March 2015
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Maker

There is nothing better than being cooped up inside with a toddler all weekend long, while Mother Nature dumps buckets of snow all over your metro area.

(Did I say “better?” I meant to say “more terrifying.”)

Don’t get me wrong, I love weekends with Lilian. I look forward to weekends with Lilian. She’s my little buddy. We have crazy amounts of fun together. But… she’s also a lot like me. She doesn’t sit still very well. If we can’t go somewhere and do something, we need to have a project.

Which is how we ended up making all sorts of things last weekend.

It started with this article , which I read a few weeks ago (I may or may not have a wee bit of a backlog of New Yorkers to catch up on). “Bread is delicious,” I told Kristian, “and HFCS and vital wheat gluten are freaking gross. I want to try making my own bread.” Kristian did what he always does when I get an idea like this in my head. He told me to go for it, and he even picked up some yeast when he was out grocery shopping. Because, he is awesome. And he knows how hard it is to get an idea out of my head.

The results? Delicious .

It’s a running joke in my family that we keep our house on the cold side. As in the “we should probably all bring extra sweaters to Christmas” side of cold. (We turn the heat up for guests. I swear .) It would surprise absolutely nobody to hear that my dough took a long ass time to rise. It took so long to rise, I resorted to tweeting at a friend  who is an accomplished baker for advice/reassurance. As one does.

(She told me to give it more time. It got there… eventually.)

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I already realized several key blunders that I made. Including scoring my loaves the wrong way before I put them in the oven. Next time (because there will be a next time), I think my bread will come out a lot better.

Someone on Facebook accused me of not getting a decent rise. Trust me, it’s just a Myspace angle. Do the kids these days still say Myspace angle? I guess it’s a Snapchat angle, or something.

This is the kind of faith my husband had in my baking ability… he picked up an extra sandwich loaf at the grocery store “just in case.” Even though I’d already taken two loaves out of the oven. And they smelled amazing. And had very much not caught on fire. Well, I’m here to tell you, we had sandwiches for dinner. With my bread. And they were 100% edible.

(In Kristian’s defense, I can be a pretty terrible cook when it comes to making stuff like… dinner. I make elaborate, tasty pastries. But I also fucked up pre-made ravioli a couple of weeks ago. There was really no way to know which way this was going to go until we cut into the bread and ate it.)

(Delicious. I really can’t remind you all enough that it was delicious .)

Another friend suggested that I make french toast with my bread. Genius! This dove-tailed perfectly with my plan to let Kristian sleep in on Sunday, and to surprise him by making breakfast. I knew I was going to be out of town this week, sticking him with a toddler and a couple more feet of snow. It was only right to try and do something nice for him.

This picture makes my french toast look a lot better than it really was. The bread itself was still totally tasty, but I would have to give myself a solid B+ on the french toast part of the whole deal. And that’s probably me being overly generous. Next time, I will use less milk. And let the bread soak more. And maybe give the toddler a project so she isn’t constantly trying to pull stuff off the counter while I’m working.

Speaking of projects…

I let Lilian cover my craft room in glitter and pink heart stickers so I’d have a chance to finish my latest sewing project. “I makin’ valentines!” she told the cats, “It’s a project .”

My project? The Betz White Metro Hipster bag. I’m pretty pleased with it.

This was a fairly easy sew, but I definitely wouldn’t have been able to do it with my old sewing machine. At one point, I think I was sewing through 4 layers of canvas, 2 layers of webbing, 2 layers of batting, and maybe there was some interfacing in there too. I broke a lot more needles than I would care to admit.

The trickiest part was waxing my own canvas. I couldn’t find any that I liked, so I used an online tutorial to take some remnants from a pair of curtains I made a few months ago and wax them on my own. I used a little too much wax, so this bag is probably going to be shedding for a while. It also deposited quite a bit of wax on my sewing machine. I am going to be giving it a deep cleaning when I get back from my business trip.

The pattern itself was pretty easy to follow, and I like the results a lot. I only made one modification, which was to add bias tape to the outside pocket after the fact. The pattern calls for leaving a raw edge, and I am just way too OCD for that. Even though the edge will be covered up by a flap about 95% of the time, I knew it was going to bug me to leave it like that.

I made the inside pocket pretty late on Saturday night, and it was slightly victimized by my tendency to sew for 30-45 minutes longer than I should. I always tell myself that I just want to finish the section I’m working on, but I make way too many mistakes when I’m tired. I should have packed it in. I ended up ripping out a bunch of my work (or, as my grandma likes to call it, “reverse sewing). And the top switching on the pocket is just not that great. I used a decorative stitch that would take about a million years to reverse sew, so I left it in. The irony of adding bias tape but not ripping out my janky top-stitching is not lost on me.

