In the hole


Before my firstborn, The Boy, became my prime antagonist, he was a wee little babe. All coos and tongue waggles and sweet bubbly smiles thrown up at me as if my face hovering over his is precisely what he's been waiting for all day. Of course, look a little south and, yep, there it is, he’s got a dirty diaper. A perfectly good moment spoiled.

So, now I’m standing there with a smelly, dirty baby, face to face with that fold-down changing table, the same changing table in every public restroom, the same changing table whose years-long accumulation of grime has managed to grout the rough textured plastic. And all I have is the hokey, plasticky, little changing mat that came with our diaper bag. It doesn't take much baby-growing to get us to the point that changing his diaper on these tables means we have to make the hard choice of whether to position the pad so it protects his head or his nethers.

I don't know why the purveyors of these things, even the high-end ones, insist on making them out of plastic or vinyl or "moisture-resistant surface." I'm not looking for my baby's, ahem, waste to flow off the pad. I want something I can throw in the wash, set to the highest possible temperature and positively exterminate any trace of ickiness.

The changing pad I whipped up for The Boy was a quick-and-dirty affair.  Basically, a large mat with pockets built in for diapers and wipes and all the other the junk one carries around to tend to a baby's bottom. Damask on one side, plushy velour on the business side. It got the job done.

When I got pregnant again, my first thoughts went to how I would re-engineer the thing. This one was going to be luxe. This child, my GIRLIE, was going to ride dirty in style, dammit. In went nice cotton batting between the layers. Damask and velour were jettisoned for modern cotton prints. A simple velcro keeps it all together. Trimmed out with bias tape, the result should be very luxe, indeed.

But then I saw this online, and while it pretty much just looks like your basic messenger bag, now with more pockets, I obsessed over the built in wipes dispenser. So I stole the idea, positioned a hole in one of my pockets, and dammit if it didn't make the whole thing perfect. I tell you, when the new changing pad was all assembled, I was absolutely smitten with myself. Mr. New Media just gave me a blank, just-don't-call-her-fat look. But, months later, when he finally used it on The Girlie in the wild, even he was moved to gush over it. 

And now I can't stop making them. One for the diaper bag… check. One for the car… check. I'm thinking the shop needs one or two...


Tags: changing pad, sewing, shop

That's a mean bunny hop


My top three Halloween costume memories, in no particular order, are: 

Second grade. Catholic school. They let us dress up with the stipulation that our costumes be religiously themed. Picture a schoolyard teeming with angels, with a few sainted friars thrown in. I had one of those cheapo printed plastic sheets with matching full-face-reeks-of-polyurethane masks prevalent in the early 80s. Honestly, I don't know why there weren't more Halloween suffocation deaths reported with these things. Anyway, facing certain excommunication, I convinced Mrs. Gariano that I was a fairy godmother. I don't remember the look on her face as I pled my case, but I'm imagining something that would convey "I know you're bullshitting me, you know you're bullshitting me, but we're going to let the kid who came as the devil stay, so we're not sending you home." They gave me the bye and and the next year we could wear whatever the hell we wanted to.

Nine years old. My aunt presented me with something that was vaguely superheroic, outfitted with a spangly cape and a complex network of snaps and ties. It had perhaps been an American Flag in a previous life. I wore it, because when your aunt presents you with something, you damn well better wear it. I mean, we've all seen A Christmas Story, right? No one presented me with anything for a few more years, so I wore it again next Halloween.

Late junior high. I finally convinced my mom to get me the devil tail and cape and ears they were selling at Mervyn's. I don't actually remember wearing it.

Oh, did I say my TOP three memories? I meant my three Halloween costume memories. Period. I'm sure there's another get-up or two in there that failed to make any impression. The short of it: my kids are going to have costumes they LOVE. Now, The Girlie, of course, is far too young to have any say in the matter, so I reserved the right to outfit her in whatever costume I see fit for her body type. Garden gnome it is. Age Inappropriate, you may cry. But in such a cheek-pinchable kind of way. One year successfully avoiding Disney-branded princesshood… check.


The Boy, after months of shoulder-shrugging, finally offered that he liked bunnies. Not something I would have gone with, but acceptable, I suppose. Mr. New Media's quite the quick thinker, however, and offered up, "You mean like Peter Rabbit?" And we had ourselves a winner. One blue felt jacket with brass buttons and some carrots for the road, bunny ear hat, yarn pom pom tail, and tea-dyed/fur embedded shirt later, we've got ourselves a decent Peter Rabbit. And that smile pretty much did it for me, convinced me that yes, dammit, I WILL go through all the work again next year. Even if half the parents at his school give me the blank why-didn't-you-just-go-to-the-Disney-Store-for-a-costume stare.


Full disclosure here: None of these pictures were taken on Halloween, because Pamplona has NOTHING on trick-or-treating in our neighborhood. I've looked in the eye all the Transformers and Supermen and Caribbean Pirates and Disney Princesses Du Jour. I have no doubt that, had we taken a moment in the yard for pictures, we'd have been gobbled up by the crowds and regurgitated at the base of a tree somewhere. That and the photos would have had a backdrop of truly crappy costumes that would have taken all my mad Photoshop skilz to remediate. And I forgot to take the camera out with us when we left the house.

