear’s hat filled with berries.

Lots of kids’ books feature animals:

Dinosaurs! We like I Dreamt I Was A Dinosaur and How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight?

Wombats! We’ve read my childhood copy of One Woolly Wombat so many times I have it memorized. She likes to point at the kangaroo’s necklace because Grandma has one like that.

Chickies! Our cousins sent us a copy of Bedtime for Chickies by Janee Trasler and Lyra loves it. This is another one she wants to race through, like Jamberry.

Wolves! We found a book that is exactly halfway between I Am the Wolf…And Here I Come! and Herve Tullet’s Press Here: it’s called Help! The Wolf is Coming! I read both wolf books to Lyra’s daycare class and all the kids loved them (there were many encore readings).

Dogs! Not all dogs, just Spot, from Where’s Spot? fame – she likes lifting the flaps. Although we actually have a real live dog in the house, Lyra still hasn’t said “dog”; her first animal word was “owl.”

Owls! We’ve given Wow! Said the Owl a little break, but are enjoying illustrator Tim Hopgood’s version of What A Wonderful World. We tried Olivia Loves Owl, which I think is cute but Lyra doesn’t care for (at least right now. Tastes change quickly…).

Blue Horse I, 1911, Franz Marc

Blue Horse I, Franz Marc

In the past week, she has developed an intense attachment to Eric Carle’s The Artist Who Painted A Blue Horse, and will listen to it over (and over, and over) again. Baby’s first book about degenerate art!

Maurice Sendak is not a classic for nothing: she loves In the Night Kitchen and has started to ask for Where the Wild Things Are, and she still enjoys the Nutshell Library, though most of the appeal is being able to take the tiny book jackets off.

We also still like some Sandra Boynton board books, particularly the Belly Button Book and Tickle Time. Sometimes we’ll reach the end of these and she’ll immediately sign for “more” to read it again.

In addition to books, we’ve been listening to (and dancing to, and playing) lots of music: Sesame Street Platinum All-Time Favorites, some Raffi, They Might Be Giants’ Here Comes Science, and Caspar Babypants (Hot Dog!, Away We Go!, Beatles Baby and Baby Beatles!, I Found You!, etc.). Lyra will sign “please” and “more” and point to the music setup when she wants music, or will nod enthusiastically when I ask her. (It’s one big dramatic, emphatic nod: chin waaaaaay up so all you can see is cheeks…wait…wait…wait…down!) She’s also started saying “Yeah!”

What are your favorite books and music for toddlers?


Filed under baby, books

Boston Women’s March for America

Boston Common during the Women's March

Boston Common, January 21, 2017

On Saturday, my mom and I went into Boston to join the Women’s March, one of the many marches that took place nationally and internationally the day after the inauguration. In Boston, like in many other cities, attendance was much higher than anticipated (city officials estimated the final turnout around 175,000), turning the march into more of a standing protest.

But getting there – on the T packed with other protesters, everyone friendly and wearing pink hats – and then emerging onto the Boston Common at Park Street to see people streaming toward the stage, carrying or wearing their messages, was emotional. I don’t like crowds as a rule, but I’ve never felt safer or more welcome in one.

Elizabeth Warren speaking at the Women's March

The crowd during Elizabeth Warren’s speech

Senator Elizabeth Warren spoke, Senator Ed Markey spoke, mayor of Boston Marty Walsh spoke. So did many others, and then there was a lot of standing around as the organizers and police tried to figure out how to funnel over 100,000 people along a march route planned for a much smaller number.

That part was a bit boring and mildly claustrophobic, but the weather was far nicer than we could have expected for January, and I had brought a sandwich and a book, and there were lots of signs to read as well.

A Woman's Place is in the Resistance

A photo of Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia: “A woman’s place is in the resistance.”

"Respect our existence or expect our resistance"

“Respect our existence or expect our resistance.” (An excellent slogan, but not one that can be said three times fast.)

"We are the people"

“We are the majority and are not going away. Yes we care!” & “We are the people!”

Signs ranged from serious and straightforward to clever and funny. Here are a few of the ones I saw:

  • Girls just wanna have FUNdamental rights
  • Women’s rights are human rights
  • Climate change is not a hoax
  • Bend toward justice (presumably an allusion to the Martin Luther King, Jr. quote, “The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice”)
  • I’m with HER [picture of a globe]
  • Speak truth to power
  • Black Lives Matter
  • Orange is the new bleak
  • Too worried to be funny
  • STEMinist (the belief that women are people, science is real, and women belong there)
  • You know it’s bad when the librarians are shouting (librarians are actually much more shouty than the stereotype would indicate, particularly when it comes to standing up for freedom of speech and fighting against censorship). Likewise, “So bad even the introverts are here.”
  • Rebel Rebel (Princess Leia again, but with a David Bowie lightning bolt. I didn’t see this one myself but my friend Tim snapped a picture from the DC march)

There is such a diversity of causes represented by the left: women’s rights, equal pay (for women, of all races), anti-racism, access to health care, parental leave, paid sick time, LGBTQ rights, education, climate science, common sense gun safety laws, and more. I hope we can work together to make progress on all of them. To start, the Women’s March organizers are suggesting 10 actions for the first 100 days.


Filed under politics

Welcome to the Club

If you’re a new(ish) parent and you’re unfamiliar with the blog The Ugly Volvo, start here, where she takes apart Goodnight Moon. Then get yourself a copy of her book Welcome to the Club, which is full of the hilarious, the disgusting, the tender, and the poignant (see below).

Photo of a page of Welcome to the Club

Photo of the illustration accompanying “#59: First Time You Drop Off Your Child At Day Care and Second-Guess Everything About Your Life.” 

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Filed under baby, books