How great is that TARDIS fabric, btw? I’m a not-so-secret nerd, but I tend to not like using/wearing nerdy clothes/accessories. I liked that this fabric looks like a funky argyle. What do you all think?

#MBTAproblems

Did I mention all the snow we’ve been getting? Because it’s a lot of freaking snow. And our ancient subway system just can’t handle it. I think I spent 5+ hours on the Orange Line today.

And did I mention today’s excitement? Because, lordy lordy, there was excitement.

Allow me to set the scene: It was freezing today. Like, the “all of my extremities hurt” kind of freezing. And the trains were all running extra slooooow. I normally get on the Orange Line at Malden Center, which is the second station on the line. With only two stations worth of commuters, there should have been no problem getting on the train.

(Spoiler alert! There were problems.)

A train comes into the station, and it’s full . There’s barely any room on it for new passengers. Maybe 10-20% of the people at my stop can get on. I am not one of them. The train pulls out and there is most definitely not a train “right behind it.” (They always say there is a train right behind, and they are always lying through their teeth) We’re all just getting colder and colder. At some point, I look over at the girl that’s standing next to me and admire her funky outfit (this is going to be important later). We’re all grumbling, but this is at least somewhat manageable. The next train shows up and most of us are able to get on it.

The train is packed . And it’s hot . My left arm is hanging onto the poll for dear life, and my right arm is pinned to my side. I left my earbuds at home, so I have nothing better to do than let my eyes wander aimlessly around the train. At some point, I notice the girl with the funky outfit…

… And she’s not looking so good.

There’s a dude who is still wearing his backpack (I asked him very politely if he could take it off and give us all some more room, but he literally gave me the cold shoulder) and it’s just whacking her repeatedly and she’s not reacting. She’s swaying randomly, and kindof pale. At some point, she starts hugging the backpack that’s been hitting her, and that just doesn’t seem right.

(Remember, I noticed her outfit earlier. She was definitely not with this guy. And now she was hugging his backpack like it was her favorite pillow.)

“Excuse me,” I ask her, “are you ok?” She mumbles something semi-coherent, and now I know that something is wrong. “Back up everybody!” I start yelling, “this girl needs some air!” I grab her shoulder (which I realized later was probably the wrong thing to do if she was having a claustrophobia problem) and I start reassuring her that everything is going to be ok.

To everybody’s credit, they all moved back. People started yelling at the folks with seats to get up and give her a spot. The dude in the seat closest to her was pretty oblivious. By the time he realized what was going on and got up, we were pulling into the next station. At which point the poor girl decided that a seat looked very nice indeed, and started indicating that maybe she would just sit down and not get off the train.

I guess all my experience with a slightly tyrannical two-year-old has paid off, because I let her know (in no uncertain terms) that she needed to get off the train. And she was amenable to it. The crowd parted to let her out, and a couple of guys and I helped her make her way to a bench on the platform. She started looking a little better with some fresh air and space.

An MBTA employee came right over to check on her. He waved the train along, and then called the stationmaster (I think that’s who it was) down. The stationmaster took over at that point. Which is about when I realized that my iPhone was dead. And I was never going to get on a train. If the trains were over-full at the second stop on the line, how did I have any chance of getting a spot three stations later?

(Spoiler alert! No chance. I had no chance.)

Ever the optimist, I decided to give one train a try. It was getting pretty late in the morning at this point, so I thought maybe the crowds had died down a bit. Ahahahahahaha. No . There were people getting onto outbound trains, just so they could try their luck at earlier stations. It was freaking chaos. And did I mention that it was cold? Because my extremities were starting to hurt again. Also, did I mention that my phone was dead? Because I had no way of letting my boss where in the hell I was. Also, the only thing I’d eaten all morning was a banana, and I’d had zero coffee.

“Fuck it,” I said, “I’m going to Starbucks.”

On my way out of the station, I passed the girl who I had helped out earlier. She was sipping juice with the stationmaster, and she looked about a bazillion times better. She thanked me for helping her out, and I told her I was glad to see her so vastly improved. The stationmaster gave her some good-natured ribbing about not eating breakfast.

(No judging from this corner on that one! My stomach was caving in on itself at that point.)