Tags: costumes, Halloween, kids

Potent, indeed


We’ve been living in Houston for the past  year and a half. The decade prior, we'd been in Seattle. And while Mr. New Media and I aren't native to the Northwest, it is Home to us. Texas feels just about like the polar opposite. People drive differently, talk differently, consume differently, carry themselves differently. Summer is a miserable, sweaty mess, and I have to live by the A/C, which I hate. And winter -- well, there just isn't enough of it. But today, for once, Houston is crisp and wet, smelling of trees and dirt instead of whatever it is that I normally smell here. It reminds me of Home.

And it’s put me in a mood. A good one. A creative one. Sure, sunlight may be great for taking photos without flash and seeing things without squinting. And overhead lighting sure is efficient. But I prefer my workspace to be lit by lamp. Makes it feel illuminated, in all the great senses of that word. Maybe it’s also that this weather hearkens to the holidays. And what better time for making than the holidays. 

Sometime after The Boy's birth, I decided that most, if not all of our our gifts would be handmade. Edibles and potables, mostly, but also fun knick-knackery tossed in for good measure. Something about breeding stirred in me a real desire to make something tangible for my family. I brought no heirlooms from my own childhood. My mom's single parentage left no time or money for the luxury of arts and crafts, not to mention there was absolutely no attic space or otherwise to store such things, so there was nothing TO bring from my childhood. And, yeah, it's not the stuff that matters, it's the memories, it's the traditions, blah, blah, BLAH. But that image of musty old blankets and toys and stick figure paintings brought down from attics to evoke time-sweetened sentiments of childhood… I really wanted it for my family. And, OK, maybe food and drink wasn't what you'd want pulled down from the attic 30 years later. But it seemed to me that it was a good place to start. This, I'm thinking, was the genesis of Lovelihood.

So maybe it wasn't entirely appropriate that alcohol played so prominently in that first Christmas' makings. But it was a fun, simple gift to give, and the tradition has stuck. And grown. This year's hootch: a double batch of cranberry liqueur, a double batch of coffee, single batches each of apricot and mint. The recipes are all from here, although I think in past years I pulled some recipes from a Ready-Made Christmas issue. 


That cranberry one is a crowd pleaser, totally candy-like. I've made that one every year. The coffee was my favorite from last year. It's got a touch of chocolate, and how can you go wrong with chocolate? I'm particularly excited about the apricot, or rather, those macerated dried apricot bits which will be drained out of the final product. The mint, I'm a little unsure about. The color's a bit… unpleasant. Could food coloring rescue it? Or would that just make it grosser? Or do I just package in darker bottles and hope my besotted friends don't bother pouring it out into nice little glasses before drinking? Yeah, I think that's the winner.

Anyway, yes. It's only October. I realize this. But the damn things take up to a couple months to settle in. And it's a good feeling getting these things going. Gets me in the mood for more making.

Tags: holidays, liqueurs

In a nutshell


You know in that movie Wonder Boys, when Rip Torn’s character gets up to the podium and opens his sure-to-be-gaggingly-pretentious oratory with “I am a Writer” and is met with blustering applause? In my head, it’s my “I am a Maker” that gets the gushing response.

What do I make? Anything, really. I spend more time than I care to enumerate, culling the internet and less digital sources for makeable things. Sewn things and knitted things and printed things and glued things and cooked things and generally-crafted things and picked-up-off-the-ground-and-put-in-a-jar things. Bonus points for anything requiring a specialized gadget.

Oh sure. I’m also a mother to two of the sweetest, funniest, most frustratingly stubborn kids ever, who shall be known here as The Girlie Bear (she’s just a toddler, man) and The Boy (pre-schooler; hell on two feet). And wife to Mr. New Media Something-or-Other, who, like all good makers’ spouses, finds endless opportunity to point out that the things I make have perhaps less expensive and time-consuming counterparts to be found at places like Target and the back of our closet.

Professionally, I make things, too. I’m a some-time writer and graphic designer. A print designer, for newspapers and magazines, mostly. What’s a print designer, you ask? Doesn’t matter -- there’s no professional demand for one of those these days. There was this thing called the internet, but I paid no mind, leaving it to my husband to work with things like that. After the birth of my son, I left full-time employment to do the stay-at-home thing. When I was ready to go back to paying work, I landed what I knew to be The Last Design Job On The Planet That Did Not Require An Internet-Based Skill Set. When my daughter was born, I left that job, too. I'm at work again, now part-time, which leaves just a little bit of time for blog-type things. But I'm still at it. 

I enjoyed designing things to be released to the world. I imagined lives and well-beings hinging on a well executed clipping path or expertly kerned font. OK, not really, but hell, I really enjoyed the work. But you know what might be even better? Making something for my family that ends up being so well-used and loved that it’s actually taken for granted. And now for my thesis: Making things makes me a better person, a better parent. Hyperbole, maybe. But I don’t mean that makers are better people than the rest.

Time for another movie reference: Remember in 40 First Dates how Drew Barrymore’s character only sings on the days she meets Adam Sandler’s? Well, on the days I can’t sit down to some creative tinkery, I’m downright cranky. I’m impatient with the children. I’m in no mood to make meals. I’m much more prone to fits of blind, throw-things-at-the-walls-until-they-shatter-into-itty-bitty-pieces-that-I-now-have-to-explain-to-the-husband rage. The lesson? I make things for the common good of all.

Lovelihood is where I get to share this process with you.