Saturday, August 30, 2008

Self-reflexive hurricane history

I'm anxiously watching cars crawl out of New Orleans....dear God, can Katrina happen there again? I hope that the state of Louisiana is simply taking no chances; what I've heard about preparations at both the state and city level is reassuring. But the thought that all the work that Mississippi and New Orleans have done to come back from Katrina could be wiped out in a matter of twenty four hours--it's just too cruel.

I haven't seen much of what Gustav did to Cuba. I hope the damage wasn't too terrible. (And then there's the devastating flooding in India.)

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Old dreams, new dreamers

It's been 15 minutes since the end of Obama's acceptance speech in Denver, and I'm feeling a bit wrung out. It was a great speech--I wasn't worried about that--though I was anxious all day about how the event would go, especially given the huge venue.

As someone who grew up in Denver, I just *ached* to be there tonight. Looking at the nighttime sky over the stadium, I could almost feel the cool evening air (please, I don't want to be set straight about the air temperature and quality by anyone who was actually there....leave me to my dreams, OK?). I didn't cry until the last minute or so; then the floodgates opened.

Elliot sat between Terry and me as we watched the speech on PBS. He was popping his bubblegum and jiggling his legs around, trying to do origami and getting dirty looks from me every time he folded his paper too loudly. On the one hand, he distracted the heck out of me (imagine what it would have been like if Astrid was awake and among us!). On the other hand, having him there with us brought both Terry and me back to another very happy evening: the night we and a bunch of our grad school friends in New Jersey watched the 1992 election returns. As a family, we've gone through many wonderful changes since Bush/Cheney took over--especially, of course, the arrivals of Astrid and her cousins Lilly and Imogen--but there's been very little to cheer about, and so much to mourn, on the national and international scenes. So tonight we felt hope and optimism that we certainly haven't felt since late 2000--but we also feel tired and, with Elliot there to remind us of the years that have past, a lot older. (But probably not wiser--I feel very optimistic tonight!)

On a not entirely different note, Astrid realized last night that the war in Iraq is just about as old as she is (it started when she was about three weeks old). She's been pretty aware of the war since she was three, but she's really starting to ask questions now.

(Hey, I forgot to mention that she just completed DAY THREE of KINDERGARTEN. No wonder she's asking all these questions....)

Friday, August 22, 2008

Being virtually sociable

I confess that I don't read a whole lot of other folks' blogs (even though, in my professional life, I actually *do research* on craft and sewing blogs....go figure). A lot of the time I start reading what other people have been doing, and I get impatient, and I need to go make things myself to relieve the feelings of dissatisfaction I get from having idle hands. Every once in a while, though, I poke my head out of my crafty turtle's shell, and I sample a bunch of blogs in one sitting. This week, I was inspired by the Free Fabric Friday contest assignment at the Sew, Mama, Sew blog: all I had to do to enter was name a craft or sewing blog I like (I named Mama Urchin). The payoff (since I know I won't win the fabric....) was that I found out about a lot of blogs I hadn't seen before. (I'm not one of those in-the-know gals, really....).

Anyway, the one that really caught my fancy is Nikki Shell's Wardrobe Refashion. I liked the idea of her blog so much that I signed The Pledge and enlisted for a two-month contract. Here's my pledge:

I, Seis Manos, pledge that I shall abstain from the purchase of "new" manufactured items of clothing, for the period of 2 / 4 / 6 months. I pledge that i shall refashion, renovate, recycle preloved items for myself with my own hands in fabric, yarn or other medium for the term of my contract. I pledge that I will share the love and post a photo of my refashioned, renovated, recycled, crafted or created item of clothing on the Wardrobe Refashion blog, so that others may share the joy that my thriftiness brings! Signed, Seis Manos.

Of course, I feel a *little* cheesy about doing this because, with the exception of underwear, tights, and t-shirts sporting witty messages, I almost never buy new clothes for myself. I'm no purist, as I've made abundantly clear in other posts.....I just find the experience of trying on the poorly-made, ill-fitting clothes available in stores to be one of the most joy-killing wastes of time in my world. (Really, I can't think of many things that are more depressing, and I felt this way before I became my current XL self. Now I just have the skills to act on my inclinations).

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

At the Art Institute

Terry's away at his institution's (&%@!*!) mandatory faculty retreat, so I'm on my own with Elliot and Astrid, who are out of school/summer camp during a pretty busy week at my workplace. This means that the two of them have to endure long stretches at my office. It's no fun for any of us (though my co-workers do seem to have fun trying to avoid their [ok, our] usual bad language when Astrid is sitting on the floor during a two-hour meeting....).