(In the movie that I just wrote in my head, this chance encounter was the beginning of a beautiful friendship between the two of them. She’s played by Felicia Day and he’s played by a surprisingly serious Dave Chappelle, in what many critics hail as a real comeback role. The movie is described as quirky, even if the setup is a little contrived. I’m played by Sandra Bullock, but only because that’s the only way they can get me to sign the paperwork giving them the rights to my section of the story.)

I made my way over to Starbucks (I knew there was one at Assembly Row, I forgot just how far it was from the train station). After a coffee, a croissant, and a top-up charge from my laptop, my iPhone and I were feeling much better. “Hey boss,” I started an IM with, “funny story…”

File this one under things I am grateful for: Having a boss who understands that sometimes you just have to escort an ailing girl off of the train and then sit with her until someone else can take over.

File this one under things that I am also grateful for: Having a boss who suggests that you take an Uber to the office and expense it.

Long story short, I was only about two-and-a-half hours late to work. And then I got to do the whole thing all over again tonight! I waited and waited and waited for a train, but they were all too full. So, I walked across half of Boston, to get on at a later station. But those were all too full. So, I walked to an express bus, paid an extra $3.65, and finally got on a public transit vehicle that didn’t cause me to get to second base with myself.

(I got home after 7pm, even though I left work 20 minutes early to try and give myself a fighting chance of getting home on time.)

(Between Friday and today, we had to pay daycare over $30 in late fees from me not being able to get there to pick up LJ and Kristian having to rush to get her when he wasn’t planning on it.)

I am working from home tomorrow, even though the Pats’ parade goes right by my freaking office and I’ve never seen one of the parades. Because the Orange Line and I are having some problems right now, and I just need a little space.

So, yeah… I’m really glad that I was able to help that girl. And I’m really glad that she was ok in the end. But the MBTA needs to get its act together. Because, at this point, it’s fucking ridiculous. I know our infrastructure is old and shitty and in need of repair. And I know the snow makes everything more difficult. But I had to stop taking the bus to Sullivan, because train after train would show up too full for me to get on, and that was well before any snow fell . If we want to be a world-class city, then our public transit can’t be held together with chewing gum and bailing wire. It just can’t .

When you stand in an Orange Line station, waiting for trains that seem like they’re never going to come, watching them pull into the station, too full to let you on, and listening to the announcements chiming over and over to let you know that they are experiencing “severe delays” (like there is a single person in all of Boston who doesn’t realize that the MBTA is experiencing severe delays)…. Well, let’s just say that it starts to feel like maybe I could walk to work faster than the T can get me there.

(I did the math. Today I could have walked the 7 miles to work a hell of a lot faster than the T + Uber got me there.)

Fix your shit, MBTA. Fix. It.

Snowmageddon Time

Does anybody else see #snowmageddon and immediately start singing Armageddon Time by the Clash in their head? Just me? Ok then.

We’ve had a lot of snow here in Boston lately. A lot . A metric shit-ton of snow (that’s a technical term). Last week, we got probably two and a half feet. Today, we’ve probably had another foot or so. That doesn’t include the random “dustings” here and there. My arms are going to be absolutely cut by the end of this winter… because my toddler has no desire to be buried under all of this snow and keeps insisting that I carry her everywhere. I can’t say that I fault her for that one.

(If you can’t go for a run, you might as swing your toddler around a little bit extra, right?)

I ended up working from home a couple of days last week, and today I just straight up took the day off (Pats in the Super Bowl + Impending Snowstorm of Doom™ = I think I’d prefer to stay in my pjs, if you don’t mind). We’re lucky  enough to have a house with enough floor space for Lilian to run around in circles a little. And I’ve been encouraging her to move around, by saying things like “I’m a car, vroom vroom, I bet you can’t catch me!”

(Bonus points for making the red inactivity line on my Garmin fitness tracker go away.)

But even the mellowest of kids starts to get a little squirrely if you keep them in the house for too long. Which is why Operation Wintertime Indoctrination is now in full effect. You’re a New Englander, kid. Let’s embrace the snow.

First step: snow shoes and shoveling.

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I don’t know how much loft those things actually give her, but they do make her excited about running around outside in the middle of it. And isn’t that what they’re all about? Bonus points for not having any sharp edges that could poke into me when she eventually gets too cold and asks me to carry her home. Extra bonus points that she still thinks shoveling is a fun reward for good behavior.

Second step: sledding.

To be honest, I thought sledding would be an easier sell. This kid is fun-loving and naturally adventurous. We did a good job building it up on the way to the park, but then she took that first run down the (tiny, tiny, OMG tiny) hill and popped up at the bottom yelling “too scary!” C’mon, kid! This hill is all of twelve feet long and we started you at the halfway point. But, when the going gets tough… the tough take turns going down the hill on their own and yelling “wheee! wheee!” in a very pointed fashion.

(At least that’s what the tough do when it’s me and Kristian.)

If taking extra runs down a sledding hill is good parenting, sign me up! Kristian and I had a pretty good time, and Lilian seemed to be enjoying herself as well. After a few runs, she asked to sit on our laps to go down. And then she was allll about the sledding. We were probably at it for at least an hour. And, by the end, she was asking to go down the hill all by herself and yelling “again! again! one! more! time!”

So… Snow shoeing: check. Shoveling: check. Sledding: check.

And, if all else fails, there’s always the ever-popular option of saying “fuck it, it’s still snowing outside. let’s take selfies on the couch.”

January in New York

At the beginning of this recent December, my Mom had a milestone birthday. And my sister Melissa  had a non-milestone birthday. December is a tough time for a get-together, so we arranged to get together on MLK day weekend for a belated celebration. Melissa and her family always have a long drive up from NYC to see us, so we decided to get together in Brooklyn this time. What a lovely weekend we had!

(We were all really sad that my sister Christina wasn’t able to make it, but I guess that just means that we have to all get together again soon!)

We rented a house using AirBnB, which means that we got to spend a lot of family-time together. It was a little on the pricy side, but much more reasonable when compared to getting enough hotel rooms for seven adults and one kid.

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It also meant that we weren’t the only ones who had to read “Pancakes for Findus” 50 times over the course of the weekend.

 

We decided to drive down halfway on Friday night, and then stay with my sister Allison outside Hartford. This was a genius plan for two reasons: 1. Lilian can only take about two hours in the car before she starts to bug out. Breaking up the trip meant a lot less of “Wan’ get down! Wan’ get dowwwwwwwn!!!” 2. My husband is *not* a morning person. Doing part of the drive the night before gave us a much better shot at getting to NYC by lunch-time. This also meant that we got to spend some extra time with Allison, because she had to work on Saturday and there was a good chance she was going to have to work all weekend and miss the trip entirely.

(Spoiler alert! She made it down after all!)

(Yay!)

Stopping at my sister’s house also meant that we were able to bring my brother-in-law Dustin with us. Which was great for him – free ride to the city. But it was freaking awesome for us – built in back-seat entertainment! Dustin, you are always and forever welcome to road-trip with us again. My kid has never been so well-behaved at the two hour and fifteen minute mark of a car trip.

We all did our own thing on Saturday afternoon. Melissa and I met up with our Mom and took Lilian to a park. Which prompted the most Park Slopiest of all Park Slope conversations I have had with a six-year-old.

Six-year-old (walks up to me, points to Lilian, sounds very excited): “Does she have two moms?!?!”
Me: “No, I’m her mom and this is her auntie.”
6YO (sounding disappointed, slightly dejected): “Oh. Where’s her Dad?”
Me: “He’s napping.”
6YO: “My Dad is napping too.”

Apparently six-year-olds in Brooklyn think it’s cool to have two moms. I think I like where this country is heading.

We all got together for dinner at a local Mexican restaurant. The food was excellent, and we got to bring in our own wine. Manly wine.

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Real men wear jaunty scarves.

 

Sunday, it rained for approximately a million hours straight. My mom’s one request was that we all go to the Brooklyn Museum together. Which just so happens to be a place where three kids can stretch their little legs out to their hearts content. The art’s not bad, either.

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I think we got the stink-eye from every single guard and docent in the building, but the kids all behaved themselves. Nobody even attempted to touch the artwork. Lilian even managed to use her inside voice. Mostly. I can’t say I got to really soak in most of the collection, what with corralling my toddler, and hissing “inside voices! don’t touch!” repeatedly. But I saw my fair share of paintings.

My Mom was really excited to see Judy Chicago’s Dinner Party with (most of) of her daughters and grand-daughters. It’s a pretty amazing piece. I don’t think the grand-daughters were really able to fully appreciate its place in art history. Or the importance of honoring forgotten women. Or even to realize just how “vulvar” the place-settings were. But, hey, we were all there together. And I dug it.

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We also made it to the Killer Heels exhibit. Which was the most popular gallery we saw. By far.

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Not heels. Not killer.

I somehow managed to convince Melissa and Mom to go to yoga with me later that afternoon. It’s not like yoga is a hard sell, but I did drag them out into the rain and away from the rest of the family. So. Worth. It. We all felt so much more relaxed and restored afterwards. I think I’m in danger of becoming a yoga junkie.