We were pretty fried by the time I was able to cut out of the office, but they said they'd like to go to the Art Institute of Chicago, and we had a free family pass, so we did it. Before we got there we stopped by an art supply store so that we'd have sketching materials--that's why Astrid wanted to go to the museum in the first place. We stayed just long enough for Astrid to complete several sketches, of 19th century American furniture, a Winslow Homer seascape, a Federalist portrait of a military leader, and a couple of pictures of Santa Claus (no model needed for these). She seemed blithely unaware of the museum visitors and security guards gathering around her to peek at her work. It was a somewhat strange experience for Elliot and me, I have to say. People were *very* curious about Astrid and her (apparently unusual) ability. Hmmm.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Kiddieland marathon

We just got back from a six-hour marathon at our local amusement park, Kiddieland--a lovely "traditional" park that's an institution in Chicago. Elliot and Astrid went on all their favorite "scary" rides--the Little Dipper rollercoaster, the log ride, and waterslides--multiple times. (Of course, these rides aren't scary at all to Elliot, but he still enjoys himself.) Elliot was also generous enough to go with Astrid on any young children's rides that he could fit on--which made the whole experience that much better for Astrid.

I went on the Ferris Wheel twice--at Astrid's request--which was one more time than my stomach wanted. But I did OK. Now we're beat, beat, beat.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Pencil-packin' girl

Even before Astrid turned three, she was using drawing tools to help her work out her feelings and let us know what was on her mind. This past spring, though, when she was earnestly practicing her reading skills, she pretty much stopped drawing and painting. It was a strange time for us, because we just didn't have as many clues about what she was thinking. She is a very articulate kid, but is sometimes indirect in her communications about the things that matter the most to her. (Diplomatic, ain't I?)

Now that her reading is coming along more quickly, Astrid has started drawing and painting again. She has spent at least a few minutes every day this summer (or at least it seems that way) sketching what she sees and thinks about: anatomically detailed animals in motion, incongruous scenes she pictures in her mind (like me with a big beard....), Pokemon creatures she has invented. She has also been hungrily studying the work of other artists in some art history textbooks I brought home from work. Over the past couple of weeks, she has produced her own painted version of Hokusai's "Great Wave" woodcut, as well as some intriguing interpretations of portraits. I like the angle of her Frida Kahlo portrait; the way she shows a heartily-built Kahlo looking slightly to the side makes me think of Botero. (Her drawings look a bit faint on the computer screen--sorry.)

Astrid had seen the Mona Lisa before, but she didn't show interest in doing a version until I mentioned that many people call this painting "La Gioconda," or "The Laughing Woman." Then Astrid got a smile on her own face and worked furiously for two minutes (before running off to watch Arthur on PBS with her brother). We're all happy that she's drawing again.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Elliot's pillow

On Thursday, after I spent the morning commenting on drafts of my students' final projects, Elliot and I spent the afternoon sewing a pillow featuring some of his embroidery. We found the design on one of the vintage embroidery photo pools on Flickr (I think). He did all of the ironing and a good deal of the sewing; for my part, it was my first time making piping, and I think it came out very well. (This tutorial was extremely helpful.) Here it is:

He's been cozy with his pillow since he finished it. I think he's proud of his work--as he should be.

Enough with the beach volleyball

We've been pretty excited at our house about the Olympics starting. Elliot, in particular, has been looking forward to them all summer. I always enjoy them, too---but I have to say that this time around, my anticipation has been mixed with equal parts dread of....

(Cue scary music)


I'm willing to concede that volleyball played on sand is a qualitatively different sport from volleyball in a gym, and having two players on each team changes the dynamic--so it doesn't drive me nuts to see WBV televised during the Olympics. But when over-the-air evening coverage of the Olympics is so limited, do we have to have so much of the broadcast devoted to the sport of Teensy-Weensy Bikini Adjustment? Are the viewers of the U.S. as obsessed with this sport as NBC seems to think we are?


But don't think for a minute that we're going to let the parade of microscopic bikinis ruin our Olympics. Elliot and I spent much of yesterday cooking for our Opening Ceremonies Feast. The centerpiece of our feast was tofu eggrolls garnished with fresh mint and accompanied by a hot dipping sauce that Elliot, were they good. We made some less elegant treats, too: Jello Jigglers in the colors of the Olympic rings (except that we had trouble cutting the things into ring shapes, so they were pretty ragged-looking, but they were still refreshing), and Gingerbread Popcorn. Elliot and Astrid made pretty fruit kabobs out of Granny Smith apples and strawberries. I didn't get pictures of any of the supporting players in our feast, but I'm happy I got pictures of the egg rolls. Food really does make for happy memories.

Back to WBV for a moment (I know. I'm driving everyone in my house crazy with this. It's making me crazy). Because we don't have cable, we've been switching between NBC and Telemundo so that we can, well, avoid some of the WBV. But sometimes it's on Telemundo, too. The difference we've noticed (well, Elliot noticed it) is that the Spanish-language announcers come right out and comment on how the women look in their bikinis. The American announcers never say a word about the women's outfits or the constant wardrobe adjustments....which actually makes the whole thing weirder.