Sunday night was the big AFC Championship game between the Patriots and the Colts. Our rental didn’t have a TV. It looked like the owner used a projector to watch movies, but I assumed it wasn’t something that was available to renters. My resourceful husband actually went ahead and texted him to see if we could use it (crazy, right?). Turns out it was right there in the ottoman the whole time. Kristian plugged his laptop into the projector, streamed the game, and we had ourselves a football party.

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I tend to get a little… excited when it comes to the Patriots. Lilian learns all sorts of awesome vocal words during games. I was warned to be on my best behavior, and I managed to keep it all under control. Mostly. My nephew did say to me, “I never met a mom who likes football before.”

(Brooklyn is apparently ahead of the times when it comes to moms who marry other moms, but kindof behind the times when it comes to moms who watch football.)

Monday morning, we all started heading off in the direction of home. But, some of us did get together for one last breakfast. And a trip to the park. And I finally managed to get a photo of all the cousins together… where nobody is naked and nobody is crying.

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Apparently our kids are all little emotional nudists. Because this is seriously the only decent picture I have from 2.5 years worth of attempts. Let them get naked, and they’re all smiles. But, put them all together and force everyone to wear pants, and it’s like they hate each other. And, trust me, these kids love each other.

Clearly, we need to get them all together more often.

Accidents Will Happen

(Spoiler alert! Everything is fine! I’m totally fine!)

So, I started my new job last week. And they’re already sending me to job sites (like a boss!). Which means that I’m already finding new and creative ways to drive to job sites. Which means that, last Friday, I found myself in Kenmore Square. Which, if you’ve ever driven in Boston, you will know is not exactly the most fun place in the world to be driving in.

( Spoiler alert! Just reminding you that everything is fine! )

So, I’m chugging merrily along, when the car in front of me stops short. So, I stop short. So, the car behind me stops short… using my bumper as a brake.

Yeah, I totally got rear-ended.

(Not so much like a boss.)

The best part? I had it ingrained in me from the time I started driving that, if you have to brake on the quick side, you should look in the rearview mirror. Just in case the person behind you isn’t stopping. And there’s maybe something you can do about it. Which, in this case, basically just meant I got to watch (in super slo-mo, the brain is an odd little organ) the whole accident unfold.

The guy two cars behind me laid on the horn. Because that’s helpful. I put on my hazards and blinker, pulled over to the side of the road, and hoped like hell that the guy who hit me was planning to do the same. Because I was so stunned, I didn’t think I was capable of remembering make/model, let alone license plate number.

“Yes, officer. The person who hit me was driving a… car. It had four wheels. I think.”

Lucky for me, there are honest people in this world. We did the exchange of info rigamarole. Took pictures of the damage. All that good stuff. I gave Kristian a call. Because I’ve never had to do the exchange of info rigamarole, and I wanted to make sure I was doing it all correctly. I was on the right track, although he did remind me to ask the guy for his license so I could verify that it was the same as the name on the registration.

( Spoiler alert! The guy was not trying to pull a fast one on me. It all checked out. )

Can I just say how awesome smart phones are? Not only could I call my husband for advice and moral support, I also used my iPhone camera to take pictures of the other guys’ license plate, his registration, his license, all of the damage, and the intersection where it happened, etc. It’s not like it’s all that hard to write down a license plate number (I typed it into my notes, just in case). But, this way, I knew I wasn’t going to miss anything.

After we finished up all of the rigamarole, I didn’t know what else to do… so I got back into my car and drove to the job site. The car was driving fine. I felt fine. Part of me wanted to go home and crawl into a hot bath. But a) it was only my fifth day on the job and 2) we don’t have a working bathtub. So, off to work I went. And I was only 15 minutes late.

(Like a boss!)

Kristian still needs to take my car in to get assessed, but we’re pretty sure it’s going to need a new bumper. It’s all compressed in the back, and warped around the bottom. Compression is not so bueno, because it needs to be able to compress again if someone else decides to rear-end me. And the warping is less dangerous, but far more annoying. It makes awful whistling noises if you hit a cross-breeze at just the wrong speed. Lucky for me, the new gig mostly has me taking the subway to work. We can leave it at a body shop for as long as it takes to make my baby all shiny and new.

As far as accidents go, this one wasn’t so bad. I have some residual soreness, but I mostly feel fine. My car will be as good as new after the repair. And I was 0% at fault, so I shouldn’t have to pay for it. As a general rule, I don’t really recommend car accidents. But, if you have to get into one, I would highly recommend this kind.